Australia will be high up on many backpacker’s lists of places to tick off, but such a large country with so many possibilities makes it hard to know what to tick off or how to do it. The East coast is the most heavily built up area of Australia (odd, seeing as this is the furthest location for any of the original pioneering ships that sailed here) and therefore is a great place to plot an adventure around Australia. With everything ranging from glitzy metropolis centres to cool surfing hangouts and finally isolated bay settlements, it’s not hard to see why it’s one of the most popular backpacker routes in the world. So excluding the well-known starting and finishing points of Sydney and Cairns, here are 10 of the top stop offs on route up the East coast.
First stop off after Sydney and refreshingly only a couple of hours away, so feel free to cram in a mornings sightseeing in the capital of New South Wales before heading out. Newcastle offers easily accessible beaches for surfing that are conveniently right on the shore of the city, creating a laid back attitude throughout the city and widely acceptable beach wear atmosphere. This means that after a day’s surfing you can stroll into town for the many restaurants or lively night scene, including live music. The public Ocean Baths are an interesting historical feature for swimmers looking for something different.
Port Macquarie manages to be a popular tourist destination without being right in the middle of the beaten path. There are a range of beaches including Flynns and Lighthouse Beach that offer excellent beginner surfing conditionsthat don’t come with the intimidating crowds and experts found at other locations. A mid-sized town, you’ll find all the normal shops, restaurants and other amenities such as a cinema which don’t intrude on the stunning headland setting or the protected nature areas and wildlife. If you’re looking for decent infrastructure with natural beauty, this is a great place for you.
Stopping off here needs some justification as it is very near Byron Bay, however Lennox Head serves up some pretty decent reasons for doing so. Aussie surfers will let you know about ‘The Point’ the prominent headland that forces decent sized waves to curl up far out and producing a long run in to shore that will please any visiting surfers. The long, curving sandy beach is a great spot if you’re looking to get away from the tourist packed beaches of the major stop offs, and The Point boasts brilliant views of the coast, surfers, dolphins and whale migrations.
One of the coolest, original surf locales, Byron Bay effortlessly throws forward plenty of stunning beaches, one of the best surfing scenes down under and crazy nightlife. This is all managed within the confines of a picturesque town that takes life at a laid back pace during the day. There is also a popular lighthouse perched atop the headland with a view that shows you just why Byron Bay is so popular.
A key destination on the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise won’t let you pass by quietly. Leaving class aside, the high rise buildings stand as monumental as the spirit of commercialisation is here, with plenty of shopping centres, bars and nightlife clamouring for your money, as well as more than a handful of strip clubs. The beach never stops as does the waves, and it is a place fermented into the young Aussie generations as a place to go and party.
This is the next big city stop off on the way from Sydney to Cairns, but offers more than Surfers Paradise in terms of culture, history and attractions. Brisbane has a friendly, calm atmosphere remnant of its previous reputation as a sleepy and perhaps boring city despite its size. However, it is now one of the most desirable places to live in Australia, thanks to its live music scene and art galleries combined with the friendly atmosphere. The river is a prominent feature of the city, as is South Bank which includes an artificial beach.
Hervey Beach generates its atmosphere from the tourists heading out to or returning from Frazer Island which is one of the must see off shore attractions in Australia. As well as this, the town has a picturesque sandy beach that stretches for miles, with brilliant camping facilities and warm calm waters, wave free and perfect for a dip. You may also see a migrating humpback whale.
Agnes Water / 1770
Captain Cook landed here in 1770 and for some reason it’s still taking people ages to hear about this place. Stunning bays, river outlets and coves, the surrounding wilderness and lack of infrastructure keep this place a true hidden gem. You can also catch the last waves on your journey north as there is no surfing beyond here, that’s only if you can drag yourself away from the forests and beaches.
Airlie Beach is the place to launch off for the Whitsunday Islands, which makes it a congregating point for many a traveller. This means it is lively for a small town, particularly when the boats that take people out to the islands are in the marina. The tropical weather and natural setting make it an ideal holiday location almost year round, and tourists will range from backpackers to the wealthier luxury traveller. There is little more than the main street, but this is more than equipped to give you a lively send off to the islands.
The setting for scenes in Australia, Bowen retains many of its historical Australian buildings. The main reason for visiting here is the lack of beach offered either by Airlie Beach (despite its name) and the approaching Cairns. Therefore, after reading the signs in the town about the movies production, head to Horseshoe Bay, an award winning beach that is sheltered from the waves, warm and has a rocky headland for the adventurous.
Author Bio: Matt Davids is a travel blogger and fan of the possibilities of the open road and no deadlines. The next adventure will be an island hopping trip beginning with his Corfu holidays.