In a few weeks I’ll be leaving Australia again after having lived here for almost 11 months. Before I came here I had a vague idea of what it would be like.. Opera House, kangaroos, beaches and a big red rock somewhere in the middle. I wasn’t wrong, but I’ve learned that this country is much more diverse than that. I’ve realised Australia is about as big as Europe. That’s why it’s just impossible to capture everything in just 1 article. Instead, here are some of my absolute highlights from my trip up the east coast.
01| Ocean rafting around the Whitsunday Islands
The Whitsunday Islands, also called The Whitsundays, is a collection of islands located off the central coast of Queensland. It’s pretty much the closest you will ever get to paradise. The biggest island is called Whitsunday Island, which we went to on our trip.
My friend and I decided to do a 1 day ocean rafting tour. We visited Whitehaven Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, enjoyed spectacular views from Hill Inlet and did some snorkeling. It was probably one of the most blissed out days I’ve ever had.
I’ve been told the reef is more beautiful close to Cairns, but it was my first time snorkeling so I pretty much squealed whenever I saw a little fish or colorful piece of coral. I just had a really good time. But if you’re really looking for the ultimate diving/snorkeling experience a bit further up north might be a better choice for you.
Other popular islands are Daydream Island and Hamilton Island. We didn’t go there, but if you have a few more days there are tons of overnight sailing tours that will take you there. Or you can stay on one of the islands.
02| Driving up the Daintree rainforest to Cape Tribulation
The Daintree rainforest is the oldest rainforest in the world. Miles and miles of rainforest with barely any evidence of human interference, other than a few small villages and a long windy road up and down the hills. It’s a true escape back to nature.
We started our trip in Port Douglas, a beautiful tropical coastal town with lots of accommodation possibilities. About 20km north from Port Douglas we made our first stop at Mossman Gorge, doing a 2.4km rainforest loop track walk.
We continued our trip further north until we reached Daintree Village, located near the beautiful Daintree River. Here we stopped and did one of the popular crocodile tours with Crocodile Express. Our guide was very knowledgeable and took us to some crocodile hot spots. The crocs are really hard to spot sometimes, but he managed to find one hiding behind some branches.
Can you spot the croc? ;)
Not only did we see a crocodile, the tour guide also showed us some other animals. Mostly birds and insects. He also told us a lot about the area while we enjoyed the great views of the rainforest.
We then crossed the river on the Daintree River Ferry and made a few stops along the way to our final destination, Cape Tribulation. Some of the stops I recommend are the Mount Alexandra lookout, the Daintree Discovery Centre, the Jindalba boardwalk and the Dubuji boardwalk. We ended up not spending that much time in Cape Tribulation, because we had to drive back to Port Douglas that same day, but I heard it’s a great place to stay a bit longer. There are several places to stay the night in Cape Trib so you don’t have to drive back on the same day if you want to take it easy.
03| Walking coastal Sydney
Maybe I’m biased because I’ve been lucky enough to have lived here for the past 10 months, but Sydney has quickly become one of my favorite cities in the world. I’m not saying it’s the best city to live in long term, but I’m almost certain that it’s one of the best cities to visit as a traveler or tourist. There is so much to see, so many things to do.
The best part about this city must be the many coastal walks. Basically the entire city is surrounded by beautiful walks along the water with spectacular views on the ocean and the harbour, with of course its iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge. At several points you even cross some beautiful national parks.
There’s never enough time to see everything, but some of my favorite coastal walks include Bondi to Coogee, Manly to Spit Bridge, Taronga to Balmoral, Circular Quay to Darling Harbour and Watson’s Bay (South Head Walk).
04| Doing a 4WD tour on Fraser Island
Being the biggest sand island in the world, Fraser Island is a must if you’re on the east coast. My friend and I booked a 2 day tour with Fraser Explorer Tours in a 4WD bus. If you really want to drive a 4WD car then there are also tours that allow you to drive yourself. Personally, I’d rather sit back, relax, enjoy the view, and watch someone else get stuck in the sand.
Some of the highlights of our tour were Lake McKenzie, Seventy-Five Mile Beach (it’s an actual highway on the beach, just sand!), Eli Creek, Maheno Shipwreck, the Pinnacles Coloured Sands and the Champagne Pools.
We also hit the dingo jackpot on the first day. A mommy dingo with her 3 pups eating a stingray on the beach. Of course keeping a safe distance since dingo attacks are not unheard of on the island. If only I had a good camera which could zoom in properly. It’s on my list!
05| Hiking up Mt Kosciuszko during summer
The Snowy Mountains are probably not the first thing you think of when you think about Australia. Yet the Australian Alps receive more snow than Switzerland and are a very popular winter sport destination among Australians.
In the summer. when there is hardly any snow in the Snowy Mountains, it becomes a popular destination for hikers. Australia’s highest mountain can be found here, Mount Kosciuszko, which reaches to a height of 2228m above sea level.
Hiking up the highest mountain of Australia is easier than is sounds. From the parking lot in Thredbo – the nearby resort village – you can take a chair lift up the first part of the mountain, providing you with some nice views. After that it’s about a 9km hike up to the top of the mountain. This is the Mount Kosciuszko Summit Walk and takes about 6 hours (return). There are a few climbs here and there but nothing too strenuous.
The weather here can be extreme and unpredictable so always check weather conditions and make sure you’re well-prepared.