Australia east coast must see and must do is here to help you travel better! Travelling Australia can be daunting given the size of the country (to give you an idea- you can fit Europe in Australia and there will still be some space left, it is that big!) but it is doable and definitely enjoyable. I hope this epic list of must-see and must do on the east coast of Australia helps you.
Loads of memories to make, bucket list items to tick off and new friends to meet! Whether you are solo travelling or short of time. There are so many bucket list-worthy destinations on the east coast, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed when planning your trip. You can bookmark this article, so you can come back to it anytime you want.
Recently I completed this east coast trip (a week ago to be exact) taking 3 weeks in total (Sydney to Cairns). Hence all the information are fresh and you don’t have to look anywhere else. You can also use this post as a guide to east coast Australia itinerary for 3 weeks or longer.
Honestly, not all the stops on the east coast trip were worth stopping. Therefore to save both of our times, I have put together only the best must-see places, sights and activities. So, you can make the best use of your time and stay in the mentioned places longer if you want to.
Some handy info for east coast Australia road trip
- The best time to travel east coast Australia
- The best places to stay on the Australian east coast trip ?
- Australia’s east coast must-see and must do! Let’s go
- 1. See speechless views at the Blue Mountains
- 2. Hop on hop off cruise around the Sydney Harbour
- 3. Skydive in Sydney
- 4. Feed the kangaroos
- 5. Experience the real Sydney
- More about the things to do once in your life in Sydney.
- Ultimate solo travel to Sydney guide.
- The most asked, the most Instagrammable places in Sydney article.
- Find out where to eat in Sydney without breaking the bank.
- Best hidden beach and bays in Sydney, Australia
- 9 of the best beaches in Sydney, Australia
- Guide to cool cafes in Sydney, Australia
- And here’s is Sydney’s top attractions you shouldn’t miss
- Best neighbourhood to stay in Sydney, find out here.
- Perhaps the best walks in and around Sydney is your style. Read it here
- Here’s is how to do Sydney Christmas if you are on a budget
- 6. Sip the wine in the Hunter Valley
- 7. Visit the markets in Melbourne
- 8. Meet the surfers and the hippies in Byron Bay and Nimbin
- 9. Enjoy the beach in Surfers Paradise, Gold coast
- 10. Hike to see the view from Mt Coot-tha lookout in Brisbane
- 11. Climb Story Bridge
- 12. Have a break in Brisbane
- 13. Hike to fairy pool in Noosa
- 14. Live the once in a life time experience in Fraser Island
- 15. See the stunning Lake Mackenzie
- 16. Walk among the tallest eucalyptus trees
- 17. Meet the interesting wildlife
- 18. Eat the delicious buffet lunch
- 19. Fly over the 75 Mile Beach
- 20. Visit the historic Maheno Shipwreck
- 21. See the interesting Pinnacles
- 22. Freshen up in lovely Elli Creek
- 23. Watch the Sunsets from the boat
- 24. Work on your Aussie tan in the Airlie Beach
- 25. Book a scenic flight to see heart Island
- 26. Snorkel/Dive in the Whitsundays Islands
- 27. Swim in the most photographed beach in Australia (wear stingrays suit)
- 28. Feel the magic in Magnetic Island
- 29. Eat breakfast with the koalas and feed the hungry lorikeets
- 30. Climb one more hill for that epic view
- 31. Go crazy in Cairns
- Let me know in comments
Currency = Australian Dollars
Hello = Good Day, G’day!
Bye = See you later!
Capital City = Canberra
Main cities and 6 states = (Sydney -New South Wales, Melbourne -Victoria, Adelaide -South Australia, Perth -Western Australia, Brisbane -Queensland, Hobart -Tasmania) and 2 territories (Canberra -Australian Capital Territory and Alice Springs -Northern Territory)
The best time to travel east coast Australia
Every season offers something different to experience in Australia. Below are months and weather guide but keep in mind, Australia in is Southern hemisphere so, it would be the exact opposite of northern hemisphere temperature. For example during Christmas and New year sun is at 30 degrees+ in Australia!
Summer – the three hottest months December, January and February.
Autumn – the transition months March, April and May.
Winter – the three coldest months June, July and August.
Spring – the three transition months September, October and November.
If you can, plan your travels to Australia during the summer. Otherwise, the rest of the year isn’t bad either. Australia is one of the best places for solo travelling, road trips, and solo trips for females are increasing daily with its less crime rate also. Reson why it is also regarded as safe places to travel alone.
Just get your phone or camera battery fully charged every night because there are way too many beautiful and Insta worthy places to capture.
The best places to stay on the Australian east coast trip ?
YHA Australia. Not convinced? Let me explain!
While researching where to stay on the east coast of Australia, I found YHA Australia offered the best deal. Not only they provide clean hostel style dorms but also private rooms. And most importantly they offer e-Pack, which is valid over 70+ hostels across Australia! e-Pack works as a bed pass, and perfect if you are on the budget. Accommodation starts from as little as $25 per night and you can manage and book online easily. 5,10,15,20 or 30 nights e-Packs are available on the YHA Australia official website.
In case you are wondering the best place to watch the New Year’s fireworks in Sydney, YHA on the Rocks got you covered.
Plus, the look and feel of the YHA space, the cleanness and the extra services they offer like – free pool, sauna, wine and cheese night (in Sydney), complimentary local tours, pub crawls and BBQs are outstanding!
If you are a solo traveller like myself, this is the best way to meet fellow travellers. And to top it off, as a guest you get a special price on tours and activities.
All goes to show YHA are more than just an accomodation provider. They care about their guests and also about the envrioment. Infact, YHA is a Not For Profit organisation and not just a hostel!
I was sold with the convenience of using the e-Pack and who doesn’t like saving money right!
Just keep in mind though with e-Pack, you can stay in 1 YHA for 3 nights only. But then there are 70+ places you can choose from, so don’t think it will be a problem. For example, Sydney has 3 YHA so, if you are keen to stay longer using e-Pack, you’ll just have to make more friends between three lovely space!
If you are camping, I suggest you download Wiki camp app from iTunes. It is free to use for 14 days and then costs just $7.99 which I think is very reasonable for what it provides for camping locations.
Alternatively, I recommend checking out Airbnb. The site usually has loads of options.
Use this $55 discount for your first booking with Airbnb Click -> here.
Australia’s east coast must-see and must do! Let’s go
1. See speechless views at the Blue Mountains
There is no better place to start Australia east coast
Katoomba is the main town in the blue mountains and a good place to start exploring the region. Following are the things you can do solo or with others. 1. See the three sisters from Echo point 2. Watch the sunsets from Cahill’s lookout 3. Go on Scenic skyway for dramatic views 4. Go to Katoomba Falls 5. Explore the Blue Mountains Botanical Garden 6. Try out one of the cozy cafes for hot soup or drink (I recommend true to the bean- their soup and toast are the most warm and delicious thing you would want on the mountains) and for some more adventures, challenge yourself to hike/climb Lincoln’s rock, Ruined Castle, or Hanging rock. Your east coast trip is not complete without a trip to the blue mountains.
2. Hop on hop off cruise around the Sydney Harbour
One of the best ways to see Sydney is getting on the hop on and hop off
Whether it be a gloomy day in winter or Sunny day in summer, captain cook cruise got you covered when it comes to discovering Sydney’s iconic attractions. They also offer high tea afternoon cruise and can arrange a cruise for your special occasions and celebration too.
3. Skydive in Sydney
Another must-do Australian east coast experience I can recommend is the Skydive in Sydney! You would be jumping off the plane or if you are lucky like me off the helicopter (with no doors) from 15000 feet above the ground! I couldn’t sleep much night before with excitement and ended up sleeping more in the morning. That resulted in missing my ride and I had to take a taxi to get to the skydiving place on time. Just remember there is no refund policy. So, plan accordingly and don’t forget to put the alarm on!
Once I was inside the helicopter, my heart was racing with nervousness! But I was also a little bit relieved to know my instructor had 10 years of skydiving experience and he basically threw us out of the door! The free fall that gives you bird like feeling is the best in the world and then after a few minutes, we came down to the earth. It is by far one of the best experiences I have had in Sydney. I recommend getting a DVD of your dive. It costs little more but I think memories you can share with your friends and family in the long term makes it worth it.
4. Feed the kangaroos
Who wouldn’t want to feed the Kangaroos and Koalas! You get the fun experience of watching kangaroos and Koalas in Taronga Zoo Sydney and Wild Life Sydney. They are in the heart of the city and easy to get to.
However, if you fancy breakfast with the Koalas then 45 mins drive to Featherdale wildlife could be the answer. Then Morisset Park is where you see the Kangaroos up close, they usually come out more in the evenings or morning. There is no fee to see them. So, I recommend to pack a picnic, feed the roos and then enjoy a picnic by the riverside. There is nowhere you can freely feed Kangaroos like here, don’t miss it!
5. Experience the real Sydney
There is always something going on, in Sydney, whether it be for foodies, culture kids or music lovers. I like the city where there are endless things to do and I never get bored! Hence it is one of my favourite city in Australia. Don’t just go to the Sydney Opera house and Bondi beach, usually locals don’t even go there that often.
Try to visit the places locals go and see things from their perspective. You will find something different and perhaps more entertaining. If you don’t already know, I am a Sydney local and I have shared everything I know in articles below.
Below is a different article dedicated to new comers in Australia. If you are new to Sydney or planning to visit. Bookmark the article below, you won’t regret it.
It covers everything you need to know about travelling to Sydney from visa, wifi, things to see and more. It also has links to Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne articles that are useful.
6. Sip the wine in the Hunter Valley
As you leave Sydney and only three hours drive up the coast, a perfect place to stopover is Hunter Valley. You can sample some free wine tasting sessions along with olives and chocolates! I recommend trying out Shiraz and Semillon. Wines are produced straight from the local vineyards by the hard-working small producers as well as large commercial ones. Take your pick!
With a variety of wine and chocolate factories, you may want to hire a bike, stay a couple of days, explore it all and go on a hot air balloon for that sunrise view. It would be a fun stopover on the east coast of Australia.
7. Visit the markets in Melbourne
It would be a shame not to include Melbourne in this list of Australia east coast must-see. Melbourne is a laid back sister of Sydney, full of cafe culture and hipster vibes. Also, don’t miss the Victoria market to indulge in all the fresh produce, lunch and dinner.
8. Meet the surfers and the hippies in Byron Bay and Nimbin
Next must-see on the east coast of Australia is Byron Bay. We all have seen it how amazing the clock tower looks on Instagram photos but beware in reality, the place is packed with tourists. So, go early to avoid the crowd or find another angle (from the bottom of the tower or from the water). Ok, coming back to Byron Bay, it is a must-see on the east coast because of it’s laid back surfing vibes meaning you will see physically fit bodies almost everywhere and they have nice cozy cafes and restaurants also. The best thing you can do here is learning to surf (many places around the town to rent a surfboard or book a lesson).
But if you are like me and not into surfing, I recommend heading to Tallow Beach, it is a quite spot stretching for seven km south of Cape Byron, the perfect place to read a book, have a picnic, take a dip or work on your tan. Alternatively, make a day trip to Nimbin. Think weed (you don’t have to), meet the hippies, see the rainbow shops, refresh in the waterfalls, and visit hemp museum.
9. Enjoy the beach in Surfers Paradise, Gold coast
While Surfers paradise is a touristic place, it is nice to visit for the day or two. You can take a jet boat ride, duck tour, or a river cruise and visit a bar or nightclub. Some of the must-sees are – surfers paradise beach (Sunday markets on the beach side), take a course to learn surfing, work on your tan at local’s favourite Nobby’s beach, eat at the market in Miami Beach, check out Infinity and go for a hike or run in Burleigh Heads. The above view is from Burleigh’s heads look out, beats the view from any other hotel room in Surfers Paradise!
10. Hike to see the view from Mt Coot-tha lookout in Brisbane
Time to head outside the Brisbane city and explore as a solo journey in Brisbane continues towards Cairns. Mt Coot-tha lookout is a short 7 km West of Brisbane’s CBD. If you drive, or someone is driving you that’s the easiest as there is plenty of free off-street and on-street parking as well as 5 bus parking bays. OR you can get Uber and taxies too.
Using public transport? No worries. Get on bus 471 that travels from Adelaide Street in Brisbane City to this lookout every day. While you are there, stop in at the Planetarium after wandering through the spectacular gardens.
11. Climb Story Bridge
Story Bridge climb is an adventurous climb of Brisbane’s most iconic landmark, witness amazing 360 panoramic views of Brisbane.
There are twilight, day and night walk available from the number of companies but I recommend this tour as they are affordable, easy to deal with, experienced guide is provided and you can also learn about the colourful history of the story bridge and Brisbane city. Let the adventure in you shine!
12. Have a break in Brisbane
The first day in Brisbane, I thought I wouldn’t like this city but on the second day, I was loving it already! I shared all my secrets in a blog post. To give you an idea, it is more like a Brisbane travel guide including itinerary filled with sightseeing in Brisbane. Check it out here.
13. Hike to fairy pool in Noosa
Noosa is a beautiful Australian resort area on southern Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Just like Byron Bay, it is also famous for its surfing lifestyle, and stunning areas. Locals refer to Noosa as Byron’s posh sister! You can either make a stop here or a day trip from Byron Bay works as well.
While you are in Noosa, don’t miss the main beach, coastal walk along the national park and hiking to this awesome fairy pool (35 mins return from the main beach), hell’s gate, surfing, day trip to rainbow beach or just chilling in one of many Noosa’s bar and restaurants.
14. Live the once in a life time experience in Fraser Island
UNESCO World Heritage-listed Fraser Island is one of my top 3 spots in all of the east coast Australia. Let me share why and hope it becomes your top 3 too!
Fraser Island is about 3 hours drive up from Brisbane city but there is no direct connection. So, you will have to make a stop in Hervey Bay and get on a boat. There is not much to do in Hervey Bay, except enjoying the empty beach and Mexican restaurants. So, plan accordingly.
Whether you are driving on a road trip, or on a bus pass, simple way to see Fraser Island is either, renting your own 4WD and camp or booking tours. Keep in mind, Fraser Island is the biggest sand island in the world. The roads are fundamentally sands, so you have to drive nonstop to keep the momentum and not sink in.
Which tours you asked? Well, it depends on various factors. Whether you want to experience multi-day tour or a day tour? Do you want to be on a party boat or quite one? Do you have enough time or/and money?
I could be wrong but I felt like a multi-day tour was all the same as a day tour except a couple more sights and drinking nights with teenagers. Nothing wrong with drinking with that age group, but I just felt better booking a day tour. It covered everything I wanted to see which are also must-see on the east coast of Australia.
15. See the stunning Lake Mackenzie
You can see the distinct difference in the 50 shades of blue here. Easily my favourite lake on the east coast of Australia. Lake Mackenzie has miles of white sand beach and is a freshwater lake meaning you can drink water from this lake! I wouldn’t mind living here. Would you?
I think this beautiful lake alone, makes the trip to Fraser Island worth it. See below for more not to be missed places in Fraser Island.
16. Walk among the tallest eucalyptus trees
Another Australian east coast must-see is the Fraser Island’s towering pines, rainforest trees with three-metre girths, rare and ancient giant ferns, and eucalypt forests. All growing (other than nitrogen) from only two sources – rain and sand! How cool is that!
17. Meet the interesting wildlife
I saw the bush lizards, unique birds, and huge Australian spiders too! was also expecting to see Dingos (the native Australian dog that resides in Fraser Island) but he didn’t turn up that day.
18. Eat the delicious buffet lunch
I was not expecting anything great with the price I paid but was pleasantly surprised by the decent buffet lunch. Many varieties and yummy too!
19. Fly over the 75 Mile Beach
The 75-mile beach is as you imagined, just miles and miles long beach area. It definitely lived up to its name! Interestingly, you can also board on a plane here and see this gorgeous island from above for added $80 (15 minutes flight).
20. Visit the historic Maheno Shipwreck
Maheno Shipwreck is a must-see because of its story. It was originally built in Scotland 1904 and was first used as a hospital ship in World War I and then later purchased by a Sydney company to ferry people between Australia and New Zealand. It was then sold to a Japanese company who planned to melt the ship into scrap metal and resell. So Maheno began the journey back to Osaka by tow, linked to another boat by a chain. Sadly, it found itself in the middle of a seasonal cyclone off Fraser Island’s coastline and lost its link to the other ship, which soon disappeared. It was then, it washed up on the shores of the 75-mile beach.
The Maheno shipwreck soon became scared for the native aboriginals where men would gather to play the didgeridoo and the women would go there to give birth! Today, it is a famous tourist attraction that’s on the Fraser island’s 75-mile beach and worth seeing it in person.
21. See the interesting Pinnacles
Another must see in
22. Freshen up in lovely Elli Creek
Eli creek was the perfect spot to refresh from the heat! I didn’t have tubes but if you watched my east coast story you know how fun it looked tubing there! Only if the water was a little deeper but it was still refreshing to walk along the creek with cold water on my feet and 30 degrees sun shining out there
23. Watch the Sunsets from the boat
Okay, this wasn’t included in the day tour, but I feel obliged to put it here because it was awesome! After all the beautiful things I saw on Fraser Island, this sunset was the cherry on top. It was great to end the day with this sunset before my eyes.
If you also want to book the similar day tour from Hervey Bay to Fraser Island. Read this and book it here.
Ps: Fraser Island is also known as K’gari which means “Paradise” in local Butchulla’s language. They have three laws that are to be respected “What is good for the land comes first; If you have plenty, you must share; Do not touch or take anything which does not belong to you.” I like this as I believe we can also use this in our daily lives! What do you think?
24. Work on your Aussie tan in the Airlie Beach
Another Australia’s east coast must-see is lovely Airlie Beach. It is about 10hour drive from Hervey Bay but
25. Book a scenic flight to see heart Island
Now, this is another exciting must-see on the east coast of Australia. Even if you have a fear of height, hope you can manage to do it! The flight lasts for 60 minutes, starts with a safety briefing, smooth take-off and landing. The best thing about it is, both sides of the plane are guaranteed views, as the pilot turns around the plane both sides. Getting picked up and dropped in front of your accommodation is covered.
When it comes to booking flights, there are two options that leaves from Airlie Beach. First flight flys over the nearby whitehaven beach, Hill Inlet Lookout, Bait Reef, Hardy Reef, Hook Reef and the another one includes all of above plus the the romantic Heart Reef, a Whitsundays favourite and the great barried reef.
The heart reef, as part of the outer reef, is visible only from the air – from the water it is just another turquoise blur. It was brilliant to see it with my own eyes, but the glimpse is only momentary but still enchanting at the same time! It is a lot smaller than you’d expect. So, pay attention to the pilot when he points out, that way you won’t miss it.
The views from above the Whitehaven beach, Hill Inlet lookout, the heart reef, and Great Barrier Reef are all unforgettable. A must-do.
26. Snorkel/Dive in the Whitsundays Islands
If you been following my stories on Instagram, you probably already know, I have a fear of deep water. Yep, nobody is perfect! It freaks me out thinking about the things under water and that my feet aren’t on the stable ground! So, I had to
I booked a 1 day snorkelling tour with two snorkelling spots. My plan was if I don’t snorkel in one spot, I will make sure to do it in the last one. And it worked! Luckily I did snorkel for a bit towards the end of the first session and the above image is from that moment. With a mask on, you can’t see how terrified I was but also very excited to meet all these beautiful yellowtail fish and a big George! It would be fair to say (write in this case) snorkelling in the Whitsundays made my trip even more fun.
It is no surprise due to global warming, the Great Barrier Reef has suffered extensive damage, and is believed to have halved the amount of space it originally covered. Probably a good idea to tick this bucket list item off asap! Book the snorkel/dive through a reputable company so, they know where to take you to see that untouched coral and beautiful underwater species.
Depending on your perferences look for either sailing tour, multi day/night tour, party boats, racing yachts or a day tour to Whitsunday Islands. There are 74 islands in Whitsundays and one of them is home to the world famous Whitehaven beach. Some of the whitest, softest and purest sand you will ever see, you can even scrub it on your face but is illegal to take it home with you!
27. Swim in the most photographed beach in Australia (wear stingrays suit)
Forget Australia, Whitehaven Beach is one of the most photographed beaches in the world! Luckily it is only a boat ride away from Airlie beach and is located in Central Queensland, Australia. If you book one of the tours, you can not only see the Whitehaven beach but land on this prestigious beach and spend a day there!
I am not judging but if you didn’t make it to Whitehaven beach in Australia, you missed out an important part of east coast itinerary. Consider booking this type of day tour at the very least.
28. Feel the magic in Magnetic Island
Magnetic Island is a bit out of the way like Fraser Island but the best places always are! Head further up from Airlie beach to Townsville and buy a ferry ticket online at sea link. Upon arrival, settle in, and if time and weather are right, pack some snacks and go watch the stunning magnetic Island sunsets.
29. Eat breakfast with the koalas and feed the hungry lorikeets
Here’s your last chance! That is having breakfast with the koalas in Australia. It happens onsite at the Yha -Bunglow Bay Koala Sanctuary every wednesday, friday and sunday morning. I wasn’t lucky with the dates but hope you are! You can also hold a koala, croc, snakes and lizards for an added fee.
Another must do
30. Climb one more hill for that epic view
Another Australia east coast must see is the fort hike in Magnetic Island. This hike not only offers entertaining education about the history of this precious island but also offers awesome views to match. Keep an eye out for the signs scattered on the trail and make a stop to learn why and how magnetic Island got involved in the first world war, how people used to live on this hill, and how they used to communicate back in the day. Not going to ruin it for you, but let me just say it is super interesting to try that mode of communication! And on your way to the top of the fort lookout for the wild pine koalas in their natural setting!
PS: When you are done with the hike and at the parking area on the bottom, turn left downhill, that leads to the secluded beach. You are welcome!
31. Go crazy in Cairns
I meant the number of must-see and activities you can do in
If not, exploring world heritage-listed Daintree rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, and day trips to the Skyrail Cableway, Kuranda Scenic Rail, Atherton Tablelands, Port Douglas, and Cooktown are equally exciting and also must see.
Weather Cairns is a starting point of your east coast journey or ending. It is time to celebrate!
You are either about to create magical memories or ending an unforgettable journey. That calls for a pat on the back and a drink at the best place in town. Head to Rocco by Crystalbrook for the best rooftop view and sort yourself out at the Elemespa. I would say this is one final must-do while travelling east coast of Australia because if you have gone this far to give all these incredible experiences to yourself, you deserve to give yourself some luxury too.
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Let me know in comments
- Which activity you are excited to see and do?
- Read the solo travel Sydney, Australia guide here.
- Heading to Melbourne next, check out my favourite points of interest here.
- Heading to Perth, read my favourite things to do here.
- How about Adelaide attractions? Get the quick guide here.
- Going to Hanoi, Vietnam? Check out the 7 days travel guide here.
- If you need to book accommodations for your next travels, get $55 discount with Airbnb here.
- Alternatively, you can check hotel prices and book it through trusted Agoda, or Booking.com
- Whatever you do, book the cheapest flights through most trusted sites such as Skyscanner or Momodo.