1. Great sense of reef
When heading up or down the east coast you’re going to be subjected to some of the most beautiful crystal clear water you’ve ever seen. Oh and a World Heritage-listed reef. So take advantage of both by learning to dive.
If you’re further south, you can easily find a scuba school in Sydney but if you want some Great Barrier action you’re going to have to wait till you get to Queensland. There’s 2,000km of it so don’t worry, you’re not going to miss it.
A great variation on reef diving is checking out the Yongala wreck off of Townsville. It’s rated as the best wreck dive in Australia and people say you will see more marine life in one dive here than you would in 12 further north.
2. Freewheelin’ Fraser
A perennial fave, nothing quite beats the world’s largest sand island in a 4WD. The inland lakes are also some of the best swimming spots you’re likely to find in Oz. Driving up the beach and through the subtropical rainforest is an unforgettable experience.
Another little secret for you. A base for Fraser Island sure, but there’s a fair bit to see and do in Rainbow Beach too. Bizarre multi-coloured cliffs, friendly locals, spectacular coastal scenery, Great Sandy National Park, lovely beaches… A wonderful little escape from the east coast carousel and worth a few days.
3. Byron Bay
Beautiful beaches, tranquil hinterland and a relaxed vibe means it’s easy to come here for three days and end up staying ‘til the immigration men come a-knockin’.
4. Life’s a beach, surf it
The east coast is packed with incredible, irresistible, insanely gorgeous beaches – they’re everywhere. The most famous being Whitehaven in the Whitsundays, which is so unbelievably picture-perfect you’ll find yourself yearning for a Bounty bar, even if you hate coconuts.
Southern Queensland is, in more ways than one, Surfers Paradise. The reef puts a stop to the waves at Bundaberg, but until then, learning to surf is the most fun you can have with (some of) your clothes on.
In Sydney, Manly is the perfect place to give it a try.
5. Island hopping
There are simply too many stunning blobs of land off the coast to list here. But our favourites include: Hinchinbrook is the wilderness walkers’ paradise; Fitzroy is great for partying; Magnetic is the sunniest; Moreton is sand-tastic, Great Keppel… One thing’s for sure, isle be back (sorry).
6. Wilsons Promonotory
Walking tracks, abundant wildlife and stunning beaches – it’s not hard to see why the “Prom” in Victoria is one of the most popular national parks in the country.
7. Cape York roadtrip
Beyond Cooktown lies the remote Cape York Peninsula, at the northernmost tip of Australia (only 150km from Papua New Guinea). It is still one of the wildest and least populated parts of Oz.
Unsealed roads, river crossings and crocs make the adventure one of the best roadtrips Down Under. Just don’t even think about it without a 4WD. If you’re not too sure about your skills, jump on a tour from Cairns.
If you don’t fancy being attached to a rubber chord then perhaps skydiving is your thing. Offered at all the main hubs along the east coast, it makes you feel invincible, scares the living shit out of you and offers incredible views in the process. What’s not to like?
9. Rafting Mission
Whitewater rafting is a knuckle-whitening ride that’s all for real. The
Tully River, accessed from Mission Beach and Cairns, is the most popular place to get wet.
Mission Beach itself is another underrated gem, a great place to detox after (or before?) Cairns, with snorkelling, diving, rainforest walks and the ace Dunk Island all available. It’s also the best place to spot crazy-looking cassowaries in the wild.
10. The Royal National Park
This coastal national park, an hour south of Sydney, is the world’s second oldest. There are spectacular beaches and wonderful scenery, best accessed on a bushwalk. Try the two-day coastal track.
11. Party like it’s 1999
You can quite easily party your way up the entire east coast. Sometimes it feels like Australia’s right side invented decadence – every backpacker-friendly town has wild parties every night of the week. It hurts, but we keep going back for more. Airlie Beach is one place not to miss.
12. Cairns is king
Talking of party towns (groan), this place is king. If there wasn’t enough going on with the rainforests, reef and more in touching distance, it seems this small city wants to celebrate its wonderful location by getting bladdered every night. Please check your dignity in at the door.
13. It’s a Gold Coast
The Gold Coast boasts loads. So if you’re a rollercoaster junkie, you’re in heaven. Gold Coast/Surfer’s Paradise is also famed for its… let’s just say “lively”… nightlife.
Thought we’d forgotten them? Along with the reef and Fraser, these are a member of Queensland’s Big Three. They’re as beautiful as all those postcards. Just go there…
15. Meet the Neighbours
Melbourne has many claims to fame, but the biggest is that it’s home to Neighbours. Take a tour to Pin Oak Court, the filming location for Ramsay Street and/or meet Dr Karl at a Neighbours Night (also in Sydney).