What is better than welcoming one of your best friends at the airport on the other side of the world after travelling for almost a year? Right, not much can top that! My solo road trip from Melbourne to Brisbane came to an end and now it was time to share my Van and my adventures with Mathieu. Not only is this blogpost a summary of where we’ve been and what we’ve done but it might also help you with figuring out your Brisbane to Cairns itinerary.
We started off our 3 week road trip in Brisbane, the city of lights. This city really caught me by surprise with it’s beauty and tranquility. Tall glass buildings, beautiful waterfront villa’s and parks and not to forget the amazing free South Bank swimming pools. In between all this meanders the Brisbane river which in my opinion makes Brisbane the most beautiful city of Australia. Nonetheless Sydney and Melbourne were probably the most livable cities I’ve been to in Oz.
As Mathieu arrived around diner time we were eager to get some food. Our hotel for that night happened to be fairly close to Eat Street Northshore. A big food market with all different kind of global cuisine food or as they say themselves :”There is nothing like Eat Street anywhere in the world – a special one of a kind experience, priceless city & river views saturate & surround the 180 dining and entertainment shipping containers.”
Several beers and a crab burger was probably the best way to kick off this Bro trip of a Lifetime!
Because of the Brisbane River it makes it fairly easy and cheap to get around in this city. There are several ferry terminals all around the city. Brisbane City Council’s CityHopper is a free inner city ferry service for the Brisbane River. You can hop on and hop off the CityHopper at eight stops between North Quay and Sydney Street, New Farm. The service runs every 36 minutes between 6am and midnight, seven days a week.
What to do/visit?
- Take a ferry ride on the Brisbane river and check out the beautiful villa’s along the shore. Also it is quite the view.when the boat comes in in the city center and pilots under the Story Bridge.
- Walk around the Botanic Gardens or many of the other parks present as in every city of Australia.
- Walk The Riverwalk towards the CBD and wander in between the tall buildings.
- Take a swim and sunbathe in the amazing oasis at South Bank’s Streets Beach.
Next up was Noosa, an Australian resort area on southern Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Known for its heavy surf and kitesurf, Sunshine Beach is backed by cafes and boutiques. We had heard a lot about Noosa being it a crowded backpacker and surfers town along the beach and so it seemed. When we arrived there were no campsites left for our first night and for this reason we stayed in Nomads Noosa Hostel for one night. The rest of the nights we stayed at Noosa River Holiday Park where we had a beautiful spot right next to the ocean’s inlet. Even if you’re not staying at this holiday park a visit to this area is definitely worth it.
I would like to describe Noosa as a very picturesque little town full of surf boutiques and restaurants along a nice long stretched beach. One of the main attractions is Noosa National Park featuring spectacular coastal sceneries. This park is a wildlife sanctuary, protecting beautiful stands of eucalypt forest, woodland, melaleuca wetland, etc. There are several walking tracks along the ocean and inside the forest. Other than this Noosa is there to enjoy the vibe, surf and vibrancy. A perfect Brisbane getaway.
Another highlight along the East Coast is Fraser Island. The world’s largest sand island, stretching over 120km. Panoramic viewpoints, a highway on the beach and stunning swimming sites at Lake McKenzie, Lake Wabby and other freshwater pools. Also home to the famous Dingo’s which you might be able to see when lucky. If you have a 4×4 you might want to go there by yourself but if not then there are several tour operators that will gladly bring you to the highlights of Fraser Island. The thing is that the tracks on this island are made out of loose sand and it is very easy to get stuck over there.
You can take the ferry from several places such as Noosa, Rainbow Beach and Hervey Bay. As we had a tour leaving from Hervey Bay we camped out for two nights in this ‘retirement’ town. (As there isn’t much to see but elderly who love the tranquility.)
In our opinion Fraser was definitely worth a visit even though the tours were rather overpriced. Lake Mckenzie for sure had the whitest sand we had ever seen and driving on a beach highway was also a spectacular experience.We were lucky to see two Dingo’s up close and we got to swim in crystal clear water. Our next stop was Agnes Water and Town of SeventeenSeventy.
Agnes Water and Town of 1770
The last coastal town where we would have the possibility to surf before traveling up further North! Reason for this is that the more north you go the higher the chance of having an encounter with a Salt Water Crocodile and/or Box Jellyfish. Keep this in mind!!!
Agnes Water is about a 2,5 hour drive from Hervey Bay and a pretty isolated little surfer town. There really isn’t much to see other than beautiful nature, sunsets and very good waves. It is the place where Mathieu saw his first Kangaroo though and I will never forget his face! This town is a good stopover for cheap surf lessons and relaxing before your long drive up North.
On the tip of Agnes Water you will also find the Town of 1770 built on the site of the second landing in Australia by James
Cook in May 1770. Here you can see the only sunset in the ocean on the east coast. Oh yes, not to forget we stayed at the YHA Backpacker Hostel which had the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted for only 4 AUD!!!
After a long drive of 750 km’s and an overnight stop in Mckay we arrived in Airlie Beach. I must say that this was probably our favorite place in our three week road trip. One street full of bars, restaurants and hostels it is known as a party town full of backpackers and yes this was exactly what it was. But even though it had a party vibe it was still a really chilled out town where you can choose to either party or relax!
There is a beautiful lagoon next to the waterfront where you can sunbathe and swim with three big swimming pools all for free. The ocean is as blue as can be and there are some really beautiful hikes you can do to gorgeous lookouts. If that doesn’t bring you enough adrenaline Airlie Beach is also home to one of the most beautiful Sky Dive areas of Australia.
We both took the risk to skydive and it was probably the best experience of our life! That moment you jump out of the plane and you’re just flying is unimaginable! So for those daredevils, DO IT, IT IS SO WORTH IT!
Because my van had to undergo a service we stayed at Nomads Hostel. This hostel is known to be a party hostel especially in the weekend but if you get one of the dorm rooms at the back of the domain you’ll probably be able to get a good rest.
Airlie Beach is also the place to be for trips toward the famous Whitsunday Islands and the start of the Great Barrier Reef.
The 74 Whitsunday Islands lie between the northeast coast of Queensland, Australia, and the Great Barrier Reef, a massive stretch of coral teeming with marine life. Most of the islands are uninhabited and are characterized by dense rain forest, hiking trails and white sand beaches.
It is possible to book multiple day sailing trips that take you to all the highlights. We chose for a two days two nights sailing trip with Prosail and their boat The Broomstick. Thinking back to those days still gives us goosebumps, the people, the crew, the food, the view and the vibe were even better than what we had hoped for. The crew guided us to the world famous Whitehaven Beach with it’s soft silica sands and took us out to several deserted islands to have a snack at sunset. We also got the opportunity to snorkel and see several dolphins play very close to our boat. Even though we were ‘stuck’ on a sailboat for three days we both wanted it to last longer.
Next up Magnetic Island, a small island a short 20 min ferry ride away from Townsville. Palm-fringed beaches, koalas, hiking trails, topless barbie cars, snorkelling, and the list goes on! Magnetic Island boasts the natural beauty and serenity of an island paradise. The island offers a big range of accommodation options from backpacker hostels to holiday homes, luxury resorts to quaint BnB’s. We stayed on Magnetic Island for one night and again we chose Nomads Hostel as our accommodation.
It is easy to get around the island by local bus or rent one of the Topless Barbie Cars . The island is only 52 square kilometres long so you’ll be able to visit everything in one full day. A hike that you should definitely do is the Forts Walk. A hike up to an ancient fort with the chance of spotting Koala’s and ending up with a nice view over several bays. From there you can walk down to Horseshoe Bay grab lunch or go snorkel and you may want to end your day with a relaxing sunbathe at Alma Bay.
More inland in between Townsville and Cairns you can get a taste of the mountainous and rain forest area of North Queensland. We read about the Wallaman Falls being the Australia’s tallest single-drop waterfall with its main drop of 268 meters. The drive towards the waterfall is already breathtaking with the chance of seeing ‘the worlds most dangerous’ bird the Cassowary. There’s also the possibility to hike all the way down to the drop pool to get a different view of the waterfall. Be aware though this is a very steep and tiring hike!
The last big(ger) city I got to visit in Australia with my Visa almost running out after being in that beautiful country for almost a year! Cairns really felt like a city that was far away from everything, full of young backpackers who just started their journey to go South. With a lot of backpacker hostels and nightlife this is definitely the place to go if you are a solo traveler and you’re looking to make some new friends. Be aware though that most backpackers are averagely young (18-22 years old) compared to other cities. Nonetheless we had good fun in Cairns. As in every city in Queensland there was a lagoon with a free swimming pool along the shore which is very welcoming with the warm humid weather of the tropics.
If you have a car then it’s also very refreshing to have a dip in one of the many natural pools around Cairns. Crystal Cascade is probably the most known one but here you can find some more hidden natural pools.
Cairns is the starting point of heading to the Great Barrier Reef and thus you’ll find many tour operators wanting to take you out on a snorkel or diving trip to this world famous reef. Apparently the diving is incredible because it seemed like the creatures were twice as big as elsewhere in the ocean! I didn’t go for a dive or snorkel myself but I heard a lot of good things about it so if you are a diver don’t let this chance pass you by!
Cape tribulation and Daintree National Park
Even further North lies Daintree Rainforest which is a part of the largest continuous area of tropical rain forest on the Australian continent. It offers a combination of rainforest and beautiful beaches. There’s also the possibility to explore the Daintree River and look for salt water crocodiles. Again the Cassowary is another one of the inhabitants of this tropical rainforest as well as the Tree Kangaroo, Ringtail Possum, Paradise Kingfisher and plenty of other birdspecies. There are several incredible walks inside the park i.e. the Dubuji Boardwalk, Myall Beach to Mason’s Shop, Marrdja Boardwalk, Mt Sorrow,Kulki Boardwalk, …
Cape tribulation is basically at the ‘end of the road’ in the middle of the rainforest. A pristine beach surrounded by mangroves and palmtrees with water as blue as the sky.
If being able to travel with one best friend at the other side of the world wasn’t already enough two other university friends happened to be in Australia as well! Thus we planned to do a three day trip together to Daintree and Cape tribulation which made this last part of my Australia adventure even better. Carmen and Chelsea both hired a campervan and so we could all camp out in the middle of the rain forest on Halloween night. What a beautiful and unreal experience that from traveling solo for most of the time before I now was surrounded by three really good Belgian friends.
End of my year in Australia
This Brisbane to Cairns trip ended. After Daintree National Park I went back to Cairns to drop of Mathieu at the airport. As this was also the end of my Australian Visa it was time to leave this beautiful country and plan my next journey to South East Asia. I must say that Australia really is a beautiful country with the most incredible views, people and wildlife. It has almost everything and I am really grateful to have experienced Australia for a year and having been able to follow my dream.
I met the most incredible people, camped out in the most incredible places, saw almost all the animals I wanted to see and felt loved by everyone I met. One thing I’m sure of is that this was not the last time I will be visiting Australia, I’ll be back!