Trip down memory lane; travelling down the east coast of Australia.
Last year, when travelling was still allowed and possible, I spent 6 months in Australia. I was here for my internship for my bachelor. The internship itself was four months, which means I spend another 8 weeks travelling! I decided to spend these weeks travelling down the east coast, a popular choice for backpackers in Australia. I travelled all the way from Cairns to Melbourne, which meant I was travelling towards colder weather. Unfortunately, this also meant I was travelling in the opposite direction as all the other backpackers. But it was just not practical to do it the other way around, as I was already living in Cairns for several months.
If you are thinking about travelling up or down the east coast yourself it is important to keep in mind the weather, as the seasons are opposite from the northern hemisphere. Where Cairns has its wet season from January to March and Melbourne has winter from June till August. Today I will dive into the first half of my trip down the east coast; where I visited the Daintree Rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, Magnetic Island, the Whitsunday’s and Frazer Island. this was also my favourite part of the trip, as it involved most of the amazing places with stunning nature.
The Daintree Rainforest, the first stop in Australia.
For the first two, I am cheating a bit as I visited them while I was doing my internship. But they are so amazing I have to include them, after all, they are part of the travelling through Australia! The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest continuous growing rainforest in the world, and due to this, there are some amazing plants and trees you can find there. Species that were growing there long before the dinosaurs roamed the world.
The Daintree Rainforest is approximately 1.200 square kilometre and is part of the Wet Tropics Rainforest found in north Queensland. As the rainforest is very dense in vegetation, due to the high rainfall, it is not easy to explore this place. The easiest way to visit this extraordinary place, especially for backpackers, is Cape Tribulation. As soon as you cross the bridge over the Daintree river, life is off the grid. So, do not expect much luxury anymore. The hostels and hotels will provide electricity through generators, but internet coverage will be very limited to not existing.
A beautiful place to take a break from society and just enjoy what the rainforest has to offer. It is possible to swim in some places in de Cape tribulation region, but you will have to ask the locals first. On most places, there are saltwater crocodiles and these are extremely dangerous. I found a nice freshwater river where you could take a, very cold, swim for a little donation. As it was located on private terrain. After this refreshing swim, I checked out the little restaurant they were running as well and decided to try a crocodile burger! Very surprised it tasted like spicy chicken, but very much enjoyable.
There are many activities that you can book in the region, such as; quad riding, a trip on the river to look for the crocodiles, horse riding and many more. I have been on the river looking for crocodiles and I have been horse riding! It was so nice to ride through the rainforest one minute and the next you are suddenly on the beach. Cape tribulation means lovely slow and calm days up in the oldest continuous growing rainforest; found in Australia!
Great Barrier Reef
Right next to each other are two world heritage sites; the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Only found here, in Australia. I will not be spending too much time on the Great Barrier Reef, as I already have a blog post that I wrote about it earlier! Here I tell you everything about the Great Barrier Reef, it’s diversity, the threats it is facing and how you can go snorkel and dive when you are on a tighter budget. Perfect for backpackers!
I spend several days on the reef myself. I have been snorkelling two or three times before I started my diving course. During this course, I spend three days on a boat on the reef, which allowed us to make 3 or 4 dives each day. After getting a certified diver I spend a few more days on the volunteer program to dive some more. And I still wish I would have spent more time underwater, it is such a magical place.
After the adventures around Cairns, it was time to start travel down the coast, my first stop was Mission beach. Still is a small little place. It is mostly known for the farmwork and the skydiving that is done in the area. For me, it was a slow start of the many weeks of travelling that was about to come. As Australia is huge, the distances between places is also a lot. I did not want to spend 6 hours on a bus on my first day so made a little stop. I did not do the skydiving, as my budget was not allowing this. But I spend my time there walking around the beaches, going on a hike and just taking it slow. Getting used to life as a backpacker.
After the first stop, I continued my travels to Magnetic Island, located off the coast by Townsville. Magnetic Island is mostly famous for the koala’s that live on the island, the barbie cars that you can rent and the beautiful hidden beaches. And it did not disappoint. Although I was not interested in the barbie car… nature gave me everything I wanted. I visited the koalas several times, which can be found along the ‘fort walk’. You do need some patience and good spotting skills. These animals sleep for most of the day and therefore they might be a bit hard to find.
But not only the koala’s were amazing. The rock wallabies, that emerge out of the forest every night, were there in big numbers and adorable. And the beaches are just stunning. I made several hikes on the island and around every corner there is a new and beautiful beach. Although, some beaches are nude beaches… which might take you by suprise when you are unaware. I was certainly very suprised, several times…
After Magnetic Island it was time for my first organised/booked trip. I went with ‘Sailing Whitsundays’ and spend 2 days and 2 nights on the boat named ‘Boomerang’. These days were filled with sailing around the many islands. The Whitsundays exist of 74 islands, plenty to see! The highlights for this trip was visiting Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet, which you see on the pictures. The changing tide forms these beautiful sandbanks, and with every tide the pattern is different.
Not only are these patterns beautiful to see, but Whitehaven Beach is also known for its sand. Which is not only unbelievable white, it is also very special as it 98.9 % pure silica sand. For us, it is mostly pretty to see, but NASA uses this sand to form the lenses in their telescopes! Keep in mind, when you visit the beach yourself, you are not allowed to bring any sand home. It is under the protection of the Great Barrier Reef National Marine Authority and it is part of a national park.
Besides being mesmerised by the views, and relaxing on the beach. We also got to snorkel in different places, learn a few things about sailing while giving the crew an extra hand. And the evenings we spend on the deck, chatting with other travellers, coming from all over the world.
After my intense trip to the Whitsundays I took a couple of days of resting at Agnes Water, also called Tow of 1977, before I would go on my next booked trip. This place is small and quiet, there is not too much today, which is perfect for a couple of days of relaxing. I had my first, and only, surfing class. I met some local people who invited me on their farm, driving around on a tractor in the early morning, while the kangaroos were hopping around me. And I did a few hikes around the area.
When I was fully charged it was time for my next booked group trip, and this was certainly one of the highlights. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and the only place where tall rainforests grow on dunes. I advise joining a tour that departs from Hervey Bay as this is the closest to the ferry, which means you have the most time to spend on this amazing island. I had the trip for 3 days/2 nights with camping on the beaches.
During this trip, there are several places where we went swimming such as; lake Birrabeen and the champagne pools and several sightings such as Maheno shipwreck and the Pinnacles. During the trip, you get the opportunity to do some 4-wheel driving yourself. I took a try as well, and I managed it without getting stuck. But the rest of the trip I just enjoyed myself from the comfort of the passenger seat. Besides the awesome 4-wheel driving, the whales jumping out of the water and the beautiful, but cold, swimming places you also have a chance of seeing dingos! I wish I could spend at least a week on this amazing island, exploring everything on my own pace.
This is the first part of my backpacking trip down the east coast of Australia, next time I will tell you about the stops I made between Fraser Island and Melbourne! Have you ever been to Australia? If yes, what was your favourite place?