By Issy Jackson (University of Sydney, Australia)


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!

Magnetic Island

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!!

Hellfire Bay, Magnetic Island

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!

Airlie Beach, Queensland

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.

Eungella National Park, Mackay

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.

Barnacles Dolphin Centre, Tin Can Bay


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.

Noosa, Queensland

Gold Coast

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!

Sky Point, Q1 Building, Gold Coast

Study Abroad Reflections on Return

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.



An Ode to Rotto

Where: Rottnest Island, Western Australia.

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.

The picture that made the Quokka famous (2012).
Roger Federer and a Quokka.
If you close one eye and squint, it looks like Michael Buble and a Quokka.

I can’t wait to go back and visit this rare and uniquely beautiful island, and hopefully meet up with some more Quokkas.

Mid Semester break on Fraser Island!

by Jude Wiggins, University of Queensland, Australia, Geography

Over the Mid-Semester break I was lucky enough to go to Fraser Island with my friends, Sophie and David. Fraser Island is the World’s Largest Sand Dune. The island is a massive collection of sand that gets dragged in by the Pacific Ocean currents and stretches about 120 km long but only about 24 kms wide. Fraser is a World Heritage site so there are no roads, only sand tracks that can be accessed by 4WD. Whilst we were on Fraser our tour guide told us that if the island did not exist, all the sand that gathers there would have traveled further North and completely covered the Great Barrier Reef, meaning that we might not know about it’s existence.


Fray-yay Island at 6am

Continue reading “Mid Semester break on Fraser Island!”

Edible Flower Farming on a Tropical Island!

By Jude Wiggins, Geography, University of Queensland, Australia

After my Australian Summer travelling around the Philippines and Indonesia was over I still had roughly a month of free time before I was due to go back to University. Most of the friends I’d made last semester had either gone back to the UK for Christmas or were still travelling, so Brisbane was a little lonely! A friend had mentioned to me that you can earn good money working on farms in the Outback so I decided to do some research. Through my research I was introduced to the idea of WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). You do roughly 5 hours work per day on an organic farm and in exchange receive food and accommodation. Although WWOOFing isn’t paid work it was still something to do and  I wanted a new experience! I found an advertisement for an Edible Flower farm called Pretty Produce on an island just south of Brisbane called Lamb Island. I emailed the farm owner and arranged to start the next week!


flower farm.jpgPretty Produce Edible Flower Farm, Lamb Island. 

Continue reading “Edible Flower Farming on a Tropical Island!”

The Academic Experience of UQ

By Jude Wiggins, Geography, University of Queensland, Australia.

Next week I return to University for my second semester at UQ after a 3 month Summer holiday. As this marks the halfway point of my study abroad experience I think that now is a good time to reflect on the Academic differences between the University of Queensland and the University of Manchester.


UQ, Australia

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An Unconventional Christmas

By Jude Wiggins, Geography, University of Queensland, Australia.


Last week I arrived back in Brisbane after 2 months of travelling around Indonesia and the Philippines. All my friends and family have been asking me why I’m not at University at the moment. Well, as I’m in the Southern Hemisphere all the seasons are opposite to the Northern Hemisphere so I am currently on my long summer holiday (November – Feburary). The end of last semester got pretty intense with lots of deadlines and exams so I was relieved to finally be able to start some travelling! First stop – Bali.


Balinese sunset!

Left: Pura Bratan Temple. Right: Ubud Rice Terraces

Continue reading “An Unconventional Christmas”

Safely Arrived in Brisbane!

By Jude Wiggins, Geography, University of Queensland, Australia.

This weekend marked the 3 month anniversary of my arrival in Brisbane and I have no idea where the time has gone! (Also, sorry for the late post!) The first few weeks I was here I stayed in a hostel so that I could view houses, find somewhere to live and also sort out things like an Australian bank account and phone number. Staying in the hostel was really fun as there was always someone new to meet but it was relieving to find my own house and get properly settled into Brisbane. I managed to find a beautiful house with an amazing view of the city from the balcony- you would not get that in Fallowfield! I’m living in a share house with two Brits, two Chileans and one Australian. I did look into staying in University accommodation but it was quite expensive. Irregardless though I’m happy with my house and location.

View of Brisbane on water
View of Brisbane from the water

Continue reading “Safely Arrived in Brisbane!”

Semester 2 at UQ

By Serena Graham (The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

By the start of semester 2, I was feeling much less of a tourist, and Brisbane felt more like home to me. I went into this semester feeling a lot more relaxed now that I already knew my way around, and it was a lot less scary than the start of semester 1. Time had flown so fast, I couldn’t believe that I only had four months left, so I tried to make the most of my remaining time down under. I scheduled my classes so that I was only in uni three days a week, which meant I could regularly go on trips for long weekends!

The first trip I went on was to Moreton Island. Although I had already been last semester I felt like I needed to go again since it was so much fun. We went with Quest (the International Society at UQ) and spent this weekend snorkelling round the shipwrecks, sandboarding, and visited the lakes.

My next adventure was my east coast trip! This is a must-do trip while you’re in Oz. We started by flying up to Townsville and then visited Magnetic Island for the day. Here they have wild wallabies all around the coast which are very friendly if you bring them food. Our next stop was Airlie Beach, which is a very popular place for backpackers and so there’s a lot more to do there. We took a kayaking trip from Airlie Beach and went around some of the Whitsunday Islands, where we also had the chance to snorkel on the amazing reefs. Then we took an overnight coach to Noosa, which is on the Sunshine Coast. Here I finally took some surfing lessons, and after about two hours of constantly falling off my surfboard, I finally caught a wave and managed to stand up! Noosa is also great for its walking trails and the views are spectacular. After Noosa we took a train back to Brissy, and after nearly two weeks of travelling hostel to hostel I was happy to see my bed again.

Regarding university, semester 2 was pretty similar to semester 1. I tried my best to choose modules that didn’t have clashing coursework deadlines, since I knew I was going to do a lot of travelling this semester. UQ is very similar to university in Manchester in the way that coursework and exams are carried out and marked. Each module has a tutorial group which is usually discussion-based, and all lectures are recorded and put on Blackboard.

Here are some photos of Moreton Island and my East Coast trip:

ect1 Kayaking around the Whitsundays  moreton 2 Moreton Island moreton Sandboarding – more scary than it looks!

magnetic island Baby wallaby (Magnetic island)

noosa Noosa Beach (Sunshine Coast)



East Coast Road Trip (2)

By Kate Bowmar  (The University of Queensland, Australia)

So, following on from my last blog post, I am continuing to tell you about my five week trip from Brisbane to Melbourne…

Surfers Paradise – Surfers Paradise is the main attraction of the Gold Coast region in Australia, just below Brisbane and once again easily accessible by public transport. It is known for its high skyscrapers, vast expanse of beaches and surfing!

BYRON BAY! – Byron Bay is one of the most famous spots along the East Coast, recently for being the location of the new ‘Inbetweeners’ film, but other than that it is a small hippie town in New South Wales – the most easterly point in Australia


Sydney –  After a grueling 12 hour overnight coach journey from Byron Bay to Sydney, we finally arrived in the most famous city in Australia. We stayed in the Kings Cross area of Sydney for five days, travelling to and from the city to see all the main sights such as the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and also doing the SKYWALK on Sydney Eye Tower, which involves walking on the roof of Sydneys tallest tower. As well as the SKYWALK we spent an afternoon  on a cruise around the harbour,  stopping at all the main sights. As well as staying in the city, we visited the famous Bondi Beach and visited an old school friend who showed me all the nontouristy areas of Sydney, which was amazing!

Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

Melbourne – After another overnight bus we sadly reached the final stop on our East Coast trip. With only one week left in Oz, Melbourne was my final place to visit and explore. It safe to say that if I’d not gone to study abroad in Brisbane, I would definitely loved to have lived in Melbourne! I see Melbourne as a bigger version of Brisbane, apart from the bad weather in Melbourne. Before I came to Australia, I was well warned that if I was coming to Oz for the weather, do not live in Melbourne. Unlike Brisbane, where it is almost a constant summer, you have to prepare for four seasons in one day in Melbourne, even in summer! Nevertheless, Melbourne is a great city for shopping, eating, exploring and is well known for the quirky street art  that changes daily.

The Great Ocean Road – The Great Ocean Road is an expanse of ocean road driving on the coast of Victoria, famous for its limestone rock sculptures along the whole coast. The trip was completed over two days, stopping off at multiple bays, beaches and visiting the famous Twelve Apostles at sunset.

The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road

How’s things now in Manchester?

By Karl Vikat (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

It is time for the concluding entry of this blog, as reading week has arrived and it is time to assess how a reverse culture shock might have manifested itself, as well as how re-integrating into Manchester has evolved.

As winter is approaching, with every leaf that hits the ground I realise more and more that missing out on winter in Australia has had quite an impact on me. Probably, of all adjustments to Manchester, weather and the tempo changes have been the most pronounced.

In Australia, most of the activities occurred outdoors; in fact, the distinction outside/inside did not really dominate thinking that much. After all, I still managed to go camping and swim in the ocean in the middle of the winter in Noosa. Now this summer I found myself starting to plan a camping trip a couple of weeks into December in the Lake District. It was only after a bleak realisation that it does actually get quite cold that I put the idea to rest along with habits of hanging out on the grass, or barbecues in the park. In that sense, if there is a reverse culture shock, then climate and weather are at the core of it.

I noticed that I pay more attention to the sky and nature now than I did earlier, and really enjoy the blue skies over Manchester when the clouds clear out. I have found the cold, harsh winds and cloudy days to inherently create an atmosphere where reality is viewed as more bleak and rough, whereas the reflections of the sun in the Brisbane River and colourful birdlife made for a more idealistic, optimistic environment. It definitely constitutes a change in lifestyle. I doubt that anyone would expect the Aquatics Centre to have a permanent outdoors pool here.

Also, in terms of wildlife, the diversity of subtropical Brisbane and the antennaed, shelled, auburn cohabitants have given way to squirrels hoarding their goods, ravens, and the default city-creatures, doves.

These disparities manifest themselves in conversations with friends in Australia who tell of a kaleidoscopic spring dominated by purple-blue Jacaranda trees blooming, 40 degrees outside and sunshine in full effect.

The speed of life has similarly undergone a subtle change. Obviously, I am in my final year and have quite a few extracurricular obligations, yet I have noticed the Manchester environment, the city-space, contribute to a perception of it being further accelerated. The way I see it, the wide roads, large space, infinite blue sky, the distance of the campus from the hustle and bustle of the city, and the large green areas in the city and on the UQ campus all help approach life from a calmer viewpoint. However, the noisy, crowded Oxford Road corridor at the heart of the University in Manchester creates a restless urban background-scenery, a relentless space of busyness. Seated among the trees of Whitworth Park, one still can hear the buses spit out smoke with every take-off. At lunchtime at UQ, unsurprisingly, most people gathered at an amphitheatre shaped park to the sound of the water fountain and songbirds.

In terms of interactions with people, I feel that rather than undergoing a cultural shock, drops have been added to the culturally fluid state that makes up my identity, with roots and branches in a wide variety of spaces and connecting to a variety of persons. That also means that, whereas I definitely feel a changed person, the transition to Manchester has been seamless. Arguably, I even appreciate the opportunities that Manchester offers more now. In particular, I am referring to enhanced dedication to the basketball team, starting a society – Struggle for Recognition: Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, and working with refugees.
Thus, with only one year to stay in Manchester, I would not speak of a reverse culture shock, but of a cultural spark; especially in terms of me seeking out new experiences and trips in the Northwest as a consequence of the perceived freedom of movement in Australia, as well as in terms of transposing the energy, invigoration and motivation of Australia to a demanding year in Manchester.
I carry a part of Brisbane, Australia in me, like I do parts of Manchester, UK, wherever I go. All in all, life in Australia has further galvanised a spirit of exploration expressed in freely, capriciously firing cultural sparks that I have since built upon in Manchester.

Bye bye Brissy

By Karl Vikat (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).

As my time in Brisbane drew to its close, the speed of life kept gaining momentum. The last couple of months were particularly intense, filled with exams and essays, fitting in travelling, discovering the hitherto uncharted parts of Brisbane and spending a maximum amount of time with people I cherish and whom I knew I had to leave in the near future. I appreciated every single second. Bizarre realisations of living the moment, yet knowing its fugacity and its inescapable turn to memory emerged during more quiet moments.

No clichés here; studying in Brisbane was, hands-down, an incredible, thought-provoking, life-changing experience. The beautiful moments lived with great people provide ample material for further meditations.

From road tripping to doofs, to more conventional bus trips to some of the world’s most ancient rainforests; from Dingos on Fraser Island snooping around your sunset snack, to cassowary stories in the Daintree and wild kangaroos well over 2 metres peacefully nibbling on grass and greeting you on your way to the beach. The wide range of episodes and colourful people provide awesome memories.

beachside-mugsA short pre-exam trip to Byron Bay, that turned out to be quite a sleepy town during the week, introduced me fully to the intricacies of geocaching – a kind of real life GPS Easter egg hunt. Part of the ubiquitous marvels of nature that abound in that corner of Australia, was one of Australia’s top dive sites that lies just a couple hundred metres off the coast of Byron, at Julian Rocks. We were only too keen to get out there, and rightly so, as we were greeted by colonies of Wobbiegongs, a few loggerhead turtles and a kaleidoscope of fish.

I had two standard exams and one take-home exam that proved to be a great alternative to a more conventional exam configuration. It basically worked the same way an essay does. I received the questions on Monday, the deadline was on Thursday, as all the while exams were happening simultaneously.

Once exam time was behind me, I left Brisbane for camping at Noosa Heads. We managed to catch some sunshine, a few waves, and, once we set foot in the city, some great Malaysian food. It turned out that the nights get pretty cool come June-July, so we decided that our next stops after Fraser should be a few hundred miles further up north.

Camping out in the Heads

Red River on Fraser

Indian Heads on Fraser

We returned to Brisbane for a day, to re-pack and catch a flight to Cairns. On the day of the flight though, a couple of hours before, I took it upon myself to move out. I had no use for my room in Brisbane any longer, since I would leave Australia, coming straight off the east coast trip. So I brought all my stuff over to my girlfriend’s place after she had helped me clean the place and packed my stuff, with the always generous landlord’s wife driving. So, in a well-organised hurry, about 2 hours later we were on the plane on our way up north, towards the Reef and Cape Tribulation.

Considering the way politics has been going the last 30 something years, allowing for destruction of up to 40% of the reef, the priority the government gives to the expansion of pre-existing coal ports as opposed to reef protection, and the pressures exerted by climate change, I had conflicting thoughts of our visit to the Reef. It was bizarre to marvel at the splendour of its rich marine life and its diverse manifestations and colourful expressions, and know at the same time that this very spot might be dead bleach in a couple of years to come. The ecosystems obviously were very much alive and showing off their vitality with vigour, yet, we also heard from the crew that some places they had headed for in previous years would need some time and support for regeneration. Ostensibly though, boats and unexperienced divers kicking coral do not quite compare to the larger aforementioned threat.

Returning to the city, Cairns seemed a lot more like the countryside than Brisbane with its large roads, even larger cars and surrounded by mountains of untouched rainforest. This seemed to be the frontier, the stop before heading out on the dirt roads to Cape York. No passing through without a four-wheel drive, if you want to head up the track north of Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation.

Back from Cairns and Daintree, I spent one more night in Brisbane and headed for the airport the next day, spontaneously closing my bank account on my way. I had actually planned to pay the taxi driver with coins, yet he preferred the paper version and it turned out that over 100AUD in round metal pieces had accumulated in my ‘coin-bag’ over the time – a very welcome surprise.

Alas, I left Brisbane…

3Brisbane did not only invigorate me with a new-found love for markets with its Greek-themed fairs, noodle-markets, the West End market and colourful East-Street market, where I fully endorsed the indispensability of a poncho. I made friends from across the world, got some insights into new languages thanks to embracing the proximity to Asia, and, all in all, just got to live, see and learn about a previously unfamiliar land and its people.

It left me with a hunger for more and a motivation to study harder to keep rewarding myself with experiences of a lifetime. The intensity of the moments that I lived, created a desire to keep hold of my principles and philosophies that were moulded and developed also during my sojourn in Australia. Amongst others these included continuing saving material as well as non-material resources that can be made available for travelling. I feel like I learned so much. Also, the courses at UQ and the discussions with students were in many cases inspirational, helped me chart my future academic and career plans by defining my interests further, and offered me a wide range of new perspectives where to draw from and relate to.

It was an amazing, time that was energising to its core.