13 Top Highlights of East Coast Australia
Australia’s East Coast is able to boast an incredible array of sights. From the tropical rainforest of the region’s north, the colour of the Great Barrier Reef, the innumerable picture-perfect beaches, and the thriving cosmopolitan cities such as Brisbane and Sydney, there really is something for everybody. With so many points of interest, it’s well worth taking your time and enjoying the majestic panoramas offered by the pristine road network.
And what better way to explore the East Coast of Australia than by buying a used campervan for your trip? Gumtree is the best place to get your very own used campervan for your epic East Coast adventure. Go get an Austraila visa, jump into your hotel on wheels and begin your exploration of the top highlights of east coast Australia outlined below!
Queensland’s Cape Tribulation promontory may be considered remote by some (year round road access didn’t arrive until early 2011), but it is also an extraordinary ecotourism centre that really shouldn’t be missed off any trip to the region.
Situated within the UNESCO-listed rainforest of Daintree National Park, the cape offers fantastic jungle walking opportunities including the Dubuji Boardwalk leading through an important area of mangroves, and the seven hour Sorrow Ridge Trail which offers spectacular vistas over the area.
A major habitat for rare bird species, the cape is also home to crocodile, kangaroo, wallaby, and platypus too, for those looking to catch their first sight of Australia’s endemic flora and fauna.
Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is something of a tropical oasis. Combining an intriguing history with a laid-back vibe and love for the great outdoors, Cairns is a city in which to relax over fresh seafood in quirky independent cafes, explore the bustling city markets, and enjoy the sun by a poolside or on a pristine beach.
hose looking to be a little more active should definitely take a journey on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, while the Kuranda Scenic Railway makes for a great break from the roads as it winds its way past stunning waterfalls and the impressive Barron Gorge.
Made up of 74 paradise-like tropical islands, the Whitsunday Islands lie just off the Queensland coast close to the Great Barrier Reef. Sailing is a popular way to discover the islands, the white sands of Whitehaven Beach, and the wonders of Heart Reef.
Largely uninhabited and protected by national park status, four of the islands offer accommodation and the perfect base from which to snorkel, scuba dive, and do your best Robinson Crusoe impressions. If sailing is not your thing then don’t despair but head instead to Airlie Beach on the Whitsunday coast just south of Townsville.
The Great Barrier Reef
Accessible by boat from Cape Tribulation, Cairns and Airlie Beach, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system. Famed the world over, it is one of the finest places on earth to slip on a snorkel and mask to explore the colourful underwater world from the surface, or to strap on an oxygen tank and slip beneath the waves on a scuba dive.
As diverse as the seas can get, the Great Barrier Reef manages to impress even the most jaded of travellers, who can expect to see a whole range of brightly-coloured corals and reef fish, as well as green turtles and even sharks.
Fraser Island lies just off mainland Australia approximately 250 kilometres north of Brisbane. Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, it is the world’s largest sand island. The sand has been calculated to have built up over 750,000 years, and today provides a whole range of different habitats, from eucalyptus woodland to freshwater lakes.
The island is perhaps most well-known for 75 Mile Beach Road along the island’s east coast (which doubles as an airstrip), and for its population of dingoes, thought to be the last remaining pure bred dingoes in Eastern Australia.
Made famous by Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, Australia Zoo is the place to get up close and personal with Australia’s wild side. Showcasing the best of the country’s distinct animal life (as well as species from across the globe) visitors can witness the feeding of giant crocs, and go fence-free in four walk-through enclosures where it’s possible to feed kangaroo, wallaby and koala. You’ll find it between the towns of Landsborough and Beerwah.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Alternatively, just 12 kilometres from the centre of Brisbane, you’ll find Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Australia’s oldest and largest koala sanctuary.
Providing protection for 130 individuals of this iconic Australian species, here you can cuddle a koala, pet free-roaming kangaroos, watch the afternoon Tasmanian devil feeding, and learn all about the country’s unique ecosystems in a beautiful natural setting.
Dating back to 1927, the sanctuary gives two koala talks a day, in addition to a number of shows – it’s best to check the schedule before you arrive so you don’t miss anything!
Capital of the state of Queensland, Brisbane is one of the oldest cities in Australia, with the modern central business district standing on the site of the original European settlement of the 1820s.
With some spectacular early buildings, the city is known for its distinct Queenslander architecture, which is typified by single-storey detached homes made of wood with corrugated iron roofs and one or more verandas.
Brisbane also has a thriving arts scene centred on the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. The centre is the home base of the state’s ballet, opera, and symphony orchestra, while international bands also regularly play in and around the city’s many venues.
The city of the Gold Coast is an attractive destination for those who want to try their hand at surfing, with a multitude of highly-regarded surfing beaches. A city that likes to let its hair down, it also has a number of theme parks for those who like to get the adrenaline pumping, and a nightlife that is the envy of Australia.
But away from the golden beaches and towering modern skyline you’ll also find a hinterland of ancient rainforest and its flying fox inhabitants just waiting to be explored.
The Great Dividing Range
Also known as the Eastern Highlands, the Great Dividing Range is Australia’s longest mountain range, and also one of the longest in the world, stretching over 3,500 kilometres in total. Encompassing the country’s highest mountain, the 2,228 metre Mount Kosciuszko, the highest areas are known as the Australian Alps.
Easily explored by campervan thanks to roads, including the New England Road that links Hexham with Yarraman, are passes including Spicers Gap and Cunninghams Gap. Off the roads and onto the rails, the Great Dividing Range has several historic rail lines, including the Main Line Railway between Brisbane and Toowoomba.
Mainland Australia’s most easterly point, Byron Bay is another east coast city with a relaxed and laid-back ambience that undoubtedly stems from the town’s fantastic weather and mesmerising natural beauty. Choose between world-beating beaches, cooling waterfalls, and rainforest hinterland.
For one of the wackiest experiences in Australia head to the hippie village of Nimbin. Encapsulating hippie counter-culture in a nutshell, the colourful shops and cafes are definitely worth visiting even if you don’t make a second stop at the Hemp Museum here.
The Blue Mountains
Less than two hours’ drive from Sydney, the Blue Mountains offer visitors forest walks through ancient forest, and the added highlight of the three strutting pinnacles of rock each more than 900 metres high known as Three Sisters rock formation at Echo Point Lookout.
On the way, why not stop off for some fantastic food in one of the quaint villages that line the roads, or learn more about the area from an aboriginal point of view with an Aboriginal Blue Mountains Walkabout?
In addition to the hiking trails, the Blue Mountains are also popular with locals and visitors alike for their mountain biking and rock climbing opportunities.
No list of the top highlights of east coast Australia can be called complete without mentioning Sydney. The most populous city in Australia, it is known the world over for its opera house and harbour bridge. The bay was the landing point for Captain Cook’s voyage – the first time a European had set foot in Australia – while the area is also rich in aboriginal engravings.
The city’s beachside location gives plenty of opportunity for relaxing, with the likes of Bondi Beach. Culture vultures will love the world-class museums, while pretty much everyone who visits falls in love with the eccentric offerings of the weekend markets.
For something a little different and some great views back towards the harbour, catch the free ferry to Cockatoo Island for a picnic, before settling down to sample some of Australia’s finest and freshest cuisine.
Australia’s east coast has long been recognised as a fantastic destination for visitors to the country, whether it’s your first time or you’ve visited Australia many times before. Explore the very best of what the region has to offer with our top highlights of east coast Australia.