I thought I’d properly kick start the travel section of my blog with a post about my adventures on Australia’s East Coast. I flew into Sydney and I travelled up the entire coast to Cairns. Whilst I can’t include everywhere I went or else this post would be huge, I feature the highlights including Byron Bay, Fraser Island and the Whitsundays. I also talk about a couple of smaller, more authentic Aussie places which most people probably aren’t aware even existed…
On my first proper day in Sydney I got out exploring as soon as I could. I visited Darling Harbour before joining in a free walking tour. I can’t recommend these enough. I’ve done lots now in various countries and they’re great for learning about the area you’re in, getting your bearings and any tips for what to do or where to eat. I saw lots of iconic sights such as the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. It’s the perfect thing to do if you’re travelling alone like I was. I met two friends on the tour whom I then spent time with for the rest of that week.
This is one of the smaller places we visited, a little town called Bingara in New South Wales. On the outskirts of Bingara was where we went Gold panning which was quite the experience. Once in Bingara, we went horse riding in the beautiful Aussie countryside. I had a horse called Oreo and all the horse riding lessons I had as a kid paid off. The farmer who we went riding with was so Crocodile Dundee. He was hopeless with names so kept referring to me as “Yorkshire”. When you think of East Coast Australia you wouldn’t think of Bingara, but it was a really cute town and it was nice to experience proper Aussie culture.
En route to Yamba we stopped at a waterfall and a few of us went in, it was very, very cold! It’s these little things that I’m really glad I did at the time, it all adds to the experience. Yamba is another hidden gem. It has some lovely walks in and around the beaches. We stayed at a hotel overlooking the beach and the views were breathtaking. On the morning we left, I got up ridiculously early to catch sunrise. See above for a photo of the sunrise, I took that from our bedroom window… I could have stayed there for days! Lots of people visit Yamba for surfing, but whatever you choose to do it’s definitely worth having it on your list.
Now onto more of a well known destination on the East Coast… Byron Bay. We stayed here a few days and it was one of my favourite places. It has such a cool feel to it and it attracts lots of young backpackers. If you can put up with the edgy tourists and locals then you’d love it. We stayed in a VERY hippie hostel, called Arts Factory. It was about 15 mins from the centre of town and it had a free shuttle bus if you didn’t fancy walking. I saw some of the most bizarre people whilst staying here, including one guy who emerged from the bushes looking like Tarzan. I also saw my first and only Aussie snake. The picture above shows the lodges we stayed in and the snake slithered across the board walk right outside our lodge. Plenty of memories were made in Byron Bay!
I’d definitely recommend a walk to see the famous lighthouse and carry on walking along the coast to the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. The town itself is really funky. There are lots of shops to buy souvenirs, I bought an anklet which I still wear everyday and there are plenty of bars and restaurants; we enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine on a rooftop bar.
Whilst we were in Byron Bay, I ticked an activity off my bucket list… a skydive! I fell 14,000 feet out of a small jet and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. There is no other feeling like it. I was last to go out of the plane which I actually enjoyed. It’s just as well I wasn’t nervous as I saw about 8 other people drop one by one out of the plane before it was my go. Before we went my instructor said to me “don’t forget to breathe” and I thought, that’s obvious… why is he telling me that? It wasn’t until we were free falling that I knew why. The speed you travel really does take your breath away, especially if you are like me and you had your mouth open smiling and whooping the whole time! Once the parachute was pulled, that’s when I properly appreciated the views. It was a really clear morning with perfect blue skies and I could see for absolutely miles. Up there in the sky is definitely where you get the best view of Byron Bay!
We drove from Byron Bay to Brisbane and it was absolutely boiling whilst we were there. 35 odd degrees and unlike Byron, there was no wind whatsoever. Brisbane is a good city and ideal if you want to do some shopping, it’s got lots of shopping centres. Definitely worth checking out Southbank, Botanical Gardens and their version of the London Eye. We spent a lot of time wandering along the river and trying to find patches of shade!
One of my big highlights of the East Coast is Fraser Island. We had a stop in Rainbow Beach before boarding a ferry to head over to Fraser Island. We travelled around the island on a 4×4 (see picture) and it really was the best way to explore. One minute we’d be driving through the rainforest (only sand rainforest in the world) and the next we’d be zooming along the beach with the waves crashing at our tyres. If you ever visit Fraser Island, you’ve got to see Lake McKenzie, it’s beautiful. It’s really warm and it has the clearest water I’ve ever seen in my life. Whilst you’re there you’ve got to watch out for Dingoes. They’re a wild animal (look like a mixture of a wolf, a dog and a fox) and they’ve been known to attack humans. We went searching for them at night time but didn’t see any, which is probably just as well…
Following Fraser Island, we travelled to the Noosa Everglades and canoed on the tranquil mirrored waters. The water is a red colour as it’s stained from the tea trees. You could smell the tea tree whilst being on the water. Whilst at Noosa we camped and this is where I saw my first kangaroo. The best bit was when I woke the next morning to see kangaroos bouncing around all of our tents. That was a really surreal, pinch me moment!
Probably one of the things that comes to mind most when thinking about Australia’s East Coast is the Whitsundays. We boarded our boat at Airlie Beach and set sail for 3 days at sea. I had high hopes and it really did exceed all expectations. You really can’t beat sitting on a yacht, watching the sun go down with a beer in your hand…
The trip was made even better by Liam (our captain) letting me drive the yacht. He literally disappeared down deck and I had control of the boat for a decent length of time.. another thing I ticked off the bucket list!
One thing I’ll never forget from my travels… snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a once in a lifetime activity. We snorkelled several times in different parts of the reef and it was truly amazing. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the recent news stories of the damaged reefs but in the areas we went to it was very much alive and so colourful. A definite highlight was seeing a turtle. I really wanted to see one so I was very happy when I did. The little dude was so chilled despite me swimming behind him for a while. I also saw a real range of fish, including dory!
You can’t visit the Whitsundays without going to Whitehaven beach. It was everything I thought it would be. We went on a bush walk to a lookout point where you got a stunning view of the beach with the famous swirling sand.
And finally… the last stop was Cairns. I don’t really know what I expected of Cairns but it wasn’t what I thought- I think I thought it’d be bigger. There’s a good boardwalk you can do along the coast and Cairns Esplanade is where it’s all happening with plenty of bars and restaurants. Whilst in Cairns I went white water rafting which was lots of fun. It was also very entertaining, one of the girls in my boat didn’t get down quick enough on one of the drops (see bottom right picture above) and she ended up flying out the boat and losing her oar. This happened on the first drop so the poor thing couldn’t join in for the rest of the trip.. it meant the rest of us had more of a workout!
So there you have it… my Aussie East Coast adventure. I have selected particular highlights that give a good idea of what I did as it would be an even longer post than it already is if I included everything.
It really was so much fun travelling up the coast and for me I experienced a perfect mix of smaller, traditional Aussie towns, popular cities such as Brisbane and the must see places like the Whitsundays.
Thanks for reading! Keep an eye out for a post coming soon about what I got up to in Central and Southern Australia.