The most popular road trip to take in Australia is the iconic East Coast. I first did it in 2008, travelling from Sydney to Cairns with public transport. This time we hired a car and it made it a lot easier to visit places off the beaten track. In this blog post I’ll share all my top tips on how to have the best east coast Australia road trip in the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, from Byron Bay to Fraser Island.
We decided to fly in and out of Brisbane and organise the car hire from here so we wouldn’t need to pay a one way fee.
We booked via East Coast Rentals which was only 190$ for 11 days!
DAY 1-3 Byron Bay
We began our road trip in Byron Bay, one of the coolest spots in Australia. Picture lots of organic restaurants, cute boutique shops and plenty of surfers! Byron Bay is a great spot to chill for a few days, enjoy the beach and eat good food.
One of the top things to do in Byron Bay is to head up to the lighthouse for sunrise or sunset. You can walk the 4km loop up the hill or drive. If you drive you will need to pay for parking (unless you arrive at the lighthouse after 6pm and you won’t need to pay for parking!).
Make sure you also check out the following beaches:
- The Pass
- Wategos Beach
- Tallow Beach
TOP TIP – If possible I would avoid Byron Bay on the weekend as accommodation is 3x more!
We stayed at the Elements of Byron which is located 10 minute drive north of the centre. It’s right on the beach, with all the amenities you need and was the perfect spot to relax. They have an adults-only pool, which was the perfect place to spend the afternoon, make sure you try their quesadillas!
DAY 4 Gold Coast
Drive an hour up the coast to the Gold Coast. Make sure you stop at Fingal Head Causeway to check out the unique cliffs, they really reminded me of the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland.
The Gold Coast is a really unique part of Australia where the city and sky scrapers meet the beach, Surfers Paradise is one of my favourite beaches in Australia. We only stayed for a night in Surfer’s Paradise, but if you’re into theme parks I would recommend staying a bit more to check them out! There’s Warner Bro’s Movie World, Dreamworld, Wet and Wild, Paradise Country and Sea World
TOP TIP – If you want to capture all of the buildings without too many people you can go to Kurrawa Park during the day. Or the main beach at surfers paradise at sunrise (or in the winter!)
We stayed at the Emerald Surfer’s Paradise which was a huge apartment super close to the beach!
DAY 5 Glass House Mountains
After spending the morning enjoying the beach in Surfers Paradise drive just under 2 hours north to the Glass House Mountains.
If you aren’t planning on driving back south after your road trip then you will want to stop in Brisbane before the Glass House Mountains.
We hiked up the Wild Horse Mountain which was only a 10 minute steep walk up. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset over the glass house mountains. MAKE SURE YOU BRING INSECT REPELLENT, there were hundreds of Mosquitos!
We stayed at Jen’s Getaway, a really nice homey stay!
DAY 6 Sunshine Coast
Make the most of your morning in the Glass House Mountains and go hiking, there are a number of different trails to enjoy.
We then began our drive up the Sunshine Coast to Noosa with a cheeky beach stop in Caloundra, which has some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen!
We stayed at the Sandy Court Holiday Unit in Noosaville.
DAY 7-8 Noosa
Spend a few days enjoying the beautiful beaches of Noosa. If you took surfing lessons in Byron Bay, Noosa is a great spot to practice some more!
You should also check out the Everglades, one of only 2 ecosystems like this in the world! You can book onto a kayak tour, which is a great way to explore.
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Floating into another glorious #Noosa day in one unbelievably special place.✨ This is the #NoosaEverglades, boasting in wilderness and wonder and found right at our doorstep. 🌿😎 Take refuge in this pristine paradise and unearth the beauty of bountiful nature.🍃Here we take a moment to #Relax in the dark tea tree waters off campsite 3 and enjoy the out-of-this-world oasis all to ourselves. 🙊 Photo: @photobohemian #VisitNoosa #RelaxationCapital
Another top thing to do in Noosa is to check out the fairy pools. A beautiful rock pool with crystal clear water located in the Noosa National Park.
On your second day in Noosa leave in the afternoon to drive to Rainbow beach in preparation for your trip to Fraser Island!
We stayed at the Rainbow Beach Holiday Park where we were able to leave our car whilst on Fraser Island.
DAY 9-11 Fraser Island
There are a few different ways to visit the largest sand island in the world, but I would recommend spending at least 2 days on Fraser Island as it’s so big (and difficult to drive around) that one day wouldn’t give you enough time to explore.
Cool Dingo Tours provide a comfortable tour bus to take you around as well as accommodation at the Kingfisher Bay Resort (so no camping!)
Our tour took us to the iconic Lake Mckenzie, Champagne Pools, Eli Creek and Lake Wabby, as well as a few lesser known places like the Basin lake and lake Birrabeen where we did some SUP!
DAY 12-14 Brisbane
Drive 3 hours south from Rainbow Beach to Brisbane, we dropped the car off at this point to save hassle of parking in the city.
We stayed at the Brisbane City YHA which was perfectly located near the city (and a big Coles). The rooms are super modern and the hostel includes a rooftop pool with city views and an awesome game room.
Top things to do in Brisbane include enjoying a walk along the South Bank, where you can choose to swim at the artificial beach whilst admiring the sky scrapers, this is also where you’ll find several museums and the Brisbane sign.
You should also check out the Botanical Gardens, the tropical dome is a great place for photos. For sunset I would recommend taking the free city boat over to Kangaroo Point.
If you have a spare day in Brisbane (and aren’t strapped for cash) I would also recommend spending the day on Moreton Island. You can book on a tour to explore more of the island or just go to snorkle the shipwrecks there which were put there by the government in the 1960s.
I hope you have the best time on the East Coast Road trip! If you’re visiting more of Australia make sure you road trip along the Great Ocean Road too!
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