Australia is a BIG country and has everything from Surf Beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, Thriving City Centres, The Outback, Rainforest, Unusual Animals, Friendly Locals and roads that span 100's of kilometres into the middle of nothingness. Depending on what kind of a holiday you are looking for you – Australia has A LOT of something for everyone.
In this Backpackers Guide we've include advice about where to go, your transport options, the weather, cheap eats and the cost.
Where should I go in Australia?
Most travellers that set foot in Australia will embark on the great East Coast adventure – either from Melbourne to Cairns, Sydney to Cairns or for those on a really short time frame, maybe just the Whitsunday Islands & Fraser Island. The East Coast is far more touristy than the rest of Australia and you will have no problem at all meeting other backpackers on your very first day in Aus if you are travelling alone! The East Coast is lined with surf, beach, reef and Rainforest. Highlights are Whitsunday Islands, Byron Bay, Fraser Island, The Blue Mountains, the Great Ocean Road, Great Barrier Reef, Cape Tribulation... hmmm... the list goes on!
The Outback is like NOWHERE else on Earth! You will need at least 10 days to see everything between Adelaide to Darwin (straight through the middle and top to bottom) – and that’s pushing it! Half way between Adelaide and Alice Springs (where you will find Uluru, also known as Ayres Rock) – you will come across a town called Coober Pedy. The entire town is underground and is famous for opal mining. A segment of Star Wars was filmed here and it sure is eerie!
When you get to Uluru prepare to feel the spiritual significance of the area. A hike through King’s Canyon and The Olgas is also a must do. Head on up to Darwin and visit the beautiful Waterfalls and natural swimming holes of Kakadu & Litchfield National Parks.
The West Coast
Perth is the most remote city in the world – thriving and bustling with cool cafes it is lined with some of the best surf beaches Australia has on offer. Make sure you visit Fremantle – a cool little hippy town with loads of quirky history, as well as Rottnest Island. Travel north towards Exmouth or Darwin stopping at the Pinnacles, Lancelin sand dunes, Kalbarri National Park, Shell Beach, Shark Bay, Monkey Mia and Karijini National Park. If heading further north than Exmouth you will also stop by Broome and between April and November – the Kimberleys... untouched and amazing!
Check out our Guide to the West Coast.
If travelling along the East Coast of Australia – a bus is cheap and a great way to meet other backpackers. Oz Experience, Greyhound & Premier all offer flexible hop on / hop off bus passes that can pick you up and drop you off in all tourist destinations along the East Coast of Australia. You can choose passes from Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane to Cairns (the very top) or vice versa. Most of the hostels on the coast will be located near the bus stop, and for those a little further out – a free transfer is usually included. These buses are safe and mostly occupied by backpackers as opposed to locals. When it comes to the Outback – we would suggest for safety reasons to take a guided tour or ensure you are travelling with a group of other backpackers.
If you’re travelling with a group of mates and eager for a sense of freedom and to save a dollar a two – Campervan is the way to go! Be ready for long drives and stumbling upon little untouched bits of paradise. Many hostels offer ‘Park Up’ facilities that allow you to use the kitchen, bathroom and common areas from $5 per day. Be cautious if you are planning on travelling from Adelaide to Alice Springs, Darwin, Perth, Exmouth and Broome... basically anywhere that is NOT on Australia’s East Coast. Ensure that your vehicle is in good condition and prepare for looooooong drives, extravagant heat and kilometres of road between each town. Stay safe!
If you are on a really short time frame – companies such as Adventure Tours, Topdeck, Loka, G Adventures and more offer fully guided tours along the East Coast with activities and food included. If you are planning on going to Uluru, the Outback or the West Coast – tours are great! Your guides will tell you everything you need to know about aboriginal culture, the Australian landscape and animal life and the island nation’s history.
- Winter: June to August
- Spring: September to November
- Summer: December to February
- Autumn: March to May
Generally the more south of the country you are – the cooler it gets. However on the West Coast... Perth is bloody hot! If you are in Melbourne, Sydney or Adelaide during Winter – take a jacket, winter clothes, waterproof jacket and closed shoes... DO NOT rock up in shorts and flip flops. North of Brisbane is generally warm all year round but take a jumper and pants just in case. During the summer months Airlie Beach and north towards Cairns, as well as Darwin will welcome Wet Season... VERY humid and a high chance of thunderstorms and rain.
Most hostels in Australia have a Bar / Restaurant as well as a fully equipped kitchen. Cheap Meal & Drink offers are usually on offer – make sure you check them out! Aussies are famous for their BBQs. Our tip? Get a group together, head to the beach or park and cook up some ‘snags.’ You'll find publicly available BBQ's all over the place. Most cities in Australia have a China Town or asian food market where you can pick up some yummy cheap dinners and lunches. Night Markets are also a HUGE thing in the big cities and a great way to snap up some affordable, international eats from food stalls, as well as a few souvenirs.
You will be able to exchange your money at all banks in Australia. In the major cities as well as most tourist towns such as Byron Bay, Airlie Beach and Cairns - you will find foreign exchange agencies. Some big travel agencies will take travellers cheques but you may have troubles using these in some hostels. ATMs can be found in all towns (excluding some places you may visit on the West Coast or in the Outback). Most Bars / Cafes / Restaurants and all Hostels should have credit card or eftpos facilities.
The cost of food in Australia varies but to put it into perspective - a Large McDonalds Meal will cost you about $7. You can generally pick up pizzas from hostel restaurants or at locals restaurants for $5 - $10. Breakfast at a fancy restaurant (eggs and the works) should cost you about $15 and a large coffee (depending on the town or city) will cost you $3.50 - $5.00.