Australia’s East Coast is home to some of the most staggeringly beautiful sights on this planet. A visit to this breath taking area and all of its natural wonders is enhanced by the incredible culture, vibe and friendliness of the people that live there, and there’s so much to see and do that you won’t want to leave.
If you’re looking for a cruise itinerary that includes some of the East Coast’s highlights, check out our choice of the five best gems that the East Coast has to offer.
1. Byron Bay
When you first land in Byron Bay, you might wonder why it makes it to the top of so many must-visit lists. Yes, it’s beautiful – stunning, in fact – but the whole of Australia’s East coast is pretty impressive. So what makes Byron Bay special? It’s the laid back bare-footed vibe of this beautiful beach town that draws people in, and you’ll find quickly find yourself becoming a part of Byron’s slightly hippy, oh-so-chilled culture. Byron has somehow managed to preserve its small-town feel despite its popularity, with funky eateries and new age markets to amble through in the day and a vibrant buzzing nightlife when the sun goes down.
There’s plenty of interesting places to visit too with Cape Byron Headland Reserve top of the must-see list. Rugged cliff faces and rainforests make this one of the most beautiful places in the world, with jaw dropping views of the ocean and hinterland, and perfect vantage points for watching dolphins and whales.
Byron Bay’s market is well known and is the perfect place to find gifts for your family, friends and home. The market runs on the first Sunday of the month at the Butler Street Reserve. Nearby, the Channon Market runs on the 2nd Sunday at The Channon via Lismore and the Bangalow Market is held at Bangalow Showground on the 4th Sunday. Here you’ll find gorgeous things made by the local people from natural materials, together with plenty of cheery imported goods from Asia and Africa. There is also an extensive range of food stalls with sumptuous fresh local produce to tempt you – for something different, try the sugar cane juice, prepared fresh in front of you. You’ll also be able to get a lovely relaxing massage here, and treat yourself to some gorgeous natural hair and skin beauty products to complete your pampering experience.
2. Fraser Island
A World Heritage site and a place of outstanding natural beauty, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. Like much of the East coast, it boasts mile upon mile of dazzling white beaches.
The banks of Fraser Islands’ sparkling creeks are edged with ancient rainforests and across the world, it is the only place where you can find such tall gravity-defying rainforests anchored by the sand dunes alone, with elevations of more than 200 metres. Also of interest, the island has low wallum heathlands which generate stunning wildflower displays during the Spring and Summer.
In Fraser Island’s wetlands, there are many rare or endangered species, including turtles, eastern curlews, dugongs and Illidge’s ant-blue butterflies. The island is home to more than 100 freshwater lakes some of which you can swim in which range from crystal clear to tea-coloured, all surrounded by beautiful white sand. Perhaps one of the most-visited is Lake McKenzie for good reason. This awe-inspiring lake contains only rainwater, and the sand and organic matter at its base form a layer that stops the rainwater from draining away. Lake McKenzie’s sand is so pure and soft, that you’ll want to mosey along with your shoes and socks off within minutes of arriving. It works as a filter keeping the water clear and making it so pure that it is actually not capable of supporting many forms of life. The best time to see the lake is in the soft light of dawn if you can, where its dreamy blues and greens of the lake will keep you captivated for many hours.
3. Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest
Cape Tribulation is a unique village that is set between two mind blowing World Heritage sites : the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Where else in the world can you position yourself between lush tumbling rainforest and eye-opening glistening corals? The rainforest itself has been untouched by development or pollution and you’ll instantly notice how pure the air feels and how you can pick out each distinct scent from your surroundings. For a spectacular view of this incredible site you can go ‘jungle surfing’ – zip lining through the tops of the trees, over the freshwater streams and even out towards the fringes of the Reef.
Cape Tribulation itself has plenty more to offer, from exotic fruit tastings through to bush walking and 4WD safaris that will take you on the world renowned Bloomfield Track past rainforest-covered mountains and lush tea plantations and through rainforest streams.
4. The Great Barrier Reef
Perhaps one of the most remarkable places on earth, the Great Barrier Reef needs little introduction. If you’re cruising and therefore pushed for time, a day tour with scuba diving and a helicopter flight included is the best way to appreciate everything the Reef has to offer. You’ll likely venture out from the Cairns mainland to the reef where you’ll marvel at the dazzling colourful schools of fish and intricate coral gardens. Then you’ll be kitted out with scuba gear and a snorkel giving you the chance to see the reef up close and personal.
If you opt for the helicopter flight, you’ll get to see an overview of the reef from the air which is a really worthwhile experience and quite different from how everything looks on (or under) the boat.
5. Bondi Beach
A trip to the East Coast of Australia wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the world famous iconic Bondi Beach. This buzzing area boasts crystal blue waters, golden sands and of course the perfect waves that have made this location so well known for its surfing community. Aside from the surf, Bondi has a lot to offer – an excellent choice of restaurants, brilliant shopping, stunning walks and a lively nightlife. It’s so worth visiting, even if you normally try to avoid the tourist hot spots.
A great place to head for a bite to eat is Sean’s Panaroma – a well-known landmark that encompasses all that is Bondi culture. Here you’ll find Italian and Australian classic dishes on offer that you can enjoy whilst soaking up the excellent views of the ocean and beach.
Walk off your lunch by taking the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk – you’ll find a dazzling array of sandy beaches, impressive parks, rock pools and stunning coastal views along this 6 km coastal path route. If you visit during spring, look out for Sculpture by the Sea where a section of the coast is transformed into a two kilometre long open art gallery with more than 100 pieces of contemporary art from local and international artists.
In summer keep an eye out for Bondi’s open air cinema. Here you’ll find live music in the day and favourite feature films played at night for your entertainment, overlooking the beach. You’ll also find plenty of tasty food and chilled drinks on sale, with sounds provided by some of the best emerging DJs and musicians in the area.
Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: uofdenver