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The perfect Australia Backpacker Itinerary

Written by Zoe Faulkner on 17 / 10 / 2023

Gap Year Advice

Hello travellers, Zoë here from Leap HQ with a handy East coast itinerary for Australia. I have just returned from 6 weeks exploring the East Coast and could have stayed even longer, it was everything you hope it to be and more. Now it's time for me to share this tried and tested route with you to get your Aussie adventure underway.

Firstly - to get around you are going to want to use the fabulous Greyhound Bus Service. Used by pretty much every traveller as the ideal way to get around, you can purchase many different types of pass to best suit you - whether its 30 days or 2 months etc. Purchase your ticket before you go, log in to their portal and book in your routes - it really gives you peace of mind knowing that every leg of the journey is booked in and helps you plan where you will be when. It is also a fantastic way of saving money as the travel pass is so much cheaper than booking each leg separetly.

Phase 1: Sydney

This is a sure fire way to know that yes you really have arrived in Australia. I was surprised by just how vast Sydney is and how many iconic areas can be reached from here - it turns out it is not just the Opera House (however impressive it is and a beautiful iconic landmark) but actually there are so many other sights right on your doorstep in Sydney.

Explore the city and enjoy its shops, cafes and bars and then get yourself down to the ferry port near the train station and for a couple of dollars you can get over to Manly Beach. Manly is a beautiful coastal area - top tip - if you like cookies you have to try ButterBoy cookies, they are huge, warm and freshly baked to perfection. Wind up at Betty's Burgers after a day of surfing and that is the dream day done!

You have to see the Blue Mountains while in Sydney, hop on the train (reasonably priced) and in a couple of hours you will be there. Stay at Echo Point Discovery Motel which is a 30 second walk down to the iconic view point. This place is a steal - it is really affordable and the closest hostel/motel - you couldn't ask for better. By being so close to the viewpoint it meant we could walk down at sunset and marvel at the 3 sisters rock formations which was a memory that I will cherish forever. I urge anyone to do it. While here in the Blue Mountains you can head on over to the SkyWalk and do the cable car across the epic views below - do it! Fun fact, Chris Hemsworth abseiled from it on his latest Disney+ challenge series.

It’s also not a trip to Sydney without a trip to the famous Bondi Beach, where surfers make the most of the reliable waves, and swimmers take a dip in the Bondi Baths. One of Sydney's most iconic walks is the Bondi to Coogee Coastal walk - approx 2 hours with plenty of cafes along the way and beach bays to cool off in. A real highlight while you're here. We were here over Christmas and it was so bizarre seeing everyone on Christmas Day wearing red swimwear to feel festive.

Phase 2: The Gold Coast & Byron Bay

The Gold Coast is next up on your tour of the East Coast. If you've ever wanted to visit Surfers Paradise beach then now is your chance. Sprawling sky rise hotels line the golden beaches and it is a fascinating place to enjoy the best of the both terrains. This is a great place to learn to surf, plenty of board for hire and lessons on tap.
Byron Bay - when you think Byron Bay it is only right that you picture the lighthouse on top of the hill with the sunset purple sky, it is a fun hippy laid back area with great bars - visit the Piano Bar if you're in town, a great place for a beer and a singalong with many gappers.

Read more about Australia

For more information about Australia, including: how to get around, hotel recommendation, tips and tricks, best time to go, join the Backpacker Hub .

FYI - this hub is free of charge and full of top tips for traveling around Asia, Africa, Central and South America.

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Phase 3: Fraser Island

Fraser Island is going to be your big ticket item - either go for the day trip excursion or if you're feeling adventurours you can camp on the island with a guide and explore a bit deeper. Head off in your 4x4 vehicles and dive into the island - eyes peeled for dingos!

Phase 4: Brisbane

From the Whitsundays to Brisbane, where you’ll find a lifestyle that revolves around the river – and the sun. Head outside and make the most of the 283 days of sunshine a year that Brisbane receives (don’t forget your suncream!). There are lots of backpacker-friendly options for gappers, and lots of cheap or free things to do in the city. Make sure you visit South Bank and the man-made beach there where tourists and locals alike go to cool off on a hot day. Or head to Lone Pine Sanctuary, the world’s largest koala reserve, to cuddle a koala and feed kangaroos. Head on over to Australia Zoo (the famous Irwin family zoo!) which is an hour north of Brisbane and well worth a visit - top tip - purchase your ticket online before the day, you will save a few dollars.

Head to Felons Brewery right under the bridge for a beer as you watch people climbing the bridge at sunset. It’s the perfect end to your day.

Phase 5: Whitsundays

From Cairns head to the Whitsunday Islands to island hop around this tropical island paradise. Airlie Beach on the mainland is a backpacker haven, and the perfect launching spot for day trips out to the islands as well as incredible coastal walks. Don’t miss White haven Beach, it’s one of Australia’s best and easily accessed by day trip along with Hamilton Island. I adored Airlie Beach - it was everything you want it to be, funky shops selling beachwear, trendy bars, delicious breakfasts and a lagoon to cool off in. Fun fact - there was even an Aldi supermarket so we could get supplies for the next few days. While here do the 'Boardwalk walk' and follow the coast round to the next bay. We finished our time here with a sunset cruise that was stunning.

Phase 6: Cairns

Head up to Cairns and chill by the artificial lagoon, before ticking off a bucket list moment at the Great Barrier Reef. This stunning natural coral reef stretches more than 2000km along the Queensland coastline, and is populated with dazzling coral, sea turtles, rays, reef sharks, and tropical fish of every size and colour. There are so many different ways to see this natural phenomenon, and whether you snorkel, dive, or explore by glass-bottom boat, if you’re in Australia then you must make time to visit this beautiful place. Also tick the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest off your list, and venture into this lush rain forest and twisted mangroves that tumble down towards the brilliant white-sand coastline.
While here you should try the Kuranda Scenic Railway - sounds random but is absolutely stunning. Head on up into the rainforest in a sweet little train, passing waterfalls and wildlife as you go before reaching the top, exploring more of the rain forest on the walking track routes before getting a cable car down (weather dependent as we found out!).

There you have it, a whistle stop tour of the East coast of Australia. Drop me an email on info@theleap.co.uk if you have any questions.

Read more about Australia

For more information about Australia, including: how to get around, hotel recommendation, tips and tricks, best time to go, join the Backpacker Hub .

FYI - this hub is free of charge and full of top tips for traveling around Asia, Africa, Central and South America.

Tell me more

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