Tuesday, 27 September 2016

East Coast Australia road trip: itinerary, photos & thoughts

With limited time left in Australia, my friend Rosie and I decided that whilst we'd visited Perth and had the pleasure of spending a month in Melbourne, we simply had to see more of this vast country before we departed on our way to Nairobi. Whilst flying is always that little bit more expensive, and with time running out, we decided that a road trip along the East Coast would be the best bet, starting out from Brisbane and finishing in Sydney where we'd spend a few days being the ultimate tourists.

We bought 'Short Hop' passes from Greyhound for $139 between Brisbane and Sydney (or vice versa) which allowed us to travel in one direction and hop on and off as much as we liked between the two. We didn't have a great deal of time, with just 10 days between our arrival in Brisbane to our arrival in Sydney therefore this was the best (and cheapest) option for us however if you're planning on a big ole trip, there's plenty of other passes you can find, just click here. 

They say small things come in fabulous little packages so whilst our road trip was pretty small, I hope it may give you a few ideas for planning your own.

Let's get started...

First stop: Brisbane

Our first stop was Brisbane, a place I didn't know very much about and therefore had no expectations of what it was going to be like apart from warm, and after spending the last two months in Perth and Melbourne at the end of the winter/start of spring, we were pretty much desperate to see even a tiny little slither of sunshine. Just a teeny tiny one.

As we boarded the plane from Melbourne to Brisbane on less than 30 minutes sleep, Rosie and I decided enough was enough, we needed a break from hostels for a while and more importantly, we needed to source a place with a BATH, so we splurged and #treatedourselves, booking a one bed suite apartment at the Meriton. Perhaps one of my main pieces of advice for people who are planning a backpacking trip would be to budget for those times when you just need some luxury, quiet time and a few home comforts because whilst hostels are cheap and fun, sometimes it can get a little bit too much. 

We had absolutely zero regrets after checking in to our apartment, particularly with this view...

After 20 minutes sleep the night before, our first day pretty much consisted of sleeping and eating and relaxing and basically living the luxurious dream. With this though, we were re-energised and ready to explore the city of Brisbane the next day and our first stop was the Southbank. To say I loved how Brisbane's Southbank had been set out and used is an understatement, with an amazing pool and beach area which was literally the dream place to sit back, dip my feet in the cool water and chill with a book for an hour or two. It's also completely surreal to have a beach setting with a CBD backdrop - certainly not something you see every day!

After a pool, book and cornetto break, it was time to hop aboard the CityHopper ferry which gave you the ultimate through the city of Brisbane ...for absolutely free - perf!

Second stop: Byron Bay

Byron Bay was our second stop and our base for the next five nights. Byron is a very laid back, sunny surf town, situated on the East Coast a few hours south of Brisbane and is hugely popular with backpackers, and tourists generally.

After hearing so much about the place, I had high expectations but unfortunately, whilst I liked Byron, I didn’t love it. The beach was lovely and the vibe was super laid back however there are a lot of people (backpackers, travellers etc) that are trying way too hard to look and act like hippies. It seems to have been a ‘thing’ that has become apparent since travelling down the East Coast that people appear to not like wearing shoes…at all. Maybe I’m an 83 year old in a 21 year old’s body but surely wearing no shoes around town is firstly, unhygienic but secondly and most importantly, painful?? No? Just me? Should I nip down to the shop and stock up on Werther’s Originals…?

Anyway. Perhaps my experience of Byron was tainted a tad by the bizarre experience we had in the hostel we were staying at. On our second night out of five at Byron Beach Resort, we walked into the 6 bed dorm to find a old woman massaging someone’s feet with oils by my bed and upon me going over and having the audacity to reach over for one of my belongings, was told by the lady that this was her bed, and to have good dreams tonight as she was back tomorrow…

The next day came and sure enough, she was back in ‘her’ bed but for some reason, the hostel were allowing her to completely decorate the dorm with all of her stuff, including glass jars of oils, pastes and feathers. The lights were off at 7pm because that’s the time she went to bed and God forbid anyone wake her because oh boy, she may think she’s all about the peace and love but when she’s screaming at you to shut doors and turn lights out because she’s sleeping, its kind of thrown, violently, out of the window.

In my view, as she was a long stay guest, she should be in a dorm room with others who are also in the same situation as it’s not quite right to feel so uncomfortable and unwelcome in a room that you are paying to be in. It also wasn't hugely clean, in particular the kitchen, with the bins needing a deep deep deep clean and flies everywhere...and it isn't even the summer yet!

The positives of not liking the hostel we stayed at was that we were always looking for somewhere to go or something to see therefore we saw some of the most stunning sunsets you could wish to see, with the views from the top of the lighthouse in particular, just incredible.

For my fellow coffee addicts out there, I’d say your best bets in Byron are Cool Katz (which is also one of the only places we found with free wifi) and Byron Cafe, both situated in the town centre.

All in all, we had a nice few days staying in Byron but perhaps five days was a tad too long, particularly as the weather didn’t always play ball as it would in the summer.

Third stop: Port Macquarie

Our third stop was Port Macquarie, a place I hadn’t read much about at all, and which doesn't seem to be a massively popular stop on the East Coast with backpackers (I could be mistaken but there are only a couple of hostels and its a very quiet town). In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting a huge amount but was okay with it as we had so much planning to do for our few months in Eastern Africa which begins THIS THURSDAY OMG.

In actuality, Port Macquarie has been one of my favourite places I’ve visited in Australia and is definitely hugely underrated. The town has some of the most stunning beaches in the entire country, with a total of 18 beaches , most of which were surrounded by forestry and mountainous rocks. From Town and Flynn’s beach, perhaps the most popular, to small little coves which acted as your own private beach, the white sand and crystal blue water were utterly stunning and you really did feel like you were in paradise.

After a long walk down the coast, we then headed for the Koala Hospital, a not for profit organisation that cares for injured koalas around the state. It would almost be a crime to visit Australia and not see a real life koala and whilst it was a little sad, the organisation is doing amazing things and is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. It’s all completely free however you are very welcome to donate as little or as much as you would like.

As a day of exploring the town was coming to an end, we decided that it would only be fair to treat ourselves to a small little dominoes and with our portable plastic wine bottle, we watched the sun set over the waters with pizza in one hand and a glass of fizz in the other.

I absolutely loved Port Macquarie and my only regret was that we didn't plan originally to spend a couple more nights there. I'd highly recommend our hostel Ozzie Pozzie Backpackers -   the dorm rooms were lovely, with an ensuite attached, the kitchen clean and the communal areas comfortable. It also had an amazing pool area with outdoor seating so it would be the ultimate dream in the summer if it's just simply too hot to walk down to the beach.

Final stop: Sydney

Our fourth and final stop, was Sydney - a pretty fitting end to our time in Australia I think. Our first two days were spent in Bondi, along with my friends from Melbourne who surprised me with a visit! After a stunning walk along the coast, we didn't quite make it to Coogee because there was a 50% chance of rain according to Google therefore we simply had to make it to the nearest bar...we had too.

Whilst I really liked Melbourne, Sydney for me, feels like you're in Australia. Not only because of the world famous landmarks, the stunning Opera House and the impressive Harbour Bridge, but the general laid-back feeling, the leafy suburbs and the wide open green spaces in the city centre. After exploring the city, we watched the sunset with a few beers in the Royal Botanical Gardens, then headed to Surrey Hills and had a fabulous meal at Millevini, with some of the best Italian food we've had on our entire trip.

The only unfortunate thing about our time in Sydney, was the hostel we had booked into, which can only be described, as truly awful. There was a pungent smell that hit you as soon as you entered the building, a ridiculous $20 key deposit each, old and rundown kitchen and bathroom facilities and honestly, for the price we paid, the room we were expected to stay in was an absolute joke. Despite not giving a refund, we left on the same day we arrived and as we did so, we noticed a sign on the door notifying residents of the hostel that they were currently having to treat a rodent and insect problem. Safe to say, Maze Backpackers is not somewhere you want to stay - believe me.

So, my time in Australia has come to an end and whilst it's been a tad turbulent at times, it's safe to say that my experience Down Under has been pretty special. It's a little sad to say goodbye so soon, but this year away was about being free for a while, not living in the 'real' world and leaving my comfort zone behind...and oh boy, am I excited for the next few months.

But for now, thanks Australia, you've been a blast.

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  1. Great photos. Making me miss Australia like crazy!The east coast is such an amazing experience.
    Leonie ♥ Lo On The Go

    1. Thank you! Where do you travel to in Australia? xxx


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