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A Travel Guide to the East Coast Australia

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Travel Distances of the East Coast

The Australia East Coast refers to the long, beautiful stretch of road between Sydney and Cairns. It is peppered with some of the most popular backpacking trails in the world. The spectacular East Coast of Australia trail is jam-packed with tourist destinations and iconic sights you can’t get enough of. On the Australia East Coast Map, you will see that the coastal stretch spans over 4000km. It would take four weeks to cover the entire route from Melbourne to Cairns.

Check out our Australia’s South East Coast Guide, which runs from Sydney to Melbourne for 1000 km. You could spend 3-7 days on this journey visiting the pristine beaches, ancient national parks and covering the route well.

East Coast Australia Road Trip From Sydney to Cairns

Tips for Travelling the East Coast

Drive A Car Or A Campervan

Driving up the East Coast is best done by renting a motorhome or campervan. There are many places to see between Sydney and Brisbane and between Brisbane and Cairns. You can start in Sydney and spend a few days at its free campsites. When you reach Byron Bay, you will find the Yelgun Rest Area, which is excellent for campervan parking. In Brisbane, you will find camping spots on its outskirts easier.

The Capricorn Caves of Rockhampton and Townsville have camping spots you can enjoy. You must look out for paid campsites at Arlie Beach, Whitsundays, and Magnetic Island. Whether you start your journey from Sydney or in reverse order, you can make many drives stops along your East Coast route.

Fly On Down To The East Coast

Taking one or more flights will save you a lot of time and allow you to see more sights of the coast. My tip is to fly and drive to cover long distances. The main airports along the East Coast include Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Coffs Harbour, Airlie Beach, Rockhampton, Townsville, and Cairns.

From Sydney, take a flight to any of the destinations on the East Coast. There are many airports, and flights are plentiful. You can take a trip from Brisbane or another major airport and drive the rest of the way.

Hop-On And Off A Greyhound Bus

Try the Hop On Hop Off Passes if you want to travel by bus. They are handy for travellers who wish to spend less time planning and more time enjoying their holiday on the East Coast. You can pick the Sydney to Cairns trip pass and travel on any Greyhound Coaches between the two cities. This pass can be purchased for 90 days, allowing you to go one way between destinations. If you want to explore specific areas for longer, many pass upgrades are available.

Journey By Train

There is no direct train running from Sydney Station to Cairns. The journey by train will take you approximately 40 hours. Your train journey will start in the afternoon at Sydney Central Station and end at Brisbane Station early next morning. From Brisbane, you have to switch coaches on your way to Cairns. The Brisbane-Cairns train operates on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday—more info about all trains in Queensland.

Enjoy The Adventure Of A Guided Trip

The East Coast of Australia has so many breathtaking destinations that it is tough to see each of them quickly. Therefore, many action-packed organised East Coast Tours of Australia will help you thoroughly explore it.

Best Places To Visit on Australia’s East Coast + Things To Do

The gorgeous East Coast has many spectacular things to do and see. You will have your pick of beaches, national parks, shopping centres, and art galleries. Here are my picks with some of the best places to visit along the east coast of Australia.

East Coast Australia Whitsunday Islands

  1.  Sydney And The Blue Mountains

    When visiting the East Coast, you must visit the scenic Blue Mountains, which gets its name from the blue haze created by the vast eucalypt forests inside it. When you go there, do not miss out on a walk to the Echo Point Lookout, where you can view the Three Sister Rock Formations. You will also travel in a glass-floored cable car suspended above a steep gorge. It is a must-see place when exploring Sydney and its surroundings.

  2.  Brisbane And the Gold Coast

    Brisbane is the hub of artistic centres, creative spaces, and hip new restaurants. Located just 71 kilometres from Brisbane is the Gold Coast. The best thing about the Gold Coast is its incredible array of beaches. You will also find a booming culinary scene and theme parks like you have never seen before.

  3. Byron Bay

    Byron Bay is a coastal town located in East Coast NSW. It is full of vibrant beaches, unique shopping opportunities, and many festivals. Look over the spectacular mountains of Byron Bay in a hot-air balloon or even go sky-diving.

  4. Sunshine Coast

    This Queensland Australian state surely earns its name with several stretches of unbroken beaches as far as the eye can see. It is also home to more individual national parks than any other region in Queensland. One of the best things to do is take a Sunshine Coast to Sydney road trip and explore these incredible spots. Noosa is a top place for a stopover on your east coast trip.

  5. Fraser Island

    Queensland’s Fraser Island is one of the world’s largest sand islands spanning 123 kilometres. It is also the only place where breathtaking tall rainforests grow on dunes at elevations of more than 656 feet. Here you will also find dazzling lakes formed in the depressions of dunes.

  6. Whitsunday Islands

    An East Coast trip is incomplete without visiting the stunning Whitsunday Islands. If you want to picnic on the beach, visit Whitehaven Beach, the most beautiful beach on Whitsunday Islands.

  7. The Capricorn Coast

    The Capricorn Coast of Australia is a diverse and breathtaking place. It sweeps along the beautiful Pacific Ocean, and the Capricorn Coast beach has incredible views of the Great and North Keppel Islands.

  8. Magnetic Island

    Magnetic Island is just a 20-minute ferry away from Townsville and has all of an island paradise’s natural beauty and serenity. It has a beautiful Forts Walk where you can witness WWII history alongside stunning ocean vistas.

  9. Cairns And Port Douglas

    Cairns and Port Douglas are the best holiday destinations along the Australian East Coast. Take the scenic coastal drive from Cairns to the seaside village of Port Douglas. At Cairns, there are many tours to the Great Barrier Reef and overnight live board experiences where you can explore fluorescent corals under the moonlight.

  10. Cape Tribulation And The Daintree Forest

    Cape Tribulation is a beautiful destination situated in North Tropical Queensland. This coastal area is part of the Daintree National Park, full of activities, tours, and fun attractions. It has two fantastic walks: The Madja Botanical Walk and the Dubuji Boardwalk, which will take you through the forest and mangroves.

  11. Cooktown

    Cooktown is a site on the East Coast that is rich in history. If you want to take in some incredible history, the James Cook Museum on Helen Street’s corner is the right place. One of the best visiting spots is the Grassy Hill Lookout which gives you a 360-degree view of the countryside and its surrounding beaches.

East Coast Australia Road Trip Itinerary

Your East Coast travel explorations are not complete without a road trip. Here are some of the fabulous, fun-packed road trip itineraries.

Sydney City

East Coast Australia Itinerary 2 weeks

Week 1

If you are thinking of spending two weeks on the East Coast, you must take a trip through big cities, the best beaches in the world, bushlands, and rainforests. Starting from Sydney, go to Nelson’s Bay, a pretty little town and an ideal base to explore New South Wales’s remarkable region.

Go dolphin spotting and make a stop at the Nelson Bay heritage lighthouse. Next on your list is Port Macquarie, situated just near Hastings River. You can visit the beautiful St. Thomas Church, one of Australia’s oldest.

Located nearby is Coffs Harbour, where you can spend a day at the beautiful marine conservation park. The surrounding green hills and the rocky Cape Byron will make you feel at home. Next on your list is Queensland’s Gold Coast. Home to the fabulous Surfers Paradise, it is the place where you will have the most fun picnicking and learning how to surf.

Week 2

With so much travelling, you will need time to unwind and be at peace. Brisbane is a lush city with spectacular gardens and beautiful beaches, an excellent place for a break. After a relaxing day, go to the fabulous Sunshine Coast with its lush green rainforest and gorgeous beaches. If you are tired of spending time at the beach, visit Fraser Island, where you can see some of its designated camping regions and even whale watching.

From Fraser Island, continue with your road trip to Rockhampton, which lies over 500km away and is Australia’s capital of beef farming. You will have a lot of fun visiting some of its rodeos and sitting on the banks of the Fitzroy River. Make your way to the beach once more when you visit Airlie Beach. It has a wide range of aquatic activities for you to pursue, including snorkelling, sailing, and scuba diving.

Your second last stop on your 2-week itinerary is Townsville with its famous Magnetic Island attraction. Townsville has many fantastic places to stay before you make your way through the final stretch of the East Coast on your way to Cairns. This bustling town has a lot to see, including Mission Beach, Daintree Rainforest, and Cape Tribulation.

East Coast Australia Itinerary 3 weeks

Week 1

Start your three-week trip from Sydney. You can spend days hitting the beaches like Coogee, Narrabeen, and the famous Bondi. Nearby you will find the lovely Blue Mountains. Do visit Coffs Harbour, where you must see the lovely Sealy Lookout. It has incredible views of the city that you must see! Don’t forget to visit Byron Bay, one of the most amazing places to hang out.

Week 2

Take the East Coast wildlife by cuddling a cute Koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. The City Hall’s bell tower is also nearby and a great place to finish the day. You can spend a day at Noosa Heads. It is one of the most beautiful places on the east coast, with waterways and beaches everywhere you turn.

Week 3

If you are looking for an island getaway, visit the impressive Fraser Island. It is an excellent place to spend a few nights and participate in some of its tours. Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays are two more places to spend a few days. Here you can take marvellous boat trips, unwind at all the pristine white beaches, and, lastly on your great East Coast adventure in Cairns. From the Daintree forest to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns has a lot in store for you.

East Coast Australia Itinerary 4 Weeks

If you decide to take a 4-week East Coast Trip, there is a lot for you to explore and enjoy. You can follow the three-week itinerary while giving yourself more time to enjoy different activities and sights. Here are the things you can do:

1. Rainforests

Why not take a trip to the Daintree Forest, home to thousands of rare species? Located nearby is Cape Tribulation, where you can end the day by taking a relaxing walk along the rainforest’s boardwalks. You must not miss the Kuranda National Park when visiting some of the great East Coast rainforests. You can be adventurous and even explore the rainforest on a quad bike.

2. Beaches

Palm Cove is great for soaking up the sun and enjoying the calming waves; later in the day head on down to Port Douglas, where you will be fascinated by the stunning aquatic biodiversity and the colourful coral reefs. When taking up the beautiful East Coast beaches’ sights and sounds, make the most of your time and go on boat tours to the Great Barrier Reef. It offers travellers and adventure enthusiasts the best range of scuba diving experiences.

3. Waterfalls

It would be best to take the waterfall circuit in the Atherton Tablelands. It has seventeen waterfalls that are dazzling in the wet season. These photogenic waterfalls are magnificent for a refreshing swim and relaxing outdoor day. A road trip through the Atherton Tablelands to see more of the wetlands and mountain region.

4. Scenic flights

You will also take a scenic flight to explore the Great Barrier Reef’s views and the Whitsunday Islands. It is a marvellous unparalleled experience that you won’t get anywhere else.

Visit the East Coast of Australia on Tours

Explore the East Coast of Australia on tour, going from Sydney to Cairns. You can choose from a diverse range of trips that fit your time and your budget. There are 3-day trips that will help you visit all of the most iconic destinations along the coast. You could also select a 10-15 days package to visit more places and stay longer. There are different selections of tours for backpackers, those who want more luxury and comfort, and those packages where you can customize the places you want to visit.

With the best East Coast Australia tours, you will get to explore the coastal regions, have fun at beaches, see some of the most iconic historical destinations, or even stop at some of the more popular spots. Whether you love going on adventures, finding new places, or just meeting new people, there is something for everyone on these East Coast tours.

You can also check out All Australia Travel Destination Guides.

A Travel Guide to the East Coast of Australia

First published in Oct 2019, last updated in July 20213If you find this article helpful for your trip, I’d appreciate it if you could support Rocky Travel and book tours, accommodation, rental car, or purchase my book using the links below. Thank you!


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