We Drove from Cairns to Sydney

An endless road trip Cairns to Sydney

“Life everywhere is in vast and endless variety.” Herrick Johnson

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Whenever I think back to our road trip along the East Coast of Australia, it makes me realize how fortunate we were to have chosen an adventure on such an inspiring stretch of coastline. From Whitsundays and Fraser Island to Byron Bay and Sydney; the variety of destinations was also just as impressive, with what seemed like the perfect mix of natural attraction, iconic cities, and friendly beach towns.

Having traveled to Cairns in the very northern reaches of the East coast, I met up with two childhood friends as we went in search of a rental vehicle for a three-week road trip from Cairns to Sydney. It was an incredible journey on which we encountered every aspect of Australia and in many ways, this variety of attractions

Cairns and life down under

Cairns was to be my very first insight into life down under, and while this is certainly a tourist-orientated town, it remains one of my favorite places to visit in Australia. Featuring an endless line-up of restaurants and bars, the nightlife is a big draw for the backpacking community, but then the location of nearby regions is also quite favorable.

Take Cape Tribulation, for example, a beautiful headland renowned for an abundance of nature. We opted to forgo a trip to Cape Tribulation for a hippy village called Karanda but feedback from fellow travelers left us regretting this decision. Located just two hours north of Cairns and a short boat ride across the River Daintree, this beautiful region is home to crocodile cruises and rainforest treks while the scenery alone offers unrivaled photography opportunities.

At the same time, Karanda and Barron Falls, in particular, was an interesting encounter and we still got to check out the crystal-like waters and colorful marine life in the Great Barrier Reef. Long known as a natural wonder of the world, we took a one-day boat tour to explore this incredible area and while this seemed relatively short, it was better than no time at all.

How to travel the east coast of Australia

Most travelers to this part of the world will at least consider a road trip along the East Coast and given the wealth of attractions; it is quite easy to understand such popularity. From sandy beaches and turquoise waters to vibrant towns and iconic cities; there are many reasons to forget about flying and explore the places in between.

Needless to say, we needed little encouragement to travel overland from Cairns to Sydney, but we would quickly learn that our failure to prepare for this trip was almost a reason it never happened, for it was near impossible to find a vehicle in the midst of peak season.

Taking a bus or self-driving the East coast of Australia

Yes, you can take either the Premier or Greyhound bus from Cairns to Sydney and these stop at all the main destinations, but it seems shameful to rely on a set itinerary in this part of the world, after all, the whole reason for going is often the uncertain nature of the adventure.

Tip: If you do decide to take either of the above-mentioned buses; they both have a daily departure.

With that said, we did eventually find a campervan in Cairns – a last minute cancellation. It was rather small and consisted of three beds, but the climate was so warm along the eastern shoreline that we ended up buying a cheap tent to pitch outside instead. Well maintained and relatively new, rental vehicles in Cairns are an excellent option to explore the coast, and we experienced no issues with logistics the entire way to Sydney.

Mission Beach

Another reason we missed out on Cape Tribulation was that we decided to visit Mission Beach and with time being short, something had to give. Situated one hour to the south of Cairns, this beautiful rain-forested area is also right next to an idyllic beach, and it was an extremely comfortable stay at Scotty’s Beach House. Skydiving is also popular here, but we were more interested in the white water rafting which was said to be a very fun way to gain a different perspective of the surrounding forest

The rumors were accurate, but it must be said that the true highlight of this day was the group dynamic; as we had joined a group of like-minded backpackers on the rapids which made this adventure an excellent team bonding experience. Graded four and five, most of these rapids were also scary enough to keep us in the raft, but as mentioned, it was a truly enjoyable day in the company of such a diverse bunch of nationalities.

Magnetic Island

Aside from the rafting near Mission Beach, these were very relaxing days which also made our departure from Mission Beach a little more painful than expected. However, further south we reached the starting point for our next adventure and boarded a beautiful boat headed for Magnetic Island.

Of course, there are several ways to this isolated landmass, and we found the most affordable way to reach Magnetic Island is by taking an all-inclusive package which includes both accommodation and the ferry ride. Luckily there were places available by the time we reached Townsville, but it is highly advisable to book in advance. Featuring scuba diving tours, snorkeling, and beautiful hiking trails, Magnetic Island was the perfect place to stay outdoors and get active after a couple of days rest in Mission Beach.

Airlie Beach and Whitsunday Islands

Few destinations excite visitors as much as Whitsunday Islands, and despite our high expectations, this stunning archipelago more than live up to the hype. Having stayed overnight in Airlie Beach, we boarded a beautiful yacht, and for the next two nights, this would be our home. In this instance, we had picked a Maxi Racing Yacht which allowed us to get out into the Great Barrier Reef quickly and spend more time in and around the seventy-four islands which make up the region.

Sunbathing or snorkeling during the day and star gazing on deck every night, this was an incredibly chilled tour, but as expected, Whitehaven Beach stole the show. Consisting of the finest white powdered sands we had ever seen, the very first sight of this beach is unforgettable, and the desolate nature of the area also ensures it feels like a very personal experience.

Note – While we had no time to visit this place, the Town of 1770 is hugely popular and was first founded by Captain Cook back in 1770. It is a quite busy town with several cafés and enough backpackers to fill the bars ten times over. Having such a relaxed vibe, this town is also a popular spot for tourists heading north, for the Town of 1770 is an ideal place to relax after spending time on Fraser Island.

Fraser Island and Four by Four

Renowned for being the largest island in the world consisting of sand, Fraser Island is the kind of enchanting destination which intrepid travelers dream about. Before arriving on the island, we had initially worried that restrictions would mean taking a tour guide with us but on the contrary, we were handed keys to a 4X4 after a short briefing, and departing Hervey Bay for the island.

Down sandy tracks and through dense jungle, the drive between each hotspot on the island was always an adventure while Lake Mackenzie and Eli Creek were worth the effort when we did finally get out in search of a hike. We had decided on hostel accommodation for this part of our trip, but you can also go for camping – a popular option for backpackers on a budget. That being said, the accommodation was irrelevant as this was an experience that surpassed all of our expectations and left us thinking how the cost of this adventure was minuscule in comparison with the rewards.

A glamorous beach town called Noosa

On the way to Brisbane, we had two days to spare and took a detour to the town of Noosa. Upmarket and glamorous in every way, this was an entirely different experience to anywhere on the road trip, but it was equally enjoyable for what it had to offer. In fact, the conditions in Noosa were perfect for surfing, and when we were sure that nobody was paying attention, each of us took turns trying not to embarrass ourselves.

Although the real reason we made excuses for this detour to Noosa was the opportunity to visit Australia Zoo which is best known as the former workplace of Steve Irwin. Featuring every snake imaginable, crocodiles galore and a huge variety of other wildlife, this is arguably the best zoo in Australia and well worth the visit, whether you travel to Noosa or not.

City of Brisbane

We stayed in Southbank in Brisbane, which was a short ferry ride from the center and this area seemed like an oasis in comparison to the busy city. With colorful markets, hidden cafes, bars, restaurants and ample green spaces, there was no end of interesting places to go and things to do. However, we did also spend time in the West End during our stay, and this was equally as nice with many more markets and possibly, even more, choice of eateries.

Tip: We enjoyed our time in Brisbane but satisfied with our hectic itinerary until this point, we decided against visiting the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which is also said to be very interesting. Moreton Island is another local hotspot for tourists where you can enjoy paddle-boarding, snorkeling, and even dolphin watching. However, this requires a day tour to reach the island itself.

Byron Bay & Surfers Paradise

Even the tall buildings and bustling nature of Surfers Paradise cannot disguise that this is a hugely enjoyable place to spend time. Whether you yearn for a busy nightlife or high-quality restaurants, it has both, while the beach is incredibly long and a nice break from the city.

And then there is Byron Bay, probably the most infamous town on the entire East coast of Australia. Popular with locals and tourists alike, Byron is surrounded by wilderness and surprisingly quiet despite its reputation making it an ideal stop whether you travel north to sound or vice versa.

Sydney and endless variety

Shimmering in the distance, the bright lights of Sydney are incomparable with anywhere else in the world, and as we passed by the beautiful opera house and infamous bridge, it was crystal clear that we had picked the perfect place to end our road trip along the East Coast.

Taking a road trip anywhere in the world is always an exciting prospect, but when you take a road trip along the east coast of Australia, there is a distinct variety which ensures it stands out from any other. We had expected stunning beaches, clear waters, friendly locals and exciting attractions but the truth is; nothing can prepare for the speed at which these different experiences present themselves, for the extent of this variety is nothing short of endless.

Article by Derek Cullen

“Derek Cullen is an Outdoor Blogger from Ireland who has spent the past nine years travelling more than fifty countries around the world. Although currently working as a guide in Africa, Derek has also spent extended periods in Canada, Thailand and Australia.” My blog: http://www.nohangingaround.com

 

 

Tips for Visitors to Sydney

 

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Tips for big attractions and small experiences in Sydney
Although Sydney is an incredibly famous city and one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, the secret to having an unforgettable time in this vibrant metropolis usually comes down to planning. Yes, you can arrive on a whim and figure everything out from the hotel lobby, or you could save yourself a lot of stress and use the experience of others to create the ultimate adventure.

Tips for breakfast  while staying in Sydney
With that said, here are some straight forward tips for the best day tour, breakfast, beach, and attractions to help you experience the big attractions and smaller experiences in “the Harbour City”:
Skip the hotel breakfast and explore the city centre café’s
Sydney is home to one of the most wonderful cuisines and café cultures in the world. From charming food trucks selling fresh snapper to rustic eateries or luxury dining; there is something for absolutely every taste and budget. For this reason, your hotel may provide a complimentary meal each morning, but breakfast is one of the most enjoyable times of the day to get out and explore the eateries in Sydney.
During fine weather, the road side tables next to Ruby’s Diner in Surry Hills is my favorite pick for a light and healthy breakfast, but then this is sometimes a little far from the city centre. Instead, check out Pablo & Rusty’s on Castlereagh Street where beautiful high ceilings and leafy surroundings make the perfect oasis of calm in a rather busy area. Consisting of the most perfect poached eggs and shallot on toast, this is also an ideal taste of the very cosmopolitan side of Sydney.
That being said, rather than opt for the same hotel lobby, it is worth making an effort to visit as many cafés as possible for breakfast and start each day with a little adventure somewhere new.

Rent a car and take a road trip to the Blue Mountains
Car rental is reasonably affordable in Sydney, but regardless, the rewards that come with having your own vehicle are priceless. Take for example a road trip to the Blue Mountains, where a glorious hue gives reason to the name of these mountains as it covers the most famous valley in New South Wales.
The Blue Mountains are just a ninety-minute drive but before leaving the city, take a pit stop in the suburb of Balmain for an encounter with a delightful bakery called Zumbo’s Patisserie. This tiny store on Darling Street is where you can pick up some snacks for the road and take in a little bit of local hospitality at the same time.
Although that first glimpse of the mountains is unforgettable, the highlight of a visit to the Blue Mountains is an opportunity to take a hike along the Charles Darwin Track. Featuring ancient bush paintings and even dinosaur footprints, this trail is the best way to feel immersed in the region and learn from a professional guide about the great biodiversity in the mountains.

Skip Bondi and spend time at Coogee Beach
Stretching for almost one kilometre, the golden sands of Bondi Beach are certainly the most popular in Sydney. However, the central location and reputation of Bondi ensure the beach is always extremely busy and often, overcrowded. For this reason, Coogee Beach is an enticing alternative and possibly an even more enjoyable beach to visit in Sydney.
Located just twenty minutes from the city centre, Coogee Beach is easily accessible by local transport, but if you have a rental car, there is also ample parking around the bay. Coogee Yeeros Café offers the best eggs benedict with sea views, and Friggitoria serves a sublime Gnocchi with Polpette while there are several popular bars nearby if you choose to stay on for the evening.
Less populated and less crowded as Bondi, you should find the conditions are more suitable and calm for swimming, relaxing and sunbathing. This area is also known for having three major ocean baths (Giles, McIver, and Wylie’s) but for anyone feeling a little more active, there is a cliff hiking trail which offers stunning views of the coastline in New South Wales.

Embrace the crowds and try not to avoid the touristy places
Whether you stay for a few days or even a couple of weeks, try not to overthink your itinerary and remember that many of the attractions in Sydney are popular for a reason. For example, taking a cruise down the river is hugely touristy but highly enjoyable and a great way to see the city from a different perspective. Similarly, the Sydney Opera House has a very insightful walking tour, the infamous bridge is worth the climb, the Royal Botanical Gardens are spectacular, and even the above mentioned Bondi Beach deserves an afternoon if you have any time to spare.
While many visitors forgo the lesser known experiences for big attractions when they travel, this would be a shame in Sydney considering how the small attractions are every bit as important. At the same time, there is no better way to waste time than arriving without a plan and with the above tips in mind, there should be no reason to forgo anything at all, even the smaller experiences.

Article by Derek Cullen

“Derek Cullen is an Outdoor Blogger from Ireland who has spent the past nine years travelling more than fifty countries around the world. Although currently working as a guide in Africa, Derek has also spent extended periods in Canada, Thailand and Australia.” My blog: http://www.nohangingaround.com

WHITSUNDAYS AND FRAZER ISLAND

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Whitsundays & Fraser Island: Small expectations and big experiences

When I first travelled to the East Coast of Australia, I did so with little expectations. In such a popular corner of the world, this lack of excitement will probably appear as quite strange but the truth is, I was afraid that Whitsundays and Fraser Island might fail to live up to their lofty reputation. In fact, it was for this reason I was so disappointed on a recent visit to Hanoi, as this bustling city in Northern Vietnam failed miserably to warrant the glowing feedback I had previously received from fellow backpackers.

However, I was very wrong on this occasion and the east coast was not only the highlight of my time in Australia but also the most unforgettable part of my two year trip around the world.

First impressions of Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach is such a vibrant town which made it the perfect spot to spend time before our trip to the Whitsunday Islands. My two friends and I had just arrived from Cairns as a hive of activity unfolded on the main street in front of our campervan. Colourful cafés lined the roadside as the sun disappeared and neon lights began to flicker above the doorways of nearby bars; it was a welcome sight after such a long drive. We spend two nights mingling with fellow backpackers in Airlie Beach and readied our bags to board a yacht on the final morning.

New friends and Whitsunday Islands

Initially, we had worried about the group dynamic and claustrophobic nature of a boat but the yacht was an impressive specimen with an incredible amount of space to move around in. At the same time, we also had joined the perfect mix of like-minded travellers who seemed more interested in having a good time rather than “getting in the way” of our experience.
Relaxing on deck with light conversation and a gentle breeze, I remember thinking that this was the most pleasant feeling imaginable, as the isolated islands of Whitsundays came into view on the horizon. In fact, few places in the world have such crystal clear waters and we could already see the white powdered sands ahead for which the islands are best known. Stepping ashore to explore Whitehaven Beach was definitely a highlight and snorkelling amidst the coral on the Great Barrier Reef was an equally memorable experience but then cruising on deck in the middle of nowhere was the genuine highlight, with nothing but a gentle breeze and light conversation with new friends.

Fraser – An island waiting to be explored

Having had such an incredible time on our Whitsundays adventure, we found ourselves travelling south with newfound enthusiasm and faith that Fraser Island might just be as special as people say.
Hervey Bay is the most popular starting point to visit the island and it was here we met four Canadian backpackers who agreed to join our adventure. Although it was great to join up with our new friends, the reason for this was because Fraser Island is best explored on a self-drive safari and for this we needed some extra bodies to reduce the cost. Rugged and relentless, the interior of Fraser Island was almost jungle like and home to some seriously challenging roads.
With that said, we managed to manoeuvre these without any accidents until the opposite side of the island where long stretches of white sands and incredible hiking trails were waiting to be explored. Fraser Island might be quite a popular destination for tourists but there is a distinct wildness about taking a road trip around this particular island, especially any time dingoes surrounded our tents.

Exceeding small expectations in every direction

From isolated islands, pristine waters and dense jungles, the scenery was breath taking in every direction and every bit as picturesque as any travel magazine. At the same time, we had arrived with apprehension for taking an organized group tour in seriously touristy waters but those people became our friends and in the end, the group aspect was quickly forgotten along with any of our concerns.
In hindsight, while we did arrive on the east coast of Australia with minimal expectations, our experience in both Whitsundays and Fraser Island were always going to exceed them, regardless of their size.

Article by Derek  Cullen

“Derek Cullen is an Outdoor Blogger from Ireland who has spent the past nine years travelling more than fifty countries around the world. Although currently working as a guide in Africa, Derek has also spent extended periods in Canada, Thailand and Australia.” My blog: http://www.nohangingaround.com

THE FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE

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Travelling in Remote Australia: Introducing The Royal Flying Doctor Service

Picture the scene. You’re venturing through the Australian outback when suddenly disaster strikes. You’ve broken your leg and cannot move, but you’re hundreds of kilometres away from the nearest town and thousands of kilometres away from the nearest hospital. Local towns may not have any medical services, and it would take hours and hours to travel to a hospital by road…


Fortunately, Australia has the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which provides emergency and primary health care services throughout Australia. As one of the world’s most comprehensive aeromedical organisations, it provides a 24-hour service to those living, working and travelling in Australia.

When travelling, it is important to be aware of this vital service. In addition, you should keep a few key things in mind to help you stay safe when travelling to remote regions.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service

Founded in 1928 as the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service by Reverend John Flynn, the Royal Flying Doctor Service provides emergency assistance to those who require medical attention in Australia. The service provides medical treatment on the ground and has a fleet of aircraft used to transport patients to hospital for emergency treatment.

In 2014/2015, the RFDS provided more than 4,000 emergency evacuations and is a true lifeline for people travelling in the remotest parts of Australia. It has several bases around the country and a fleet of 18 aircraft that are capable of landing in a variety of locations.

If you would like to learn more about the RFDS, you can visit one of the visitor centres and discover more about the work of this vital organisation:

• The Bruce Langford Visitor Centre – Broken Hill, NSW
• The Dubbo Visitor Centre – Dubbo, NSW

Preparing for Outback Travel

As we have mentioned, the sheer size of Australia means that you can easily find yourself hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away from medical assistance. If you are traveling to remote areas, you should plan your trip carefully to help avoid emergencies and be better prepared to deal with them should the worst happen.

• Plan your route carefully. Sort out an itinerary in advance, and don’t forget to invest in a good quality map.

• Take enough water. It is recommended to carry around 10 litres of water per person, per day. Water should be stored in small containers, and you should NEVER rely on waterholes, dams, mills, etc.

• Take enough food. It is recommended to carry enough food for each person for two days.

• Bring matches (or a lighter), and a fire extinguisher.

• Pack a first aid kit – and, if possible, go on a first aid course before travel.

• Wear appropriate clothing – including a sun hat, good walking shoes, summer clothes for the day and warmer clothes for the evening.

• Apply sunscreen and insect repellent.

In addition, it is recommended that you don’t travel during the hottest times of the year.

If you become lost or your vehicle breaks down, it is important to stay with your vehicle. Look for shade and shelter, and keep yourself hydrated.

In an emergency, call 000 to contact your local emergency services.

Article by Dan Flower