A backpacking tour of Australia’s east coast is an unforgettable, mind-blowing experience, but how do you know what to see and do in such a huge area? Well, here are 10 amazing things you must do on your east coast tour.
When you take a tour of the east coast of Australia, you’re going to see a lot of beaches. It’s around 3,000km from Sydney to Cairns, and you will have beautiful white sandy beaches and clear blue water all along the Pacific Highway. But there is waaay more to the east coast than just fantastic beaches. We’ve picked out 10 amazing things you must do on your east coast tour.
1. Try a new activity
Aussies love the outdoor lifestyle and spending their free time having fun. A Stray east coast tour is the perfect way to try a new sport or activity.
You can’t visit Australia without surfing. We hit great surf destinations like Sydney, Byron Bay (where we stay in The Surf house, with free surf board hire) and the iconic Surfer’s Paradise. There are beaches with big waves for experienced surfers, and beaches like Bargara Beach which have perfect conditions for beginners.
Bet you’ve never tried sand boarding? You can on your east coast tour. Visit Stockton Sand Dunes near Port Macquarie, the largest sand dunes in the southern hemisphere. Before you know it, you’ll be hurtling down the dunes on a piece of wood! Back on the water, try snorkelling – the Lady Musgrave Island tour is amazing – or kayaking. Our tours give you the chance of kayaking in the everglades near Noosa, and on lakes in Atherton Tablelands just south of Cairns. And with all that ocean up the east coast, there is the opportunity to have a go at sailing – but more of that later.
For thrill seekers, there’s the chance to go skydiving at over Noosa, or throw yourself off a 50m tower tied to a rubber band! The bungee jump and giant swing at Skypark Cairns by AJ Hackett is the place for adrenaline junkies.
For those who prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground, there are heaps of awesome hiking and walking trails along the east coast. The lookouts at Tomaree Head, Noosa Heads and Niigi Niigi (Sealy Point) are highlights.
2. Get a taste of the east coast on your tour
The east coast of Australia is a foodie’s heaven. With a diverse range of bars and restaurants, there are loads of al fresco eateries along the coast, fresh seafood and a wide range of veggie and vegan options too. Check out our guide to vegan restaurants in Byron Bay.
You should also try to taste some wine and cheese in the world renowned Hunter Valley. If you only try one wine, make it a dry, refreshing Semillon. Don’t miss the famous Bundaberg rum and ginger beer, and check out Brisbane’s vibrant coffee culture. Finally, the Queensland craft beer scene is worth a taste (or two) on your east coast tour too.
3. City living
As well as travelling up the coast, you’ll have the chance to explore three of Australia’s major cities. No visit to Australia would be complete without a visit to Sydney, one of the world’s great cities. Two of our east coast tours start in Sydney, so don’t miss the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Darling Harbour, as well as the iconic Bondi Beach. Check out 30 free things to do in Sydney.
Brisbane is a city of arts and culture with a vibrant foodie scene. The Brisbane River winds through the city, but it is accessible on foot or by boat or ferry. Don’t miss the museums and botanic gardens on your visit.
Cairns, with its tropical climate is home to a huge salt water lagoon and with its buzzing nightlife, is the gateway to explore the Great Barrier Reef.
4. Party, party!
If you’re looking for great nightlife, it’s not only found in the cities. There are countless bars and clubs on your east coast tour, especially in Noosa and Airlie Beach. We have our own parties too: pizza nights and barbies at Port Stephens, Bundaberg and Yungaburra. Some of the places we stay are perfect for a party: there’s a pool bar at Bounce Noosa and live music and a nightclub at Gilligan’s Cairns. So let’s get this party started!
5. Chill out with a small town vibe
As well as the three major cities above, there are some fascinating smaller towns you should try and take in on your east coast tour. The old arty, hippy town of Bellingen is worth a visit. Did you know its church was the inspiration for a Booker Prize winning novel? Mullumbingy promotes itself as “The Biggest Little Town in Australia,” and has a sense of cool calm in its sub-tropical setting in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. It’s also home to the Mullumbingy Chocolate Shop – another great reason to visit.
Close by is Surfer’s Paradise, famous for its high-rise skyline and pristine 3km beach. There are always surfers, swimmers and joggers around, so join in. After a visit to K’gari (Fraser Island), it’s worth a quick stop at Rainbow Beach. The southern end of this beautiful 23km beach has different coloured sands, giving it its name.
6. Learn about aboriginal culture
As well as having a great time, travelling is all about learning, broadening your horizons and experiences. Your east coast tour gives you the opportunity to learn more about aboriginal culture. Discover ancient customs of “oral tradition”, where history, culture and folklore is passed down through generations through story telling. Share the aboriginal respect for land and nature, understand “Dreamtime”, an expression of creativity, and the use of native plants.
Some of our Stray Tours include an aboriginal cultural experience at an important site of the Gumbaynggirr people, where not only will you learn more about their culture and history, but you will play a part in keeping their heritage alive.
7. Camp under the stars
One of the traditions of back packing is camping, definitely something you should mix in with your hostels, hotels and lodges. Three of our Stray Tours include a visit to K’gari or Fraser Island, which is the largest sand island in the southern hemisphere. We stay 2 nights at a beach camp, sleeping under starry skies close to the beach and ocean. The camp also has its own kitchen and deck with views over the coast. In the evening, it’s tucker around the camp fire for a real camping experience.
8. Set sail for an island
With some much coastline to explore, it’s the perfect time to try some sailing. We have an incredible sailing experience on some of our east coast Stray Tours. You can cast-off on a 76 foot ocean sailing yacht to the beautiful Whitsunday islands.
Not only will you be a deck hand for a couple of days, hoisting sail and taking a turn at the wheel, you’ll actually live on board, swimming, snorkelling and sailing your way through the 74 islands. And when the sun goes over the yard arm, it’s time to watch the sunset with a sundowner in hand…
9. Get back to nature
Australia is a huge country with varying micro climates and natural landscapes. Your east coast tour means you will see more than just the beaches. Don’t miss the National Park at Noosa, taking in rain forest and coast, and easily accessible from the town. Just north is your chance to visit one of only two everglades in the world – great to explore in a kayak.
Venture inland from the east coast to take in the Atherton Tableland region. See spectacular falls with natural pools to swim in, and extinct volcanic crater lakes. Some of the Stray Tours even include a moonlit canoe trip on Lake Tinaroo to see the most incredible dark skies and stargaze across the night sky with no light pollution.
Finally, it goes without saying, but you also have to experience The Great Barrier Reef. With over 3,000 individual reef systems covering an area of nearly 345,000 square kilometres. It’s bigger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth that is visible from space. On a Stray Tour, we stay at Bundaberg at the southern Great Barrier Reef, and Cairns with its snorkelling and sailing tours to the Reef.
10. Get to know the locals
Aussies are friendly and fun, and you’ll make loads of new mates on your east coast Stray Tour. But it’s not just about the people… another thing you must do is get to know the local animals too!
At Port Stephens, we stay at a hostel set in 6 acres of bush land with kangaroos and wallabies roaming free. From Tomaree Head and Noosa Heads, you may be lucky enough to see Bottlenose Dolphins, or even migrating Humpback Whales between May and September.
You must see the koalas at the Koala Hospital at Port Macquarie, and learn how they preserve and rehabilitate Australia’s best-loved creature. At Bundaberg, you’ll not only get the chance to meet Bundy R. Bear (you’ll “bearly” believe it!), but you’ll also meet the turtles at Mon Repos and may get to see these incredible creatures hatch.
A 4-wheel drive safari on K’gari or Fraser Island means you can spot a variety of wildlife, including wild dingoes on the beach. Take care though. Remember these are wild animals, not cute dogs that like their ears tickled.
Finally, when you’re snorkelling or scuba diving off the east coast of Australia, you’ll realise that the old saying is true. There really are so many fish in the sea!
Wherever you go on your tour of Australia, you’ll visit some fantastic places and enjoy unforgettable activities. You’ll also make lifelong friends on a Stray Tour, and we hope that together you will experience some of our ten must-do things on your east coast tour. You will definitely see more & do more on a Stray Tour than when going on a self-drive trip by hiring a car or campervan. Check out this comparison of a bus tour vs a self-drive road trip.
For more inspiration, see our Best Places to Visit and Destination Guides.
When you’ve decided what you really must do, check out our choice of east coast Stray Tours. We’re sure there will be a couple that tick all your boxes and we hope we’ll be sharing these experiences with you soon.