Backpacking East Coast Australia

The East Coast is a fantastic place for backpackers to begin exploring Australia and get a taste of Aussie life. Visit beautiful beaches, see incredible landscapes and meet other travellers whilst having the time of your life on the road! The following information is based on personal experience and isn’t exhaustive.

Where to begin?

Traditionally backpackers will travel either from Cairns to Sydney or from Sydney to Cairns. Neither is right or wrong, just whatever is easiest for you. Some people choose to travel beyond Cairns up to Cape Tribulation to visit the Daintree Rainforest and others continue their East Coast trip after Sydney down to Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road.

How long will it take?

This all depends on how much time you have! I met people who did the whole east coast in two weeks and others who took four months! We spent 6 weeks down the east coast in a camper van and, although a little longer would have been nice, this was enough time to experience almost everywhere and have time to relax in places we loved.

Helpful Tip: Places to Visit

Above is a list of just some of the top places to visit from Sydney to Cairns, in order. If you are on a tight schedule this list is for you to pick and choose the destinations you most want to see. If you have slightly longer there are many other incredible places to visit on your journey in addition to these.

Helpful Tip: Travel Agents

Take the stress out of booking and use an established travel agency to book tours and other big ticket items/trips. They often have links with the tour companies and are able to get you some great deals and discounts. The big travel agents have offices up and down the east coast which can act as a place to drop in, use the free wifi, log on to a computer and print things off.

Map of the East Coast


Helpful Tip: Language

Conversational English will be a massive help on your east coast trip, particularly if you are lost and need assistance/directions. Aussies sometimes speak quickly and use slang terms so clue yourself in on the best of Australian slang before you leave! If your English isn’t great you will meet plenty of other people in the same position as you in hostels or on tours so don’t worry!

Helpful Tip: The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is not typically done as part of the East Coast but as an extra trip before or after. There are tours available but the best way to travel this journey is by rented car or camper van to give you a little extra time to see the things you want to see. My top tip would be to stop at as many scenic lookout points as possible (they are well signposted and often visible from the road) to take in the amazing views and to snap awesome pictures.

The Great Barrier Reef

Helpful Tip: Alcohol

The legal drinking age in Australia is 18 and when purchasing alcohol or entering a bar or club you will be asked for ID. Typically a driving license from your country will work but they may ask for your passport if they aren’t familiar with driving licenses from your country of origin.

12 Apostles Sunrise

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