We spent exactly 32 days in Australia. That’s 768 hours filled with beaches, cities, rainforests and woodland. We’ve travelled by air from Melbourne to Cairns and then travelled by coach just under 3000 km back to Melbourne. We’ve ‘missed out’ (according to some people) the Whitsundays, Fraser Island and Magnetic Island. We’ve spent more days in Brisbane than Sydney and more days in Melbourne than either of them. We’ve opted for a coach (primarily because neither of us drive- but even if we could, would we want to on our ‘holiday’?) We’ve drank way too much. I’ve eaten an ice cream every few stops (now I have an infection and I’m cursing my god damn sweet tooth). We’ve watched so many sunsets and no sunrises (girl gotta sleep).
So, what draws people to the East Coast of Australia in the thousands? What makes it so special when it’s certainly not cheap? How did we find it matched up to expectation?
OK, so I’m going to try to find something positive about every place else I’ll feel like I’ll have wasted my time there. Cairns as a city doesn’t seem to offer much to a backpacker. However, it is the perfect location for exploring the surrounding area. I’ve already wrote about our Daintree Rainforest trip so I’m not going to harp on about how amazing it was again but this was the highlight for us and Cairns was merely a place to kip either side of the tour. It does have the most amazing wildlife chilling in the area- cockatoos, flying foxes, crocodiles, an array of other birds and insects… It’s also a great base for exploring the Great Barrier Reef, sky diving, bungee jumping and a whole host of other adrenaline sports.
This place is tiny. The coach dropped us off outside of the main town and then the hostel was another 30 minute walk in the other direction; luckily for us the hostel we stayed at does a shuttle regularly and collects/drops you off in the town/coach stop. Most people come to Mission Beach to skydive as it is meant to be absolutely stunning. Just from exploring at ground level I can see why! The place has rainforest all around and the most pristine white sand beaches. We walked from the hostel in to town one day and then explored the nearby National Park on the second day (still no cassowary sightings for us but they are in the area!) This is a great place to stop, relax, disconnect, read that book, write that blog post, take a walk- or for the adventurous, jump out of a plane from a great height (no thanks). We also had the most amazing burgers at Bingil Beach Cafe (voted number one in Queensland previously). Through the hostel we got a burger (grilled fish for me, beef for Lewis), fries and a drink (soft or a bottle of beer) for $15- we struggled to eat it all so it’s well worth the money!
This little city was one of the Queensland highlights for me. Most backpackers know it as the place you get the coach to if you want to head over to Magnetic Island; those people who didn’t explore the actual city are missing out, big time. Nestled between the sea and the mountains, it’s easy enough to navigate on foot. We used our first afternoon to take a walk down to the water front, known locally as The Strand. It was quiet, but not eerily so. We saw our first Ibis taking a stroll up to the Old Barracks and ‘Kissing Point’. It was bank holiday, so everywhere was closed. We treated ourselves to an Indian takeaway and sat by the river for dinner.
The second day, we took a bus out to The Riverways. These man-built, free lagoons are situated right next to the river and are the perfect spot to while away an afternoon, taking a dip when it gets too hot. The location also means there’s a ton of birds flying above you as well as turtles lounging along the river bed. It would have been my late Grandad’s birthday, so we bought some roses (his favourite and my middle name) and began the never ending hike up Castle Hill. If you come to Townsville for only one reason, come for this view at sunset. Our hostel informed us that not many backpackers bother with the hike; instead we were met with a ton of fitness fanatics who practically ran the whole way up. It’s steep (wear your trainers and bring water) but I was not going to let that stop me. We found the perfect spot with 360 degree views and waited for the sun to set. It was stunning. As we started our decent I would say something to my Gramps and throw another rose off of the hill.
Home of The Whitsundays. This is where everyone heads to for a night or two before setting off on their island tours. We weren’t doing the Whitsunday’s because we are about to spend the next 9 months or so on islands (at a fraction of the price). We got their late and the next day it rained, and rained. We headed out anyway- me in a rather fetching poncho I requested for Christmas (I dare you not to laugh when you see the photos). The town is still recovering from the cyclone earlier in the year and so the lagoon is out of order awaiting repair work. We took a walk out to Cannonvale Beach along the water front. Be careful though! There were hundreds of tiny little frogs on the pathway that we ended up playing hopscotch to try and avoid. There are bars playing live music along the main stretch of town and plenty of tour guide shops for you to book any onwards travel.
Agnes Water & the Town of 1770
We took an overnight bus to Agnes and arrived about 7:00am. Knowing we had just one night here, we set off early to explore the local area. After Mission Beach, this is definitely the quietest place we came too. A row of shops and a petrol station sat opposite our hostel and to the left as we exited. That was it. Past the shops on the left you take a short stroll down the road and you hit the beach. It seems to go on FOREVER. White sand, big waves and on the day we were there, a lot of wind. I felt like I was being whipped with a kitchen towel. That afternoon, we relaxed at the hostel before taking the walk to 1770.
I thought this walk took 30 minutes, tops 40. No, oh no. It takes well over an hour and a half and we were wearing flip flops. 1770 is meant to have one of the best sunsets on the East Coast so I was desperate to get there in time. We stopped off and bought a couple of beers when we got to the ‘town’ (a row of a few cafes and restaurants). The lady told me the only way back was the way we came as the rocks cut off the beach route back to Agnes Water. We settled down on the beach, cracked open a beer, looked up… and were met with cloud after cloud. The sun tried it’s best to give us a show but it wasn’t quite what we were expecting.
The walk back was pitch black. Luckily we had gotten in to the habit of carrying a torch but if you’ve seen Wolf Creek you will understand that every car that slowed as they past us, in my head, was sure to be a psychotic serial killer. I have never been more relieved to be back in a busy hostel kitchen that night.
Next up was Rainbow Beach. Larger than the last few towns, we didn’t really know what to expect when we got here. The first evening we borrowed a body board off of the hostel and took the half an hour walk, through a pretty woodland, to the Carlo Sand Blow. The sand dunes are sat right up on the cliff top and offer views of both sunrise and sunset. After Lew had had his turn, I climbed up the steep slopes (sand crumbling beneath me as I went) and looked down the path I was about to board down. It was bloody high. Turns out, just as I am with other areas of life, I do not stick to the path carved out for me and instead create my own. It was hard work but so much fun- I even went down on my belly head first *insert smug face here*. We made promises to get up early for sunrise as the sunset was so beautiful up there but then we got very, very drunk. The bar was part of the hostel, there were a lot of backpackers, we went for dinner and then it got very loud… One drink turned to two…We crawled in at 2am. Oh and we missed sunrise.
The next morning we’d booked on to a sea kayaking tour with Epic Ocean Adventures. It was supposed to include a trip to the lighthouse and the lagoon but our guide decided to take us back to town instead…The actual sea kayaking was hard work but it was so cool to see the coast line from a different angle. There is over a 98% chance of seeing dolphins- as is our luck when it comes to seeing ocean wildlife, we didn’t see any. I wouldn’t suggest the trip if you actually want to see the lighthouse, like I did. Oh and don’t trust waterproof bags- both of our phones were buggered after making that mistake.
We were so happy to be reunited with our friend from when we lived in Queenstown! Mike and his lovely house mates agreed to put us up for a couple of nights and this meant getting to live with Stevie the most beautiful golden retriever pup. If you are a dog person that’s left their dog back at home, then you’ll understand how ecstatic we were to be greeted by an overexcited puppy. We took a dip in the late afternoon followed by a drive up to the lookout for sunset. The evening was spent having the most amazing meal at Rococo’s; I opted for roasted snapper fillet with scalloped potato and Sicilian caper-berries. It was incredible.
The next afternoon we took Stevie for a stroll at dog beach and then a walk through Noosa National Park. This was honestly one of the nicest national parks we went to. The coast stretches out to your left the entire time; a great place to watch the surfers (or surf yourself if you’re into that). When you get to the top you’ll reach Hells Gate. I swear, a child was about to take off before her dad grabbed her. I almost took off myself. The wind here is unbelievable. You can’t hear anything but the wind. You can’t see because the wind is assaulting your eyeballs so rivers run down your face. You are holding on to everything that could be blown away but it doesn’t matter because you feel like YOU are about to be blown off of the edge at any moment. The child screamed; and inside I did too!
We headed out to Noosaville in the evening which Mike assured us has some amazing restaurants. But we didn’t go for that, we went for the biggest ice cream I’ve ever bought for $6. Pistachio and banana were my two choices and I was still eating it 20 minutes later. You have to try Amo Gelato Caffe if you love ice cream as much as I do!
You can read about where we stayed here.
As we headed towards our final Queensland stop, Brisbane, I couldn’t help thinking that we could have spent a month just in this state. Don’t worry though, we got up to plenty more as we headed south so make sure you check back to read part two!
In the meantime, let me know if you’ve been to any of these places and what your favourite place in Queensland is!