East Coast Australia Road Trip: Know All About

East Coast Australia Road Trip
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An epic journey around the Pacific coast of Australia, from Sydney to Cairns, is a goal of many people’s travel fantasies.

This coastline provides ample activities to satisfy even the most extreme adrenaline junkie, with its perfect beaches, old rainforests, modern cities, magnificent national parks, islands, and animals.

Indulge in scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, drive a 4×4 along the world’s longest sand island, hike in national parks, and experience the finest of Australia’s east coast with this tour.

When Is The Best Time To Travel To The East Coast Of Australia?

What season is ideal for driving down Australia’s East Coast? Oceania is home to a massive nation.

Its landmass is large enough to accommodate almost two-thirds of Europe. Consequently, weather conditions might differ across the country, particularly during the winter months (May to September) in Australia.

Here’s a quick rundown, but look at my comprehensive Australia climate guide for more information.

Cairns experiences scorching weather all year round and is the biggest town on the East Coast in Tropical North Queensland. The rainy and dry seasons, though, are separate from one another. 

Warm, dry weather and few tourists are what you can expect in Cairns during the Australian winter (May–September). Cairns experiences hot, humid weather with plenty of rain during the Australian summer (November to April).

Beginning in December, this tropical monsoonal system climaxes with heavy daily rainfall in January. While days can still be hot and sunny, diving conditions can be more challenging, and visibility for underwater life can worsen due to tropical showers.

Cairns is a popular destination for scuba divers, so missing out on this activity would be a major bummer. 

Cairns and its environs are also important during stinger season. In the ocean, you can find small, venomous box jellyfish. The sting is excruciatingly unpleasant and, in severe circumstances, deadly. Visitors must wear stinger suits while swimming from January to March when this is most prevalent.

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So, if you’re planning a trip to Cairns in the winter, you can expect long, bright days with little rain and the water to be free of stingers. As previously said, scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef is a dream come true, thanks to the ideal water temperatures and visibility exceeding 50 meters.

Also, the breathtaking Daintree Rainforest is most vibrant and beautiful during this time. Plus, the water levels are perfect for white water rafting then, but it’s usually too risky to do between January and March. 

I can attest from personal experience that August and September are the most ideal weather in Cairns. It was the beginning of spring, so there was a plethora of color and life in the trees and plants, and we could participate in any activity.

While December in Cairns was also pleasant, the temperature and humidity were much higher. Although there was no precipitation in early December, the cost of lodging was significantly higher. Another incident involved a stray stinger that had entered the Great Barrier Reef waters before anyone else.

After thirty minutes or so, the discomfort and stinging stopped. Overall, May through September are ideal for a visit to Cairns.

However, this does depend on your intended activities while you’re there. Then, Brisbane is located at the very tip of Queensland’s southern tip. It enjoys consistently pleasant weather throughout the year, a rarity in Australia. 

The climate is warm-temperate so you won’t need a sweater too often. Extreme heat and humidity characterize the Australian summer (January–March), much like in Cairns. Even though most thunderstorms and heavy rains occur in the late afternoon, they are most likely to occur during this time.

April through May and September through November are ideal for a trip to Brisbane due to the pleasant weather, moderate humidity, and little rainfall. But if you can handle somewhat cooler weather, June through August is still a fantastic season to visit Brisbane.

With its long, hot, sunny days, September and December were my favorite months to visit Brisbane. Nonetheless, there was a lot of rain when I visited Brisbane and the surrounding area in February.

Deciding where to go on your Australia East Coast Road Trip Itinerary

You have planned your epic road trip and secured transportation (a car or a bus pass). Choosing a destination is the exciting part now! If it needed to be more obvious, my favorite part of Australia is the East Coast.

Plus, it has mild temperatures all year round. Like I said before, I’ve driven it both ways, but my favorite was the part between Cairns and Brisbane. Similarly, this is the quintessential East Coast of Australia road trip. 

It includes the glittering Whitsunday Islands, the Great Barrier Reef, dozens of beautiful national parks, and beaches known worldwide.

So, we’ll be starting in Cairns for the sake of this blog article, but you can change it up and start in Sydney, Byron Bay, or Brisbane instead. So that you may better plan and determine which places to visit, I have also included the minimum and maximum number of days needed for each.


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Accommodations in Sydney: Wake Up! Central Sydney Area

Visit Australia’s most famous city, Sydney, to start your journey down the east coast. Stay for at least two days, preferably longer! Here, famous landmarks meet world-class beaches in a seamless fusion of urban and beach life.

Sydney’s iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge are must-sees. Visit Circular Quay to capture these famous monuments in all their glory. You can reach the Royal Botanic Garden on foot in minutes from Circular Quay. Located in the middle of Sydney, this garden is a lush haven where you can relax with a picnic.

Hiking the famous Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, a breathtakingly picturesque 6-kilometer route that leads to some of Sydney’s finest beaches in the eastern suburbs, is an essential part of any trip to the city.

Manly Beach is a neighborhood in Sydney well-known for its beautiful coastline walks and great snorkeling, so I think you could enjoy a day trip there by boat. It is highly recommended to take the 30-minute ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Beach.

Sydney Attractions

  • See the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House while in Sydney.
  • Peruse the Royal Botanic Gardens on foot.
  • Finish the coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee
  • Stop by Manly Beach

Byron Bay State Park

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You, Byron. It’s no wonder it’s a top destination for Australians seeking a beachside getaway. Byron is irresistible; the laid-back atmosphere, welcoming locals, and breathtaking beaches make resisting impossible.

In Byron, you can find many beaches, pubs, and eateries. If you’re looking for a place to unwind and maybe even watch some dolphins playing, I suggest Wategos Beach.

Many visitors pilgrimage to the lighthouse as the sun rises over Byron Bay. You can begin your stroll on Bay Street at the Beach Hotel, a well-known watering hole.

From here, just keep going along the beachside walk. I guarantee that the early morning alarm will be worthwhile because the view from the lighthouse is breathtaking!

Nimbin is the alternative lifestyle capital of Australia thus I think you should visit it on a day trip from Byron. Nimbin is a fascinating area to visit, with stores selling psychedelic apparel, spiritual goods, and cafes where you may, uh, unwind.

The most bizarre day of my Australian vacation was the one I spent in Nimbin when a wild Bob Marley fan named Jimmy drove a rainbow-colored bus around the countryside.

Byron Bay Attractions

  • See the Byron Bay Lighthouse on Foot
  • Learn how to surf
  • Go to Wategos Beach to See Dolphins!
  • Come to Nimbin.
  • Take it easy on the shore

The Gold Coast

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Honestly, the Gold Coast was different from my cup of tea. On the other hand, I’ve included it in this itinerary because many people enjoy it; you can decide if it’s a place you want to see. The Gold Coast had an ostentatious quality that was entertaining.

Shopping, theme parks, and vibrant nightlife make this entertainment city massive. You can find paradise on the Gold Coast if you adore this sort of thing! We rode the tram to adjacent Burleigh Heads National Park after becoming slightly irritated with the city. 

As we headed to Tallebudgera Creek, we strolled through the picturesque National Park. Sunbathers, paddleboarders, and swimmers enjoyed the picturesque Tallebudgera Creek.

Those interested in visiting Burleigh Heads National Park can also use the tram number. the direction of Tweed Heads, 700. The trip takes approximately forty minutes.

Gold Coast Attractions

  • Visit Surfers Paradise Beach to unwind.
  • For sweeping views of the harbor and city, head to Q1’s Sky Deck.
  • Explore Burleigh Heads National Park on foot.
  • Visit a fun amusement park
  • Shop, sip, and have a bash

Brisbane, Australia

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Located inland, Brisbane (or Brissie as the locals call it) is a lovely and contemporary metropolis. The South Bank of Brisbane is the hippest spot in town, with all the parks, gardens, restaurants, cafes, pubs, the Brisbane Ferris Wheel, and, most importantly, the lagoon.

A man-made lagoon has been constructed in the heart of Brisbane since the city is not on the shore. We stayed for a few days to soak up the sun and relax on the beach because it is beautiful here. 

Many restaurants and pubs line Brisbane’s main drag, Queen Street, which also features a mall and plaza. We could have easily spent more time shopping and exploring the area, but we went out for dinner one night—a rare occurrence given our backpacker budget.

The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary ranks high among visitors to Brisbane. With 130 of these adorable creatures calling it home, it is the world’s oldest koala refuge! The bus stop is on Queen Street, so getting there is easy.

Brisbane Attractions

  • Take it easy in South Bank.
  • Experience Roma Street Parkland
  • Come to Queen Street to dine and shop.
  • Stop by the Gardens of Botany
  • See the Koalas at Lone Pine Sanctuary

Noosa Area

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Outdoor enthusiasts will find Noosa to be an ideal destination. Among the best natural attractions on the Sunshine Coast is Noosa Heads National Park. Noosa was among my favorite spots to visit along Australia’s eastern coast.

Over 9,800 acres of heathland and rainforest comprise the national park, and five paths have been officially recognized for walking.

A short ascent from Noosa Main Beach will get you to the Noosa National Park parking lot, from which you can access the park’s fifteen-kilometer hiking paths that wind their way through the natural beauty.

I have personally done the Coastal Track, which is the most popular, and the Tanglewood Track, where I encountered some untamed koalas. If you enjoy challenging hikes, I recommend the Coastal course.

Remember to carry a lot of water, as most of the course is exposed to the elements. From Noosa Heads to Sunshine Beach, it winds past numerous picturesque bays, the so-called Fairy Pools, and numerous opportunities to view animals.

You can also enjoy a stroll around Noosa town. Hastings Street is the beating core of Noosa Heads and is teeming with eateries, cafes, galleries, shops, and boutiques selling designer goods. 

A beautiful crescent of golden sand, Noosa Main Beach borders the town and is ideal for lounging and taking in the scenery. At the time of my visit, the beach was hosting a surf festival, so it was fairly lively! On the other side of Noosa Heads is the equally breathtaking Sunshine Beach.

Also, kayaking along the Everglade systems—of which Noosa is the home—is popular. The second Everglade system is in Florida. Whether you have a day or an entire weekend, you should kayak in the Everglades. It is just stunning.

Noosa Attractions

  • Visit Noosa Heads National Park and go hiking in nature.
  • Paddle a kayak across the Noosa Everglades.
  • Sunny Beach and Noosa Main Beach are great places to unwind.
  • Visit Hastings Street to shop and dine.

Fraser Island

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Among my favorite parts of my time in Australia was visiting Fraser Island. If you’re planning a road trip along the country’s eastern coast and can only afford to see one major destination, make it this one! Fraser Island is the biggest sand island on Earth, measuring 122 kilometers long, and home to lush rainforests, sandy beaches, and freshwater lakes.

Guests can take a ferry from Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach to Fraser Island. For both our first and second nights on Fraser Island, we opted to stay at Rainbow Beach.

You can join a guided tour, rent a 4×4, and drive around the island. One of our favorite things to do in Australia was to enroll in a guided tour and go on a multi-day camping and 4×4 experience. 

We explored the coastline in a 4×4, swam in remote lakes, found sunken ships, and pitched tents under the stars. The Maheno Shipwreck, a 5,000-ton ocean liner that sailed between Australia and New Zealand in the 1900s, is located on Fraser.

She has lain abandoned on Fraser Island since a violent typhoon swept her ashore in 1935. Among the other notable attractions is Eli Creek, a winding stream that offers the opportunity to float serenely in an inflatable tube. Ascend to Indian Head Lookout for a breathtaking panorama of the island. 

Alternatively, you may plunge into the picturesque Champagne waters, a swimming hole famous for its effervescent waters. But Lake McKenzie is the crowning glory.

The island’s most popular attraction is its crystal-clear silica sand beach and clean rainfall pools. Legend has it that you may use the sand to clean your jewelry because it is so pristine. Take in the breathtaking scenery of Fraser Island while swimming for a few hours in the idyllic waters of Lake McKenzie.

Fraser Island Attractions

  • Take a 4×4 vehicle and drive along Fraser’s “highway.”
  • Go for a swim in Mackenzie Bay
  • Explore the wreck of the Maheno
  • Explore Eli Creek by tube
  • Visit Indian Head Lookout for a breathtaking panorama.

Whitsunday Islands

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True Blue Sailing offers trips to the Whitsunday Islands on the New Horizons.

Travel south from Rainbow Beach to Airlie Beach, the starting point for excursions to the Whitsunday Islands. The Whitsundays are an amazing chain of seventy-four islands known for their pristine beaches and lush tropical flora.

It’s easy to see why it ranks among the world’s most famous sailing spots. You can pick from various sailing trips, including adventure cruises, day trips, family cruises, fast-paced day trips, and wild party tours. Reserve the one that best suits you! 

The most well-known is the Atlantic Clipper, a thrilling two-night party cruise that includes scuba diving, bush excursions, and wild, alcohol-fueled nights. On board, you’ll find a Jacuzzi, enormous bean bags for sunbathing, and 52 other travelers who share your interests. The enormous inflatable water slide should also be mentioned.

Choose a Whitsundays cruise with New Horizon if you’d rather have it easy. Even if there’s more action in New Horizon, it’s still a social game. Adventurers can go swimming, scuba diving, paddleboarding, or bushwalking. You can expect to see Whitehaven Beach on your sailing excursion.

The beach is so soft that it will squeak under your feet and has an unbelievable white color. Make your way to the Hill Inlet viewpoint for a breathtaking glimpse of the tidal twists as the sand and water meet in a stunning display of blue and white swirls.

Whitsunday Island Attractions

  • See Whitehaven Beach in Person
  • Visit the Hill Inlet lookout for a breathtaking panorama.
  • Try your hand at scuba or snorkeling.
  • Relax in the sun while lounging on your cruise ship’s deck.

Magnetic Island

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Magnetic Island, or Maggie as the locals call her, is a picturesque, tranquil, tiny island situated 18 kilometers offshore from Townsville on Australia’s East Coast. It was another highlight of my trip there.

You can easily reserve a seat on SeaLink’s 18 daily ferries between Townsville and Magnetic Island. A Barbie automobile would be perfect for your arrival. Magnetic Island is famous for its topless automobiles, which tourists may rent and ride in style.

They’re entertaining, eccentric, and a novelty you ought to embrace. We had a blast taking the island’s roads to explore each of the 23 small bays. Horseshoe Bay was my favorite since it was the most picturesque spot with the best sunsets. 

The most popular residential bays include Horseshoe Bay, Alma Bay/Arcadia, Nelly Bay, and Picnic Bay; however, there are many more peaceful bays; you might even discover one that is empty.  If you drive up there, you can spot dozens of rock wallabies hanging out in Geoffrey Bay as twilight approaches.

They’re curious and won’t hesitate to ask you for more information. If you’d want to feed wallabies pellets, you can do so at the store in Arcadia. In addition, the Forts Walk is a beautiful 4-kilometer hike that leads to the remains of a World War II fortification complex and overlooks that offer breathtaking ocean views.

On top of that, the Forts Walk is the greatest area on Magnetic Island to see wild koalas, and the island itself has more of them than any other in Australia. Two sprang out before our eyes! The optimal times to see them are early morning or late afternoon.

Exploring Magnetic Island: What to Do

  • Take a spin around town in a rented novelty automobile.
  • Along the Forts Walk, you may see wild koalas.
  • Go from one bay to another
  • Give the rock wallabies some food at Geoffrey Bay.
  • Enjoy a breathtaking sunset at Horseshoe Bay.

The Cairns

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Cairns, often called the adventure capital of Australia, is an ideal stop on the way down the country’s east coast. Cairns has it all, being located between the historic Daintree Rainforest and the iconic Great Barrier Reef.

Bungee jumping, skydiving, and white water rafting are just some exciting adrenaline sports offered in this bustling backpacker town. Cairns may lack a true beach, but the town’s picturesque man-made lagoon more than makes up for it.

Come here to cool off from the hot north Queensland heat, swim, relax, and enjoy a picnic. Also, take advantage of the Daintree Rainforest, the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, where you may see exotic animals, beautiful beaches, and breathtaking waterfalls. 

Now, seeing the Great Barrier Reef—a natural wonder of the world—is an absolute must for any traveler to Australia. Fortunately, Cairns serves as the entry point to the reef, and numerous dive shops and tour operators are available to take you snorkeling and scuba diving.

Join SeaQuest for a day excursion to the outer reef for some swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, and sunbathing. Coral, fish, and maybe even a sea turtle will all be visible. My recommendation for a fun, party-oriented Cairns hotel is Gilligan’s.

Thanks to its low prices, friendly service, and crazy nightclub, Gillie’s is a favorite among residents and tourists. You should forgo a night at Gilligan’s if you’re aiming to get some rest, but if you’re in the mood to party, it’s well worth it.

Best Attractions in Cairns

  • Dive into the Great Barrier Reef while you’re there.
  • Kick Back in Cairns Lagoon
  • Explore the lush Daintree Rainforest
  • Try your hand at white-water rafting, skydiving, or bungee leaping.
  • Gilligans for the Party

Which Vehicle Is Best for a Road Trip Down the East Coast of Australia?

A camper van is the way to go for any road trip in Australia, in my view. You can go at your speed and experience an unequaled level of freedom.

A vehicle tour of Australia’s east coast is another fantastic alternative for those who don’t feel comfortable behind the wheel of a campervan.

Your degree of comfort and preference for staying in hotels or hostels vs. enjoying the freedom of your campervan will determine your travel preferences.


Is The East Coast Of Australia Feasible To Drive To?

Travelers looking for a thrilling road journey will find it all over Australia’s East Coast. The sun-kissed highway winds past picturesque towns, verdant jungles, the Great Barrier Reef, and native animals in plenty.

How Would You Recommend Seeing Australia’s Eastern Coast?

Australia is a fantastic tourist destination because of its picturesque coastline, limitless sunshine, and open highways. Traveling the length of the East Coast is best accomplished by airline, campervan, rental car, or long-distance bus.

Is Covering The Entire East Coast Of Australia In Just Two Weeks Feasible?

Even though you will need more time to see the entire country in just two weeks, our 15-day East Coast Whimit travel pass will allow you to visit all the major Australian attractions you’ve always wanted.

For What Time Should I Aim To Explore Australia’s Eastern Coast?

Nevertheless, it is achievable in just two weeks, with stops at K’gari (Fraser Island), Airlie Beach, and Cairns sprinkled throughout. Our top recommendation for those with more time would be to spend six weeks exploring the East Coast and all its natural and coastal attractions.

Does The Drive From Sydney To Cairns Merit It?

Are you planning a road trip from Sydney to Cairns along the East Coast of Australia? Fantastic decision! Cutting across two of Australia’s most iconic cities, this 2500km (or more, depending on your plan) road trip will surely be a highlight on any motorist’s bucket list.

Final Remarks

Finally, a road trip down Australia’s East Coast is an exciting adventure providing a rich tapestry of experiences. There is a veritable rainbow of scenery and things to do on the East Coast, from the bustling metropolis of Sydney to the beautiful beaches of the Gold Coast and the incredible Great Barrier Reef.

Traveling around Australia by car is the best way to see its beautiful landscapes, bustling cities, and ancient cultural sites. Every mile traveled contributes to the narrative of an incredible experience, whether passing historic sites, lovely seaside villages, or the untamed wilderness.

By allowing visitors to see the wide road, different landscapes, and friendly Aussies, the East Coast road trip captures the magic of Australia.

Hi, I'm Md Abid Hasan. The owner & content editor of Travellye.com. Travellye.com is a travel blog that covers road trips, day trips, and destinations guide.

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