After I left my corporate job in New York, I started toying with the idea of taking an extended trip to Australia and New Zealand. I’d read it took about 16 hours to fly there – actually two full days with the time change – and knew it would never be possible to make such a long trip work with only a few weeks of vacation time. I worked as a bartender for a year saving money for my trip and then headed across the world to spend a few months exploring. Before you leave you should also research how to apply for a visa for Australia.
I started in Australia’s east coast, making my way through the Outback next and finishing by trekking across the two islands of New Zealand. This was the trip that really changed me: I’d been abroad before but never traveled solo or for this long. When I finally boarded a plane back to the U.S I was exhausted and ready to go home but knew I wanted to travel as much as possible.
There’s a lot to do in this metropolis. I enjoyed walking around the botanical gardens near the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It’s an easy walk from the Opera House and you get nice views of the water and Harbor Bridge as well from “The Rocks.”
From Sydney I recommend hopping over to Manly Beach for a day and also make sure to take a trip to the Blue Mountains to see the Three Sisters rock formation and hike to Wentworth Falls.
Surf Village and Byron Bay
I was able to stay in a surf village, which was extremely special. A lot of backpackers stay at Spot X Mojo Surf Camp for the ability to bunk in converted shipping containers right on the beach and join the communal dinners the residents serve nightly. The locals also teach surf lessons.
Byron Bay is hippie paradise – the coolest artsy beach town on Australia’s east coast with amazing restaurants, nightlife, shops and vibes. Hike to the Cape Byron lighthouse for an incredible view.
In Australia wildlife is all around. Kangaroos are as common as deer and can be really friendly. Koalas are protected in Australia so it’s a rare opportunity to get to hold one but at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary you can wait in line to cuddle with one for a minute. They’re super sweet and fuzzy, but they sleep for about 21 hours a day so the conservation center has specific times for this activity.
Noosa and Fraser Island
I’d heard of Noosa from the yogurt brand and wanted to stop by this idyllic coastal town. There’s an easy walk along the water on a boardwalk and it’s extremely scenic I highly recommend taking a stroll in late afternoon.
Another extremely cool experience is to drive along Australia’s sand highway. The 75-Mile beach actually operates just like a road! A 4×4 is a must and we saw so many vehicles that were stuck along the way. We even experienced moments of getting stuck despite being in a huge truck. There are tons of tents along the route and I would definitely love to have stayed for a few days and camped on the beach. If that interests you, there are a lot of free places to camp in Australia as well. Rainbow Beach has a lot of dreamtime legends associated with it, as the Aboriginal people believe in a legend about a rainbow protecting a maiden from an evil boomerang and that is how the sand dunes got their brilliant colors. Once you cross onto Fraser Island visiting Lake Mackenzie is a must for the light turquoise water and white silica sand.
Sailing the Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef
This was the part of the trip I was most nervous about. The night before I panicked about being stuck on a boat for three days and potential for getting seasick or not liking the other people on board. I almost backed out and I’m so glad I didn’t – it was the experience of a lifetime. We spent two nights and three days aboard the Condor through the company Prosail, leaving from Airlie Beach. The Whitsunday Islands are extremely beautiful, especially White Haven beach. I got extremely sunburnt here and I think it’s because the sand is actually pure silica and despite being extremely soft and cool (silica doesn’t get hot like sand so walking around your feet are never burning!) it also takes off sunblock super easily so reapply CONSTANTLY. We also snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, spent all day lounging and drinking on the boat and slept under the stars (there were also bunks down below).
This is a really popular place to skydive and several of my friends said it was amazing. I spent the day checking out Aboriginal art and exotic fruit at the markets in town. You can also snorkel and Scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef here. This was my last stop on Australia’s east coast before I flew to the Northern Territory to start my Outback adventure.
Adele GeeJuly 28, 2019 at 6:51 am
How very interesting – lately I have had some thoughts about taking a sabbatical to have an extended trip. It must be liberating for you to leave the corporate job in New York and go travel! I see from your photos that Australia is very beautiful , I have been to Queensland and Sydney but did not spend much time on the beach which I regret. Thanks for the inspiration.
AmritaJuly 28, 2019 at 5:27 pm
Wow, you seem to have a great adventure in the Australian East Coast. There is always one trip that changes the traveller in you. I am glad that you found it on this trip. It is good that you overcame your reluctance and went forward with sailing. I am sure you made friends with other people on board and also did not get seasick. I enjoyed reading about your experiences in Australia and the photographs are really stunning!
LisaJuly 28, 2019 at 7:45 pm
It’s a dream of mine to see the Whitsunday Islands one day. Australia and New Zealand are 2 countries I’ve not got around to seeing yet; it’s a bit of a distance from Italy! I also love the sound of Byron Bay, though I’m not a hippie! Noosa and Fraser Island sound wonderful too. You covered a lot of ground!
Ami BhatJuly 29, 2019 at 10:08 am
The only place that I could visit was Gold Coast and am so glad to see it here in your list. Loved the pristine waters and reefs around the coast. I wish I had been to Whitsunday. I can see from your pictures that it was a bad miss. Guess next time it is going to be that.
KristinaJuly 29, 2019 at 11:32 am
Great pictures. I’ve lived in Sydney most of my life and I’ve had this roadtrip idea forever. Just havent gotten round to it. We always delay exploring our own backyard. Thanks for sharing. Its a great motivator to get out there and see what australia has to offer
Bhushavali NJuly 29, 2019 at 9:44 pm
I love your commitment to travel. Hats off to that! I’m yet to visit the Oceania and as you say, it does need quite a long trip to see atleast some of the places!
Surf Village sounds amazing! I love to the whole concept of converting shipping containers are bunk beds and communal dinners served by locals. I can imagine it as an unforgettable, amazing, experience!
I’d love to pet a koala! I wouldn’t mind standing in that queue for that 1 min hug!
PaulaJuly 31, 2019 at 6:53 am
Just beautiful! I have never been in Australia, but this definitely gave a boost to my travel plans there. I have read about the Byron Bay before I thought it was absolutely stunning. Also the nature in Australia is so unique, that I really want to experience it myself.
Archana SinghAugust 1, 2019 at 4:58 am
You brought back my old memories of Australia. Just like you, I loved doing a road trip on the east coast of Australia. I really loved Fraser Island. I too had heard a lot of legends about the Rainbow Beach and really had a good time exploring it. Until today I can’t forget the turquoise water and white silica sand of Lake Mackenzie
AnnAugust 2, 2019 at 12:18 pm
First of all – LOVE this blog design! Had to leave a comment on it, it’s so fresh and clean! May I ask what theme / program you are using for your blog? I have never been to Australia but I really envy you going there – it has always been top on my bucketlist but I just never make it there for some reason. Your photos just made me realize I need to make my trip to Australia happen! A road trip sounds like so much fun, not to even mention diving in the Indian ocean.
SummerAugust 4, 2019 at 11:45 am
Hi Ann, thank you so much! I use the theme “Alder” from Solopine. I love all of their designs and they have great support for their themes too. It’s really easy to customize as well. Australia is amazing you should definitely visit when you can. I recommend spending a few weeks there because there is so much to see!