Planning a trip to the East Coast of Australia and feeling overwhelmed? Researching the endless options and feeling like it’s a mammoth task? I’ve been there. Australia is so vast that the guidebooks and travel agents suggest hundreds of the ‘must-see’ spots and activities to fill your time with. Leaving you feeling spoilt for choice. But don’t worry, I’m here to help you decide on the absolute best places to visit in Australia.
I spent hours pouring through these guidebooks when dreaming up my East Coast road trip and mapped out a unique route via highly advocated hotspots. Hot tip: You can save a lot of money acting as your own tour guide! The following locations are a few of my favourite locations in Australia. All of which have been tried and tested, offering a varied overview of the beautiful East Coast.
Otherwise known as the cultural capital of Aus, Melbourne is one of the most popular places to visit in Australia. This city is home to the oldest public art Museum, which to this day is the most visited in the whole country. Not only does Melbourne have a rich history of theatre and entertainment, but modern Melbourne is also famous for its colourful street art.
I found that this city is bursting with life and has something for everyone. Particularly if that something is artisanal coffee! I would say that at times it can feel a little urbanised, though it’s far more varied than Brisbane. What if it starts to feel a little too urban? It’s incredibly easy to visit the exquisite botanical gardens or to head over to St Kilda beach to spend some time with the penguins.
With so many options at your fingertips, I would recommend spending a few nights in Melbourne. Especially if you can hire a car and head out to the surrounding towns or visit the famous Great Ocean Road. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a Koala in the wild!
Not one that crops up in guidebooks or indeed through recommendations, but a hidden gem nonetheless. What all of those travel guides don’t tell you, is how you’ll feel after driving for a few hours in the Australian heat when you decide to embark upon the journey from Melbourne to Sydney. If you’re road-tripping the East Coast via car or Campervan, you may well find yourself stopping off earlier than anticipated. Which is exactly what happened to me.
Mallacoota is one of those naturally beautiful and incredibly peaceful places. Perfect for a few days of R&R. Located in the middle of Croajingolong National Park; the drive itself is a treat thanks to the stunning surrounding views. Granted, the main town doesn’t have a great deal to offer, but I promise it’s worth it once you explore the surrounding beaches.
We particularly enjoyed Betka Beach – though it’s important to watch out for the changing tides. Otherwise, you might find yourself stranded on a private island for a few hours!
They say that when it comes to Australia, your heart either lies with Melbourne or Sydney. And I’m definitely a Sydney girl. New South Wales all the way! It’s the perfect metropolis which simultaneously offers relaxing vacation vibes.
Sydney is bursting with iconic landmarks and fabulous watering holes. I suggest you take your cue from the Aussie locals, who often revel in the latter. That being said, it’s the atmosphere here that does it for me. Everyone seems so well balanced with their work/life priorities. Most importantly, they always make the most of the weather rather than sitting at home watching television. Yep, that’s one’s directed at my fellow Brits.
Highlights include the classic sightseeing spots (Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge etc.). And the fact that you can very easily take a ferry across the harbour rather than simply driving. It’s far more picturesque, not to mention… fun! On top of all this, there are so many amazing places to explore a stone’s throw away from the city. Of these, I would highly recommend a day at Bondi Beach – if only to see what all of the fuss is about. Plus you have to spend at least one day in the Blue Mountains.
Read More: Sydney / One Day in the Blue Mountains
I had never even heard of Bellingen Town before visiting, and only headed over there to begin the ‘Waterfall Way’ driving route. But Bellingen was an incredibly pleasant surprise nonetheless, firmly securing itself as one of the best places to visit in Australia.
The architecture in Bellingen reminded me of the Deep South with its Antebellum style porches. The whole place feels like sacred ground and was named by the Pioneers as the ‘Promised Land‘. One of my favourite parts was the old Church which has been converted into a tasteful eatery. From the food to the people, the vibe here is very much organic and wholesome.
Additionally, you can find the stunning ‘Never Never Creek‘ nearby. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of this at the time… but from photos and how gorgeous the rest of Bellingen was, I can pretty much guarantee that it’s a safe bet.
Read More: From Bellingen to Bendemeer
This Malibu-Esque town is a popular holiday spot within Australia. With ginormous modern houses to gawk at, a parade full of dreamy boutiques and eateries, plus the rather large beach club. The vibe here is very laid back and happy hour appears to be open to interpretation.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, Noosa National Park is only a short walk away on the other side of town. What’s so nice about Noosa is that it’s very compact. You can easily float between the shops, restaurants and the beach without a care in the world. Everything is within walking distance and it feels like a very happy, safe bubble to be in.
Read More: Noosa
If you’re into Island life, you have to visit The Whitsundays at some point! Out of all of the best places to visit in Australia, this one tops the list. Disclaimer: Be prepared to splash a little cash, as the only way to get to the Whitsunday islands is via boat or seaplane. There are numerous companies offering sailing excursions, so be sure to do your research before you hit the seas.
My partner and I opted for a couples-only tour group for a more serene experience to the party boats. And we couldn’t have loved it more. The Catamarans dock at various locations for you to explore the surrounding beaches, local wildlife and watersports. Highlights? Snorkelling at Whitehaven Beach and sunsets for miles.
The really idyllic moments involve breakfast on the deck at the crack of dawn. When the air silent quiet and the sun has just risen. It’s those moments which put things into perspective, reminding you how big and beautiful this world is.
Famous for Peter Andre music videos and Herbal Essences Ads – Millaa Millaa feels a lot more like a tropical rainforest than you might expect. If you’re driving along the coastline from Airlie Beach up to Cairns it’s one long straight road. But the closer you get, the more picturesque it becomes. Though a lot less straight! Hot tip: Break up the journey and stop off at Mission Beach but try to avoid Townsville. I learnt that lesson the hard way, so you don’t have to.
Millaa Millaa itself a very small town, so if you aren’t interested in waterfalls and luscious greenery, it’s probably not for you. And if you are? Well, you’re in luck! One of the most enjoyable aspects is that even in the height of summer there are few other tourists around. So you can revel in the natural beauty of each spot without disturbance.
If you aren’t headed to Cairns you will likely miss out on this jaunt. It’s pretty far north and isn’t really a destination you could spend a considerable amount of time at. But in my opinion, it’s one of the best places to visit in Australia. It’s certainly only of the most unspoilt.
*It’s important to note that you will need a vehicle to travel between each waterfall. There is no way they are close enough to walk between.
Read More: Exploring Millaa Millaa / En Route to Millaa Millaa
Incredibly hot and incredibly far north in Queensland lies the town of Port Douglas. Often visited as a starting point for the famous Great Barrier Reef tours, it gives the impression that it’s a rather affluent part of the country. I would recommend at least a day trip here from Cairns, even if you aren’t planning to snorkel around one of their World Heritage Sites.
The port itself is no stranger to the shopping and dining scene, paired with ocean views and palm trees galore. It reminded me of Florida or even Barbados thanks to the uber-relaxed and
most likely retired regulars. In summary, Port Douglas offers up a less hectic daily pace that’s nice to glide around in for a few hours.
Read More: How to Spend a Week in Cairns
I hope that this article has inspired you to visit Australia’s East Coast! If you have any questions or have your own recommendations to suggest, please feel free to share these in the comments section below.
Read More About Australia:
- The absolute best things to do in Melbourne
- Complete guide to sailing The Whitsundays
- What to see and do in Wollongong, Australia
- What to see and do in Mallacoota, Croajingolong National Park
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