Without a doubt, one of the most popular backpacker routes in the world is along the east coast of Australia, between Sydney and Cairns, and with good reason. In addition to the pristine beaches, stunning sunsets and wildlife parks with all our favorite native animals, this trip is an adventure addict’s dream.
In June this year, Arianwen Morris, who blogs at Beyond Blighty, traveled from Sydney to Cairns with Contiki Holidays. In this article, she highlights some of the most exciting activities on offer in the area.
Visit any Australian beach on this stretch of coastline and you’re almost guaranteed to see some surfers. Aussies are crazy for the sport and most tourist beaches have outfitters offering lessons. Close to Coffs Harbour is a place called Spot X where you can stay at surf camp for as many days as you need. The instructors are very helpful and it’s a really sociable setting.
Further north in Byron Bay, you can go dolphin spotting in a kayak. While this might sound relaxing, the waves get pretty big, making for some interesting entrances and exits from and to the beach. Even further out to sea, the swells can be huge and not many people avoid capsizing at least once.
A relatively new sport, jetpacking allows you to fly through the water and even a few metres into the air. Jetpack Adventures in Surfer’s Paradise also provide the chance to try flyboarding. Ten minutes with each is enough to get a feel for it and to start looking like a pro.
Australia’s east coast has a number of fantastic dive sites. Other than the obvious – the Great Barrier Reef – you can swim through a cave of nurse sharks at South West Rocks, drift alongside manta rays, turtles, leopard sharks and wobbegongs at Julian Rocks, or check out the famous Yongala ship wreck close to Townsville. Consider a liveaboard if you want to access the best dive spots on the reef and stay away from the crowds.
Bombing along a deserted beach in a 4WD watching the occasional whale breach on the horizon is a great experience. Combine that with a dip in the clear and spa-like waters of Lake Mckenzie, followed by dolphin watching during the most impressive sunset you’ll ever see and you will no doubt include Fraser Island among the most beautiful places you’ve ever visited.
The Whitsunday Islands are situated on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. This makes them a fantastic spot for sailing and snorkelling trips. Most will take you out for a couple of nights where you sleep on the boat and visit the white sands of Whitehaven Beach. When the wind picks up, the boat tips to an impossible angle, and the adrenaline kicks in. Hook your legs over the top side of the boat and hold onto the railing for an exhilarating ride, but don’t forget to race over to the opposite deck when the boat changes direction.
Cairns is the best-known location for bungy jumping in Australia and the AJ Hackett team have gone to town making sure that even the most experienced bungy jumper won’t get bored. There’s a jump menu with styles requiring varying levels of skill and bravery. You can get into a fancy dress outfit or even cycle off the roof of the bungy tower. The Minjin Swing right beside it is a less intense option, but if you’re really not in the mood, you can sit on the viewing platform with a beer and watch everyone else’s torment.
Uncle Brian’s Tour
While not strictly an adventure tour, Uncle Brian’s day trip to the waterfalls and forests of the Atherton Tablelands is one of the best on offer anywhere in the world. From start to finish, it’s a mad assortment of interactive entertainment, and they haven’t missed a trick. As well as taking on natural rock slides and flicking your hair at the waterfall where the Herbal Essences advert was filmed, you’ll enjoy games and karaoke on the bus, and much, much more.
Of course, your options don’t stop there. If you’re a fan of heights, why not check out the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb or the SkyPoint climb at Surfer’s Paradise. Surfer’s is also a popular spot for skydiving. The Tully river, south of Cairns is one of the best white water rafting rivers in Australia, and up in Cape Tribulation you can horseback ride and zipline through the jungle.
With a fantastic climate, friendly people, gorgeous scenery and so much fun to be had, a journey up the east coast of Australia is pretty much guaranteed to be memorable for all the right reasons.