East Coast Must Do’s

When you think of Australia, you think epic sunshine, surfing, BBQ’s and beautiful beaches! I have recently travelled the East coast, and I can guarantee that the East Coast gives you exactly that and so much more! I spent 6 incredible weeks travelling the East Coast with
Loka, and had the best time! In fact we loved our Australian adventure so much, we are back – this time for three months! I cannot recommend travelling the East Coast enough and if you are thinking about doing it – BOOK YOUR TICKET I promise you won’t regret it!

These are my Australia highlights and East Coast must-do’s, but this is really just the surface – there are so many other incredible places explore!

Zabb-E-Lee cooking stations!

Why the East Coast?

Australia’s East coast is a popular route for backpackers to take when visiting Australia. It stretches from the beautiful city of Sydney in New South Wales over 2000km north to Cairns in Queensland. The route between them is totally jam packed with stunning scenery, amazing wildlife, unique towns, the best cafes and breathtaking beaches.

Hostels are the popular accommodation choice and the East Coast is scattered with them. I stayed in some great hostels along the way, and I booked all of them through either Hostel World or Booking.com. But if you fancy something a bit different then take a look at Airbnbwhere you can find unique homes to stay in, and meet awesome, local people like we did on the Gold Coast! (theres £30 off your first booking too!)

Must-Do Trips

We arrived in Sydney without having booked ANY of our day trips or experiences, planning to do this on the way. Little did we realise how many options there would be and how confusing this can get! Thankfully, when we arrived in Byron Bay we met Sam @ Rat Pack Travel and he SORTED IT! Thanks to Sam’s expert knowledge, he booked us on some incredible trips, including the ABSOLUTE must-do’s : Whitsundays, Fraser Island and The Great Barrier Reef. Oh and he arranged for us to jump 14,000 feet out of a plane too! If you are more organised than us, then Head over to Rat Pack Travel now – this will guarantee you get the dates and tours you want, because things do book out, especially in peak season.

So let me take you through the must-do activities and location highlights of Australia’s East Coast!


The Incredible city at the start of my East Coast Adventure

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ Sightseeing @ Sydney Harbour }

Sydney has really got it all – a bustling CBD, amazing beaches, great nightlife, awesome food spots,  hidden gardens, the harbourside, and incredible views all over. And as a city, it really isn’t too busy either… in fact I think it is my favourite city yet! I have so much more to see and do in Sydney, but here are my recommendations so far! Check out my Top places for Healthy Eating in Sydney too.

{ Things to See and Do }

  • Sightseeing at Circular Quay : See the iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House!

  • The Blue Mountains National Park : Hike one of the many trails and visit the Three Sisters for Sunset

  • Relax in the Botanical Gardens : Take a picnic and enjoy this peaceful spot in the city

  • Get the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly beach: Enjoy epic views of the harbour!

  • Bondi to Coogee Costal Walk : The picturesque 6km walk takes you through stunning beaches, pools and parks

  • Find Wendy’s Secret Garden : This hidden garden in Lavender Bay has awesome views of the Harbour bridge, and it’s fun finding it too!

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ The Three Sisters @ The Blue Mountains }

{ Eat, Drink and be Merry! }

  • The Glenmore Hotel @ The Rocks : Amazing harbour views

  • Watsons Bay Hotel @ Watsons Bay : Catch the ferry over the bay for a Sunday Session!

  • Buckley’s @ Circular Quay : Enjoy awesome Harbour Bridge views during happy hour (5-7 Mon-Fri… our fav spot!)

  • Bucket List @ Bondi Beach : Perfect place to enjoy a drink after a day of surfing or sunbathing!

  • The Green Lion @ Balmian: You won’t quite believe their menu is all vegan! Try the Aussie burger for vegan beef, cheese, egg and bacon on one sitting!

  • Thr1ve @ MLC centre : My favourite spot for healthy breakfasts and lunches!

  • El Cantino @ The Rocks : Awesome Mexican food with massive Margaritas – Tuesday is $2 tacos!

  • Cali Press @ Surry Hills : Raw, healthy treats and the best smoothies ever!

  • Messina @ Circular Quay: Ice cream heaven!

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ View from The Glenmore Hotel @ The Rocks }

{ Top Tips }

  • Grab an Opal travel card from the station or newsagents – this works on all the ferries, buses and trains in Sydney

  • Download the free Opal app – it will plan any journey for you across all ferries, buses and trains!

  • Save longer trips Sundays, as travel is capped at $2.50 all day, but expect it to be busier than usual!

  • Look out for festivals and event going on – there is always something! Check out this site for up to date info
The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ Wine time with a view @ Bucket list, Bondi Beach }


I fell in love with Byron Bay on my East Coast Adventure

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ Hammock life @ Byron Beach Resort }

The welcome sign to the town of Byron Bay says ‘Cheer up, Slow down, Chill out’ and they definitely practise what they preach! Byron Bay has a reputation of being a unique town with a serious hippie vibe, and it really lives up to that! We ended up staying in Byron for over a week –  we loved the relaxed vibe so much and we really could have stayed for much longer! Full of organic cafes, surf culture and creative individuals, Byron Bay will definitely win your heart, so make you you plan enough time here!

Byron Bay is also the home to my favourite hostel we have ever stayed in. Byron Beach Resort is located further out of town than many other hostels, but just a 15 minute walk along the stunning Belongi beach, and you are in the centre of Byron. This hostel captured the laid back vibe of Byron perfectly, and we spent a lot of time chilling in hammocks or strolling along the beach (which is literally a two minute walk from the hostel!) If you stay at the hostel you are welcome to free bike and surf board hire, $10 all you can eat pizza night, free transport to the Lighthouse for sunset and loads more! Take a look here

{ Things to See and Do }

  • Cape Byron Lighthouse: Watch the sunset from the most Easterly point of Australia (it’s totally worth the early start I promise!)

  • Watch the sunset on main beach:  Chill and see the sky turn a beautiful pink as the sun goes down over Byron!

  • Day trip to Nimbi (You have to see the real Hippie town of the East coast) : Book a trip with Ratpack Travel

  • Byron Bay Market : Community market held on the first Sunday of every month, 8am-2pm.

  • Explore the high street: Awesome boutique shops,wholesome cafes and quirky drinking holes!

  • Take a surf lesson (or enjoy the surf if you already know how!) : Enjoy the perfect waves along the Byron Bay beaches or relax on the beaches

  • Explore the high street: Awesome boutique shops,wholesome cafes and quirky drinking holes!

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ The Cape Byron lighthouse }

{ Eat, Drink and be Merry }

  • Leaf and Grain : Brunch heaven (and the best avocado Smash!)

  • Naked Treaties : Healthy cafe with raw cakes, fresh juices and smoothie bowls (and it’s all so pretty – check out their instagram)

  • Goodie’s Juice Bar: The best acai bowls – add all the toppings you want!

  • The Tree House @ Belongi: Amazing breakfasts (Breakfast tacos!) and lunches ( Cauliflower falafel!) and live music! Right on belong beach, and a stones throw from the Byron Beach Resort hostel

  • Woody’s:  If you fancy dancing on the table with all the backpackers, this is the place for you!

  • The Beach Hotel:  Perfect spot for enjoying a drink and looking out over the beach

  • The Railway:  Great ‘pubby’ pub, and live music too!

  • Balcony: Outdoor seating overlooking the town is the perfect people watching spot, and there’s plenty of that to do here!

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ Avocado Smash @ Leaf and Grains }


The East Coast’s answer to Miami!

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ The Skytower @ Surfer’s Paradise }

The Gold Coast is well known for its beaches, and quite rightly as it has 35 of them! The Gold Coast (nicknamed the Australian Miami) is proud of its sea, sand and sun – 300 days a year to be precise! Surfer’s Paradise is at the centre of it all, with a serious party vibe! There are more chilled out spots too – we stayed further down the coast in an awesome Airbnb in Mermaid Beach, which was only a short tram ride away from busy Surfer’s

{ Things to See and Do }

  • The Sky Point Observation Deck: The best views of the Gold Coast (Around $20 entry)

  • Walk in Burleigh Heads: Awesome coastal walk along the track of the National Park

  • Mermaid Beach: Enjoy the quieter beaches further out from Surfer’s

  • Take a trip to Jupiter’s: The biggest casino in Queensland! Black or Red…?

  • Explore Surfer’s Paradise: Shopping, restaurants, pubs, nightclubs…everything you could need is here!

  • Head to Snapper Rocks: Top location for pro surfers and the Quicksilver Surf competition

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ Coastal walk @ Burliegh Heads }

{ Eat, Drink and be Merry }

  • Helen’s Heavenly Wholefoods Kitchen : Acai Bowls, sweet treats and other healthy goodies!

  • Garden Bar @ Jupiters Casino : Beautiful restaurant with a menu that took me A LONG time to choose from and a great wine list!

  • Balcony @ Surfers Paradise:  Perfect spot to take in the party vibes (from a distance) and enjoy happy hour!

  • Alfred’s Diner @ Mermaids Beach:  Cute little diner serving salads, burgers and the usual – but really well done!

  • Sushi stall @ Main street in Surfers!:  I have no idea of the name, but awesome, huge sushi rolls!!

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ Acai Bowl @ Helen’s Wholefoods }


The world’s largest sand island right on the East Coast!

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ Lake Mackenzie @ Fraser Island }

Fraser Island is the biggest sand island in the world measuring 123 kilometres (76 miles) long and 22 kilometres (14 miles) wide. It is a world heritage listed site, and it really deserves that title; the lakes (over 100 of them!), beaches and rainforests are insanely beautiful, you must go! It’s also the only place in the world where rainforests grow out of the sand dunes! It’s full of interesting nature, including the wild dingos that you occasionally see!

Fraser Island tours depart from Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach, and include the barge needed to get across! Most of the tours cover the majority of the must-dos listed below. We went on the Cool Dingos 2 day 1 night tour, (it was AMAZING!) which we booked through Ratpack travel. Ratpack offer a range of tours for Fraser island, including 4WD self drive tours and coach tours, so take a look at their site, or chat to Sam, and they’ll help you find the right tour for you!

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ Things to See and Do }

  • Take a swim in Lake Mckenzie

  • Visit the SS Maheno Shipwreck

  • Take a walk in Central Station – the peaceful ancient rainforest

  • Visit the awesome creeks – Eli and Wanggoolba

  • Climb to the top of Indian head

  • Relax in the Champagne pools

  • Take a scenic flight for an incredible birds eye view of the island

The local food market - Ming Muang Market


Home to the most beautiful beach on the East Coast…and maybe the world…!

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ Hill Inlet @ The Whitsundays }

The Whitsundays is a collection of 74 completely STUNNING islands in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. The whole Whitsundays experience is amazing; sailing around the islands is just awesome in itself,  the snorkelling there is incredible and Whitehaven beach literally took my breath away,  it is too beautiful! Trips to the Whitsundays depart from Abell Point Marina in Airlie Beach, which is not far from the high street. Most tours will pick you up form your hotel and take you to the marina as part of the transport. Like Fraser island there are a huge range of tours to choose from; ranging from 1 day trips to 3 nights on a boat, from calm sailing yachts, to fast jets, to party boats. Due to time constraints we only had a day to spend in The Whitsundays and thanks to Sam @ Ratpack, we booked onto a brilliant day tour – Ocean Rafting This is a high speed jet boat trip, that ensured we saw all of the highlights listed below. It was was awesome speeding around the islands with some amazing music playing, incredible views and awesome company! Tom and I both loved this tour, and both agreed it was one of our favourite days in Australia!

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ Whitehaven beach @ The Whitsundays }

{ Things to See and Do }

  • Snorkel in the beautiful reefs

  • Relax on Whitehaven beach

  • Walk through the National Park

  • Check out the view @ Hill Inlet

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ Snorkelling @ Hook Point }


The end of the East coast trip… and a party town!

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ Esplanade @ Cairns }

Cairns, with it’s humidity, huge amounts of tourists and it’s selection of bars and clubs is a real holiday town and it really feels like people are there to have fun.  There’s no beach in town, but there’s an amazing salt water Lagoon on the Espandade which is an awesome place to chill out relax and enjoy the heat! And it goes without saying that Cairns is best known for the day trips to the Great Barrier Reef (We did the Down Under tour) and the Rainforest. It’s also the place that we ticked Sky diving and Scuba diving off our bucket list!

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ Feeding Kangaroos @ Rainforestation }

{ Things to See and Do }

  • Scuba Dive in the Great Barrier Reef

  • .. or snorkel in them!

  • Visit the crazy bars – particularly Gilligans for a wild night!

  • Sky dive over the reef!

  • Head to the Rainforestation park to fed kangaroos, cuddle koalas and learn about nature

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ Scuba Diving @ The Great Barrier Reef }

The local food market - Ming Muang Market

{ In the sky @ Cairns }

This really is just some the highlights from our trip and my East Coast Australia must-do’s!

Have you been to the East Coast? What do you recommend?

Heading to Melbourne? Read my Weekend in Melbourne post!

Thanks for reading!

The Healthy Backpacker x

By | 2018-02-14T09:47:03+00:00 June 16th, 2017|5 Comments


  1. Sofa Travel July 29, 2017 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this article and also for the top hostels on East coast 🙂 I will use it maybe in December. I am planning and calculating budgets for the moment. May I please ask you:

    1. How long would you recommend for Sydney? The shortest possible time, but to get to see things.
    2. How long did you spent on Eat coast? I was thinking about Sydney+Fraser+Whitsundays+ stop 1-2 days in Brisbane
    3. I want to pack East coast and New Zealand South Island for hiking in 22-26 days (3-4 days are gone with flying from London) , not sure if that’s an achievable goal. What do you think?

    Thank you and a great trip!

    • nicki July 31, 2017 at 9:49 am - Reply

      Hey, glad you enjoyed this post! The East Coast is great, you’ll love it! 😍

      1. Ok this is a tricky one because there is soooooo much to do in Sydney – we have been here for three months and still have things on our list to do! So really it’s as long as you can spare! It also depends if you are planning on doing some of the bigger things – like the bridge climb or going to the blue mountains or are more interested in the main sights of the city? What had you planned to do?

      2. We did a coach trip with LOKA (which was AMAZING! I would definitely recommend that) After leaving Sydney (the first time we were here) we spent 5 weeks travelling up the East Coast until we reached Cairns. That was a good amount of time to see everything we wanted, but again, could have spent much longer! So definitely give their website a look – http://loka.travel/loka-travel-pass/

      3. I would definitely say that to really enjoy it and see everything that might be cutting it a bit short – how were you planning to travel the East Coast? and where in New Zealand were you planning to hike??

      Nicki x

  2. Sofa Travel July 30, 2017 at 9:14 am - Reply

    Also, do you think a low budget of 3000 USD would be enough for 3 weeks in East cost& South NZ? Well, I like good meals from time to time, but generally I stick to low budget when it comes to accomodation and organized trips.

  3. Diana August 3, 2017 at 6:09 am - Reply

    Hi, thank you so much for all recommendations and insights. I had a sabbatical last year in South America, so this year I am quite short on time, but maybe would be a good strategy to wait till I have more time than 3 weeks. To answer your question in Nz I want Fjordland (maybe Milford track or Kepler) and Mount Cook (Aoraki), and something more, still studying 🙂

    • nicki August 7, 2017 at 2:23 am - Reply

      You’re welcome! Glad it helped 🙂 Mount Cook is incredible – we went up to the mueller Hut and back in a day and it was incredible (a bit scary…) but AMAZING! XX

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