A few years ago I went on an epic East Coast of Australia road trip from Cairns to Sydney with Will. With our Ford Falcon station wagon, we covered more than 3 thousand kilometres in 4 weeks. There were a few very long days of driving, 8 or 9 hours but it was always worth it for the cool places we visited and we stayed on. Driving is such a great way to see the ever-changing landscape as you go down the coast and having the freedom to decide where and when to stop is fantastic.
Actually, our road trip around Australia started a few months before on the West Coast. We drove from Perth to Darwin, it was one of the wildest journeys of our lives! Some days we were driving for hours without seeing another human. After stopping in Darwin for a while to reconnect with civilization it was time to see the other side of Australia, the popular East Coast.
➳ Read all about: Things to do in Darwin
We had only 30 days left to travel and we had to plan the trip in details: what to see, how long to spend in each place, where to camp. There is a lot to see along the East Coast of Australia and choosing what to see and what to miss is one of the hardest parts of the trip. Ideally, you need a month or two to travel the East Coast and truly explore it.
We didn’t have so much time so we had to choose. White sand beaches, rainforests, natural wonders, turtles nesting, waterfalls. Finally, Will and I reached a compromise and our journey through the East Coast of Australia began.
EAST COAST OF AUSTRALIA: FROM CAIRNS TO SYDNEY. 4 WEEKS ITINERARY
From Sydney to Cairns the east coast of Australia is made for a road trip. From the ocean to the rainforest, the wildlife, the culture, there’s so much to do and see. The best tip we can give you is to rent a campervan or a car, pack up a tent and go on an adventure down under. Here’s the perfect 4 weeks itinerary in the East Coast of Australia:
DAY 1-3: Cairns & Daintree National Park
The small, tropical Cairns is the ultimate gate to explore ancient tropical forests, hippie villages, waterfalls and the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world that can be admired in all its beauty by boat or with a scenic flight. A once in a lifetime opportunity!
DAY 4: Mission Beach & Magnetic Island
Driving two-hours south of Cairns we reached Mission Beach, the best access point to the Great Barrier Reef (only an hour by boat). A little further south there is the beautiful Magnetic Island, that you can reach by catamaran from Townsville.
DAY 5-7: Airlie Beach & Whitsunday Islands
The journey continues. Five Hundred fkilometers on the road to reach Airlie Beach, the gateway to the 74 Whitsunday islands. This place is one of the most beautiful seascapes we’ve ever seen.
➳ Read all about: HOW TO VISIT THE WHITSUNDAYS ISLANDS
DAY 8 – 9: Bundaberg
During our trip on the East Coast of Australia we had the luck to witness the turtles nesting in Bundaberg. It was one of the most incredible experiences of our entire lives!! You can arrange a night visit with the rangers of the Mon Repos Turtle Center.
DAY 10 – 12: Hervey Bay & Fraser Island
After the sea turtles encounter you can not miss the passage of the whales that slowly go up the coast every year. Hervey Bay is the Australian capital of whale-watching as well as one of the starting points for Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world and World Heritage Site.
DAY 13: Rainbow Beach
Rainbow Beach is a riot of colours. The cliff fades from yellow to green, with white and red streaks, the sea goes from turquoise to intense blue and the road to reach Rainbow Beach is worth the trip alone.
DAY 14: Brisbane
Brisbane wraps itself around the wide brown Brisbane River and, in summer, it blazes with purple jacaranda, scarlet poinciana and fragrant frangipani. The beaches – north and south of Brisbane – are uncrowded and relaxing.
DAY 15 – 16: Natural Bridge, Springbrook National Park
Head to the Springbrook National Park and visit Natural Bridge, a naturally formed arch over Cave Creek. This section is located about a 30 minutes drive from the Springbrook Plateau, but it definitely is worth the drive! During the day, admire the beautiful Natural Bridge Waterfall and when the sun goes down, discover the glow worms that live within it.
DAY 17- 18: Green Mountains
Immerse yourself in the wild nature of the Green Mountains in the Lamington National Park, where lush rainforests and ancient trees thrive and spectacular views are more than expected.
DAY 19: Nimbin
The colourful Nimbin is a hippie heaven. We discovered this strange little place on our way south and we decided to stop by for a few hours. Rainbows, peace & love signs, psychedelic street art, organic farmers markets, flower necklaces, reggae music. How could we miss it?
DAY 20: Nightcap National Park
DAY 21 – 23: Byron Bay
The magic of Byron Bay is something unique. The landscape alone is enough reason for a visit, although people flock here from all around the world to experience its alternative lifestyles. Sustainable living is big here, with plenty of healthy organic cuisine, markets, plastic-free boutiques, healers, yoga classes at sunrise and much more.
DAY 24 – 25: Port Stephens
Port Stephens sheltered harbour is blessed with an extraordinary nature. From near-deserted beaches to Anna Bay’s immense sand dunes, the area holds endless things to discover. Climb Mount Tomaree for the most rewarding views for a rewarding view over Shoal Bay, Nelson Bay and Shark Island!!
DAY 26: Blue Mountains
We didn’t expect to see such a grandiose nature just outside Sydney. Great waterfalls, lush forest, an endless valley, steep cliffs… The scenery is fascinating. The Blue Mountains have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
DAY 27 – 30: Sydney
I fell for Sydney, the last stop of our road trip on the East Coast of Australia. The beaches, the markets, cafés in every corner, the rooftops, the people, the bridge, the Opera, Circular Quay, the Rocks, the parks, the vibes… All of it!
Do you have a few extra days?
Adventure even further south and reach the secluded Pebbly Beach in the Murramarang National Park. Located 275 km south-east of Sydney, Pebbly is the home of a large and curious colony of kangaroos.
➳ Read all about: What to do in Pebbly Beach
Best time to travel the East Coast of Australia
Before planning a road trip it is important to know when is the best time to travel the East Coast of Australia. The most popular time to visit Queensland and New South Wales is during the summer, from December to February. However, it is also the hottest and rainiest season in tropical Northern Queensland.
We travelled offseason, during spring (September-November) and we found amazing weather, fewer crowds and lower prices.
If you have time check out the post about my experience Down Under:
Australia, a travel experience that will change your life
If you are looking for ideas on things to do in Sydney I’ve got a post all about it here:
The best beaches in Sydney
WHAT ABOUT YOU, HAVE YOU TRAVELED IN AUSTRALIA? WHAT WOULD BE YOUR PERFECT ITINERARY?
DID WE MISS SOMETHING AMAZING? LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENT!
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