Road Trip from Sydney to Cairns at the East Coast Australia
I am honest; Australia was no love at first sight. From the beginning till the end, nothing went as plant, wildfires, canceled trips, and in the end, COVID19 challenged us to be spontaneous and to make the best out of every situation. After a few starting barriers, it got better and better, and we had a fantastic time down under with many great (animal) encounters, adventures, and new friends. Shortly before we left New Zealand, we decided to rent a camper can in Australia too. We just loved that way of traveling,
and we found out that it would cost the same to take the bus along the east coast of Australia.
Unfortunately, we got the third refusal from a rental company on the evening we arrived in Sydney. Maybe we have been a bit too spontaneously this time. So we spent the first evening in Australia planning our trip and booking different tours and transports. We got so many cancellations that we had to change all the planes another five times in the next days, and in the end, everything came different anyway. But first, we explored Sydney the next day. We strolled through the city, watched cockatoos in the botanical garden, and took the ferry to Manley, where we had a picnic at the beach and took the last ferry back in the evening so that we could see all the lights of the skyline of Sydney.
We even got surprised by some weather lighting, which was a great end to this sightseeing day.
For the next day, we had booked a tour to the Blue Mountains. On the road to get there, we stopped at the Featherdale Wildlife Park. You can see almost every local Australian animal here, which was interesting.
We could have spent the whole day watching cute Wallabies, Koalas, Penguins, and Quokkas.
But we had more plans for this day. The famous rock formation “Three Sisters” was our first stop in the Blue Mountain Nationalpark. It was pretty busy there.
After that, we hiked to two different waterfalls and some viewpoints and listened to the area’s stories and legends. It was a lovely trip, but we would have seen more if we would have come here on our own instead of the tour.
That evening we got the confirmation for a rental van, which we could pick up two days later in Brisbane. So we took the train to Brisbane the following day, and the next morning we picked up our home on wheels for the next two weeks. But at the rental car company, the next problem was waiting for us. They wanted to have 4000 $ from us. Unfortunately, our credit card limit wasn’t that high, and it was in the middle of the night in Austria, so that we couldn’t reach our bank. In the end, we had to buy super expensive insurance from the company, so we didn’t have to pay the caution.
We know this was our fault, I am sure, somewhere would have been written, that we have to pay the deposit, although it was super annoying. The camper van was even a bit simpler than the one we had in New Zealand, but we were already used to this simple life
and have been just happy to be finally on the road again. Our first stop on the road trip along the east coast of Australia was Byron Bay, where we hiked to the lighthouse, which stands at the most easterly place in Australia, and enjoyed the stunning views over the coastal line.
The next morning we explored Surfers Paradise. The contrast between skyscrapers and the beautiful beach is fascinating.
After that, we drove to the Glass House Mountains, where we spent the night near the Wild Horse Lookout. We got a message that one of our tours got canceled. Slowly but surely, it started to get annoying. But we didn’t let that pull us down and planned a new route instead.
Our next stop was Noosa Heads Nationalpark, here is an excellent chance to see dolphins and koalas. The luck was not yet on our site, but the landscape was beautiful anyway. On the road to Harvey Bay, we saw a sign at the roadside that it is possible to watch turtles hatchel at Mon Repos Beach.
We decided spontaneously to drive there and try our luck. On our arrival, we got the information that we came to the perfect time of the year and that it was possible to do turtle encounter tours in the night. We signed up for one of the tours and waited excitedly till dawn.
It got three turtle encounter groups, but because it was raining the whole day, just one nest of turtles decided to hatch, group nr. one could watch them, and we went to a nest that hatched yesterday. The guides started to dig out the empty eggshells and found eight little turtle babies, who didn’t find their way out yet. After we saved them, we watched them on their way to the ocean, where they started their big journey. It was soooo cute!
We were sure that baby turtles are a good sign and hoped that everything goes a little bit smoother from now on.
We spent the next day on the road, it is a long way along the east coast, and we had just two weeks to drive to Cairns.
On the way, we saw some Kangaroos. The turtle babies brought us luck.
After a stop in Rockhampton and Mackay, where we did a swim in the blue lagoon, we drove to the Eungella Nationalpark. Just when we drove to the parking lot, it started to rain cats and dogs. After a short consideration, we changed into our swimsuits and thongs and hiked in the beach outfit through the rain forest, looking for platypus. When we reached the third viewpoint, we had luck and could see two platypus and three turtles. So cool!
After that, we drove to Airlie Beach, from where our sailing tour through the Whitsunday Islands started the next morning.
We have been looking forward to the three days on the boat, and luckily even the rain stopped in the morning, and we could start the tour under a bright blue sky. We were just 13 people on the boat, which was super nice, and everyone was so lovely. The first day we sailed out to the ocean, got to know each other, and drank a few cyder. After watching the sunset, we had dinner and went to bed to get enough sleep for the next morning, starting already at 5 am.
After a beautiful sunrise, we changed into our stinger suits and jumped into the water for our first snorkel tour. We snorkeled along with a beautiful coral garden and watched the little fish swim around.
After that, we sailed to the famous White Heaven Beach. We landed at a small beach and hiked through the forest. Suddenly we stood at a lookout from where we had the most stunning view over the White Heaven Beach. When we reached the beach, the other people were leaving, and we had the whole place to ourselves. It was so beautiful! We explored every corner and small bays, saw stingrays and a baby riff shark, and enjoyed the sun! It was a perfect morning!
Back on the boat, we sailed to the next snorkel spot. Here were so many fish that we felt like swimming in a massive aquarium. It was so cool!
The other people went back to the boat after a while. Fabian and I stayed alone with all the fish. It was one of the best experiences we had during the trip.
It is hard to believe that I used to be afraid of fish.
The next morning we started with another snorkel tour into the day. We even saw a turtle and swam a while beside it. The perfect end to this fantastic sailing trip!
The next day we drove further to Townsville, from where we took the ferry to Magnetic Island.
We did a hike on the Island and have been lucky enough to see a Koala in the wild. It was stunning to see this cute guy on the tree!
On our way back, we saw him again, and this time he was even awake.
Full of excitement, we continued hiking and hoped to encounter more animals. When the forest ended, we strolled along the beach and came to a place where many rock wallabies live. They get fed here and are pretty tame. We gave them some grapes and carrots we found on the ground, and they eat it out of our hands. Soooooo cute!!!
We took the last ferry back to Townsville and our camper van. The next day we explored Crystal Creek and the Paradies Waterhole, both beautiful swimming spots along a river. A little bit further up, the water polished the rock and created natural sleds. First, we have been careful, but after watching a few locals, we dared to slide longer lines and had a lot of fun!
Our next stop was Mission Beach, where we tried to watch turtles again. Fabian saw two, but I couldn’t spot them. We started the next day with a swim at the Babinda Boulders before we drove up to Cairns.
On our last day on the east coast of Australia, we went diving in the Great Barrier Reef. We did two dives in the morning.
The first one was a bit chaotic until we remembered all the signs and didn’t think about everything. The second one was already better, and we could enjoy our surroundings again. The corals around us were stunning, but there haven’t been many exciting fish around.
After lunch, we drove to a different spot. The water was so clear here that we could see over 40 meters wide. The corals had the most beautiful colors and grew in towers almost to the surface. Fishswarms swam around the corals, and everything sparkled in the crystal clear water. It was already one of the most beautiful dives we ever did. But in the end, our highlight happened.
We swam past a sleeping riff shark. We stayed calm and watched him for a while. Suddenly, five little riff sharks and a bigger grey riff shark, around two meters, swam calmly around us. It was fascinating to kneel underwater in the sand and watch these exciting animals swim around us! After a while, our air was empty, and we had to swim back to the surface. We changed into the snorkel gear and jumped right back into the water.
It was the perfect end for our east coast road trip we could have wished for!
The next day we packed our backpacks, brought the van back to the rental company, and went to the airport from where we flew to Melbourne. Initially, we had a different route planned. Still, after all the cancellations we had at the beginning of our time in Australia, it was the only possibility to see everything we wanted. In the end, everything came different than we thought at that moment anyway…
If you want to know how our adventure down under continued, read our next blog post.