It was one of THE best trips I have ever done and we made memories that will last us a lifetime, it was, however quite hard work to plan!
Having recently completed the epic Route 66 which I managed to plan in a week I genuinely thought that Australia’s East Coast would be a breeze to plan, I was wrong! Planning this 30 hour stretch of drive was actually really tough. I couldn’t find any information on blogs or online about where to go, what stops to take and just general information about the drive from Cairns to Sydney. I think that it’s quite common to start a little more south and travel to Sydney rather than the full stretch down from Cairns. That being said, my years of travel experience all came in handy and I was able to whip up an itinerary of wonders that made our drive the trip of a lifetime so I wanted to share the full journey with you guys in short form just incase you were ever planning on doing the same!
We had three weeks for the trip in total but you can play around with the timings and accommodation to suit your length of stay. I personally would have loved to spend a few extra days in Byron Bay and Noosa but other than that I think the timing was perfect. I would recommend a month for the full trip but if, like Mems and I you have less time, we were able to see everything in good time during our three weeks out there.So let’s start at the very beginning………Flights.
We flew to Sydney with Qantas Airways via Dubai. We had a stopover of just 2hrs which was perfect. Stoping over at Dubai is highly recommended as the airport is fully open 24 hours so there is always something to do or a shop to window shop in 😉 The flight itself was 22 hours and (excusing the shamefully obvious pun) it flew by! We took two of the four seats in the middle so we could jump in and out of our seats easily and I thoroughly enjoyed the flight. The service was great, food was yummy and entertainment was brilliant. I highly recommend flying with Qantas.
After arriving in sydney we decided to have a little break of 6 hours before flying again. We jumped on the train into the CBD district to explore a little and have some lunch before then jumping on a flight to Cairns. You could just as easily get a flight immediately to Cairns.
Hiring a Car – Just as with Route 66 I booked us a car in advace via EasyCar in the UK – I love this service for renting a car, you can book over the phone and they act as a price comparison site for your specific journey. We ended up going with Thrifty as they were the cheapest option for us.
Cairns was the first stop on our road map and the start of our 30 hours on the road down to Sydney. A famous location for exploring The Great Barrier Reef, from here you can see the world’s most famous ocean wonder from the sky or the ocean. With just a few days in the area we decided to opt for both 😉
From Cairns we drove down to Airlie Beach where we decided to see The Great Barrier Reef one more time, on this occasion 16,000 feet above it, by jumping out of a plane! We booked a skydive before heading out to Aus and I am so glad we did! The view of the reef from the sky is unmatchable, the scenery around Airlie Beach is just incredible.
From Airlie beach we sailed out to the fabulous WhitSunday Islands for a few days. Most boat trips and day excursions to The WhitSunady’s and Whitehaven Beach head out from Airlie Beach so it’s a great place to base for a few days. We opted for a luxury boat trip for 3 days and 2 nights on The WhitSunday Bliss which was incredible. On board was an award winning chef and 5 star cabins and the routes taken were perfect for discovering the beautiful islands in seclusion. Again, I’ve written more about this day here. WhiteHaven Beach is an absolute MUST when visiting Australia photos don’t even come close to doing this iconic stretch of sand justice!
After a few days at sea we then headed further down south to Fraser Island, one of Australia’s natural gems, it’s the largest sand island in the world boasting champagne rock pools, fresh water lakes, fabulous beaches and jaw-dropping sunsets. We rented a 4 wheel drive to explore which was a experience in itself driving in the sand but one I would highly recommend! Camping overnight, slumbering beneath a blanket of stars, Fraser Island was an unmatchable experience. I’ve written all about Fraser Island here.
After Fraser Island we headed down to Noosa, one of my new favourite places. A luxury beach town with a surfer’s mindset. Here we enjoyed relaxed days at the beach, shopped til we dropped in Hastings street and marvelled at the wild koalas chilling in the many eucalyptus trees in the National Park. For more about Noosa you can read my post here.
From Brisbane we headed down The Gold Coast to visit some friends. I was working on New Year’s Eve too. This is a great place to enjoy a good mix of city and beach, it’s also famous for it’s surfing! We didn’t get up to that much here as we were with our friends but I would still recommend a stop off as part of your road trip as it’s definitely a lively area and the cafes and restaurants were all really great here.From The Gold Coast we headed down to Byron Bay. A definite must on any East Coast road trip. This place is so chill is awesome! We really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of the small town and loved the beaches. There’s a great little walk down near the famous lighthouse that is a definite must do at Sunset too, you can walk to the most easterly point of Australia and watch the sun go down with the shadows of surfers in the distance towards the bay, it’s really really beautiful!