Australia – Our Itinerary

Australia is absolutely massive, its almost impossible to see everything in one trip. We decided to stick to the East Coast as we only had 3 weeks and a limited budget.

Our first stop was Cairns, a tourist paradise with the Great Barrier Reef on its doorstep. After 5 days we flew to Brisbane, we spent 3 nights in the city which was enough to see and do everything.

From there we took the Greyhound bus the rest of the way, stopping along the way.

We spent 2 nights in Byron Bay, 3 nights in Coffs Harbour, 2 nights in Port Macquarie where we visited the Koala Hospital and then 3 nights in Newcastle. Our final stop was Sydney, where we spent 3 nights.

Our itinerary was perfect for what we wanted, we really enjoyed Australia and felt like we saw absolutely loads in our short time there.

We’ve also wrote posts on Getting Around and on other Useful Information.

Costs & Useful Information – Australia

Australia has everything from coral reefs to mega cities, rainforests to deserts. It’s no surprise that hundreds of thousands of people have migrated here from Europe.

Our daily costs worked out at £89 between both of us, that includes all internal flights and buses as well as accommodation and food. Australia is the most expensive place we’ve visited by quite a lot.

Getting Around: Australia is super easy to get around with special tickets catered just for backpackers. See our “Getting Around Australia” post by clicking HERE.

Accommodation: I managed to save quite a lot by using all our saved up Hotels.com vouchers while we were in Australia. We spent an average of £39 per night, or £53 if we hadn’t used our vouchers.

Visa: You will need to sign up for an E-Visa before entering Australia, they will send you an e-mail confirmation and you will be allowed to stay for 90 days. We didn’t need to print them off but I saved a PDF copy to my phone just in case. The visa service is free for U.K. Passport holders. We weren’t asked for any proof of onward travel. See www.border.gov.au for details.

Vaccinations: At the time of writing (November 2017) there are no vaccinations or anti-malaria medication required.

Water: Bottled water is really expensive in Australia, around $3 to $4 for a small bottle, however tap water is completely safe to drink, there are also lots of water fountains dotted around. Just buy one bottle and refill it as you go.

Day Trips: The average cost is around $100 for a full day trip per person, you can usually book 1 day in advance at any tour operator.

Dress Code: Literally anything goes in Australia, you will see all sorts wandering about.

Money: The currency in Australia is the Australian Dollar, there are ATMs all over and everywhere accepts card. Exchange rates in November 2017 below:

£1 (GBP) = $1.77

$1 (USD) = $1.32

€1 (EUR) = $1.57

Getting Around Australia

Australia is absolutely massive and getting around can be quite expensive, but it’s very well organised and easy.

Long Distance Buses:

Probably the most popular way to get around Australia, the buses are regular and drop you off right in the heart of the city. The largest company is Greyhound and all their vehicles has free wifi and a toilet on board.

If you plan on visiting a few different places the best ticket is a hop-on hop-off ticket, we bought one from Brisbane to Sydney and we could get on and off as many times as we wanted. It cost $149/pp and we took 5 journeys with the one ticket.

You get an ID code and an PIN number, as long as your traveling in one direction all you need to do is log onto your account and reserve yourself a seat on the next bus, it’s really simple to use.

Shuttle Buses:

The best way to get to and from the airport, they offer a door to door service and are sometimes actually cheaper than public transport, we paid the following for 1 way journeys: Cairns $11/pp, Brisbane $16/pp, Sydney $15/pp.

Budget Flights:

There are more and more budget airlines operating in Australia, we flew from Cairns to Brisbane with Tiger Air for £45/pp, that was cheaper than the bus option. See skyscanner for the latest deals.

Trains:

Not many people use trains in Australia, they are really expensive compared to the bus.

Drive Yourself:

Hiring a car or camper van is really popular in Australia, especially if your with a group and can take turns driving. You will have ultimate freedom but journeys can be very long and tiring. Shop about online for the best deals.

For other useful tips about planning a trip to Australia, see our ‘Costs and Essential Info’ page HERE.

Sydney – Australia

Our final stop in Australia lead us to Sydney. The site of Captain James Cook’s original landing in Australia, and the place where the first European settlement was established in 1788, now a mega city with over 4 million inhabitants.

Things To Do:

You can’t visit Sydney without going to the opera house, shows start at around $50 each but need to be booked well in advance, everything had sold out by the time we got there. Guided tours start at $37 each, if your on a tight budget, skip the tour and just visit the gift shop and toilets for free, it will give you an idea of the rest of the interior of the building. #thebackpackerway 🙂

Customs house is free to enter and has a really cool, scale model of Sydney. Certainly pop in for 10 minutes on your way to the harbour.

The Rocks is the only really historical part of Sydney. It’s where all the convicts lived long before the days of shiny skyscrapers, its now a home to trendy bars and restaurants.

If your interested in architecture then you must visit the Dr Chau Chak building at the university of technology. Built by the famous architect Frank Gehry and costing $180,000,000, it is an incredible work of art, I’ll let you decide if it’s worth the cost!

Darling Harbour is home to a lot of tourist attractions, aquariums and museums etc with lots of places to eat, the National Maritime Museum is free to enter.

Hide Park in the centre of the city is perfect for a relaxing picnic, it’s also home to St Mary’s Cathedral.

Best Photo Spots:

1. Mrs Macquarie’s chair, located inside the botanical gardens, free to enter and gives a great view of the opera house with the bridge in the background.

2. Observatory hill, gives a great view over the bridge and looks down over the harbour.

Walking Tours:

We did 2 free walking tours in Sydney, both were super interesting and informative. The Sydney Sights tour leaves from the spot in between the town hall and St Andrews cathedral every day at 10:30 and 14:30. The Rocks tour leaves from Cadmans Cottage at 18:00 every day. There’s no need to book onto any of the tours, just show up and look for someone in a bright green t-shirt. See www.imfree.com.au for more info.

Shopping:

Paddys Market is absolutely the best place in Sydney to buy souvenirs and gifts, located in China town and open every day.

The main shopping area is on Pitt Street if you have time to waste and some spare cash.

How Long To Visit:

There is absolutely loads to see and do in Sydney, if you were to do all the day trips to the Blue Mountains, Manly Beach etc you could easily fill 5 or 6 days. But if you’re short on time, the main sights can be ticked off within 1 day, especially if you do both walking tours.

Where To Eat:

Food in Australia can be expensive, for good meals under $10 visit a food court, our favourites were:

Australia Square food court, for everything from sandwiches and pies to pizza and pasta. (Only open on weekdays.)

Harbour Plaza food court in China town, open every day till late with large choice of Asian food, our favourite was the Malaysian street food.

Getting There:

We used the Greyhound for the last time getting to Sydney, it took just under 3 hours from Newcastle.

A shuttle to the airport cost $15/pp and took around 20 minutes.

Where To Stay:

Hotels in Sydney are really expensive, we stayed at the Pensione Hotel in China town, I used Hotels.com vouchers and only paid £12 per night, the actual cost should have been £61 per night, but even that included a Hotels.com flash sale. The hotel was nice and clean and close to China town.

Newcastle – Australia

Being from Newcastle in England, I just had to add Newcastle in Australia into our itinerary, there absolutely nothing alike but I just had to take a photo under the ‘Welcome to Newcastle’ sign.

Things To Do:

Newcastle is located next to the famous Hunter Valley region, where a lot of Australia’s wine comes from. There are lots of day trips to chose from, mostly only running on a weekend. If you don’t have time for a full day trip or your not interested in a full day of wine tasting then the Inner City Wine Makers in a great option for you. 40 minutes walk from the beach, the guy who on the place is very knowledgable and it’s free to taste all the different kinds of wine made on site. Prices aren’t that bad if you want to take a bottle or two home with you.

King Edwards park is absolutely the most stunning part of Newcastle, the views over the gardens and over the ocean are incredible. The park is also home to the Bogey Hole, a natural bath carved into the side of the cliff as a private bathing area for the old mayor, now open to the public.

There are more public baths next to the main beach, they are open all year round except the one day we visited because of maintenance works. It’s really interesting to see how they have made the most of the natural resources surrounding the city.

In my opinion, Nobby’s beach is nicer than the main beach in Newcastle, it’s just 5 minutes walk around the corner and much less crowded. The walk to the end of the pier is peaceful and gives a nice view of the lighthouse and fort.

Christchurch cathedral is free too enter, and while it’s not as old or as impressive as some of its European brothers and sisters, it’s still worth a look. The lovely lady at the door gave us a prayer for travellers to wish us safe journey around the rest of Australia. Entrance is free.

We asked a few people in Newcastle for recommendations and everybody told us to visit the memorial bridge, they weren’t wrong. The bridge was constructed as a memorial to the ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corp) soldiers who died during WW1. On one side of the bridge there is nothing but open ocean and on the other side there is a panoramic view over the city. It’s about 30 minutes walk from the town centre.

The free Newcastle Museum is a nice place to spend an hour, the building is the most impressive part, although the current exhibition on coal mining was quite interesting.

Where To Eat:

If your on a budget, then the perfect place for you is the Newcastle French Bread Shop, from the outside it looks like any other greasy spoon, but the sandwiches and hot food are amazing, meals start at just $5. It’s located on the way to the Newcastle Museum and open daily until 3pm.

Getting There:

The trusty greyhound bus took us to Newcastle from Port Macquarie, it took 3 hours and 40 minutes including a 30 minute meal break. If your coming from Sydney, the bus takes around 3 hours, give or take 30 minute depending on traffic.

Where To Stay:

The Newcastle Beach Hotel was in a great location, all rooms have a partial sea view and are very clean. We stayed 3 nights and booked on Hotels.com for £28 per night, which was actually half price because we used some of our free points.

Koala Hospital – Australia

Koalas are now classed as a ‘vulnerable’ species, not quite endangered but not far off. Every year more and more of these beautiful creatures are being killed in vehicle accidents, domestic dog attacks and disease.

All of these are caused by humans removing the Koalas natural habitat, forcing them to move closer and closer into the city to find food. Luckily the good people at the Port Macquarie animal hospital are making a difference.

About The Hospital:

The hospital is the biggest in Australia, it has 300 volunteers and takes in around 200 to 300 patients each year.

Most are treated and returned to the wild as quickly as possible, but there are a handful of permanent residents who can no longer survive in the wild because of their injuries.

When To Visit:

Visit in the afternoon, there is a free daily tour at 3pm where volunteers tell you all about the animals and hospital. If your lucky you will see some of the Koalas being fed.

Price:

The hospital is completely free to visit, but it does take an awful lot of money to run each year so please be generous and leave a donation in one of the boxes dotted around the site.

Getting There:

It’s an easy walk to the hospital from Port Macquarie city centre, allow about 25 minutes each way.

How You Can Help:

You can adopt a Koala online at www.koalahospital.org.au

Don’t forget to read our guide to the rest of Port Macquarie HERE.

Now for some photos:

Outside:

Feeding time:

Baby high up in the tree:

Some of the permanent residents:

Thanks for reading, don’t forget to pin for later.

Port Macquarie – Australia 

I’d read about the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital online and instantly added it to my bucket list, though I wasn’t sure what else to expect from the town, it’s small but lively and is one of my favourite places in Australia.

Things To Do:

The break wall is the focus point for much to the town, the rocks have been colourfully decorated making it a really nice walk, the spot is popular with joggers and families.

I took way too many photos at the koala hospital so I’ve done a separate post with everything you need to know about the hospital, click HERE to read.

Go for a cliff top walk, there are so many fantastic look out points along the trail that you could walk all day, our favourites were: Flagstaff Hill lookout, Windmill Hill lookout and Flynn’s beach.

There are 57 giant painted Koala statues dotted around the town, it’s great for kids (or just your inner child) to see how many you can spot. See www.hellokoalas.com to download a free map.

There’s a market on almost every day somewhere in Port Macquarie. We loved all the free samples at the Tuesday Real Food market. See www.discoverportmacquarie.com.au for a list of current markets.

It rained a lot while we were in Port Macquarie so we spent some time hiding in the port central shopping mall and the massive Kmart just outside town.

Getting There:

Once again we used the greyhound bus, it took 3 hours from Coffs Harbour or 3 hours and 40 minutes from Newcastle depending on which way your travelling. The bus station is right in the town centre.

Getting Around:

Port Macquarie is a small town, everything is within walking distance.

Where To Stay:

The Port Macquarie hotel is very dated but its clean and in a great location. We upgraded to an ensuite room and it only cost us £47 per night on Hotels.com. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the main bus stop.

Coffs Harbour – Australia

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Coffs Harbour, we only stopped to break up the journey from Byron Bay to Port Macquarie, but this sleepily little town managed to surprise me in the best way possible, I’m so glad we stopped here.

Thing To Do:

Like all east coast Australia, the beaches are pristine and the sea is perfect for surfing, the beach is about a 40 minute walk from the town centre.

Just off the main harbour is Muttonbird Island, a nature reserve that’s open to the bubonic and has some stunning views back over the harbour and city.

The botanic gardens just out of the city are also free to the public, they are absolutely massive and have sections for all over the world. Pick up a free map at the main entrance.

The national museum was $5 per person and though really small, it was full of interesting information about Coffs Harbour. Ask Geoff to show you around.

The Clog Barn was a huge surprise, it ended up being our favourite thing to do in Coffs Harbour even though we looked a bit strange being the only adults without kids with us. Completely free to enter, it’s a mini Holland Down Under. The miniature models are so detailed, and the day we visited they had been invaded by ‘giant’ lizards. There’s also a clog making demonstration every day at 11am.

The big banana is a 30 minute walk north of the town centre, we didn’t get a chance to go inside because it was closed by the time we got there though it’s supposedly good fun.

Where To Eat:

The Plantation Hotel, we managed to get a proper English Sunday lunch here for $16 each, the first one we had in 5 months!

The Fishermans Coop, really good fish and chips right on the harbour and you know it’s been caught fresh just off the coast of Coffs Harbour.

Cutty’s Cakes, the bakery is open all night, we snuck out for a midnight snack of caramel shortbread and home made scones more than once 🙂

Getting There:

We used the Greyhound bus which took 3 hours 50 minutes from Byron Bay, or 3 hours from Port Macquarie if your headed the other direction. The greyhound bus stop is in the town centre which is not next to the beach.

Where To Stay:

We booked the Bentleigh Motor Inn for 3 nights on Hotels.com at £50 per night. Rooms were recently decorated and spotlessly clean. The location was good for bars and restaurants etc, it’s also next to a new mall currently being built. They had on site laundry facilities for guests to use which was handy, and the rooms all had toasters and microwaves.

Byron Bay – Australia

Byron Bay on the east cost of Australia is an absolute hippies paradise, come here and ‘find yourself’ or just have a bit of fun and relax on the beach like we did.

Things To Do:

Whilst the sea is a bit to rough to swim in it, it’s a surfers heaven. At any time of the day you can literally count around 30 people in the sea. Board hire starts at $15 for a full day and there are lessons available if your not too confident. Even if you decide not to surf, it’s great fun watching other people surf (and fall off).

Bike hire is also cheap in Byron, prices start at $10 for half a day, there isn’t too much traffic around during the week so it’s the perfect place to ride your bike, it’s also a good way of getting to the more remote and less crowded beaches.

The Cape Byron fitness walk from Byron main beach up to the lighthouse not only keeps you fit but has some stunning scenery as you get higher and higher toward the top of the hill. There are loads of water fountains dotted about which is handy.

The Cape Byron Lighthouse was built in 1901 it sits right at the top of a huge hill overlooking the ocean, views from the top are fantastic though expect it to be a bit windy. It is possible to drive right up to it if your not up for the walk.

Where To Eat:

Bakery – Hot Bread Kitchen, open all day serves home made sandwiches and the most amazing spinach and feta rolls.

Mexican – Guzman Y Gomez, I know it’s a chain but we don’t have these in the UK, and I can’t ever say no to some nacho fries! Also really good budget option.

FREE – Cheeky Monkey, yes that’s right, you can eat here completely free 6 nights of the week, they even throw in a free beer! Just pickup a voucher at the Happy Tours shop right outside the bus station on your way past.

Getting There:

The greyhound bus from Brisbane takes 3 hours or from Coffs Harbour its 3 hours and 50 minutes. The bus drops you off right in the centre of Byron Bay, close to all the shops and hostels etc.

The closest airport is Ballina and there are shuttle buses that can take you to and from Byron Bay.

Where To Stay:

The Health Lodge was probably the best room we had in Australia but it was also the most expensive, the only downside was the shared bathroom which we are never fans of. We booked through Booking.com for £61 per night. It was about 20 minutes walk from the town centre.

We left booking accommodation until the very last minute, for cheaper deals it’s probably worth being a bit more organised than we were if you didn’t want to stay in shared dorms.