Whether you’re going from Cairns to Sydney or Sydney to Cairns, there’s so much to do when travelling the East Coast of Australia. No matter how long you’re planning to go for, here are some of the places that you can’t miss. From North to South, I’ll take you through some of the classic destinations as well as some of the lesser well-known experiences that I heard about from other Backpackers!
Just a short ferry off the coast of Townsville, Magnetic Island is the perfect place to spend a few nights to explore. Its small bus system is easy enough to get from one side of the island to the other, but if that’s not your thing then you can also hire one of the infamous open-top Barbie Cars that are so popular! Here, the Base Hostel is one of the nicest I’ve been to with loads of social areas right by the beach. Everyone will be talking about The Forts Walk and how many koala bears they saw!!
Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays
You can’t do the East Coast without going to the Whitsundays – I liked it so much that I went twice! Airlie Beach is a little town that is based on Whitsunday tourism, so everyone you meet will be talking about which boat they’re about to go on which makes a really sociable atmosphere. I recommend doing one of the three-night boat cruises. It gives you the chance to make lots of friends as well as having loads of opportunities to go snorkeling with turtles, banana-boating and even scuba-diving. Of course, you’ll also get to see some of the whitest sand in the world at Whitehaven Beach too!
Broken River, Mackay
I heard about Broken River from two girls I met on Magnetic Island. This is not a typical tourist stop on East Coast Itineraries, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. After driving up a beautiful mountain in Eungella National Park land, you can walk along Broken River which is full of wildlife. Not only can you watch turtles swimming, but it’s a platypus habitat! I never thought I’d get to sit and have a picnic in the sun while watching platypuses swimming next to me.
Tin Can Bay
Another well-kept secret on the East Coast is Tin Can Bay. This was one of the most surreal experiences of my trip. We heard about Tin Can Bay from a family that we met on Fraser Island and they said it was the highlight of their holiday! Essentially, you drive to Barnacles Dolphin Centre which is a little family-run café right on the Bay that has a resident pod of nine Humpback Dolphins. You can get some breakfast or a coffee while the volunteers stand in the water and share information on each member of the pod. From about 8:00am, the dolphins gradually all come and sit in the water next to the volunteers. There’s no exhibition or captivity. Rather, the dolphins come back every day where they play about in the water with the volunteers and guests get a chance to feed them fish. It was so interesting to hear about the personalities of each dolphin from the volunteers, then actually get to meet the dolphins ourselves.
I’m going to live in Noosa one day. For me, it’s one of the most beautiful National Parks in Australia. One of the best parts about Noosa Heads is the Coastal Walk. You pass amazing bays every five minutes and what’s even better is that they are all great for a surf. The paths are full of both walkers and surfers who use the National Park to access their favourite surf spots. It doesn’t stop there – there’s also barbecues dotted around the walks so there’s always a chance to get a feed in after being in the water! Make sure you follow the walk all the way to Hell’s Gate because the views are amazing.
The Gold Coast is a really interesting city. It’s got beautiful estuaries with hostels dotted around the waters so there’s plenty of chance for fun activities on the water. My favourite part was going to SkyPoint in the Q1 Building – it’s one of the tallest buildings in the world so the views are just incredible. For around $30, you can go up to the Observation Deck and have an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, so you can watch the waves roll in while having your bacon and eggs in the morning from around 70 stories high!
I have been back in Manchester for a semester since living in Australia for one year. I have learned so much from moving away and living on the other side of the world. Studying abroad is such an amazing and unique way to grow academically and personally in a short period of time.
Before I moved to Australia I really believed that I would be heartbroken when I left but I wasn’t. I was so grateful for the experiences, opportunities, and friends that I had made but I was excited to come back home. Studying abroad has made me realise how small the world really is. A flight across the world only takes one day! Since being back in Manchester I have had two Aussie friends come and visit me and have Facetimed with others almost daily. On reflection I wish I hadn’t been so worried about leaving as I am so happy to be back in Manchester!
Another reflection upon returning is how quickly a year passes. It only feels like last month that I was writing my application to study abroad and attending all of the pre-departure sessions. I can’t believe that I am already back. One tip I will give that is a bit cliche is say yes to everything! Your time flies by and you will regret the socials you didn’t go to and the trips that you missed to stay in and study.
The highlight of my year in Australia was definitely all of the travelling and trips that I did! I would recommend saving some money for road trips and spontaneous holidays as they really made the year. It is depressing to write this post in rainy dark Manchester knowing that this time last year I was in Bali.
Studying abroad is the best thing I have done during my time at university and I would recommend it to anyone. I would say go into your exchange with zero expectations. Don’t worry about the small details as you will look back after a year and wonder why you were so worried about them. Join societies, travel as much as you can and enjoy yourself as before you know it you will be back in Manchester.
No matter the day there’s always plenty of things to do and see round Melbourne’s campus from free BBQs and live music, to cosy study spots and farmer markets – the list is endless! So if your wanting to make your day at uni a little less studious and a whole lot more enjoyable, here’s a quick guide to my N.1 spots on campus.
Unlike the other Universities in Australia, Melbourne coordinates its midterm break with the AFL final (this is normally around nine weeks into the academic term). By this point you will defo want a holiday, so take that time to plan and book yourself a great trip away!
Time has soared by since I first set foot in Melbourne. Now 8 weeks into the Aussie dream (and loving every second of it) I’ve decided to put together a list of 5 life hacks that made settling into this fantastic city a lot less daunting!
When: November 2018 (Coming into Australian summertime, so it was hot!)
Rottnest Island a ferry ride away from Perth, is one of the ‘must see’ places I had been told to visit since I moved to Western Australia. For any of my fellow geographers, Rottnest is a sandy, low-lying island formed on a base of aeolianite limestone. Alongside Garden Island, Rotto is a remnant of Pleistocene dune ridge. The island was separated from the mainland about 7000 years ago due to sea level rise. However, human remnants have been found on the island dating back 70,000 years. The indigenous people of land known as the Noongar people, call the island Wadjemup and lived on the island before it detached from the mainland.
The island is around 20km and we managed to explore it in a day. We hired bikes, stopping off and enjoying hidden beaches throughout the day. However, we plan to go back for a weekend and camp over-night. The wildlife in Rottnest is what makes it so special. Extensive reefs surround the island, that you can see in the incredibly clear water as you arrive by ferry, and snorkel in the warm waters. Bottlenose dolphins and migrating humpbacks are welcome visitors of the island and the Perth canyon just off the island is one of the main habitats for blue whales in Australia.
Overall, the absolute highlight of Rottnest or as the Aussies call it Rotto. Aside from the great views, beautiful beaches, amazing snorkelling or enjoyable cycling tracks are the super friendly quokkas. These little creatures are marsupials, and like kangaroos carry their joey’s in their pouches. They are about the size of a cat and just as friendly, allowing you to approach them seemingly unfazed by humans. The island actually gets its name from the Quokka. In the 1600’s Dutch colonisers believed the Quokkas to be giant rats, and thus named the small island ‘Rotte Nest’ after the Dutch word Rattennest meaning rats nest. Rotto is one of the few areas in the world where the native quokka can be found. This is due to the exclusion of natural or introduced predators. Their only predators being snakes, who thankfully aren’t as friendly.
Known as ‘the worlds happiest animal’, Quokkas are celebrities on the island with many trying to get a quick pic with the creature.
I can’t wait to go back and visit this rare and uniquely beautiful island, and hopefully meet up with some more Quokkas.
Hands down one of the best parts of going on an exchange is the opportunity to explore around the town or city you’re studying in. Travelling throughout the semester on short weekend breaks really gives you a feel for the country. These are quite general but if you’d like something more specific shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org
So, you’ve managed to secure a place with the University of Melbourne. That’s great. On top of that, you’ve just flown over 10,000 miles, enjoyed and are just about ready to collapse from jet lag. In spite of all of that, things are looking pretty good, you should feel proud of yourself for getting so far (I know that I’m excited for you). BUT before we can kick off your dream exchange, we need to get you a base for the next few months, a place you can kick back and relax in between your Australian adventures.
*This guide is aimed at those who are planning on finding accommodation after reaching Australia*
By Anna Powell (University of Melbourne, Australia)
I thought that returning to uni after a whole year away would be tough. This year counts for 67% of my final degree (a little different to last year’s pass or fail requirement!) and over the summer I watched loads of my friends graduate from Manchester. I’ve been a little concerned about adjusting from a pass or fail year to my crucial final year as well as wondering what would remain of my social life back in Manchester. Despite my concerns, returning to Manchester has been fine, great even!
There are far more people around than I had expected; it turns out that a surprising number of people did a year abroad and quite a few are doing a masters year. This is nice as, although a lot of friends have graduated, I’ve grown closer to other people who are still around. Also, those of us who have been abroad from Psychology have already made contact and have been sitting together in lectures. It’s been good not to feel like the newbie on a course where everyone else has had classes together for two years. I’ve loved hearing about where everyone has been, from America to Canada to Australia, what our experiences were like and how they differed.
Although the academic year has only just begun, I already sense a change of attitude in the people around me as everyone has developed a really strong work ethic. Because most people are either final year or masters students, partying has been seconded to working hard, which feels like a good environment to be in. For me, I feel like my year abroad has made me a lot more driven. After seeing many friends graduate and be launched into the real world, I’ve seen the importance of working as hard as possible in my final year, as well as continuing to beef up my CV in preparation for job applications. Being away has given me a bit of a breather from the intensity of my degree, so that I’ve returned feeling refreshed and ready to take on final year. Fingers crossed all goes well!
By Anna Powell (University of Melbourne, Australia).
I know that everybody says it, but I can’t believe how fast this year has gone. It’s been over a year now since I was saying goodbye to friends and family and boarding a flight to Australia, feeling somewhat unprepared and apprehensive about what to expect when I would land over 10,000 miles away from home.
I remember my arrival as a whirlwind of activity. Melbourne Welcome Week was intense; I stayed at Trinity College with other exchange students from across the world and we were shown the city by local students. It was such a great few days, but after it had finished I didn’t have a plan. I’d expected to meet potential housemates during the week, however nearly all the friends I made had already arranged their accommodation prior to departure.
I moved myself into a hostel and shortly after, uni began. This was a really stressful time, as I was juggling finding a house, familiarising myself with the city, starting my classes as well as trying to catch up with my friends from Melbourne Welcome, who were now spread right across the city. After such a busy week, the lack of social contact was hard for me. All of a sudden, I had a lot of time to think about my situation and I began to miss home horribly. Whilst in my dingy hostel, I’d hear about all my friends and family from Manchester and home who were on summer holidays, going to festivals and most importantly, together! Meanwhile, I was feeling sorry for myself in a drizzly version of Australia I hadn’t envisaged when setting off. Even worse, I discovered that my Gran had fallen ill. I’m incredibly close to my Gran and before I’d left I had worried about her how her health would be during my year away, so hearing the unexpected news that she was in hospital and awaiting heart surgery made things 100 times harder. All I wanted was to be at home.
Luckily, things soon picked up. I got an offer to move in with a group of Brazilians that I’d met during Melbourne Welcome Week and I jumped at the opportunity, and having my own room felt amazing after my time in the hostel. My Gran’s surgery was successful and I began to hear news of her feeling better than ever, which helped me to relax and actually enjoy life in Melbourne without feeling anxious and guilty for not being at home. The Exchange Society put loads of social events on for us and I was enjoying my classes, so soon I’d cheered up considerably.
Still, life in Melbourne took some getting used to. It was strange not living in a student area like Fallowfield in Manchester. A lot of local students live at home in Melbourne and so there is no particular student area. Where I was living was a mixture of families, a care home and apartments for young professionals and so it had a very different dynamic compared to Manchester, there was certainly not a house party on every street! Furthermore, going out in Melbourne is extremely expensive and so I found myself going out far less than usual. But soon, I began to adjust to Melbourne living, going to laneway bars, brunch and coffee, great Asian food, live music events, all balanced with working hard at uni – I found the students at Melbourne very hard working compared to Manchester. It felt like I was really living in the city of Melbourne and experiencing it for what it is, as opposed to living in the student bubble of Fallowfield and my time there being a blur of partying and cramming for exams.
By the time I left for Christmas, I had fully settled in and was sad to see many of my close friends leave for home – they were only doing one semester in Melbourne. At the same time however, I was really excited to spend Christmas at home with my family, followed by a two-month trip around South East Asia, so leaving wasn’t too hard. I won’t go on too much about my time in Asia, there’s too much to say! But my friend Ruth and I had a blast travelling through north Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, before flying back to Melbourne just in time for the start of uni.
Returning to Melbourne felt like I was coming home. It was so amazing to see my boyfriend Anthony after three months apart (he’s one of the local students that showed us around during Melbourne Welcome) and the city felt so familiar and welcoming – quite a contrast to when I first arrived in Melbourne. Rather than the start of term being a mad scramble to make friends, find a house and get to know the city, I instantly felt settled and I vowed that I’d make the most of my final months, which I knew were going to fly by. It was great to get to know the new batch of exchange students, but I also had a solid base of friends from my first semester and so didn’t feel pressured to forge any friendships for the sake of not being alone.
After a great semester of challenging study and incredible trips around Victoria and to Western Australia, my final few weeks were soon upon me. During this period, I remember finding it unbelievable that soon it would all be over and that my new home and the life I had made there would be merely a fond memory. I found it frustrating that there were so many things I still wanted to do, but the ever-present threat of deadlines and exams meant that I could no longer jet off to a corner of Australia like I had grown used to. Instead, Anthony and I planned a trip to Sydney and the Blue Mountains for after exams, the last chance I’d get to travel before returning home.
The gap between the end of exams and our trip was hard for me. Many of the people that had made my year abroad left for home one by one. Gradually, the Melbourne I’d known for a year was becoming more and more unfamiliar. The trip to Sydney gave me a chance to get out of the city and have a breather. We spent a fantastic week sightseeing in Sydney and exploring the beautiful Blue Mountains in a campervan (despite it getting to freezing at night when we were camping!). When I returned I found it much easier to start saying goodbye to Melbourne. Nearly all my friends had left now, so there were no more drawn-out goodbyes. I spent my last few days pottering around the city and appreciating every last minute.
It was obviously really hard to leave Anthony, but my journey home was much easier than I expected. I began to think about what was waiting for me at the other end: friends, family, home and a British summer (I was leaving winter in Melbourne). Being at home again was like breathing a sigh of relief, I hadn’t realised the effect that awaiting my departure had been having on me. It was comforting to be back in a stable, familiar environment, where I knew nothing was going to change dramatically for a while.
It’s a massive cliché, but nothing has changed at home. I’ve slipped back into this life as if I’d never left it, but I feel different in myself. This year has been so good for me. I feel more confident, I know that I can land in a country with nothing but my suitcase and a scribbled address of a friend of a friend and make a life for myself. I feel more mature, I studied harder in this pass or fail year than I ever did in Manchester. I’m excited and motivated for my final year in Manchester; this year exploring Melbourne has made me want to explore Manchester in the same way. I can’t wait to have my international friends to visit and to visit them over the coming years. Finally, I’m excited for what continent, country, city I’ll be calling home next, as being abroad for a year has only made me want to see more.