Australia East coast road trip
The final part of our Australia East coast trip was the most exciting part! Based on this road trip alone I can say it’s my favorite trip I have ever done.
It was an 8-day road trip, which is waaay too short for such a long distance drive with so many amazing places you can visit. It’s possible, but I would recommend more days as we did everything in a fast pace.
We obviously had to choose the places wisely. Either way, I don’t think you can go wrong though, every stop is so diverse and breathtaking. From the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef to the oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest in the world Daintree Rain Forest, it’s all so epic.
We drove about 4100 kms in total. We didn’t plan much ahead. It was easy to book a hotel on the road to keep our destinations flexible. A few places we bumped into by accident and we decided to spend more time there, which meant we had to cut in our plans somewhere else. So my advice is to keep your plans as open as possible to get the most of your trip.
Here are some places on our roadtrip that are totally worth the stop!!
Starting from Nambucca Heads
We started with a coastal city called Nambuca Heads. The town has a small population of just 6000 residents. Nambucca’s main beach can also be used for surfing.
The pictures shown above were taken at The Vee Wall that has been transformed into a graffiti gallery by locals. A real effort clearly has been put into painting the graffi is that it added a unique characteristic to this town.
Grafton is an elegant area, being the home for colonial buildings from the Victoria and Edwardian era and also home for the most beautiful spring. This amazing sea of flowers are called Jacaranda, and Grafton is actually famous for their Jacaranda Festival that is being celebrated from the end of October till the beginning of November, because then it’s spring in Australia.
Grafton’s Market Square, which is a park in the center of the town, is pretty much the headquarter for the festival. You’ll find lots and lots of foods, a wine festival, and of course, purple everywhere!
(If it’s not Jacaranda season, I would not persé recommend this stop. It’s nice if you have time, but if not, you wouldn’t miss too much.)
Continuing To Brisbane
Brisbane is one of the cities that we wished to have more time to explore. This metropole is the third populous city of Australia. We stayed here for only one night, had our breakfast and we were on the go again. Although I can’t really speak from experience, I could tell that it’s a really vibrant city with lots of hotspots and things to do!
And To Byron Bay!
Aaaand we finally made it to Byron Bay, one of the most popular getaway spots in Australia. Byron Bay has clear-as-glass sea and beaches and that was just one of the many reasons why it has become a favorite destination for locals and foreigners. You can start with walking to the lighthouse of Byron Bay, and after all the walk, you can make a stop at Comma to have a relaxing massage. Not only beautiful beaches and white sand, Byron Bay also has stunning shops like Marr-Kett which sells beautiful moroccan rugs, Ahoy Trader for its cute trinkets and chic wares, and Newrybar Merchants for the ultimate Byron products and finds.
There are 5 Byron Bay beaches that are worth for to visit such as The Main Beach that is the most popular and the closest to town, Clarkes Beach that’s only 10 minutes walk from the Main Beach and less crowded, and it’s also where I took the picture above. Then you also have The Pass that is famous for a surf break, Wategos Beach with its breathtaking crystal-clear water and rocks dotted along the sand, and Tallows Beach that you can also spot from the Lighthouse.
Then Off to Kangaroo Sightings at Coombabah
Coombabah Lakelands is actually a huge conservation area that is perfect for either short or long walks and you will be given a map to explore the different sections that Coombabah has to offer. I would suggest to pack a picnic basket and use a comfortable outfit and shoes for the walking trails.
If you’re into making friends with the kangaroos like I am, go ahead to Myola Boardwalk that will lead into the Boundary Track where the kangaroos gather around. And before reaching the Boundary Track, you can also pass the koala track and spend some time befriending the adorable creatures.
Be aware that the gates close at 18.00!
And To Sunshine Beach/Coast
And next, we continue our journey to southern Queensland. Our first stop was the beaches in Sunshine Coast to take a coastal walk and simply enjoyed the breathtaking view of the crystal clear, blue water.
My goal of the hike was to swim in the hidden fairy pools, which are two natural rock pools near Noosa. The best time for a dip is during low tide, because during high tide you might not see them anymore.
You have to hike for it though and know where to look for, as it’s a bit hidden from the track. Check the GPS location during the hike.
You can approach the pools from two sides. We went via Sunshine beach, as the trail is more diverse with different landscapes and the possibility of bumping into koalas on this trail made our decision.
Know that on this track you will also pass by Alexandria Bay, which is a nudist beach.
I also spotted a Jellyfish which got me freaked out and excited at the same time!
Then To Hillsborough for Kangaroos Sightings at Sunrise
Has anybody seen the infamous images of stunning kangaroos on the beautiful beach with a nice sunrise on the background? Well, the real scenery was more magical than what was shown in pictures, I assure you.
Cape Hillsborough National Park is still located in Queensland, just 50km north of Mackay. Please note that the kangaroos and wallabies are wild animals, and you can get closer but not too close since making the animals feel uncomfortable and trapped would not do you any good. Also, please follow the signs as instructed NOT feed the animals.
The best time to go here is around 40 minutes before the sunrise. A minute too long after the sunrise you might end with an empty beach with no kangaroos around. I would suggest packing a picnic as you would need breakfast after walking around the beach around sunrise, and of course, having breakfast on a beautiful beach will always be a great idea!
And Next, Eungella National Park for the Platypus
Koalas? Check! Kangaroos? Check! Now it’s time to befriend the Platypus! They are actually such rare and unique creatures. They are unique because aside from being mammals, they actually lay eggs instead of giving birth like the usual mammals.
The Eungella National Park is located at Mackay and the best time to visit is at dusk, which is just after sunrise or before sunset. Although it is more likely to visit before sunset as you can plan a day trip and experience other views that the national park has to offer.
The sections to spot the platypus are viewing decks, which is a popular spot for the sightings and is just a 5 minutes walk from Broken River, and if you’re into the ‘off-the-beaten tracks’, you can go ahead to the rugged tracks by the river that will lead to a rainforest. Anyways, please note that the platypus won’t show themselves for too long, as they dive back to the water pretty quickly. It would be nice to bring a binocular with you to have a clearer vision of the platypus, and also pay attention to the bubbles in the water as usually it’s a sign that a platypus is about to show up. The male version is venomous, so watch these cuties from a distance ;)
The river has more to offer than only the Platypus, as you can also see many trutles and even some snakes in the water.
On to The Next One: Horseshoe Bay
Horseshoe Bay, which is still located in Queensland is actually the most iconic beach in Bowen. Other than being an ideal spot for divers and snorkellers. The beach is as breathtaking from above as from down below. I’m so happy that we managed to get these shots even though pictures honestly don’t do justice of how it looks like in real life. The beach is decorated with big natural granites that creates this astonishing view and of course, also functions as a comfortable viewing deck as we enjoyed the sunset.
And To Great Barrier Reef (Reefsleep)
And next, I’m going to the Great Barrier Reef to experience the high light of the road trip, the Reefsleep from Whitsundays Cruise. I actually have a dedicated blog post for this experience that you can read here
Etty Bay, You’re Next!
I might not have a picture with the cassowaries (one of the largest flightless birds) but this spot is actually well known for its cassowaries sightings. Yes, that’s where they gather and cassowaries are what attract naturalist to come to this place. Around the area there’s also a cafe where you can enjoy a coffee, waiting for the cassowaries to pass by.
And To Babinda (Wooroonooran National Park)
Still located in Queensland, Wooroonooran National Park at Babinda is a 800 sqm paradise decorated with gorgeous natural pools, rivers, waterfalls, walking tracks, romantic couple retreat, lush valleys, unique wildlife, camping, walking tracks, and so much more!
As the natural pools are a must-see, I suggest these names to take your afternoon bath at: Babinda Boulders, Josephine Falls, Behana Gorge, Goldsborough, and Nandroya Falls.
Actually, according to local legend, they believe that one of these pools, the devil pool, is cursed. Followed by a few mysterious deaths of young men here since 1959. Read more about the aboriginal legend here.
I am glad I noticed this story after our visit, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have taken this beautiful photo, as I am quite superstitious.
Last but Not Least, Daintree rainforest
Daintree Forest is the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. Located at the North East Coast of Queensland, Daintree Forest is the home for exotic birds, amazing wildlife, and thousand types of insect. There is a lot to see and do, from the clear blue water, sea life spotting, hiking to the mountains, mangroves and of course very unique flora and fauna that you cannot find anywhere else in the world, such as cassowaries! Althought there are beautiful beaches, don’t be tempted to take a swim, because salt water crocodiles, sharks and jelly fish are lurking in these waters.
Daintree also offers different kind of tours that you can take, and I was experiencing the Solar Whisper crocodile spotting tour, which I truly recommend to you. I’m amazed by their sustainability projects and vision with their quiet solar electric boat. Of course it’s not guaranteed, but we were fortunate to see as many as 5 crocodiles and baby crocodile, snakes hunting for tree frogs and king fisher birds. The tour was made extra interesting by the tour guide, who shared his deep knowledge about the forest and a very keen eye to spot difficult to see wildlife.
Waking up in the rainforest..
When I booked our chalet, I was totally excited to stay at Coral Sea views. When we arrived it was in the middle of the night. We could’t see anything, as it was pitch black. To be honest, I was scared to be eaten by a snake or something, because we actually saw a python next to the road as we drove in. And in our simple room, I freaked out by some cockroaches in the bathroom.
This all was totally worth it when we woke up at 5AM and we saw this utmost beautiful sunrise scenery. It’s EPIC! The perfect end to our first Aussie experience.
*This trip was in collaboration with Cathay Pacific
I flew in Premium Economy class back to Hong Kong from Cairnes.
Cathay Pacific has daily flights with Boeing 777-300ER to Hong Kong and to almost 200 destinations worldwide from there on.