Whitehaven Beach Queensland

Travel The East Coast Of Australia: 2024 Complete Guide

We are Warren and Natasha from The Nomad Hive. Welcome to our guest post on Travelling The East Coast Of Australia! I, Warren, hail from Far North Queensland, the very top of the East Coast. Together, we embarked on an incredible journey, purchasing a van and spending seven months travelling down this spectacular coastline.

Great Barrier Reef Queensland
Great Barrier Reef Queensland

Our mission was to explore as many places as possible, immersing ourselves in the diverse beauty of the East Coast. From pristine beaches to cities, and lush rainforests to charming small towns, our journey was a mixture of experiences. In this guide, we’ll share with you what we discovered, offering tips, insights, and highlights to help you plan your own adventure along the stunning East Coast of Australia.

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Different Ways To Travel The East Coast Of Australia

Travelling along the East Coast of Australia is a dream come true for many. From bustling cities to serene beaches and lush rainforests, this iconic route offers endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation. With a myriad of ways to explore this breathtaking landscape, each one comes with its own set of pros and cons, depending on your preferences and travel style.

Here’s an insight into some popular ways to explore this magnificent coastline:

What Is The Best Way To Travel The East Coast Of Australia?

In my opinion, the best way to explore the East Coast of Australia is with an off-road vehicle. This provides a perfect balance, allowing you to access the many unforgettable remote camping spots along the way while still being able to visit the beautiful coastal cities. Whether you opt for a 4×4 loaded with camping gear or an off-road caravan towed by a 4×4, you’ll be well-equipped to discover the many hidden gems of the East Coast.

Different Options For Travelling The East Coast Of Australia


Campervan travels
Travel via campervan

Travelling in a campervan combines comfort with the convenience of mobility. Ideal for those who love the idea of a mobile home, it allows for stealth camping in urban areas, saving on accommodation costs. While it’s not a 4×4 and might not access some remote areas, there are still numerous beautiful camping spots accessible. Additionally, navigating cities is more manageable in a campervan compared to larger vehicles or caravans.


Caravan travels
Caravan travels

Caravans are synonymous with comfort. They offer the flexibility of detaching your car for explorations, meaning you don’t have to pack up your entire setup each time you want to venture out. Many caravans come with 4×4 capabilities, allowing access to more secluded camping spots. However, in city settings, caravans can be cumbersome and usually require staying at designated campgrounds.

4×4 Vehicle

A 4×4 vehicle is the key to unlocking the most remote locations along the East Coast. It is practical for both city and off-road exploration, offering a balance between adventure and convenience. While not as comfortable as a campervan or caravan, a 4×4 is cost-efficient, allowing for free camping options and affordable stays in campgrounds while you are in the cities and towns. Just be sure to be prepared for the mozzies while you are staying on the coast. Check out our picks for The 6 Best Portable Mosquito Netting to use while you are camping.

Working While Travelling

Working while travelling along the East Coast is a popular option for backpackers, offering a unique perspective on local life, especially in towns and cities. This option is great for those looking to immerse themselves in the local culture and community. Jobs are often available in farming and hospitality industries, with many employers providing accommodation or offering it at a discounted rate. This is a much slower way of travelling compared to the other options.

Staying in Hotels/Air Bnbs

For those seeking maximum comfort, hotels, and Air Bnbs are the go-to options. This choice, while more expensive due to the daily costs of accommodation and meals, offers a hassle-free and comfortable travel experience. It’s perfect for travellers who prefer having a stable base from which to explore the surrounding areas and are not on a tight budget.

Best Time To Travel The East Coast Of Australia

Choosing the best time to travel the East Coast of Australia is key to making the most of your trip. This region, stretching from the hot and humid tropical north in Queensland to the cooler southern areas of New South Wales, offers a diverse range of experiences.

Surfing in Australia
Surfing in Australia

Your ideal travel time will depend on the activities you’re interested in, whether it’s surfing, hiking, city exploring, or diving. Each season brings its own unique set of attractions and activities, making the East Coast a year-round destination.

Australian East Coast Weather

Understanding the varied climate patterns along the East Coast is essential for planning your journey to align with your interests.

Wet Season (November to April): In Far North Queensland, the wet season is characterized by a noticeable increase in both temperatures and humidity. It is also marked by substantial rainfall, which often leads to the closure of roads. Such closures can result in you being temporarily confined to specific locations. This season, while lush and vibrant in FNQ, requires careful planning for travel and daily activities due to its unpredictable and sometimes challenging weather conditions. It would be better to enjoy this season in NSW and you will experience better weather!

Dry Season (May to October): The dry season, from May to October, is often considered the best time to visit North Queensland. The weather during these months is cooler and less humid, making outdoor activities much more enjoyable. This season is particularly ideal for visiting the Great Barrier Reef, as the ocean water is clearer, and there is minimal stinger activity. The dry season’s comfortable climate makes it perfect for a wide range of pursuits, from beach lounging to exploring national parks. Southern NSW can be very cold during this time of year so I would
recommend enjoying time in the north.

Shoulder Seasons (April-May and October-November): The shoulder seasons,
encompassing April-May and October-November, provide a mild and pleasant climate. These months are an excellent choice for those looking to avoid the more extreme conditions of the wet and dry seasons. Travel during the shoulder seasons often comes with the added benefit of fewer tourists and more affordable prices. I would aim to travel in the Mid-Coast (South Queensland/North New South Whales) during these months.

How Long Is The East Coast Of Australia?

The East Coast of Australia is a magnificent stretch of coastline renowned for its breathtaking beauty, diverse ecosystems, and vibrant cultural hubs. Spanning approximately 3,200 kilometres (about 1,990 miles), it runs from the tropical north in Queensland, down through the stunning New South Wales coastline, and reaches as far south as Victoria. This extensive coastline encompasses a range of landscapes, including world-famous beaches, lush rainforests, and lively coastal cities.

How Long Does It Take To Travel The East Coast Of Australia?

The time it takes to travel the entire East Coast of Australia varies greatly depending on the mode of travel, the itinerary, and the pace of the journey. If you were to drive non-stop, it would take around 40 hours, depending on traffic and exact start and end points. This estimate is purely for driving time and doesn’t account for breaks, meals, or sleep.

As a whole journey, here are a few considerations:

Fast-Paced Travel (2 weeks): For those on a tight schedule, it’s possible to cover the major highlights of the East Coast in about two weeks. This would require only stopping at key attractions and cities for 1 day at a time.

Moderate Pace (1-3 months): A more leisurely trip, allowing for exploration and relaxation at each stop, could take anywhere from 1-3 months. This pace is ideal for those wanting to spend more time relaxing and immersing themselves in the local culture and environment.

Slow Travel (up to a year): For travellers who prefer a deeply immersive experience, taking time to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations and engage with local communities, the journey could extend up to a year. Slow travel allows for a flexible itinerary and the opportunity to discover hidden gems along the coast.

How Much Will It Cost To Travel The East Coast Of Australia

Camping Australia
Camping Australia

Travelling the East Coast of Australia can vary significantly in cost, depending on your travel style, the duration of your trip, and the choices you make regarding accommodation, transport, and activities. Whether you’re planning a quick tour or a prolonged adventure, understanding the potential expenses is key to planning a successful trip.

Slow Travel Costs (3+ months)

Slow travelling the East Coast over two months or more allows you to immerse
yourself in the local culture and explore off-the-beaten-path destinations. The costs for this type of travel can be relatively lower on a day-to-day basis, but it adds up over time if you’re budgeting for the trip as a whole.

  • Accommodation: Longer term stays (weekly) at caravan parks and campgrounds come with cheaper prices which will vary. Expect to pay from $15 to $50 per night depending on the location. You can also take advantage of free camping.
  • Food: Cooking your own meals and occasional dining out can average around $15 to
  • $30 per day.
  • Fuel: This will be significantly cheaper to travel slowly. Expect to pay $10 – $20 per day.
  • Activities: Free and low-cost activities, like hiking and beach visits, can help keep
  • entertainment costs low, with occasional splurges on tours or special experiences.

Fast Travel Costs (Under 1 month)

Travelling the East Coast in under a month usually means a more condensed itinerary with much higher daily costs.

  • Accommodation: As you would most likely only be visiting key destinations, expect to pay a premium price from these locations. Campgrounds will be $40-50 per night.
  • Food: Will be similar to previously mentioned, at around $15 to $30 per day.
  • Fuel: Will be significantly higher covering large areas. Expect to pay $50+ per day.
  • Activities: Regular participation in paid tours and attractions can add around $30 to $50 per day

Our Budget

When we travelled the East Coast of Australia, we embraced the van life and took our journey at a leisurely pace. Living in a van allowed us a unique and intimate way to explore, and it took us around 7 months to complete the entire East Coast very leisurely. This slow-travel approach gave us the flexibility to truly immerse ourselves in each location and experience the local lifestyle.

Our weekly budget for two people was carefully planned and included the following expenses:

  • Food: We spent about $300 per week on food. This included groceries for meals we
  • prepared ourselves and eating out a couple of times a week to enjoy the local cuisine.
  • Accommodation: Our accommodation costs, which mainly consisted of campground
  • fees, averaged around $200 per week. Staying in campgrounds provided us with the
  • necessary amenities while keeping us close to nature.
  • Leisure Activities: We allocated about $200 per week for leisure activities. This
  • included going on tours to explore the local area and occasionally enjoying drinks at a
  • bar, which allowed us to socialize and enjoy the local nightlife.
  • Fuel: Given our slow pace and efficient route planning, our fuel costs were relatively low, averaging around $50 per week. This was a significant advantage of travelling in a van and taking our time to explore.

This totaled about $3000 per month between 2 people.

Things To See On The East Coast of Australia

The East Coast of Australia is a diverse and stunning region, offering a wealth of experiences for travellers. From the tropical beauty of Queensland to the varied landscapes of New South Wales, every destination has its own unique appeal.

14 Must-See Places On The Queensland Coast

Daintree Rainforest, Queensland

The Daintree Rainforest, a World Heritage site, is a place of remarkable biodiversity and beauty.
It’s not just about the ancient flora; the rainforest is teeming with wildlife, from vividly coloured butterflies to the elusive cassowary. Explore the area through guided walks, canopy tours, and river cruises.

Cairns, Queensland

Cairns is a lively city that serves as the gateway to both the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Known for its relaxed tropical atmosphere, Cairns offers a variety of activities, including the famous Cairns Esplanade with its public swimming lagoon and vibrant arts and cultural scene.

Palm Cove, Queensland

Palm Cove Queensland
Palm Cove Queensland

Palm Cove, with its picturesque beach lined with ancient paperbark trees, is a haven of relaxation. It’s renowned for its spa resorts, fine dining, and as a peaceful base for exploring the Cairns region. The jetty here is popular for fishing and sunset strolls.

Mission Beach, Queensland

Mission Beach is a natural paradise, boasting a long stretch of golden sand backed by
rainforest. It’s a hotspot for skydiving, white-water rafting, and exploring nearby tropical islands.
The laid-back village vibe makes it a perfect retreat.

Townsville, Queensland

Townsville offers a mix of rainforest, reef, and outback experiences. Visit Magnetic Island for its pristine beaches and wildlife, explore the historic castle hill in the city centre, and experience the vibrant local culture and festivals.

Magnetic Island, Queensland

Magnetic Island, with over half of its area covered in the national park, is a nature lover’s paradise.
It’s known for its fabulous walking trails, abundant wildlife, and picturesque bays. The island has a unique charm, with a blend of untouched natural beauty and small-town feel.

Airlie Beach, Queensland

Airlie Beach, the vibrant heart of the Whitsundays, is buzzing with a lively atmosphere. It’s the perfect launchpad for adventures into the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. The town itself, with its lagoon and lively nightlife, is a destination in its own right.

Whitsunday Islands, Queensland

The Whitsundays are synonymous with paradise. These islands offer some of the world’s best sailing, crystal-clear waters for snorkelling and diving, and luxurious island resorts. Whitehaven Beach is a highlight with its stunning white silica sand.

Hervey Bay, Queensland

Hervey Bay is not just the whale-watching capital of the world; it’s also your gateway to Fraser Island. Enjoy the tranquil beaches, the charming esplanade, and the unique Pier, which is great for fishing and sunset views.

Fraser Island, Queensland

Fraser Island
Fraser Island

Fraser Island is a unique ecological wonder with its rainforests, sand dunes, and freshwater lakes like Lake McKenzie. Drive along the beach highway, and explore the island’s history, including the Maheno shipwreck, and spot dingoes in their natural habitat.

Noosa, Queensland

Noosa is the jewel of the Sunshine Coast, offering a blend of luxury and nature. Its national park boasts beautiful coastal trails, and Noosa Heads has some of the best surf breaks. The Noosa River is perfect for kayaking and paddleboarding, while Hastings Street is a hub for shopping and dining.

The Sunshine Coast, Queensland

The Sunshine Coast is a diverse region, offering everything from pristine beaches at Caloundra and Mooloolaba to the lush hinterland of the Glass House Mountains and Montville. It’s less commercialized, offering a peaceful and more authentic beach holiday experience.

The Gold Coast, Queensland

The Gold Coast is a hub of excitement and entertainment. From the famous surf breaks at Snapper Rocks to the family-friendly theme parks like Dreamworld and Sea World, there’s something for everyone. The hinterland offers rainforest walks and waterfall hikes.

11 Must-See Places On The New South Wales Coast

Byron Bay, New South Wales

Byron Bay
Byron Bay

Byron Bay is not just a beach town; it’s a lifestyle. Famous for its surfing culture, alternative philosophies, and stunning hinterland, it’s a place where you can relax on the beach, enjoy organic produce, and immerse in the local arts and music scene.

The Tweed Valley, New South Wales

The Tweed Valley offers a blend of cultural and natural experiences, from the World
Heritage-listed Wollumbin National Park to creative communities like Murwillumbah. The valley is also a food lover’s paradise, with farm-to-table experiences and local food markets.

Coffs Harbour, New South Wales

Coffs Harbour, with its family-friendly atmosphere, offers a blend of beaches, nature reserves, and adventure activities. The Coffs Coast Regional Park and the nearby Dorrigo National Park provide excellent opportunities for bushwalking and bird-watching.

Port Macquarie, New South Wales

Port Macquarie combines stunning coastal scenery with rich history and wildlife. Apart from its beautiful beaches and the koala hospital, the town offers a vibrant food scene, with waterfront dining and local wineries.

Newcastle, New South Wales

Newcastle is a city that surprises you with its blend of beach life and cultural depth. Its historic architecture, burgeoning food scene, and coastal walks make it a unique destination.

Hunter Valley, New South Wales

Hunter Valley is not just about wine; it’s a region of cultural richness. Apart from the vineyard experiences, it offers gourmet dining, boutique accommodations, and beautiful gardens, making it a perfect romantic getaway or a gourmet escape.

Central Coast, New South Wales

The Central Coast is a haven for those seeking a quieter beach experience. It’s known for its natural beauty, with spots like Bouddi National Park and the tranquil Brisbane Water. The region is also rich in Aboriginal history.

Sydney, New South Wales


Sydney, a city that needs no introduction, is a mix of iconic landmarks, beautiful beaches, and vibrant cultural scenes. Explore the historic Rocks area, relax at Bondi Beach, and enjoy the culinary delights at the city’s many world-class restaurants.

The Blue Mountains, New South Wales

Blue Mountains
Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains offer dramatic landscapes and charming towns. Enjoy scenic walks, explore caves and waterfalls, and experience the rich art and cultural scene in towns like Katoomba and Leura.

Jervis Bay, New South Wales

Jervis Bay is known for its crystal-clear waters and white sand beaches. It’s an ideal spot for water sports, and the Booderee National Park offers stunning natural scenery and indigenous heritage.

Tips: The Cheapest Way To Travel The East Coast Of Australia

Travelling the East Coast of Australia on a budget can be both feasible and enjoyable. By being savvy with your planning and choices, you can experience the best of this stunning region without overspending. Here are some practical tips for economical travel:

  • Plan, Check Prices, and Book in Advance: Early planning and booking can lead to
    significant savings. Compare prices for campgrounds, accommodations, and activities.
    Booking in advance often results in better deals and discounts.
  • Stay Longer in Each Location: By spending more time in each place, you can reduce
    your overall travel costs. Longer stays often mean lower daily rates for accommodation,
    and less frequent travel reduces fuel costs.
  • Travel Off-Peak to Touristy Locations: Avoid the high season in popular tourist
    destinations. Prices for accommodation and activities are generally lower during off-peak times, and you’ll encounter fewer crowds.
  • Use Public Transportation in Cities: In urban areas like Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane, take advantage of the extensive public transport networks. It’s much cheaper than renting a car and often more convenient for city exploration.
  • Utilize Wiki Camps for Affordable Stays: Wiki Camps is an excellent resource for
    finding free or cheap camping spots and caravan parks. This app can help you locate
    budget-friendly accommodation options all along the East Coast.
  • Cook Your Own Meals: Eating out frequently can quickly add up. Most campgrounds
    offer kitchen facilities, or you can bring your own cooking gear. Preparing your own
    meals is a cost-effective way to enjoy local produce.
  • Stealth Camping in a Van: If you’re travelling in a van, stealth camping can be a free
    accommodation option. Just be sure to check for ‘no camping’ signs and follow local
    regulations to avoid fines.
  • Enjoy Free Tourist Attractions: The East Coast is packed with free or low-cost
    attractions, including beaches, hiking trails, and public parks. Research free tourist spots along your route for enjoyable and affordable experiences.
  • Seek Out Backpacker Deals and Discounts: Many tourist attractions and businesses
    offer special deals for backpackers. Keep an eye out for these, as they can provide
    substantial savings on activities and dining.
  • Be Flexible with Your Travel Dates: Flexibility can lead to savings, especially if you’re
    willing to travel during less popular times. Keep an eye out for last-minute deals and be open to changing your plans to take advantage of discounts.

FAQs: Travel The East Coast Of Australia

How Can You Find Cheap Campgrounds and Caravan Parks?

Finding cheap campgrounds or caravan parks along the East Coast of Australia is quite straightforward with the right tools and knowledge. Resources like Wiki Camps and Camps Australia-Wide offer comprehensive listings and reviews of budget-friendly options.

Additionally, many national parks offer affordable camping spots, often in picturesque locations.
These can be found on their official websites. Local tourist information centres are also a valuable resource, providing up-to-date information on the best camping deals in the area.

Can You Travel The East Coast of Australia Without A Car?

Travelling the East Coast of Australia without a car is entirely feasible. The major cities and towns along the coast are well-connected by public transport systems, including buses, trains, and ferries, making it easy to move from one destination to another. For longer distances, companies like Greyhound Australia and Premier Motor Service offer comprehensive long-distance bus services.

What Animals Can You See On The Way?


The East Coast of Australia is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. As you travel, you’re likely to see a variety of marine life like dolphins and whales, especially during migration season. In the lush rainforests of Queensland, you might spot unique birds such as the cassowary, as well as koalas and various reptile species. Inland and bushland areas are great for seeing kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, and a diverse range of bird species.

Additionally, the Great Barrier Reef, a world unto itself, is home to an astounding array of marine life including turtles, sharks, and a kaleidoscope of coral species.

What Is The Best Time To Visit The Great Barrier Reef?

The optimal time to visit the Great Barrier Reef is during the Australian winter and spring months, from June to October. During these months, the weather is more temperate, and there’s less rainfall, leading to clearer waters and better conditions for snorkelling and diving.

This period also avoids the stinger season, making swimming safer. Moreover, the winter and spring months coincide with the whale migration, offering an added bonus of potentially sighting these majestic creatures during your reef visit.

How To Stay Connected While Travelling the East Coast?

The easiest way to ensure connectivity is by purchasing an Australian SIM card from local providers like Telstra, Optus, or Vodafone, which offer a variety of data packages suitable for travellers. Free Wi-Fi hotspots are commonly available in all of your campgrounds and accommodations. For a more reliable connection, consider a portable Wi-Fi device, which offers internet access in areas with mobile coverage. It’s also a good idea to download essential apps and offline maps before your trip to aid in navigation and local information.

If you’re using an international phone, your best option would be to purchase an ESIM when arriving in Australia to avoid roaming charges.

Can You Make Money While Travelling Australia?

Certainly! Travelling in Australia while earning money is entirely possible with various options.
One popular method is engaging in local jobs like fruit picking or hospitality roles. Australia’s vast agricultural sector frequently requires additional labour during harvest seasons, making fruit picking an ideal job for travellers seeking short-term employment. Alternatively, pursuing remote work online presents another viable option. This approach offers the flexibility to work from anywhere, allowing travellers to earn while enjoying the diverse landscapes and experiences Australia offers. As digital nomads ourselves, check out our Ultimate Digital Nomad Packing List for remote workers.

Conclusion: Travel The East Coast Of Australia

Travelling the East Coast of Australia is an unforgettable experience, offering a blend of natural wonders, unique wildlife, and vibrant cities. Whether you’re cruising through Queensland’s rainforests, enjoying the laid-back beaches of New South Wales, or exploring the bustling cities, there’s something for everyone.

The journey is a mix of adventure and relaxation, filled with moments that will stay with you long after you return home. Embracing the diversity of this stunning coastline, from the Great Barrier Reef to the cultural hubs of Sydney and The Gold Coast, ensures a trip full of enriching experiences.

Travel insurance offers protection when things go wrong before or during your travels, that is why we highly recommend that you take out travel insurance.

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