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A road trip along the East Coast of Australia is on many traveller’s bucket lists, and for good reason. The coast is dotted with sleepy beachside towns, stunning National Parks, and an abundance of wildlife. After spending 3 months traveling the coast, I have compiled a list of the top 10 must-see spots along Australia’s East Coast.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.
Eden is a beautiful small town located in the Sapphire Coast region of NSW. During the whale-watching season of May to November, Eden is considered one of the best whale-watching spots in Australia. The whales can be seen from various vantage points around Twofold Bay or at the Green Cape Lookout.
You can also opt to take a whale-watching cruise to have the chance to see these majestic creatures up close. In November, the town even holds a whale festival to celebrate the whales’ southerly migration.
Eden isn’t just for whale watching though, it is also the perfect place to immerse yourself in the untouched nature that Australia is famous for. For a secluded, empty beach, head to Pinnacles Beach.
To reach the beach you’ll need to follow a short trail through the bush, and out onto the headland. Follows some steps down, and you’ll reach this huge expanse of golden sand and powerful waves. Spend your time exploring the rock pools and breathing in the salty air.
There is something so serene about this beach, and it is one of my favourites along the coast.
A stay in Eden isn’t complete without a visit to the Ben Boyd National Park. The park stretches from Pambula to Green Cape and features a rugged coastline and historic landmarks. Green Cape lighthouse is one of the highlights, with its dramatic views of the sea and whale watching opportunities.
Two hours south of Sydney sits Jervis Bay, another beautiful beachside town. The beaches here feel like they belong on a tropical island, with the incredible white sand here rivalling that of the Whitsundays. In fact, Hyams Beach holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for the whitest sand beach in the world.
Jervis Bay has two incredible National Parks to explore. The White Sands Walk in the Jervis Bay National Park begins at the Greenfield beach picnic area and leads through to Hyams Beach. The trail curves around the headland, offering stunning views over the coastline.
Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to stop off at each of the beaches along the walk, you’ll definitely be tempted to jump in the water at each one.
The other National park in the area is Booderee National Park. The Park is a significant place for the Koori People, and is home to the only Indigenous-owned Botanic Gardens in Australia. It also features the incredible white sand beaches that Jervis Bay is known for. A pass is necessary to enter the park and can be bought online prior to visiting.
Cape Tribulation is home to the both Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, making it the only place in the world where two UNESCO sites intersect. The area feels incredibly wild and untouched and is a great place to disconnect from everyday life.
The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest rainforest in the world and has a rich Indigenous history. It can be explored via a guided hike, a self-led walk, or even on a boat cruise down the Daintree River. For a unique perspective, consider zip-lining over the forest with Jungle Surfing.
The Great Barrier Reef can also be explored from Cape Trib. Ocean Safari offers a half-day tour that takes you out to the Mackay and Udine Reefs. The reefs here are pristine and the marine life is abundant.
After a day of adventures, you can cool off in one of Cape Tribs croc safe swimming holes. Emmagen Creek is located at the northern end of Cape Trib. It has perfectly clear water, small fish, and a great rope swing. Masons Swimming Hole is located at the back of Masons Café. Simply donate a gold coin and follow the path from the café down to the beautiful green pool.
Located on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Noosa is the quintessential Aussie beachside town. It has gorgeous secluded beaches, great surf conditions, and an abundance of cafes and beachside restaurants.
The Noosa National Park is located just a short walk from the main beach. The park has a walking trail that wraps around the headland and past secluded beaches and coves. Along the trail consider stopping at Tea Tree Bay, Dolphins Point and the beautiful Noosa Fairy Pools.
After a morning walk in the National Park, you can spend the day relaxing on the main beach. Near the lifesaving club, there is a stall where you can hire beach umbrellas, beach chairs, and paddleboards. The beach backs onto Hastings Street, where there is no shortage of cafes and beachfront restaurants to grab a drink at. This is easily one of the must-see spots along Australia’s east coast.
Byron is the ultimate surf town, with incredible beaches, a vibrant café scene, and just an all-around amazing vibe. It’s one of those places that sucks you in, and you’ll be tempted to stay way longer than you originally planned.
One of the main drawcards to Byron is its many incredible beaches. The Pass is a well-known surf beach, whilst Wategos is the perfect beach to take a picnic to and relax on. For a more rugged feel, Tallows Beach is a great option.
The Byron Bay main beach comes alive at sunset, with hundreds gathering along the beach to watch the sun go down. There is usually a musician playing some relaxed tunes and many impromptu performances from people doing hooping and fire twirling.
Catching the sunrise at the Cape Byron Lighthouse is another must-do activity. You can walk up to the lighthouse from Wategos beach, or else drive up to the top. It’s a popular activity amongst locals and visitors alike, so make sure you arrive well before the first light in order to secure a car park.
Afterward, have breakfast at one of the organic cafes, and have a wander through the boutique shops.
Once home to convict populations, Newcastle is now a bustling University town. The town is a great mix of stunning coastal scenery, combined with a young city vibe.
It is definitely an outdoor orientated city, with surfing, skating, and walks being popular activities. A walk along the coastal track is a must for spectacular views of the coast. Stop off at the Bogey Hole, an ocean pool that was hand-carved out of the stone by convicts.
A 40-minute drive up the coast will bring you to the Stockton Sand Dunes. They are the largest moving coastal dunes in the Southern Hemisphere and offer opportunities for sandboarding, 4wd driving, or quad biking.
Port Macquarie is a small town about halfway between Sydney and Byron. It has a great community feel to it and has a surprisingly large number of things to do.
One activity that you can’t miss is a visit to the Koala Hospital. The hospital rehabilitates sick and injured Koalas, and runs tours daily where you can see the koalas and learn more about their conservation.
Port Macquarie is also home to some great wineries. One of my favourite wineries in the area is the Bago Winery. This winery has a maze that you can wander your way through, before grabbing a glass of wine and having a picnic on their lawn.
For a slice of tranquillity in the Australian rainforest, head to the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre. The centre features a boardwalk that weaves through the forest and a gift shop that sells beautiful souvenirs. The walk is a great way to learn about some of Australia’s Indigenous plants and their traditional uses.
1770 was named after the fact that it was the location of Captain Cook’s second landing, in you guessed it, the year 1770. It is a small town but it makes for a great stop-over when travelling Queensland’s Coast.
Watching the sunset at 1770 is a must, as it is one of the only places you can see the sunset over the ocean on the East Coast. The main beach in Agnes Waters is popular amongst surfers but can get very busy during the summer months. For a quieter option, consider visiting Chinamans Beach. This beach has beautiful yellow sand and rock pools to explore.
Another highlight of 1770 is the Paperbark Forest Trail. This short trail winds through the paperbark trees and has wooden stepping tree stump steps that will make you feel like you’re wandering through a fairy tale forest. This is one of the must-see spots along Australia’s east coast.
The Whitsundays are a collection of tropical islands off of the coast of Airlie Beach, at the Southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. The Islands feature stunning white sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise water, and sunny weather year-round.
The Whitsundays can be visited on a day trip from Airlie Beach, or you can stay on one of the islands. Most day trips will take you to the iconic Whitehaven Beach, which has incredibly white pure silica sand.
If you wish to stay out in the Whitsundays, there are three islands to choose from. Daydream Island is a small island that has one resort. Hamilton Island is the largest island and offers a range of accommodation and restaurants. Hayman Island is the region’s most luxurious high-end resort.
All islands offer a range of things to do, such as snorkelling, paddleboarding, and kayaking. Day trips that go to Whitehaven Beach or the Reef are also popular, as well as sunset sails, fishing tours, and jet ski tours.
Whilst not technically on the coast, the Blue Mountains are well worth a detour from Sydney. The region is home to a great expanse of ancient valleys, lush rainforest, and towering waterfalls, as well as quaint towns.
The mountains can be reached via a 2-hour train ride from Sydney, or a 1.5-hour drive. The area is a popular weekend trip for Sydneysiders, so consider travelling during the week to avoid the crowds.
The most famous landmark in the area is the Three Sisters, a unique rock formation that sits in the Jameson Valley. This dramatic structure can be seen from the Echo Point viewing platform, or you can take the Three Sisters walk.
The scenic world is another popular attraction, offering a scenic skyway, a scenic railway, and a scenic cableway. Tickets cost $49.90, and grant you access to all attractions.
One of the best hikes in the area is the Grand Canyon Walk. The trail runs deep into the canyon, taking you through vibrant rainforests, creeks, and waterfalls. For an easy-to-access lookout that offers stunning views, you can’t look past Lincolns Rock.
Now you know all of the must-see spots along Australia’s east coast.
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