Sunny Side Opinion
It never hurts to keep searching for sunshine

Australia Series

“Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport.” - Saber Ben Hassen

Eternal Sunshine of the Coastal Mind

We currently live in an era of over used words and phrases that are repeated out of habit and lack of motivation required to create an original thought.  "Literally," "can't even," "literally, can't even," to name a few.

I don't use the phrase "life-changing" often, because like another popular L word, I think we should really mean it when we say it.  No, my breakfast this morning was not "life changing," Beyonce's latest Instagram.. not "life changing." Buzzfeed's most current numbered list of some kind of food trend?  Just.. no.

However, I recently returned from a trip up the east coast of Australia that was perspective-altering, mind-inspiring, and dare I say it:

It changed my life.

I had trouble deciding if I wanted to share my epic east coast story via a narrative blog or provide help on planning your own trip with an informative blog, but why not both?  I’ll start with the latter; the basics on my route, how I packed, and how I managed to stay on budget.  I have 1,766 miles (or should I say 2843 kilometers?) worth of valuable tips, mostly acquired by learning things the hard way.

Each post following this, I’ll spotlight every city I visited along one of the most iconic backpacking routes in the world.  For now, I hope this bit of info helps you create a good draft for your adventure as other blogs helped me when I was in my planning phase!

First of all, you need to pick your route, the easiest part about planning your trip!  In my opinion the best way to go is from Adelaide all the way north to Cairns.  That way you start off with a bang (the Great Ocean Road) and then finish in the fun, adrenaline-filled town of Cairns.

Next, you need to pick your mode of transportation.  I bought a hop-on-hop-off Greyhound pass for about $500.  With this, you can travel from Point A to Point B (lots of routes available to choose from) and stop at any major city along the way for as long as you like.

The Greyhound is the best option for solo travelers such as myself, but renting a camper van is another viable option if you are with a friend or significant other.  Those will save you money on accommodation, as there are plenty of free camping sites along the coast.

Third, the tricky budget.  I got a working holiday visa and paid my dues in Melbourne so that I could afford the tours along my journey, so thats an option.  Otherwise, I’ll show you my some of my expenditures so you have a rough idea of what you can expect to pay on your travels:

  • $500: Greyhound pass

  • $___: Hostels around $25 per night for X amount of nights

  • $350: Fraser Island 4wd tour

  • $400: Whitsunday sailing tour

  • $100: Great Barrier Reef snorkel

  • $100: Forrest trip in Cairns

  • $70 per week: food

Here's what I learned about food on my trip:  you can save the most in your budget here.  I'm all about a balanced diet though, no I'm not talking about the right ratio of fruits to carbs yada yada.  I'm talking about balance in the sense that you want to be thrifty by preparing your own meals in the hostel kitchen, but also experience the cuisine that the city you're in has to offer.  I mean, I don't think the book Eat, Pray, Love would be as successful if it were just Pray and Love, would it?

Basically, I'm saying all of this to point out that I learned that the best way for food to work in my budget was to eat simple cheap meals (instant oatmeal, pasta, canned soup) 80% of the time, and to "treat yo'self" the other 20%.  You should also be aware that a majority of the hostels along the coast have incredible meal deals for backpackers.  Example time: Gilligans in Cairns offers free dinner every night when you buy a drink.  Score!

Once you determine what you are able to spend, you can book your trips!  I used a backpacker travel agency called Happy Travels to pick the right the right tours for me.  The travel agent Garreth (awesome guy) worked with me to book the right trips based on what kind of adventure I was looking for.  Using a travel agency to book all of your adventures at one time has its advantages because you'll be able to save overall and perhaps get some perks/ freebies thrown into your package (I got hostel coupons and a free bush camp trip). Just be wary of getting talked into a package you aren't comfortable with, you know how salespeople are!

Fourth, buy travel insurance.  It’s not particularly cheap, but Australia is abundant with perilous wildlife and unpredictable weather, so I suggest getting it.  It’ll come in handy if any of your tours get canceled too.

Fifth, you need to pack!  Pack lightly, trust me.  You don’t want to have to lug around two large suitcases when its boiling hot outside and it's a one and a half mile walk from the bus stop to your hostel.  Here’s a short list of items that are worth bringing because they came in handy for me along the way:

  • portable phone charger

  • nice water bottle (you’ll need it for your tours and bus trips)

  • shammy towel (instead of a regular towel)

  • insect spray

  • sunscreen

  • neck pillow (for the bus AND hostels because hostel pillows are as skinny as a boy band members jeans)

  • Freezer bag with a label (for storing your food in hostel kitchens)

  • day pack

  • masterlock for your hostel locker

Okay, now for the cities.  I've left a piece of my heart in each and every one of these towns.  If I wrote out all that I wanted to about each city just now, your thumb would cramp from scrolling so much.  I wouldn’t want to inflict any pain upon any one ever, so I’ll keep this part short and sweet, for now.

Melbourne

  • City Circle Tram

  • Catch a game at the MCG

  • Yarra River Valley wine tour

  • Great Ocean Road

  • Laneway tour

  • Brighton Beach Houses

Sydney

  • Darling Harbor

  • Sydney Opera House & Harbour Bridge Climb

  • Bondi and Manly beach

  • Blue Mountains

  • Bondi to Coogee coastal walk

Byron Bay

  • Lighthouse (most easterly point in Australia!)

  • Day trip to Nimbin

  • Nightcap National Park

Surfers Paradise

  • Surfing lesson

  • Wet N' Wild

  • Wicked pub crawl

Noosa

  • Visit the beautiful beach, try paddle boarding

  • National parks

  • Bush camp trip

Hervey Bay

  • Fraser Island Tour!

  • Rent a bike and ride the esplanade trail

Airlie Beach

  • Sunsoak at the lagoon

  • Whitsunday sailing tour

Cairns

  • Snorkel The Great Barrier Reef

  • Visit the Daintree Forrest

  • Tour Cape Tribulation

  • Skydive!  If you're brave enough

Hostels are the last bit I'll touch on.  Personally, I think it's better to book your nights as you go, which is what I did.  This allows you to be more flexible, in case you love a city and want to stay longer, or hate a place and want to move on earlier.  I strongly encourage you to download a booking app (I used Booking.com, but there's also hostelworld and loads of others).  This made my life so much easier because I had all my reservations in one place and booking was a cinch.

I hope all of this helps to inspire and inform you!  Stay tuned to learn more about what I saw, who I met, and the wondrous adventures I had in posts to come.

Elyse Snyder