Any traveler will tell you it’s not the destination, but the journey that feeds the soul. Well I’m here to argue, it’s both. Australia may be a small continent, but it’s a massive country and the east coast of the country is one of the most popular backpacking trails in the world. So while it may take 24 hours of flying to reach Australia, I’m here to tell you that it’s absolutely worth it.
The East Coast trail generally refers to the 2,500-mile stretch of country from Cairns south to Melbourne. Driving it straight through would take you nearly 50 hours and would be like taking I-10 from Jacksonville to Los Angeles. The East coast of Australia is absolutely nothing like the Outback, in fact 80 percent of the 24 million people living in Australia reside on the East Coast of the country. While most people immediately think of beaches, babes, cheap beer and BBQ when Australia comes up, there’s a lot more to this country than getting pissed on a frothy at the barbie.
Noosa is located along the Australian Sunshine Coast just north of Brisbane. In addition to being the gateway to Fraser Island, which happens to be the world’s largest sand island, it’s also a great spot to surf, kayak through the everglades and explore some killer local farmers markets. Every Sunday at the Noosa Australian Football Club on Weyba Road, you can find some of the freshest produce on the East Coast. If you happen to be in town in early March, there’s the Noosa Festival of Surfing, which is held annually in one of the world’s great surf locations, First Point at Noosa Heads. This is the perfect spot for longboarding due to the southeast winds that curl around the tip of Noosa National Park.
Wilsons Promontory National Park: Victoria, Australia
Hands down this is the most beautiful place I have ever been to in my entire life. There are beautiful, lush forests leading up to cliffs that overlook the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean. There is an insane amount of wildlife here and you can experience just about every terrain that Australia has to offer from dry desert to lush rain forest and even soggy marshes. The area is overflowing with kangaroos, wallabies, shy echidnas and thousands of black swans. It’s also a hotspot for invasive species like rabbits and foxes.
Bateman’s Bay, New South Wales
If for some weird reason you ever find yourself wanting to visit Australia’s capital (which is a small creepy town called Canberra, not Sydney like most people think) it’s worth a stop in Bateman’s Bay. It’s a small, mostly untouched, town of around 11,000 of the most friendly people you will ever meet. The coastline is filled with deserted beaches, hiking trails and restaurants that overlook the water. If you eat outside, it’s almost a guarantee that a few yellow-crested cockatoos will join you.
This Must Be The Place, Darlinghurst, New South Wales
Australia is at the forefront of today’s cocktail scene. When looking for tried and true cocktails, This Must Be The Place is definitely the place. It’s a small cocktail bar with a homey and romantic feel. The two owners have both been named Australia’s Bartender of the Year by Diageo’s prestigious World Class bartending competition.
You want to surf? Don’t miss Byron Bay. With toasty warm waters with eight breaks facing north, east and south you’re bound to find a spot that suits your style. Some of the more popular breaks include The Wreck, Main Beach, The Pass and the clothing optional Belongil Beach. When you get thirsty, head to Railway Friendly Bar on Johnson Street. It’s an old railway station turned bar and grill with live music every night, solid food and a good selection of local brews.
If you’re headed to Australia and desperate for a few snaps to prove to the Instagram world that you’re actually “down under” don’t miss Sydney. Possibly one of the most photogenic cities in the world, Sydney will take a good three to four days minimum to explore correctly. Of course, there are the famous spots like Sydney Harbor Bridge, the Opera House and Bondi Beach, but make sure you don’t miss the swells at Manly Beach. Facing directly east, it’s one of the most consistent breaks in Sydney on a northeasterly or easterly swell, and one of the few beaches that can handle southerly winds well. Another can’t miss is The Baxter Inn on Clarence Street. The bar has a sketchy entrance that leads to a dimly lit basement, but they have top shelf whiskies and the walls are covered in paraphernalia from the ‘20s and ‘30s. Go on a weekday to avoid the massive weekend crowds.
Melbourne is the cultural and artistic hub of Australia. Looking for rooftop bars, film festivals, markets and live music? You’re in the right city. If you prefer to wander the streets with a camera, be sure to hit the graffiti-laden lanes and backstreets around town. A few of the more notable ones include Caledonian Lane, ACDC Lane (don’t miss Cherry Bar while you’re here), Cocker Alley (keep an eye out for the Banksy pieces) and Union Lane (70 different artists were paid to decorate the walls back in 2010, and fresh stuff keeps popping up all the time). After spending a few days in the city, be sure to head west along the Great Ocean Road toward the 12 Apostles. Immediately after leaving Melbourne, you’ll come across Torquay and Bells Beach, arguably some of the best surfing in the country. Each year, the World Surf League holds the Rip Curl Pro here in April. Going a bit further, you’ll hit Johanna Beach. If you’re up for it, you can camp just off the beach in the absolutely beautiful (and often empty) stretch of the Great Otway National Park.
Australia has way more to offer than just the locations named here. In fact, Void could probably do an entire issue devoted just to the sights and surf alone. Despite being one of the most remote countries in the world, the time needed to get there and the cost associated, it’s still seems to be on everyone’s bucket list. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your budgie smugglers, chuck a sickie and give it a burl!
Words and Photos by Anthony Binge | Contributor