We took 21 days in OZ to travel the east coast after landing in Sydney. Spending two nights in the city with the famous Sydney Opera House where we had there rare opportunity to watch the movie ‘Gladiator’ on a big screen with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra playing the original score in the foreground! We rented a camper van in Sydney but picked it up in Cairns after a three plus hour flight. Driving first north to Cape Tribulation and then following the Australian Coastline south we travelled 5400 kilometres to Melbourne in 16 epic days through many fantastic places and seeing a lot of beautiful sights along the way.
The intention of this page is to provide links to the various places we went and recommend as well as provide resources that we found useful along the way. We understand that we don’t have ALL the information, but what we do have will be helpful to those travelling to Australia!
The money in Australia is AUD or Aussie Dollar and has notes of $1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100. You are easily able to withdraw money from ATM’s throughout the country. Due to the unfavorable rates, usually coupled with fees and/or commissions for exchanging money at currency counters, it is reccommended that you withdraw money from ATM machines, as needed, preferably using a bank affiliated with your bank when possible. Exchange counters are everywhere, say in Sydney for example. The rates at the Sydney Airport are the most egregiously lopsided in their favor, but most “buy” notes for 3-6% less than market value and sell for 3-6% more than market value and then add a fee/commission of $2.50-10. If you use, say WestPac Bank, and are a Bank of America customer, there are no fees and the exchange rate pretty closely tracks the market price. Same for Citi customers, who will find Citi ATMs easy to spot.
Be sure to check the VISA requirements before arriving in the country. You can find info HERE.
Australia’s beautiful sights and sounds come with a strong warning! There are many animals and insects that are harmful if not fatal once contacted especially in the water. Be aware of your surroundings and check with locals to see if there is anything in particular you should be alert of while out enjoying this beautiful country. The water is completely safe to drink in Australia.
CAMPER VAN RENTAL:
We used All Seasons booked through a travel agent which we found to be the most economical way to get where we needed to go with the most accommodation. We had a high five which technically could sleep a small family of four. It had a reasonable little cooktop, fridge, sink and microwave (which only works when plugged in), but was perfect for what we needed for the price. 16 days with insurance (full coverage) was $1300. It’s also important to mention that where you pick up and drop off your rental is of significance. We originally were going to drive from Sydney to Cairns and fly back however we found that the best thing to do was fly to Cairns and drop off in the south as most people drive north and the companies actually need people to bring them back to the big cities for further rental, and will give you a discount (or even pay you if you do it in a short time period) to do so. Keep in mind the price of petrol at the time varied between $1.60-1.75/L/AUD. Most powered sites we found along the route were anywhere from $27-32/night where you had access to a camp kitchen and hot showers as well as laundry. Here they are in order of nicest and most expensive, to value brands:
CITIES WE VISITED AND ATTRACTIONS FROM EACH:
Cape Tribulation/Daintree Rainforest: Absolutely beautiful place in the oldest rainforest in the world! Predates the Amazon by millions of years! Not many places for accommodation in the off season but we had a camper and there were a couple sites all right near the beach. The wood oven pizza at Cape Tribulation Camping was awesome! Also there is a secret “Blue Hole” nearby that you will see in our video that we highly recommend you seek out and find! To see Cassowary Falls, simply go to the general store in Daintree Village and ask for a map to the falls. It will cost you about $10/person and you will get a map for a self guided tour through a farmers plot of land with cows to secluded falls hidden in the forest! Bring your bathing suits for both.
CAPE TRIBULATION CAMPING (RV PARK)
“THE BLUE HOLE” (SEE B8) (NATURAL ATTRACTION)
CASSOWARY FALLS (NATURAL ATTRACTION)
Port Douglas: Has a pretty cool vibe in the town core which is a fairly long strip with multiple restaurants and shops. We only stayed one night and didn’t do much in the area but the marina seemed to be a pretty co0l spot as well. We know it’s a popular stop for people who visit the north part of Australia. The camp site we stayed at had a new kitchen and was very clean.
PANDANUS CARAVAN PARK (RV PARK)
Cairns: A larger city in the northeast with some interesting downtown tropical culture and feel. Interesting little harbour and marina. Calypso is a laid back backpackers spot with a pool and lots of great people. They are knowledgable about the area and are eager to help out. There are lots of cool shops and restaurants but certainly could use some updating as the town has a relatively old feel to it. Definitely take a day trip out to Green Island and it’s easy to see the Great Barrier Reef from this area as the outer reef is closer to the mainland than it is as you travel south down the coast. The Esplanade Boardwalk is a great walk along the shoreline and has workout stations along if for those inclined to get couple reps in along the way! Want an awesome burger? Check out Grill’d Burgers on the strip near the Esplanade. Best Vegetarian burger we’ve had in our lives, period.
CALYPSO INN BACKPACKERS (HOSTEL)
GRILL’D BURGERS (FOOD)
BIG CAT GREEN ISLAND TOURS (DAY TRIP TO GREAT BARRIER REEF)
ESPLANADE BOARDWALK (ATTRACTION)
Ingham: Quaint little town with not much going on. Really just a stopover while travelling south and gives the ability to go and see Wallaman Falls, the highest in Australia and set in an absolutely beautiful place. If you’re hungry, stop in for one of the best pies we had in Australia at Mick’s Bread Kitchen.
PALM TREE CARAVAN PARK (RV PARK)
WALLAMAN FALLS (NATURAL ATTRACTION)
MICK’S BREAD KITCHEN (FOOD)
Airlie Beach/The Whitsundays/Hamilton Island: We loved this place! Refreshing vibe. Lots to see and do in Airlie Beach and then there is the Whitsunday Islands to discover! We stayed in total for nights, one in Airlie Beach and one on Hamilton Island. If you are planning to go to Hamilton Island, the ferry is around $80/person. We found a deal that allowed us to stay in a bungalow which was beautiful for $120/person which you can find in town or in any of the brochures. Definitely makes the $40 extra worth it, however keep in mind it is an island and food is quite expensive so feel free to bring food with you to store in the in room fridge/kitchenette to save some money! We ate at a great spot recommended by someone who worked on the island and it was reasonably priced. In the morning if you like, you can see or even hug a koala with breakfast. So much to see and do you could easily spend a week here and not see it all. Whitehaven Beach is claimed to be the best beach in the world and also right beside is featured the Hill Inlet, and Heart Reef. We plan to go back in the future for a weeks stay on Hayman Island, and hang out with Will Smith and company while taking a sea plane to see the Heart Reef!
AIRLIE COVE RESORT (RV PARK)
HAMILTON ISLAND (HOTEL RESORT)
CRUISE WHITSUNDAYS (FERRY)
BREAKFAST WITH KOALAS (ATTRACTION)
WHITEHAVEN BEACH (NATURAL ATTRACTION)
MARINA TAVERN (FOOD)
Rockhampton: Really a stopover for us as we were trying to outrun Cyclone Ita however we were told to visit Yeppoon and didn’t make it, perhaps you will! It was also recommended that from this place we visit Great Keppel Island which has a great overnight stay package and is supposed to be beautiful. We will leave the links for your discovery!
GREAT KEPPEL ISLAND (ATTRACTION)
Hervey Bay: We had a short stay here as well as we were outrunning Cyclone Ita still but we still got a feel for the town a bit. The Esplanade is quite interesting to visit and check out and of course Hervey Bay boasts the jump off point to Fraser Island where you can rent 4×4’s and drive right on the beach!
THE ESPLANADE (ATTRACTION)
FRASER ISLAND (ATTRACTION)
4X4 ADVENTURE (ADVENTURE TOUR)
Brisbane/Byron Bay: We didn’t actually stay a night or even stop in Brisbane other than to see a couple of sights one of which gave us a clear view of the whole city which was awesome. On our way to Byron Bay we stopped off at a place called the Natural Bridge which includes a beautiful drive through the countryside. Highly recommended, and you can stop by at a local fruit/veg stand to get some great produce for cheap! We then drove a short distance to Byron Bay where we stayed a night and had a great time. One of our favourite spots in all of Australia which we visited! Byron Bay is a Holistic and Health oriented community with lively festivals and is famous for street busking! Had an excellent meal and woke up to go visit the Lighthouse which has some spectacular views and sits on the Easternmost point of Australia.
MOUNT COOTHA LOOKOUT (ATTRACTION)
NATURAL BRIDGE (NATURAL ATTRACTION)
FIRST SUN HOLIDAY PARK (RV PARK)
CAPE BYRON LIGHTHOUSE (ATTRACTION)
THE CARDAMOM POD (FOOD)
BLUES FESTIVAL BYRON BAY (FESTIVAL/ATTRACTION *check dates)
Sydney: This was the first city we visited once we landed on our journey away from home and it didn’t disappoint! We caught a ride to Circular Quay on the train from the airport which is the cheapest and easiest way we could find to get to the core and its attached to the terminal. Such a beautiful city with so much to see and do. We couldn’t possibly list everything there is to see and do as well as eat etc. so we will leave you once again with the list of places we did go and can recommend! As mentioned before we got the opportunity to go to see the Sydney Symphony Orchestra live and it was incredible. Pylon Lookout is a great way to get a birds eye view of the city. The Rocks district brings the rejuvenation of the old part of town to life in modern times, very cool spot to see! Definitely visit Pitt Street Mall both for a cool vibe and if you like shopping. You’ll notice we have no accommodation listed as we stayed with friends while in the city. Click the links below to check out the spots we loved!
SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE (ATTRACTION)
PYLON LOOKOUT (ATTRACTION/VIEWPOINT)
THE ROCKS (HISTORIC ATTRACTION)
CIRCULAR QUAY (ATTRACTION)
GOVERNMENT HOUSE (HISTORIC ATTRACTION)
PITT STREET MALL (HISTORIC ATTRACTION)
QUEEN VICTORIA BUILDING (HISTORIC ATTRACTION)
ST MARY’S CATHEDRAL (HISTORIC ATTRACTION)
DARLING HARBOUR (ATTRACTION)
MECCA ESPRESSO BAR (CAFE)
BONDI BEACH (NATURAL ATTRACTION)
Canberra: We strolled through late in the afternoon to the nations capital city. We drove around and found the city’s centre which is the Parliament building and definitely worth the look. Can’t speak much else for the area as the city is relatively small except for a cool shopping/restaurant district we found just outside the downtown area. We arrived late and couldn’t find a place to stay so we ended up sleeping at the side of the road underneath the stars in this city!
PARLIAMENT HOUSE (ATTRACTION)
Wilson’s Promontory: Now this place is spectacular. On the southern most tip of Australia with tons of outdoor things to do including everything from surfing, fishing, hiking, swimming, BBQ’s and more. We even woke up to a wallaby having breakfast calmly outside our camper and hung out within 3 feet of him for 1/2 an hour! There are numerous marked hiking trails, and much to explore including a wide variety of animals in their natural habitat. If you are from out of town and it is a busy weekend or they are fully booked, just mention you are an international visitor and they should have space for you, they reserve space for us who aren’t privy to living near such a beautiful place! Keep in mind the closest grocery store is 1 hour away so come prepared or be content with the deep fried foods they prepare in the cafeteria. Don’t forget to catch a movie in their outdoor theatre!
TIDAL RIVER CAMPING & WILSON’S PROM (NATURAL ATTRACTION)
Philip Island: Phillip Island has an interesting history with a small quaint town with some good restaurants. Featured on the island is the March of the Penguins! Definitely a must see and if you can get the private guided tour with only 10 other people where you’ll go to a secluded beach and watch the little blue penguins pop out of the water at sunset through night vision goggles! Also check out the Nobbies and drive all the way around the peninsula for some breathtaking views. You might even see some penguins in their burrows!
PENGUIN PARADE (NATURAL ATTRACTION)
THE NOBBIES (NATURAL ATTRACTION)
BEACH PARK CARAVAN PARK (RV PARK)
Melbourne: This was our favourite city in all of Australia! It has such an incredible vibe. So much going on. Home of the Australian Open for tennis. Home of the Melbourne Cricket Grounds. Flinder Street Station. Degraves Street which looks like a picture out of the early 1900’s. Best hostel we stayed in period. We rode the tram around and out to St. Kilda where you’ll find the beach and some cool spots. And we were only there for two nights! Please do yourself a favour and explore this city as much as you can!
MCG (HISTORIC ATTRACTION)
AUSTRALIAN OPEN (HISTORIC ATTRACTION)
FLINDERS STREET STATION (HISTORIC ATTRACTION)
DEGRAVES STREET (HISTORIC ATTRACTION)
GREENHOUSE BACKPACKERS (HOSTEL)
AUSTRALIAN CENTRE FOR THE MOVING IMAGE (ATTRACTION)
ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL (HISTORIC ATTRACTION)
EUREKA TOWER (ATTRACTION)
GREAT OCEAN ROAD (NATURAL ATTRACTION)
LORD OF THE FRIES (FOOD)