Australia is HUGE and the East Coast in particular has, for many years, been one of the world's most popular backpacker trails because of the sun, islands, cities, rainforest, reef, unique wildlife and a laidback lifestyle. Australia is home to some of the most unique places in the world including the largest sand island and the largest living organism on the planet! If you're planning a trip in Australia, check out these 20 tips to prepare you for paradise.
Backpacking Australia - Tips & Advice
1. Prepare for long bus journeys
The populare East Coast trail stretches for 3,600KM between Melbourne and Cairns - that's a long drive! Most backpackers will travel overland on a hop on / hop off bus pass or with a tour company. If you are short on time, it is possible to catch an overnight bus from Melbourne to Sydney, Sydney to Byron Bay and the ever popular Noosa - gateway to Fraser Island and to Airlie Beach - gateway to the Whitsundays. Read our Guide to Fraser Island & the Whitsunday Islands
Either way - prepare for a long trip! Australia's buses are comfortable however, with air conditioning, free wifi, a toilet, sometimes a movie and many stops en route. TIP: buy a neck pillow, plug in your headphones, have a nap, relax, read a book or just take in the stunning sights along the way.
2. Explore beyond the tourist trail
Australia has 8,222 islands and over 500 national parks. The Whitsundays, Fraser Island and the Great Ocean Road are all absolute must dos - but there are so many hidden gems that you would be silly to not experience a slice of paradise beyond the tourist trail. A few tips: Fitzroy Island, Lamington National Park, Mt Cootha in Brisbane, Wilson's Promontory, Yamba Beach and Carlo Sand Blow (among hundreds of others)! Chat to the staff at your hostel for some local tips.
3. Don't underestimate the Cities!
Much to your disbelief, Australians are actually cultured and you will find world class bars, night clubs and restaurants in all cities. Rooftop bars, hidden laneway bars and beer gardens are our speciality! When in the city, make an effort to chat to the locals to get some insider tips. If you are planning on a night out in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane you will not be accepted into a venue with flip flops. Although most of your time will be spent on islands and beaches, pack a shirt (for the lads) and some closed sandals (for the ladies). Check out City Bar Guides for some of the best (and secret) bars in: Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane.
4. Get used to Goon
If you have begun to plan your trip, it's likely that you have already heard of Australia's favourite drink - Goon. Goon is a cheap wine that can be bought in a box and is somewhat of a hostel necessity. Don't worry - you will become accustomed to the vile taste and you can spruce it up with a splash of OJ. See our Classy Goon Cocktail Recipes.
Long bus journeys, big nights and loads of sunshine will soon take its toll and afternoon naps may soon become a part of your daily routine. We all know that hostel life can spark sporadic sleep patterns. Plug in your headphones to ensure a uninterrupted sleep.
6. Take a Road Trip
Break away from the public bus for a few days and head out on a road trip! Australia has some of the BEST road trips on offer! There are many backpacker Campervan companies that are affordable and allow for pick up and drop offs in most major destinations. Our favourites: Great Ocean Road (from Melbourne), Sydney to Brisbane via Byron Bay, Port Douglas & Cape Tribulation (from Cairns).
7. Luggage Storage
In most Australian hostels, check out time is 10:00am, whilst check in time is 2:00pm. You may find yourself arriving into your destination at 9:00am, straight off an overnight bus, with a hangover and a 5 hour wait before you can check into your room. Make the most of luggage storage. Ditch your bag, pack a day pack and go for a nap in the closest park, beach or lagoon.
8. Hostel Etiquette
Hostel life is the bomb! It's a great way to meet new people. It's cheap and it's fun. But there are a few unspoken rules that you should be aware of. If you are arriving late at night and the light is off in your dorm room - do not turn on the light and unpack everything. Use your iphone flashlight to navigate your way to your bed and unpack in the morning. The same thing goes if you are stumbling into bed at 3am. Getting up before sunrise to jump on a tour? Make sure you have your clothes and toiletries ready for the early wake up to avoid waking up your dorm mates while fumbling through your backpack. Read these 12 tips to surviving hostel life
9. Prepare for unexpected weather changes
Australia's weather can be unpredictable and is not always sunshine and lollypops! Melbourne is famous for "four seasons in one day," whilst in Wet Season (December to February) Tropical North Queensland welcomes heavy rain, storms and at times, small tropical cyclones. Enjoy the journey and don't let weather stand in your way. Pack a light, waterproof jacket to chuck on during summer rain and don't forget to pack a pair of pants and a jumper.
10. Prepare for paradise!
This one is easy. Prepare for some of the most amazing scenery and sights you have ever encountered. Australia has 19 World Heritage Listed Sites and you are in for an absolute treat! Do not miss these Aussie island paradises that will blow your mind.
11. Free food shelves
Most hostels have free food shelves where guests may leave their unwanted edibles. Make the most of them!
12. Know your free Wi-Fi zones
Most towns and cities along Australia's east coast offer free Wi-Fi for the public. These are usually found in public libraries, McDonalds and some major tourist centres - for example Federation Square in Melbourne's CBD.
Australia's ozone layer (especially down south in Melbourne and Sydney) has been damaged throughout the years, and although it may be cloudy, do not underestimate just how strong the sun is! Slap on sunscreen!
14. Master the art of hangovers
Adventure by day. Party by night. That's what Australia is all about! Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Rainbow Beach, Noosa, Airlie Beach, Magnetic Island & Cairns are all party hot spots. Most tours depart early in the morning and as mentioned above, check out time at hostels is at 10:00am. You WILL have to master the art of jumping on a tour bus or long bus journey with a hangover. Get used to it. That's what your 20's are for!
15. Try the native food
Kangaroo is a popular food for Australian athletes - offering many more nutrients and protein than an average steak. Embrace the native food and don't be afraid to try Emu, Crocodile and various bugs.
16. Garlic Tablets
Australia's East Coast is all about the islands - Fraser Island, Magnetic Island, the Whitsunday Islands (you get the idea)! So chances are - you will be in for a boat trip. If you are prone to sea sickness, invest in some garlic tablets or seasickness medication. The last thing you want for your once in a lifetime adventure is a multi hangover / sea sickness!
17. Chat to the locals
Aussie locals are a friendly breed and love the country in which they live! Chatting to locals is a great way to find the local hot spots, the best bars and any tips on events or festivals on in the area. Also that is what travelling is all about right? Getting to know the culture and people.
18. Protect your camera / iphone
One word. SAND! Take our advice and invest in a hardcore camera or iphone cover. Sand has a nasty way of getting into the buttons and if you have a zoom on your camera - be extra careful! Sand has a way of creeping into your zoom and stopping it from working.
19. Call ahead
If you are reserving hostels along the way - always give the hostel a call the day before arrival - especially as you begin to travel north of Brisbane. Most hostels will provide pickups from the public bus stops and you will be able to spot their minivan upon arrival. However, some hostels in the more remote areas will only send a van if they hear from you. It's always a good idea to call ahead and double check your booking (especially throughout the busy periods).
20. Get up for a Sunrise
Australia sees some pretty nifty sunrises that make for the perfect travel photo. Get up early (or avoid going to bed) and take some time to appreciate your adventure in paradise.
Liked this article? Read our complete Guide to Backpacking the East Coast of Australia