The east coast of Australia is the mostly highly populated part of the country. It is also the major destination for travellers to visit on a holiday. The east coast lends itself to beach holidays, plus city holidays and the ability to explore some amazing countryside along the way.
Many travellers elect for a self drive holiday along a portion of the east coast as their experience of Australia. The Most popular route is from Sydney to Brisbane or Sydney all the way to Cairns, and driving in a campervan from Sydney is also the perfect way to explore and experience Australia. A self drive holiday allows you to see what interests you the most while not wasting your time exploring something of less interest.
The route north is the Pacific Highway which runs along the coast line and past many towns with great beaches and surf to be enjoyed. There is so much to experience on a campervan trip from Sydney to Cairns that I am going to focus on few key spots you should definitely visit.
Located 2.5 hours North of Sydney is Port Stephens which is a sunken river that has formed into a bay. The biggest town in Port Stephens is Nelson Bay which is also the main centre for marine activities. The Great Lakes Marine Park is located in the bay and is home to much marine life including around 150 dolphins. You can enjoy diving, kayaking, swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing or a sunset cruise to enjoy the bay. Many of the marine activities can be found from the Nelson Bay Marina.
You can also enjoy protected family beaches inside the bay or the open surf beaches outside the bay. There is also a walking path that takes you to Nelson Heads Lighthouse where you can see great views of the coastline and enjoy a coffee in the lighthouse cottage.
Byron Bay is located 90 minutes south of Brisbane and is the most easterly point of the continent. Byron Bay has long been a hotspot for tourists to visit on any trip along the east coast of Australia. Visitors are attracted to Byron for its small town feel and beach life style. It has great diving at Julian Rocks and you can always find somewhere to swim and surf either on the north side of Byron Headlands or the south side depending on the direction of the weather.
The view from the light house at Cape Byron are also a must see, with views all the way up and down the coast. Cape Byron is also a great point to watch for passing whales as they migrate north or south from Hervey bay to the Antarctica. Byron has plenty of activities to enjoy such as sky diving, scuba diving, surfing, swimming, bush walking in one of the many national parks located in the hinterlands. Byron also hosts a few very popular music festivals each year, the Blues fest and Splendour in the Grass.
No place is more associated with a beach holiday than the Gold Coast. It has long been the destination for families to spend their summer holidays at the beach. It is not a small beach town, but a large city with plenty of high rise apartment buildings and shopping centres, an international casino and an array of night life spots. The Gold Coast also has the broad water, the rainforest national parks in the hinterlands, and easy access to Australia’s’ best know amusement parks; Sea world, Movie world, Wet & Wild and Dream world. The Gold Coast offers something for everyone.
Only 1 hour north of the Gold Coast is Brisbane which offers a city experience. You can visit Mt Cootha for a view of the entire city out to the sand islands of Moreton Bay. Take time to explore South Bank and the river walks, the botanical gardens, the planetarium or enjoy the casino, Brisbane nightlife, take in a show or visit a sporting event (basketball, cricket, rugby, soccer or Australia Rules) depending on the season.
Heading north is the Sunshine Coast with its real gem being the township of Noosa. This beachside town is situated at a juncture of the Noosa River and the Noosa Headlands. The river and its associated lakes and waterways provide a great environment for the township and grant its access to the water. The Headlands also creates a north facing beach as the main beach of the town which is very unique and often has very calm waves. The headlands are national park and have several easy walks around them for great views. You can always find good surf somewhere around the headlands in most weather conditions.
The beach and Hasting Street attract most visitors, but a stop at Noosa should also include some time to explore the river and waterways. You can hire a boat, kayak, Jet Ski to use on the river. Fishing tours, dive trips and sunset cruises can also be arranged from the river area. Just north of the river is the Great Sandy Region National Park for anyone wishing to explore the region.
Located 5 hours north of Brisbane is the city of Bundaberg which features two must do attractions. The first is Mon Repos which is a beach where turtles come ashore to lay eggs. You can visit and see a turtle laying eggs or you can visit when the eggs hatch and the baby turtles leave for the open ocean. The second great adventure from Bundaberg is visiting the Great Barrier Reef which can be done with a trip to Lady Elliot Island which features an eco-resort or a day tour to Lady Musgrave Island. The tour to Lady Musgrave Island allows you to dive or snorkel in the protected waters of coral cay lagoon, enjoy a glass bottom boat tour of the reef, and walk on the island to see the large bird population.
Bundaberg also features the local Rum Distillery which you can visit and not far away you can find the great beach areas of Elliot Heads and Woodgate. Bundaberg is a great stop over, but plan your turtle visit in advance as you need to book with the turtle centre and they do book out.
Sitting south of Cairns you can find the tropical paradise of Mission Beach. The beach is sandy and the waters are calm with great views over to Dunk Island. You can catch a boat over to Dunk Island for a day trip to enjoy the beach, or visit the resort, even hike the mountain for those that are energetic enough. Mission Beach is a much quieter township than some of the other spots, but as a place to stop it allows you the chance to get to the outer coral reef, white water raft on Tully River, or just enjoy the lay back atmosphere.
Port Douglas / Cape Tribulation / Cairns
Although Cairns is the drop off point for most travellers it is worth venturing further north to Port Douglas and then on up to Cape Tribulation. Just north of Cairns are the Cairns Beaches which include Palm Beach and is worth a stop to enjoy a lunch break. West of Cairns just up in the tablelands is the village of Kuranda. This tourist spot is nestled within the rainforest and features many crafty little shops and cafes. You can drive up to Kuranda, but you can also take the sky rail or the train up so you get a chance to travel through the rain forest itself.
Heading north to Port Douglas and four mile beach is one of the country’s most scenic drives, the Barrier Reef Drive. Port Douglas is a great spot to stay and has a wonderful beach area and marina with easy access to many reef tours. Continue heading north and you pass Mossman Gorge, which you should stop and visit, then on into the Daintree. The Daintree is the only area in Australia where rainforest meets coral reef at the beach. Cape Tribulation is a great spot to enjoy the beach and reef and is such an idyllic paradise that you will want to stop.
Notables Not Featured
There are many places that I have not covered in this article that are also worth a stop, but that is what travelling and exploring is all about, picking what you want to see. So you have a list to research further let me mention the following places; Blue Mountains, Newcastle, Hunter Valley, South West Rocks, Nimbin, Coffs Harbour, Harvey Bay, Fraser Island, Townsville. Enjoy your Exploring.