Sascha Eisenkrätzer went on a three-week long vacation to Australia with us. From the marvelous Blue Mountains to the spectacular Great Barrier Reef, he shares his experience of traversing the east coast, along with practical tips and personal recommendations.
Author: Sascha Eisenkrätzer
Australia is a massive country: this is one of the first things you need to know before planning your trip. It is always a good idea to choose just one part of the country, depending on what your interests are.
Since nature, wildlife and the Great Barrier Reef were on our agenda, we decided to explore the east coast on an epic road trip from Sydney to Port Douglas . We had four stops on our three-week long trip, and we were able to experience the very best of what the east coast had to offer.
Here’s an overview of our fabulous 1,600-mile road trip across this stunning part of Australia.
Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, was our first stop. The city is a melting pot of culture and draws you in with its vibrant atmosphere, great food and culture. We took in the sights of the city and its glittering skyline, and visited the many wildlife parks and nature reserves in the vicinity.
One of the highlights for us was the full-day excursion to Blue Mountains. We marveled at the plateau with its waterfalls, deep gorges and impressive rock formations. Our trip also included a visit to Featherdale Wildlife Park. We arrived at the park at around 9 am, before the rest of the visitors, and were able to see kangaroos, koalas, wallabies and wombats up close and in peace. Here’s a pro tip: while booking, always check if you can get admission into wildlife parks before they officially open in the mornings. This way, you can enjoy the premises without the crowds. Enchanting Travels helped us with this, and we can’t recommend the experience enough!
Those interested in culture can take a behind-the-scenes look at the Sydney Opera House on an exclusive guided tour. For foodies, I recommend a day trip to Hunter Valley, the birthplace of Australian wine. Taste some award-winning drops and learn more about the winemaking process.
Brisbane is a great city to get away from it all and slow down. We explored the city on an e-scooter, and basked in the beauty of the City Botanic Gardens. The park covers about 20 hectares and is located on the riverbank. The oldest garden in the city, it features many tropical plants, sparkling ponds and picnic areas. A special feature is the wooden walkway that is illuminated at night. It’s a great vantage point to take in the greenery and observe different species of birds. On our way back from the gardens, we stopped by Betty’s Burgers for some delicious burgers!
Personal tip: We recommend visiting the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. The sanctuary is home to more than 100 koalas, making it the largest koala park in the world. The extensive grounds are also home to kangaroos, possums, emus, platypuses and wombats. Be sure to book the behind-the-scenes tour. We learned a lot of interesting facts about the food, habitat and sleeping behaviors of these animals.
Brisbane’s South Bank is well worth a visit. The green, spacious area is located on the former Expo site on the banks of the Brisbane River. It boasts many small stores, restaurants, markets, events and world-class museums. It even has its own beach called Streets Beach.
Hamilton Island has been on our bucket list for a while. It was amazing to finally turn that longstanding travel dream into reality! It was fun to explore the largest island in the Whitsundays, especially with our own buggy at our disposal throughout our stay. Please note that Hamilton Island is one of the most popular vacation spots in Australia – the island has great tourism infrastructure and many good resorts and hotels.
From here, a trip to Whitehaven Beach is highly recommended. One of Down Under’s most beautiful beaches, its sand is made up of 99 percent quartz, giving it a brilliant white hue. It’s best to set apart half a day to explore this wonderful beach.
We had planned eight nights in Port Douglas at the end of our trip, so we could spend more time at Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. However, nearby Cairns turned out to be far more interesting and diverse for us. Since all excursions are possible from both places, we preferred to use Cairns as our base.
The combination of the rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef was an absolute delight. From full-day excursions into the rainforest with opportunities to snorkel in the Outer Reef, there’s much to experience in this region. We hope to spend a couple of nights in the rainforest near Mossman Gorge or Cape Tribulation on our next visit!
Our recommendation for an overnight stay in the Daintree Rainforest: the Daintree Eco Lodge and the Silky Oaks Lodge.
A day trip to Kuranda is a great addition to your east coast vacation. The mountain village is located about 18 miles north of Cairns, in the middle of the rainforest. Take the train to get there, and the cable car on the way back: this way you will experience the landscape from both perspectives. The cable car ride also gives you the flexibility to extend or shorten your trip, as per your preference.
There is a lot to see and discover in Kuranda. Wildlife lovers will enjoy the bird, butterfly and koala park. For nature lovers, we recommend a boat trip on the Barron River and a hike to the spectacular viewpoints Barron Falls and Wrights Lookout.
Tips and Recommendations From Our Experts
- Australia is a large country: it is only a little smaller than the continental USA. Just for some perspective, Melbourne is 20km closer to Antarctica than it is to Darwin.
- Many people have the misconception that you can only see reef life at the Great Barrier Reef, or only see kangaroos on Kangaroo Island. In reality, you can have very diverse experiences staying in a single state or territory. For example, if you wanted to visit Sydney, you could see the bush and native animals in the Blue Mountains and get your fill of walks and nature. Or you could visit places such as Kangaroo Valley that are not too far from Sydney. Spend time in the beaches of Byron Bay and Bondi, visit wineries in Hunter Valley and for an unforgettable island experience, consider Lord Howe Island. You can have all of these experiences without leaving New South Wales!
- Know your seasons: The best time to visit northern Queensland, Central Australia and the Western coast is May to October. It is not advisable to visit Queensland and the Northern Territory between November and March. It’s too hot in the desert and its wet season in the tropics. You also get a lot of stingers (jellyfish) up north at that time of year.
- Oceania is prone to many major weather events such as extreme flooding, due to rising sea levels and climate change. So, for instance, it may not be prudent to visit the coastal regions during the rainy season.
- Ideally, start planning your Australia holiday eight to 12 months in advance, so you get access to your hotels and experiences of choice plus the benefit of lower flight prices.
At Enchanting Travels, we take pride in crafting highly personalized trips keeping your travel dreams and wishlist in mind. If you’ve been dreaming of an Oceania adventure packed with city breaks, wildlife sightings, beach stops and vineyard visits, reach out to our travel experts, and they’ll curate your most memorable vacation yet!