Australia is bursting with beautiful places, and it can be hard to know where to hop off on the East Coast on your Stray adventure. We’ve put together a list of our favourite spots to help you plan the trip of a lifetime. With the knowledge of expert adventurers behind you, all that you’ll have left to do is book your buses and do your little excited dance!
WHERE TO HOP OFF IN NEW SOUTH WALES
Our most popular passes start or finish here, so we’d hazard a guess that most of you will be spending some time here anyway. Some backpackers avoid cities like the plague, while others embrace them – whichever you are, Sydney is sure to charm the pants off you. The sweetheart of the south, Sydney combines big city life with beach vibes, and the call of nature is never more than an hour away. Check out Bondi Beach and the famous coastal walk to Coogee for some free fun, or hit the town and live up to your backpacker reputation. If you crave nature, the Blue Mountains day trip is the perfect quick fix.
Shaka bra! If you’re heading north, by the time you reach Spot X you will have been wine tasting, river tubing and spent the night on the edge of a luscious national park. Now it’s time to hit the beach, baby! Spot X is the best place to learn to surf on the East Coast, with mellow waves, helpful instructors and most importantly, nothing in the water that stings or bites! On the Stray bus you’ll stay one night here, giving you the opportunity to do one surf lesson. But if you really want to master the art, we recommend hopping off and grabbing one of the ‘Surf & Stay’ packages, which include all meals, accommodation and surf lessons.
The happiest town in Australia gets an honorary mention here. You’ll already be spending two nights in Byron Bay as part of your pass, but the relaxed atmosphere and cool bars of the town might suck you in to stay longer. The motto of this town is “cheer up, slow down and chill out”, and that’s exactly what we recommend. There is plenty to do here; sea kayaking with wild dolphins, scenic walks, more surfing opportunities or a day trip to Nimbin. Whether you stay two nights or 10, embrace the vibe and explore at your own pace.
WHERE TO HOP OFF IN QUEENSLAND
Welcome to Queensland and its cool capital. Wedged between the sparkling ocean and multiple national parks, Brisbane is a great place to base yourself for a few days of exploring. The bustling city is famous for its diverse arts and cultural scene – check out the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). Head out on a free walking tour to discover hidden gems in the city, like laneway bars and the Eat Street markets. Our must do activity is taking a dip at Streets Beach, Australia’s only inner-city beach. For more beach vibes, head out on a day trip to one of Brisbane’s nearby islands and explore the shipwrecks & marine life.
With a name like that, who wouldn’t want to stay here a while! Beautiful beach aside, Rainbow Beach is the gateway to an East Coast rite of passage: Fraser Island. The world’s largest sand island, you’ll want a few days dedicated to exploring this unique destination. Most people opt for a three day, two night tour of Fraser Island. You’ll grab a group of mates and take turns driving 4WD trucks all over the island. You’ll camp under the stars, swim in champagne pools, play impromptu volleyball and walk up to stunning view points. All along the East Coast you’ll hear people talking about Fraser Island, and there’s only one way to find out if it lives up to the hype… hop off! You can also hop off in Noosa and do Fraser Island trips from there.
Another beach, another launching pad for an Australian favourite. This time we’re hopping off at Airlie Beach to visit the magical Whitsunday Islands. You can take a day trip on an ocean raft to these islands, or for those with more time, we recommend an overnight sailing trip. You’ll head to the picturesque Whitehaven Beach, swim in the southern end of the Great Barrier reef, and watch the sun set from Hamilton Island. The word most commonly used to describe the Whitsundays is ‘paradise’, and it’s worth the few extra nights and dollars to see it for yourself.
After indulging in a few expensive but memorable activities, Magnetic Island offers you the chance to change pace and save a few dollars. The island is over 50% national park, and there is plenty to do for those on a limited budget. Rent a 4WD between some mates and explore the island at your own pace, or head out on foot for free! Look out for wild koalas and rock wallabies, walk one of the many tracks through the park, and relax on secluded beaches. Finish the day on West Point Beach for an unforgettable sunset, and then head back to the hostel for a few beers by the pool. Magnetic Island is like a holiday from travelling, the perfect escape from the busy mainland.
Where Mick finishes and Trev begins, Cairns is a tropical adventure centre. The most obvious draw card for this far north city is one of the seven wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef. You can take a day trip out to snorkel or SCUBA dive amongst turtles, rays, and hundreds of species of fish. Back on the mainland, you can go white water rafting on Australia’s best rafting river or skydive over the whole place for panoramic views. If you’re just in the mood to chill, you can visit the markets, wander the botanical gardens, and swim in the central lagoon. For those who don’t want the adventure to end, there are plenty of day trips from Cairns – check out Kuranda, the Atherton Tablelands and Fitzroy Island.
We hope this guide has helped you to decide where to hop off on the East Coast. To get the most out of your Stray adventure, we recommend planning ahead, taking it slow, and saying YES as often as humanly possible.
Want more? Read our Bucket List for the East Coast here.