Wednesday 8 January 2020

I'm currently sat in the common room at my hostel in Sydney after taking a 13 hour overnight coach from Byron Bay. Since I've still got a good 5 hours until I can check-in, I thought it would be a good time to pour a cup of coffee and start writing about my trip so far. If you follow me on this blog or on my socials, you'll probably know I spent 10 months living in Brisbane, and last week set off on a two week east coast trip from Cairns down to Sydney. I've been very lucky to be able to collaborate with Greyhound Australia who got me across the country in one piece. If you're currently planning your east coast trip and looking for tips, things to do and where to stay, look no further. 

tea with gi australia east coast


So the easiest way to travel around the east coast of Australia (and some of Northern Territory) is with the Greyhound coach service. I flew from Brisbane to Cairns and then over 8 coach trips have made my way down to Sydney. I was gifted a 15 day Whimit pass which gave me unlimited travel on their coaches within 15 days, in any direction. I was very lucky to have two seats to myself 90% of the time. The longest trip I did was 13 hours and I expected it to be a lot worse to be honest! The coach departed at 7:30pm and I tried to stay awake until 11pm and then sleep overnight just as I would on a bed. With the help of my melatonin tablets, my neck cradle pillow and eye mask it was quite a smooth journey. The coaches are air conditioned, have free Wi-Fi (admittedly a bit on the slow side) and the seats are spacious. If you're going to be making a lot of stops on your trip I'd definitely recommend getting a Whitmit pass as it works out more cost effective than buying individual trips.

greyhound australia

The Route

To make things easier, here's a map of the main stops Greyhound makes. Don't let the closeness in dots trick you, as some journeys will still be 9 hours! My journey took me from Cairns - Townsville (Magnetic Island) - Airlie Beach - Agnes Water - Hervey Bay - Noosa (different trip) - Byron Bay - Sydney.

Photo Credit


Where to Stay: Gilligan's Hotel and Resort 

Can you believe I went to one of Australia's biggest party hostels and didn't party? In between my flight being 4 hours delayed and arriving to Cairns at 11pm, and then my sea sickness dilemma the day after I think I was pretty satisfied with just having a good rest and a cup of tea. I had my own private deluxe room and I was surprised by how modern it was. Gilligan's offers shared dorms but if you're travelling in a couple or fancy your space then booking into a private room means you get your privacy but also all the social aspects of a hostel. If you are planning on partying then Gilligans nightclub is two steps from the hostel, and there are also a ton of other activities going on in the hostel every day. 

Free Breakfast ✔️
Free Wi-Fi ✔️
Free Shuttle from airport ✔️

* I received a complimentary stay at Gilligan's Resort for review.

greyhound australia

Where to Eat: 

Breakfast at Caffeind - try the chilli eggs or homemade banana and walnut bread which comes with caramelised banana, coconut gelato and coconut caramel sauce.

Lunch at Gilligan's - they offer $5 meals (and they're big portions too).

Dinner at Moku Bar & Grill - for some insta-worthy plates and a varied selection of seafood and meat. It's located in the Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort so the views are pretty good too.

What to Do:

Great Barrier Reef Dive - There are tons of companies offering trips out to the Great Barrier Reef and they can range from $150 - $400. If you're paying to go out there then I 100% recommend doing a dive, as you won't see half as much if you must go snorkelling. I booked mine through Visit Cairns and they have a variety of tours on their website for all budgets.

So story time, I'm not usually someone who gets seasick, but man this had to be the worst 3 hour boat journey of my life (and I did the blue lagoon ferry trip in Malta when I was hangover and running on two hours sleep). I'm not sure if it was the waves, or that my stomach was feeling a bit fragile that morning but I threw up a total of 5 times on the day, not fun. That aside, the scuba diving was an insane experience. Breathing through a tube underwater takes some getting used to and your ears can get a bit painful as you descend but 100% worth it. Make sure you do some research into the area the boat goes to, as some will be 'prettier' than others.

Daintree Rainforest - The Daintree rainforest is the oldest rainforest in the world, and it's only 2 hours away from Cairns. I recommend booking a day tour like this Daintree Wilderness tour which will guide you through all the different environments in the rainforest, includes a tropical lunch and a cruise along the river.

great barrier reef dive

Practical Advice:

  • If you are planning on scuba diving, make sure you're not planning on flying for 48 hours after. As the pressure could mess with your little ears! 


Where to Stay:  Bungalow Bay Koala Village 

If you have spent the weekend partying it up in Cairns, then Magnetic Island is the perfect place to unwind. I slept in a Bungalow and I had the nicest day just chilling on a hammock by the pool reading, getting to know the animals and waking up to two Wallaby's outside my door in the morning. Bungalow Bay has its own wildlife sanctuary so you don't have to go far to cuddle a koala! My Bungalow came with a double bed, a fan, a fridge and tea and coffee making facilities. There's a communal kitchen, bathrooms and a pool on site.
Free Wi-Fi
 in reception area ✔️

* I received a complimentary stay at Bungalow Bay for review.

bungalow bay

Where to Eat: 

Breakfast at The Early Bird - filled with all your usual healthy goodies, avocado toast, acai bowls and power smoothies.

Lunch at Cafe Nourish - like the name suggests, this cafe is filled with clean meals and has plenty of vegan options.

Dinner at Sandi's - located along the beach so it's a great place to watch the sunset. Good seafood!

What to Do:

Wildlife tour - Bungalow Bay offers daily wildlife tours where you get the chance to learn about Australia's animals and get to cuddle a koala (the one I met was called Pebbles, cute). I also learnt that Wombats can kill Dingos with their butts, pretty awesome.

Hire a Topless car - I don't have a drivers license so couldn't do this myself, but you'll see these little cars scattered around the island. They're definitely the quickest and most stylish way to get around the island!

koala tea with gi

Practical Advice:

  • Where the Greyhound coach drops you off, you will find the ferry terminal in Townsville to Magnetic Island. If you buy your ticket online in advance you will save $4. 


Where to Stay: Base Backpackers

So Base was my first shared dorm experience on this trip, and what are the chances that after booking into a 6 bed room, I was the only one in it. My first thought was, omg I'm going to spend Christmas Day alone. Luckily I met a lovely bunch of people in the pool area and spent most of my 3 days with them there. The beds were comfy, clean and there were large lockers provided in each room. The room also had an en-suite bathroom, so no long walks to the shower with all your toiletries. If you're looking to make friends on your trip, this is the hostel for you.

Lockers in room ✔️
Free Wi-Fi ✔️

Where to Eat: 

Breakfast at Cafe One 3 - great coffee and range of breakfast options

Lunch at Bohemian Raw Cafe - I was craving an acai bowl and walked 15 minutes up hill in the heat to get to this place, but it was worth it!

Dinner at Boaty's - this pub belongs to Base backpackers and they offer an $18 meal deal which gets you a meal and an alcoholic drink!

What to Do:

Sail the Whitsundays - the main reason people stop at Airlie is to get the boat to Whitsundays from the port. The most common trip for backpackers is to do a 1 or 2 night tour and you spend most of your time on the boat dancing and drinking. Since I was doing this trip by myself I didn't want to take the risk of being sat in the corner of the boat by myself with a drink and throwing up over the boat. So instead I went for the half day tour to Whitehaven beach and admittedly it was a bit rushed, I could have stayed there for a good 5 hours and we only got 1 and a half on the beach.

Lagoon - from what I heard it isn't really recommended to go swimming in the sea, but Airlie do have a lagoon in the town that's free to go swimming at.

whitehaven beach

Practical Advice:

  • If you're looking to see the iconic Whitsundays 'swirls' of sand and sea then make sure you book on to the full-day tour, as you won't have time to see it on a half-day tour *cries*.


Where to Stay: Backpackers at 1770 

For some bizarre reason, I thought it would be ok to arrive in Agnes Water at 6am, head to the beach all day and then get the next bus at 9pm to Hervey Bay. Luckily my brain realised that that would be an awful idea, especially since it was raining during the morning. So I booked a bed for the day and it was great to catch up on sleep and chat with other travellers. There was definitely a very friendly 'hippy' vibe here and everyone was so welcoming. The hostel offered breakfast and dinner for $5 each, cooked by one of the people staying there.

Lockers in room ✔️
Free Wi-Fi in reception (500mb per day) ✔️

backpackers at 1770

What to Do:

Surf - the beach at 1770 is pretty good if you want to try your hand at surfing. The hostel I stayed at allowed you to rent a surfboard for $15 which is a pretty good deal.

Skydive - I didn't quite pluck up the courage to do this (or have the money for it) but Agnes Water is a great place to skydive as you'll get views of the Fraser Coast and the Great Barrier Reef. You can get a skydiving deal for $299.

Practical Advice:

  • Agnes Water (1770) is a more chilled out spot. I wouldn't recommend spending more than 1 night here unless you really need to replenish your body and just do nothing for a couple of days.


Where to Stay: Flashpackers Hervey Bay

This was the part of the trip I was dreading because my bus got in at 1am, and I was already imagining the difficulty of getting into my bunk bed and doing the sheets in darkness and as silent as I could. I ended up getting to the hostel at 2:30am because the only taxi company in Hervey Bay took an hour and a half to come pick me up, even though I pre-booked it. Anyway, once I got to the hostel everything went smoothly. There was an envelope waiting for me in the postbox with the key and instructions, and even though I got a top bunk I managed. I practically spent no money here as breakfast was free and in the evening one of the staff members informed me they were having a free 'sausage sizzle'.

Lockers in room ✔️
Free Breakfast ✔️
Free Wi-Fi ✔️
Free Greyhound pick-up and drop-off ✔️

* I received a complimentary night stay at Flashpacker's for review.

flashpackers hervey bay

What to Do:

Fraser Island - again the main reason people go to Harvey Bay is to access Fraser Island. I was pressed for time so only did a day tour, and whilst most backpackers do a 2 night trip and end up meeting lots of other young folk and drinking. I ended up in a small coach with a family of 10 Slovenians with 6 loud children. I did meet a very friendly elderly couple though who shared a few interesting stories with me. The skies were pretty grey but Lake McKenzie was still beautiful.

lake mckenzie fraser island

Practical Advice:

  • If possible try and plan your trip so your greyhound arrives into Hervey Bay before 11pm. My bus got in at 1am and I was left waiting at the stop in the dark for an hour and a half for my taxi to arrive even though I had pre booked it. The reviews seemed to say they had had similar experiences. Sadly this is the only taxi company in Hervey Bay so you don't have much choice but to wait. 


Where to Stay: Backpackers Inn on the Beach

This was probably the best hostel location wise, as the main beach was literally attached to the back of the hostel. We stayed in a 4 bed shared dorm and the bathrooms and showers were just one door down from us. The hostel is a 5-10 minute walk from all the shops and cafes in Byron and also has its own restaurant, pool area and volleyball court.

Lockers in room ✔️
Free Wi-Fi ✔️

Where to Eat: 

Breakfast at Safya Cafe -
good coffee, good avocado toast, what else do you need?

Lunch at Orgasmic cafe - I can confirm, their hummus plate with pita bread was orgasmic.

Dinner at Elixiba - as you can expect in Byron, it is filled with vegan and GF cafe options. The whole menu in Elixiba is plant based. Me and my friend shared the coco-mari tacos and the raw enchiladas and they did not disappoint.

elixiba byron

What to Do:

Byron Bay Lighthouse - my dumb self thought we could walk from Byron Bay up to the Lighthouse, which would have probably taken us 2 and a half hours. Luckily one of us drove up and then we walked around the area and down to the edge of the cliffs. It does give some great views of Byron.

byron bay lighthouse

Nimbin - Nimbin is the 'green' capital of Australia, if you get my drift. It's filled with colourful shops, cookies, little boutique stores and a lot of hemp coffee shops. We went with Happy Coach which cost us $55. We had a couple of stops along the way and lunch was included, our guide Princess Fiona was fab and provided all of the happy tunes on the coach tide.


Practical Advice:

  • When having cookies, always listen to what the chef recommends. 


Where to Stay: Asylum Seekers Backpackers 

When finding somewhere to stay in Sydney for 5 nights, I expected to pay anything starting from $200, even in hostels. After a bit of searching the world wide web, I came across Asylum Hostels and we paid a total of $160 each for 5 nights. The hostel is small and in a heritage building, so you really get a home away from home feeling. The staff are friendly and you get used to seeing the same faces at breakfast every morning. The hostel is on the more peaceful side, and they have 3 dogs on the premises (one being a rescue dog) and they encourage guests to take them for a walk if you want to. The hostel is a 2 minute walk from Kings Cross train station, and Coles and Woolworths are also a stones throw away. The room with a fan got quite hot, so if they have availability in the air conditioned room, go for this!  

Lockers in room ✔️
Free Wi-Fi ✔️
Free Breakfast  ✔️

Where to Eat: 

Breakfast at Oracle - we had originally planned to go to Joseph Hyde but ended up here instead. They're both located on a narrow alley way on Llankelly Place so you've got a couple of options there. I had eggs Benedict whilst my friend had the overloaded croissant with scrambled eggs and bacon.

Lunch at Speedos Cafe - make sure to stop here when you're in the Bondi area. Their menu is very instagram-able and it took me a good 10 minutes to decide between the caramelised banana and chia pancakes, the blue bliss bowl and the pitaya chia pot. In the end I went with the latter and it was delicious.

speedos cafe bondi beach

Dinner at Hotel CBD Bar - Australia hasn't got many signature dishes of it's own, but it does pride itself on making a good meat pie. So I opted for the meat pie with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy and it was sooo goood.

What to Do:

Free walking tour of Sydney - whenever I travel to any new city I always check to see if they offer any free walking tours, as they're a great way to get your bearings and learn a bit of history behind the landmarks that you're looking at (and burn off all the extra calories you've been eating). The I'm Free tour takes you from Town Hall all the way to Circular Quay, and our guide Aida made the tour interesting and entertaining. Note the tour is free but you are expected to tip something.

Coogee to Bondi walk - we ended up doing this on the hottest day on our trip, which was great for our tanning and jumping into the water at Bondi. Not so great when you're walking for an hour and a half up and down hills and steps. It was a very pleasant walk and there are a few other nice beaches to stop off along the way, and some will be less crowded than Bondi!

tea with gi bondi

The Rocks markets - on the weekends The Rocks puts on a market full of independent stores and food stalls. Me and Caia got lovely matching necklaces there.

Mrs Macquarie's for best view of Opera House and Sydney Bridge - to get here you walk through the botanical gardens, and when we got there we were sat on a bench looking at the view thinking, wow we're actually in Sydney. If you'd like to get in the photo, they will look very small in the background so just walk round towards the Opera House and you'll get some good, less crowded photo spots.

The Grounds of Alexandria - another instagram spot for you ladies. The cafe here is in a sort of observatory filled with pretty plants and flowers.

Manly - a lot of people say they prefer this beach to Bondi as it tends to be a lot less crowded. You can catch the ferry from Circular Quay and it will cost you around $10.

Visit the free museums - both the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery are free to enter and so are most of the exhibitions. They're also within a 20 minute walk of each other.

tea with gi sydney opera house

Practical Advice:

  • You can use your debit or credit card to tap on and off when using the public transport in Sydney (trains and buses). Just make sure you use the same card throughout the day as after a certain amount it will cap off, so the rest of your trips will be 'free'. I believe the amount is $16 on weekdays and $3 on Sundays. 
  • If you're getting the train to the airport, you can pay half the price by getting the train 1 stop earlier to Mascot, and then take a bus from there to the airport. 

I've also got travel guides for Brisbane, Melbourne and Surfers Paradise (Gold Coast). I also recommend stopping by Noosa, we spent a weekend there and the vibe was great. If you have any questions for any of these places just drop me a message or email! 



[Disclaimer: I received complimentary travel with Greyhound Australia and some of my accommodation was also covered, but my words and opinions are my own.]

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