Australian East Coast

Australia   /  
  • Tea Garden, près de Port Stephens

  • Tea Garden, près de Port Stephens

  • La plage de Byron bay au coucher du soleil

  • Une autre plage de Byron Bay

  • Les surfeurs de Byron bay

  • Nimbin, la ville de la drogue

  • Surfers Paradise

  • Surfers Paradise

  • La mer à 1770

  • Coucher du soleil sur la route

  • La piscine publique d'Airlie Beach

  • Airlie Beach

  • Les Whitsundays Islands

  • Les Whitsundays Islands

  • La plage de Bowen

  • La piscine publique de Cairns

  • Les crocodiles de la Daintree River

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The east coast is the most popular route among backpackers seeking for legendary surfers beaches, tropical forests and lush landscapes. Go to Sydney when arrives the winter (late March, for example) to join Cairns and Port Douglas. Take at least a month to fully enjoy each stop.

Highlights of the east coast in Australia

Port Stephens and Tea Garden

Port Stephens is the name given to the area near a bay at 2 hours north of Sydney. It includes two great stops: Tea Gardens and Anna Bay. Tea Gardens is a true paradise for nature lovers. You can go kayaking on a beautiful lake, observe pelicans and sunrises that are worth getting up early. This is a very charming town, not really touristy, with one pub, but lively and full of Australians. Tea Garden is located near the Myall Lakes National Park, which is definitely worth a walk on the white sandy beaches. To do: see the sunset from the giant sandy dunes to Dark Point/Little Gibber Loop. At Anna Bay, you will also find giant sand dunes but the place is much more touristy, so you can rent surfboards to surf on the sand (about 20 dollars) or quads for a short walk (100 dollars) .

Byron Bay and Nimbin

Byron Bay is a must for backpackers. The opportunity to enjoy a beautiful sunset on one of the most beautiful beaches of Australia on the sound of drums and some amateur musicians who came there to play the guitar to make dance a cosmopolitan crowd, made up of hippies, long-haired tanned surfers, dreaming poets and idealistic bohemians. The city is full of backpackers and the atmosphere is really unique. You will not be disappointed!

Not far from Byron Bay, go to Nimbin, a town which has only one street celebrating Cannabis. The place is known for hosting an annual protest march for the legalization of cannabis since 1993 , during a day called Mardi Grass. Participants argued that the prohibition of cannabis does not increase crime since it creates a chaotic parallel market, the drug traffic, led by traffickers only interested in profit. They say that a drug-free society is an absurd utopia of the police, which seems to be true considering the popularity of cannabis for 50 years in the region. The single street of Nimbin is famous for marijuana that you will find in cakes, smoothies and burgers (renamed “hemburgers”), colorful shops “peace and love”, artists gathering to express themselves freely with music and dance all night long to the sounds of djembes and didgeridoos and a weird tiny museum trying to inspire you with love, freedom, life, earth and nature quotes. And the inevitable smell of weed that accompanies you everywhere… Do not plan to stay there for hours, because there is really only ONE street so it doesn’t take so much time to walk around !

Surfers Paradise, the TOURISTY CITY

The entrance door of Queensland is Surfers Paradise, the main city of the Gold Coast, which is sometimes described as the Australian Florida. The city was originally called Elston but in 1933, the Australians have realized that nobody ever would travel hundreds of miles to a place named Elston, and gave it its current name, much more trendy and convincing. Surfers Paradise was quickly transformed into a wealthy city for spending tourists. In short, the opposite of what the backpackers are looking for, who do not hesitate to criticize the city. You hear the worst about Surfers Paradise. However, I enjoyed the sparkling skyscrapers along the beach, the luxury fashion boutiques, and the lively nightlife. And it is also the perfect place to party all night long ! Tips : hostels will take you to clubs for a very good price.


Enjoy the atmosphere of the big city, its lively youth hostels (I recommend Bunk Backpackers hostel : clean , free meals during weekdays, specials in the bar, nice atmosphere), its shopping streets, its bars (especially PJ O’Brien Irish pub in the city center : atmosphere guaranteed !), etc.  A must see : South Bank Parklands, free recreational area which includes a beautiful lagoon and, on some days, a nice market.

Agnes Water and 1770

Go to the beautiful secluded beach in 1770 (Seventeen-seventy, this is the name of a city !) and the tiny town of Agnes Water. Take this opportunity to take a surfing lesson, it’s really cheap (U.S. $ 17 for 3 hours :  you will not find anywhere better quality/price ratio) ! It is possible to stand on a surfboard in the first lesson. But you will not really be able to train later on the way because Agnes Water is the last step of the trip where it is possible to surf, or even swim in the water because of the presence of very dangerous jellyfish. Unless if you do the route in the opposite direction ..

Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands and Bowen

True resort for backpackers, Airlie Beach (and its beautiful public swimming pool) is the starting point for mini trips to the third most photographed place in Australia after Sydney Opera House and the Ayers Rock : the Whitsunday Islands. Deserted islands with white sand surrounded by crystal clear turquoise water and bythe Great Barrier Reef, the largest living organism in the world that houses at least 1,500 species of fish , 400 types of coral and 4,000 varieties of mollusks. So there you can snorkel and enjoy the beach in organized tours (have at least $ 100 per day). It’s really worth it (you can’t go by yourself anyway) !

Bowen is a dead western city, like in the 70s, which was the location for the film Australia from Baz Luhrman and with Nicole Kidman. Do not waste your time in the city center, which has really no interest, but take an afternoon on the coast… which is really beautiful with small bays with crystal clear water, surrounded by rocks, palm trees and lush vegetation. Tips : go to the port of Bowen on Wednesday afternoon to participate in a sailboat race for FREE! The tour lasts about 2 hours.

Townsville and Charters Towers

Townsville is ideal for a pub crawl so come for the weekend ! It has a large military base, so half of the residents are military, making Townsville a very safe city… and very lively at night!

Further inland, you can venture to Charters Towers, formerly called “ The World ” with its 30,000 inhabitants at the time of the gold rush. This is interesting only if you want to see a city built at that time. For the record, the Australian gold rush began in 1851, when Edward Hargraves discovered that there was gold in every corner of a region near the Blue Mountains in Sydney. In fact, they realized that Australia was full of gold. While it was until then so difficult to convince settlers to move in, the country saw its population double in less than a decade. The exile of the English prisoners to Australia even became a reward rather than a punishment, and that is how the authorities in London have ended their deportation.

Rainforests of Queensland

The route will then take you to the rainforests of Queensland and in some areas devastated by a cyclone two years earlier, around Mission Beach. The wet season can be very destructive in Queensland and northern regions. Try to avoid the Australian summer months. The rainforest of Queensland is listed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. Even better : it meets all the criteria of UNESCO, which is the case for only 13 of the many sites listed. Admire the waterfall Milaa Milaa and impressive giant tree Curtain Fig Tree in Atherton Tablelands .


Cairns is like the ideal stopover for backpackers attracted by the tropical exoticism. At every corner, there are offices offering backpackers trips to the Great Barrier Reef, opals shops (Australia hosts 90 % of the reserves of opal) and hostels. Not to mention the only attraction of the city: a giant public pool called “lagoon” and replacing the surrounding sea invaded by jellyfish which you can kill you instantly. In short, it is better to respect the signs not to swim in the sea despite the temptation to cool down in a quiet and beautiful water.

Near Cairns, take a boat trip on the Daintree River where you can see crocodiles and learn more about these ruthless animals. I did my tour with the company Solar Whisper and I highly recommend it ! You can also go to the pretty town of Port Douglas with its palm trees and a beautiful beach.

other tips

Avoid Bundaberg, unless you are looking for work on farms where there is a lot of work hostels. Apart from this, the city is fairly common and not worth some attention.

Another stopover loved by backpackers is Fraser Island. But you gotta go with a tour, which costs a small fortune. Nevertheless, all the people I met who went there loved it!


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