Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /home/twotrave/public_html/wp-content/themes/Builder-Cohen/lib/builder-core/lib/layout-engine/modules/class-layout-module.php on line 499

Arriving in Oz – Backpacking Down Under

The East Coast of Australia is made for backpackers. The entire stretch from Sydney to Cairns is filled with glorious beaches, raucous nightlife (if that’s your thing) and iconic bucket-list activities.

This is a typical backpacker route of the East Coast, and one that we were excited to start!

This is a typical backpacker route of the East Coast, and one that we were excited to start!

When trying to decide where exactly to go in Australia, our minds were already made up for us thanks to some of the East Coast’s most famous attractions – the Sydney Harbour, Fraser Island, the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest … Even though we’d heard great things about the West Coast, we couldn’t visit Australia without seeing these places!

Australia. So much to see!

The Australian East Coast. So much to see!

On touching down in Sydney, we were excited to begin the new Aussie chapter of our lives. Unfortunately for us, there happened to be a huge music festival in the city the exact weekend we were there, pushing up prices of what little accommodation was left and causing general havoc with our plans. So, we decided to move on up the coast and come back to Sydney later.

Whereas in New Zealand we’d hired our own vehicle for six weeks to get around, we no longer had the budget to do something similar in Australia. So we did the next best thing – bought a hop on-hop off coach ticket with Greyhound, which would take us all the way up to Cairns while giving us the freedom to stop anywhere we wanted along the way.

Whereas in New Zealand we’d hired our own vehicle for six weeks to get around, we no longer had the budget to do something similar in Australia. So we did the next best thing – bought a hop on-hop off coach ticket with Greyhound, which would take us all the way up to Cairns while giving us the freedom to stop anywhere we wanted along the way.

First stop Port Macquarie

Now, we hadn’t planned on coming here at all, but it seemed like a good place to stop, re-think our plans and get organised. Turned out to be a great little introduction to Australia – with a small but informative museum about Australian colonisation, a historic vineyard, a Koala Sanctuary and a beautiful beach (complete with the obligatory Aussie surfers).

Feeding time at Port Macquary's Koala Sanctuary

Feeding time at Port Macquarie’s Koala Sanctuary

Douglas Vale vineyard has been producing wine and port since 1863

Douglas Vale vineyard has been producing wine and port since 1863

A boardwalk through the forest was a great place to spot the local wildlife, like this flying fox, chinese water dragon and pair of koalas

A boardwalk through the forest was a great place to spot the local wildlife, like this flying fox, chinese water dragon and pair of koalas

Second stop Coffs Harbour

We had wanted to move on to Byron Bay from Port Macquarie, as we had heard good things about this hippy little surf town, but it seemed that all accommodation was booked out for a few days so we decided to stop off in Coffs Harbour first. I wouldn’t recommend it. Aside from visiting the botanical gardens, walking the small coastal trail or surfing, if you don’t have a car there isn’t much to do in Coffs Harbour (unless your aim is to get drunk or be exploited working on a blueberry or banana farm).

Coffs Harbour botanic gardens are worth a look if you end up here - this was where we had our first encounter with a wild snake!

Coffs Harbour botanic gardens are worth a look if you end up here – this was where we had our first encounter with a wild snake!

The coastal walk was also quite pretty. Apparently, if it's the right season, you can see Whales from the lookout at the end

The coastal walk was also quite pretty. Apparently, if it’s the right season, you can see Whales from the lookout at the end

Third stop Byron Bay

Finally we made it to this much-hyped hippy surf mecca. Only, we didn’t find a hippy surf mecca here. It seemed like our timing was all wrong in Australia so far – we had unwittingly managed to coincide our trip to Byron with the infamous ‘schoolies’. This is an annual occasion (similar to spring break in America) where all college/high school students across Australia flock to places like Byron Bay in order to let their hair down, get horribly drunk and cause general chaos.

Seemed more like a university campus during freshers week than a laid-back hippy town to me

Seemed more like a university campus during freshers week than a laid-back hippy town to me

The ‘chilled’ beach was packed to the rafters with drunk teenagers playing loud music and you couldn’t walk down the street without being stopped by promotional people from bars offering free drinks vouchers to everything that moved. Far from feeling the relaxed and ‘groovy’ vibe of the town, it made me feel rather old and I couldn’t wait to move on!

We did the coastal walk to Australia's most easterly point while we were in Byron - the only place that wasn't full of drunks!

We did the coastal walk to Australia’s most easterly point while we were in Byron – the only place that wasn’t full of drunks!

Fourth stop Surfers Paradise

Following our schoolies experience in Byron, we were dreading Surfers. This place is known for its nightlife and we prepared ourselves for the worst. But actually, we were pleasantly surprised by the city. Although there were lots of teens having fun, there was also families enjoying their holidays and the cosmopolitan city was small enough to stroll around in but big enough that you didn’t feel surrounded by drunks at all times.

Enjoying the cosmopolitan beach-side city. The night market (top image) was interesting to wander around.

Enjoying the cosmopolitan beach-side city. The night market (top image) was interesting to wander around.

Fifth stop – Brisvegas (that’s Brisbane to everyone who isn’t Australian)

Brisbane is one of those places that big enough that there’s always something going on, but small enough to explore in a day – taking advantage of the brilliant free ferries.

A very liveable city with lots to see and do

A very liveable city with lots to see and do

It struck me as a very vibrant young city, with a great variety of trendy restaurants and bars, and lots of live music and buskers everywhere you go!

Sixth stop – Australia Zoo

We couldn’t go through Brisbane without stopping off at Australia Zoo on the way. Famous for Steve Irwin, this place was founded by family of the Crocodile Hunter and paved the way for his world-wide career.

The Irwin family immortalised in copper as you enter the zoo

The Irwin family immortalised in copper as you enter the zoo

There are probably better zoos to visit in Australia in terms of the variety of species (I’ve heard Tauranga Zoo in Sydney is excellent), but I’ve never been to a place where the keepers are so hands-on and interactive with the animals.

There were plenty of typical Australian animals to see

There were plenty of typical Australian animals to see

More like an animal entertainment show than a traditional ‘stare at all the animals while they’re sleeping’ zoo, here they have huge amphitheatres where you can sit and watch as the keepers play with the animals and show you just what they can do. The snapping crocodiles and swimming tigers were a highlight!

This tiger sure loved milk. It really enjoyed playing with this huge plastic barrel toy too

This tiger sure loved milk. It really enjoyed playing with this huge plastic barrel toy too

This crocodile leaped vertically out of the water to get the bait. It was so fast, it was all over in seconds!

This crocodile leapt vertically out of the water to get the bait. It was so fast, it was all over in seconds!

Overall we’d been enjoying our roadtrip this far, but the next places we would visit – Fraser Island, the Whitsundays and Cairns – would be where we would create some of the most memorable experiences of Australia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *