The complete guide to travelling along the East Coast of Australia by bus
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Wondering how to travel the Australia East Coast on low budget? Where to go and what to see? And how to get the best travel experience on the East Coast of Australia?
With this travel guide you will get all you need to know about the travelling along the East Coast of Australia on low budget just by using the public bus service.
Since the traveling by bus in Australia is getting more and more popular there are a lot of great options for exploring the East Coast by using the local transport services, which is even not less comfortable than the traveling by a car, but provides at least the same great experience. And the best is you can save a lot of money by the way! But it doesn’t mean the tips in this blog are only for traveling the East Coast by bus. While the transport is slightly different, the places and sights are actually the same. So you can also use this blog for the planning of your road trip along the East Coast.
East Coast of Australia
Australia is one of the most dream destinations for backpackers from all over the world. I spent around 3 months for traveling along the East Coast and these were unforgettable. From tropical north with unspoiled rainforests until Melbourne, one of the most charming cities in the world. The East Coast of Australia offers so much to discover and to experience. Whether the unique Great Barrier Reef, the amazing Whitsundays, the sunny Beaches from the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, the amazing Byron Bay or the exited Sydney. The time I spent on my travel on the East Coast was amazing and let me fell in love with this incredible country. And I’m pretty sure you will feel the same after you travel through this stunning continent.
The best time to travel the Australian East Coast is during the local spring, summer and early autumn from beginning of September until end of March. The exactly time is highly dependent of your exact route. While the Queensland provides a lot of sun the most time of the year, the weather around Melbourne can be quite cold and rainy during the spring and in the autumn.
If you want to start in Cairns in the north of the East Coast you can already begin your trip end of September/beginning of October. If you want to take more time on your way down the coast you can even start in the beginning of September. Just be aware of the wet season in the tropical North Queensland, which is between November and March. During this time you can expect high humidity and a lot of tropical rain.
In the case you want to travel from Melbourne northwards to Cairns I would recommend to start not earlier then the middle of November because of still rainy and cold weather on the south coast during the local spring.
How long should I plan the trip for
The Australian East Coast is huge, I mean really huge. You will need a lot of time for traveling along the East Coast especially if you want to visit all the beautiful and special places on your way. It is possible to travel the whole coast from Cairns to Melbourne in about 4 weeks but I recommend at least 6 weeks, otherwise you won’t really enjoy it. If you don’t have so much time I would recommend to skip Melbourne and just travel from Cairns to Sydney. This part is anyway the best one on the East Coast.
Australia is really expensive and the travel here is not cheap. The complete trip costs are highly depend on your route and your “travelling preferences”. The whole costs may be split into 4 different categories:
Transport: The costs for the bus ticket are around 300 – 450 AUD for traveling between Cairns and Sydney, depend on the bus pass you want to buy (see the next chapter) and around 80 AUD for the ticket from Sydney to Melbourne.
Accommodation: If you travel by bus the cheapest accommodation will be the backpacker hostels. Since the Australia East Coast is very popular by tourists there are a lot of hostels in almost every town, especially in the main “touristic hotspots”. Depend on the hostel and the location you may pay between 20 and 45 AUD per night in a standard dorm room. Sometimes you can save the cost for the accommodation if you take an overnight bus.
Food: The food is very expensive in Australia, much more than for example in Europe. If you want to cook at your own all time you can calculate around 10-15 AUD per day, depend on your food preferences. But if you want to eat outside it will be much more. Just an example: I spent in Cairns in a relative cheap Asia diner around 15 AUD just for a pot of soup.
Tours: The tours are probably the most expensive costs you will have by traveling in Australia. They are highly dependent of the tour you like to do and start by around 100 AUD and can go up to several hundred AUD.
Tip for booking tours: on the site BookMe Australia you can find some really good deals on tours in Australia.
While you can book almost everything there are some really important tours, or let say the tours you shouldn’t miss. Like the snorkeling or scuba-diving on the Great Barrier Reef, or the Whitsunday Islands. Especially those two belong to the biggest highlights on the East Coast of Australia and you definitely should have them on your bucket list.
How to get around
The traveling in Australia by bus is actually quite easy. There are different public bus services you can use for travel. The most popular on the East Coast are:
The main difference between those two coaches is their schedule. While Greyhound provides up to 3 buses a day the Premier has only one. Moreover the Greyhound has free Wi-Fi and a phone charger in its buses while Premier doesn’t. On the other side the Premier tickets are much cheaper. However, the both bus services are really good and you will reach your destination either way. It’s up to you to decide which bus service you like more.
Both Greyhound and Premier offer flexible hop-on-hop-off travel passes which are the best option for traveling the East Coast by bus. You just have to select your travel plan, like Cairns-Sydney and the validity period for the ticket, for example 1 or 3 months. During this time you can travel from your start destination (e.g. Cairns) to your end destination (e.g. Sydney) and make unlimited amount of stops on the way. So you can stay at every place you like so long you want until you decide it’s time to go ahead. In this case you just have to check in online for the next bus you want to take and that’s all. Pretty easy or isn’t? The only one limitation is that you can travel in only one direction. And it is necessary to check in for your bus at least one day in advance. I would recommend to do it as soon you are sure about your next travel plans, so you can be sure to get the seat in your preferred bus.
Transport between Sydney and Melbourne
As an alternative to Greyhound you can also take the Firefly Coach, which is quite similar to the Premier, for this part of your trip. Another option is an inland flight from Sydney to Melbourne. Because of the really cheap inland flights (sometimes you pay less than for a bus ticket) it could be nice option, too. Especially because there are actually no really interesting bus stops between Sydney and Melbourne, so that you probably would anyway take a non-stop bus for this part of the trip. You can check your favorite flight search engine for cheap inland flight or take a look by EasyJet which is a low-coast airline in Australia and New Zealand.
Where to buy the bus ticket
You can buy the ticket either online or by one of the numerous travel agencies you can find in almost every touristic city in Australia. I would recommend to check the travel agencies first. Sometime they provide some discount so you can get your ticket much cheaper.
Where to stay
While you travel on hopp-on-hopp-off pass you may want to stay flexible most time and decide just only couple of days in advance where to go next. The good news is that this kind of travel is possible. In almost every city on your way you will find plenty of hostels and hotels where you can stay. Even if you not book large in advance it is still possible to find a free bed at least in a dorm room in some hostel. Anyway I would recommend to book your accommodation as soon as possible, because especially during the main season it can be very crowdy and the best hostels are booked out very fast. You can use for example booking.com or hostelworld.com to find an accommodation.
Tip for accommodation search: Sometimes it is really difficult to find a free room online, because everything seems to be booked out. In this case I would recommend to contact the hostels direkt (phone or just walk arround) and ask them if they maybe have something free. Sometimes the hostels still have some rooms free, which are not displayed online, just for an emergency case. Which also means stranded backpackers, as I was told :-).
Best Places and Must-Sees on Australia’s East Coast
Cairns and the North of the Queensland
Cairns is a small town in the north of the East Coast with a lot of tourists, nice beaches and warm and sunny weather most time of the year. There are few spots in the city you should take a look of:
Cairns Esplanade. Besides the beautiful walk close to the beach you can find here a lot of bars and restaurants.
Cairns Lagoon. The famous free-air pool of Cairns lies directly on the Cairns Esplanade.
Cairns Botanic Gardens.
Close to the Cairns Botanic Gardens start some really nice walking tracks.
For the nightlife: two good bars/clubs in the town are the Salt House and the Woolshed.
In Cairns you also can book a tour to The Great Barrier Reef. If you do this I would recommend to book one to the outer reef which is more far away from the coast. The inner reef close to the coast is unfortunately in a really bad condition, it is bleaching and to most parts dying. Here you can really see the impact of the global climate change and the destroying of the natural environment…
Another most stunning places and absolute must-sees around cairns are The Daintree Rain Forest, Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation. With about 150 million years the Daintree Rainforest is the oldest rainforest in the world. While in the Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation you will find the most incredible beaches in Queensland. Unfortunately there is no public bus service in the northern Queensland so it is quite difficult to go there if you don’t have a car. But there are still some ways to do this:
The easiest way is to rent a car in Cairns for a couple a days. I recommend at least 3-4 days to discover that beauty of the north.
There are a lot of bus tours you can book in Cairns which will show you the Daintree, Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation.
You can try to hitchhike to Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation. There are a lot of tourists going there so you will definitely get a ride. There are some hostels in Cape Tribulation and Port Douglas where you can spend a night and discover the surroundings. To go to the Daintree on the same way should be possible, too. Just if you plan to do a longer hike in the forest you should take care of it in your planning.
If you stay in a hostel in Cairns you can get in touch with other travelers and look around if somebody wants to go to the north soon, so you can join him. Almost everybody who is visiting Cairns has the north of the Queensland on his bucket list. So you will definitely find somebody to do this trip together, even if you decide to rent a car together. For this case I have another tip for you: The Josephine Falls and the Mount Bartle Frere Trail. A quite difficult but absolutely beautiful hiking track. You will never get closer to this unique forest than on this hiking trail! Just be aware of the bloodworms in the forest, they really like fresh blood :-). Actually they are harmless but really annoying. To be safe always wear long pants and closed hiking shoes in the forest!
A little town surrounded by tropical forest and beautiful beaches. If you have always dreamed of a skydive in Australia with a landing on a beach, this is The Place for it.
Magnetic Island is a small and really beautiful island not far away from the coast of Townsville. The most part of the island is covered by native forest where you can spot some koalas. The best chance to see them is on the Forts Walk which is the most popular walk on the island and leads to historic fortifications and infrastructure from the Second World War. And in the south of Arcadia, a small village on the island, at the end of the Armand Way you can spot some Rock Wallabies. They are so tame you can even pet them.
To go to the Island is actually really easy. The busses stop direct on the ferry terminal so you just have to take the next ferry to the island. A really good hostel on the Island is the Base Backpackers.
Airlie Beach and Whitesundays
Airlie Beach is a nice small town on the East Coast and the ideal start point to go to the world famous Whitesundays. If you are in the town you can check out the Lagoon of Airlie Beach, the pool is similar to the one in the Cairns and it is the best place in the town to relax. From here you can walk to the harbor of Airlie Beach which is a quite nice walk. And if you are interested in night life you will find in Airlie Beach a lot of bars and clubs with crazy parties almost every night.
When you are in Airlie Beach you should definitely take a tour to the Whitsunday islands. There are not so many places on the Earth which are more spectacular than Whitsundays! I highly recommend to take at least 2 days sail tour to get the best experience of this nature paradise. There are a lot of companies providing tours to the Whitsundays, so you will definitely find a perfect one for you. Personally, I can recommend the crew of “Spank Me”. I sailed with them around the Whitsundays for 2 days and it was an incredible adventure, actually the most excited time for me of my whole trip along the East Coast. Just one more tip, if you are looking for the perfect tour to the Whitsundays, don’t look for a party boat! You may probably get only this one chance to see those incredible islands, so don’t waste it for simple parties. Be there and enjoy every single moment in this nature paradise, you will not regret it. There is enough time for party elsewhere.
If you plan to take some surf lessons during your Australia stay, Agnes Water will be the best place for it on the East Coast (and anyway the cheapest one).
Hervey Bay, Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island
Fraser Island is the world biggest sand island and it is really worth a visit. The most famous attraction on the island is the 75 miles beach, an almost endless sandy beach which is used as a local highway. If you never have drove on a beach before, this will be an amazing experience for you! Anyway, the forest and the lakes on the island are also really beautiful. Especially the Lake Wabby, the deepest lake on the island, and the Lake McKenzie with crystal clear blue water and finest white sand. But be careful of the Dingos, the wild inhabitants of the island. These wild dogs are strong protected and they can be sometimes really aggressive. To protect yourself and these animals never walk alone outside of the villages!
You can go to the Fraser Island either from Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach:
Hervey Bay is a quiet and cozy town with not so many tourists. It is the perfect place to take some rest after an exciting adventure. When you are visiting Hervey Bay you should check out the local colony of flying foxes (best time to visit them is just before the dawn when they fly out to look for the food, Google Maps Location) and the Urangan Pier.
Rainbow beach is a small coastal town around 100 km in the south of Hervey Bay. Unlike Hervey Bay you will find here a lot of tourists. Because of his closeness to Fraser Island a lot of visitors are coming to Rainbow Beach just to start here their Fraser Island adventure. If the quite Hervey Bay sounds a little bit boring for you and if you prefer a bit more excitement, Rainbow Beach will be probably the right choice for you.
How to explore the Fraser Island
Regardless of where you want to start your trip to Fraser Island there are actually three ways how to explore it:
You can book a tour from Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach. This is probably the easiest way to go to the island, because you don’t have to care about transport, accommodation etc. One of the well-known operators for tours to Fraser Island is the Cool Dingo Tours.
You can rent a four-wheel van to go to the island on your own (a four-wheel car is mandatory on the island), and enjoy the freedom by exploring this nature paradise.
The overnight stay on the island is possible either in a hotel or on a camping ground. For a hotel accommodation you can check the common hotel search websites. If you decide to stay on a campground you will need an e-permit to camp on the island which you can get from a “QLD Parks and Wildlife Service office”. For detailed description about the camping on the island you can check out this website.
To rent a car for your adventure on Fraser Island you can check out the travel agencies in Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach. However, to go to Fraser Island by car you will need a special permit for your car vehicle, too. You can get them from the office above or you can ask after them in the travel agency when you book the car. By the way, most car renting companies offer special packages which include in addition to the car all necessary permits and transfers by the ferry, as well as the accommodation on the island. This is probably the best way if you want to go to Fraser Island on your own.
When you are driving on Fraser Island it is also very important to check the tides before you go to the 75 miles beach. Due the dangerous conditions it is not allowed to drive on the beach in the time between 2 hours before and 2 hours after the high tide.
For ferry time tables and prices you can check out the websites of the ferry companies which provide the barge service to Fraser Island:
An alternative to the quite expensive car renting is to go to the island without a car and explore it by some multi-day hikes. In this case you just have to care about your accommodation and the transport to the island, which is much cheaper if you don’t go by car. Just be careful, like always on the island, of the Dingos and never walk alone! I also would recommend to seek advice in the local “QLD Parks and Wildlife Service office” about safe hiking trails and camping on Fraser Island.
Noosa Heads is a nice small town which is very popular by the tourists. Besides the beautiful beach you can check out the nearby Noosa National Park. The best walk in the national park is the Coastal Walk, which provides spectacular views and lonely bays on the way from the main beach of Noosa Heads to the beautiful Sunshine Beach in the south.
Brisbane is the capital city of Queensland and one of the biggest cities on the East Coast. Brisbane has almost everything you can even get from a big city, like shopping malls, culture, exciting nightlife and a lot of good food. The biggest leisure district of Brisbane is the Southbank with a large city park, recreational areas, Lagoon and some museums and art galleries.
Every Wednesday there is a big food market located at Reddacliff Place, where you can get a wide range of fresh food from the region, as well as some international culinary specials. And from the top of the Mount Coot-tha you can get a spectacular view over the skyline of Brisbane. To go there you can either walk, which is about 2 hours walk, or take a bus line 471.
I recommend to take the bus to the top of the Mount Coot-tha and to walk on your way back to the city. On your way back, however, you will pass the Botanic Gardens and the Planetarium of Brisbane which are situated at the foot of this mountain and are definitely worth a visit. Especially the Botanic Gardens are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen on the East Coast. You can spot here some Australian Water Dragons, the most famous Australian lizard, and if you are lucky enough even some of the big green pythons, which are living in the Botanic Gardens. Don’t worry, they are actually harmless but really fascinated. Just don’t try to touch them or come closer for a selfie (basically not a good idea) and they will not care about you.
The Surfer’s Paradise is a city district of the Gold Coast and it is known as “Miami of Australia”. You will probably get the most exciting nightlife on the East Coast right here in the Surfer’s Paradise. Some hostels offer even special club tours with parties all over the night. However, the beach of Surfer’s Paradise with skyscrapers in the front has almost cult status.
Right here in the city is also located the tallest building in the southern hemisphere the Q1 Tower. From its “SkyPoint Observation Deck” you can get an incredible view over the whole Gold Coast.
Byron Bay is my absolute favorite place on the East Coast of Australia. What an amazing cozy town with wonderful close to nature beaches and friendly people! And the sunsets on the beach of Byron Bay were the most amazing I’ve ever seen in Australia.
The most famous sight in Byron bay is the Lighthouse of Cape Bay which is located on the most eastern point of the australian mainland. You can easily reach the Lighthouse from the town, which is about 1h walk, depend on the way you want to take. I recommend to walk along the coast close to the beach, which is by far the best part of the walking track to the Lighthouse. Especially early in the morning you can spot here some whales or dolphins crossing the cape, or even some wallabies grazing on the slopes of the Cape Byron. However, when you plan to visit the Lighthouse you should consider to come here for a sunrise, too. The sunrise on cape Byron is just amazing! And on your way back to the town you will get the best chance to see some dolphins or wallabies when you walk along the coast.
The another insider tip for Byron Bay is the Broken Head Nature Reserve in the south of Byron Bay. The best way to go there is by bike. To get one you have actually two options. Some hostels offer bikes for free, like Holiday Village Backpackers, so you can get one from your hostel. Or you can rent a bike by one of the shops in Byron Bay, which are offering bike hire.
After you got a bike, you just have to follow the road from Byron Bay to the south until you reached the small suburb Suffolk Park. You can lock your bike somewhere in the south of Suffolk Park and then walk to the Tallow Beach. From there you just have to follow the beach to the Broken Head which starts at the south end of the Tallow Beach. On your way there don’t miss the little Tea Tree Lake which is located very close to the beach! You will see the right place when you cross a small creek with brown water flowing into the see.
This lake is really special, it has red-brown water which has been colored by leafs of the tea trees in the neighborhood, and it is supposed to be very healthy for the skin. Although this place is sacred in aborigine’s mythology, it is allowed to swim in this lake.
Once you have arrived at Broken Head you can walk the Three Sisters Track to the hidden Kings Beach. The short track is just amazing, and the Kings Beach is a little gem surrounded by tropical forest.
By the way, if you got a bike in Byron Bay you can try to ride it on the beach in the north of Byron Bay, which is an amazing experience and a lot of fun!
Probably the most exiting city in Australia. There are so many things to see and to do in Sydney, you will never get boring. If you are on a sightseeing tour you definitely should visit: Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney Town Hall, Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, Queen Victoria Building, Hyde Park, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney Harbor Bridge and of course Sydney Opera House. From Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and Kirribilli Point you can get a great view over the Sydney Cove with Opera House and Harbor Bridge. However, the best view over the Opera House is from the Harbor Bridge, not least from the lookout point on the top of the one of the Bridge pillars. And if you fell like to do an extensive shopping tour you should check out the both biggest shopping miles in the city: George und Pitt Street.
Sydney has also two big leisure districts: Circular Quay and Darling Harbor. The life pulsated there day and night. These both districts are probably the most exciting places in the city, especially in the late evening when the nightlife begins.
Another really famous place in Sydney is, of course, the Bondi Beach. This beach has almost a cult status and is definitely worth a visit. As well as the Manly Beach in the north of Sydney, which is even more beautiful then the Bondi Beach. However, when you are visiting the Bondi Beach you should also check out the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk, a short walking track between Bondi and Bronte Beach with a lot of spectacular views.
Beside the really excited city there are still some popular destinations around Sydney:
Blue Mountains National Park
The most famous national park of Australia. Blue colored Mountains surrounded by almost endless deep forest. Actually the mountains are not really blue, but they look like this because of the eucalyptus trees growing on their slopes. The vapor of those eucalyptus trees leads to the light scattering of the blue component of the light, so that the mountains shine blue. The whole national park is just amazing and an absolutely dream destination.
You can easy go there by train. Just take the “Blue Mountains Line” from the Central Station to Katoomba. From there it is just about 20 minute walk to the national park, just head to the south until you have reached the Katoomba Cascades, a small waterfall at the edge of the national park. From there starts the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, a popular hiking trail with a lot of spectacular views over the Blue Mountains.
Royal National Park
Another amazing national park. Compared to the Blue Mountains National Park is this one less crowded by tourists, but not less spectacular. The best walking track is the Coastal Track, which provides a lot of spectacular views and pass by the world famous Figure 8 Pools. Those rock pools are a geological sensation. The most famous of them looks like a perfect eight, which gave the pools the name their are known.
To go to the pools you have to follow the Coastal Track until you have reached the Burning Palms Beach. From this beach you have to walk southwards along the rocky shore until you reached the pools. Just be careful when you walk this unmarked path! The rocks are really slippery and the waves might be high and dangerous there. Also you have to check tides before you go, the pools can be reached only during the low tide. However, the sea by the pools is unpredictable and even by good weather there is a chance for big waves which can be really dangerous on the rocks. Be careful and don’t risk too much! And even without the visiting the pools the national park provides a lot of amazing walking tracks.
To go to the national park you can take the “South Coast Line” from the Central Station to the Otford Station. From there you have to walk to the Otfords Lookout on Lady Wakehurts Drive, which is just 10 minute walk from the train station. From Otfords Lookout starts the Garrawarra Ridge Trail which continues to the Coast Track.
If you didn’t are lucky to see some kangaroos on your way to Sydney this will be your best chance to change it! There is a place close to the village Morisset Park in the north of Sydney where you can spot some wild kangaroos. And the best thing is that they are so tame you can even pet them!
To go there take the “Newcastle Line” from the Central Station to the Morisset station. From the train station you can either walk through the forest or along the Fishery Point Road, Morisset Park Road and Silky Oak Drive to the clearing in the woods where you can find the kangaroos (Google Maps location). The whole walk is about 1 hour. The best time to spot the kangaroos is in the late afternoon when the sun slowly goes down. Because during the daytime the kangaroos hide in the forest to avoid the day heat.
Melbourne is probably the most beautiful city of Australia. There are so many unique and beautiful places you can discover in the city:
The 333 Collins Street building with its glamorous hall.
The ANZ Bank which is also known as the Gothic Bank of Melbourne. From inside the bank almost looks like the Gringotts Bank from Harry Potter!
The State Library of Victoria
The Flinders Street Station
Eureca Tower, the tales building of Melbourne. There is an observation platform on the top of the tower, where you can get an amazing view over the city.
Crown Melbourne, the Casino of Melbourne which is just huge. There is no dressing code, so you just can walk in and take a look of its glamorous halls.
The Shrine of Remembrance, one of the biggest war memorial in Australia
Royal Botanic Gardens and the Prince Albert Park are two biggest city parks in Melbourne. There is a big lake in the middle of the Prince Albert Park, where you can walk around and enjoy the view of the city skyline.
The Flagstaff Gardens is another small city park where you can spot some possums in the dusk. They are so tame you can even pet them!
Graffiti streets. Melbourne is famous for its street art. There are several small hidden streets, where you can find a lot of fancy street art.
The best way to discover the city is to take a free guided tour managed by the touristic department of Melbourne. Just go to the visitor center on Flinders Street and ask for a reservation. The tours will be made by local volunteers in small groups with just 3-4 people and are completely for free! You will never get a better experience about the Melbourne than with one of these tours.
You can also take the Tram Nr. 35 for sightseeing in the city. This is a historical tram, which drives in the city circle and it is special for the tourists. During the ride the driver tells some historical facts about the city and its most interesting highlights. The ride on this tram is completely for free, like on every other tram in the inner city circle!
The another big highlight in Melbourne is the St Kilda district in the south of the city center. Besides the beautiful beach you will find here the famous St Kilda Peer with a beautiful historical Kiosk on its top. The view over the skyline of Melbourne from here is just amazing. Especially by sunset! You will never get more amazing view over the city than by sunset from the St Kilda Pier, just believe me.
But the biggest highlight of St Kilda is located just behind the Pier Kiosk: the St Kilda Breakwater. Right here on these rocks you will find a big colony of Little Blue Penguins. You can spot them in the dusk, when the sun goes down and they come out from their hidden places in the rocks. The best time to visit the colony is during the week, when it is less crowdy here. But on the weekends you will meet hundreds of tourists overflowing the small rocks.
Great Ocean Road
Like in Sydney you can also find some popular destinations around Melbourne. The most famous of them is the Great Ocean Road, a coastal highway from Melbourne to Adelaide, which belongs to the most spectacular highways in the world and definitely should be on your bucket list. There are so many special places you can find along this road:
Twelve Apostles. The most famous sight on the Great Ocean Road, but unfortunately very crowded.
Bay of Islands etc.
To go there you have actually three options:
Book a tour to the Great Ocean Road.
Try to hitchhike there. Because of the large number of tourists going to the Great Ocean Road it should be quite easy to hitchhike there. But because of the remote character of the most sights on the Great Ocean Road it could be also difficult to go everything you like to visit.
Rent a car in Melbourne. This is the best way to explore the Great Ocean Road. You can rent a car online by the usual car renting companies or you can go to the Visitor Center on Flinders Street where you can also rent a car for a short trip around Melbourne. I would suggest at least 2 days for the best Great Ocean Road experience. By the way, when you are going to rent a car for this trip you should consider to visit the Grampians National Park as well (see below).
Tip: On your way to the Great Ocean Road you can make a side trip to the Great Otway National Pak, where you can spot some koalas.
Gramphians National Park
Another dream destination close to Melbourne is the Grampians National Park. Beautiful mountains surrounded by deep forest with amazing nature and a lot of beautiful hiking tracks. The best way to explore the “Grampians” is to stay one or two nights in Halls Gap, a small town from where you can start some hikes through the national park.
You can go there either by a car or by hitchhiking which should works well, too. If you decide for the first option you can do this trip together with the Great Ocean Road. However, when you are visiting Halls Gap you might also find here some kangaroos, which you can spot in the evening in the Halls Gap Recreation Reserve (Google Maps location).
I hope this guide will help you for your trip planning through the East Coast of Australia. If you have some questions don’t hesitate to let me a comment or contact me with any enquiries.