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imageWhen you start to plan your East Coast trip you’ll start hearing all these names bounded about by other backpackers you meet along the way – things like Whitsundays, Fraser Island and Magnetic Island. It will go straight over your head most likely, that it did with me and I didn’t know much about what the trips would actually entail. If you do like me and Mark and book your whole trip as a whole, the number of different trips on offer will baffle you and often leave you unsure of what you want to book. First tip, do your research. For each of these locations there are countless different trips on offer and you don’t want to end up on the wrong one. From party cruises to camping outdoors and driving trips, there’s loads to choose from and it’s important to choose one you think you will enjoy as they are all aimed at different types of groups. For me and Mark, our absolute hands-down favourite trip was Fraser Island, and it’s definitely the one East Coast trip I would go back to do all over again.image

 

What is Fraser Island?

Fraser Island is actually the largest sand Island in the world – sitting just off the East Coast at Noosa the Island covered a huge area of 184,000 hectares which span a length of 123km and a width of 22km. Big right? Well trust me, it feels that big, you can drive for hours up and down the sandy beaches and only cover part of one side of the island. Further inland, the Island is full of lush rain forests, gorgeous sandy beaches and don’t get me started on those crystal clear lakes that are hidden away in the centre. Bursting at the seams with natural beauty and amazing animals, the Island is a world heritage listed paradise just waiting to be explored and those who book on to exciting four wheel drive trips might be lucky enough to stumble across Australia’s most pure dingo blood line as well as a range of creatures including whales, dolphins, turtles, goannas and more.image

 

What trip should I do?

We chose the three day, two night Nomads Fraser Island Tag-Along Tour which is advertised here for $459 and includes all food/accommodation on the Island (in a hostel type setting and is the only one that doesn’t leave you camping on the beach) but it also gives you a night in Nomads included in the price both before and after the trip. Just to point out, we also paid significantly less for this trip by booking a huge package deal at the beginning of the trip because we were given bigger discounts but even at this price it is worth it. During the trip you are separated off into cars of about seven or eight people, with drivers and passengers in each – if you have a licence you can take it in turns to take the wheel which is the best bit of the trip! The tour leader drives the first vehicle and then we had one automatic and one manual vehicle so it’s suitable for all types of drivers. The guide will take you off roading for the three days with plenty of time exploring incredible locations including “the fresh waters of Lake McKenzie, the shipwrecked remains of the ‘Maheno’ and the spectacular views from Indian Head. Relax in the ‘Champagne Pools’ or take a trek to the Hammerstone Sandblow. Abundant in native flora and fauna, explore the tropical rainforests of Central Station, the coloured sands of the Cathedrals and at Lake Allom see fresh water turtles. Drive 4×4 along 75 mile beach, explore the sand dunes and swim in Lake Wabby. Picnic at Lake Garawongera or float down Eli Creek.” Despite being organised by Nomads – who you guys will know I have been less than impressed with before – it was a great and well organised trip.image

 

What was the trip actually like?

It was absolutely bloody amazing. From start to finish I don’t think I laughed as hard anywhere else on the East Coast, nor did I meet funnier or more amazing people. It always comes down to the people you meet – it doesn’t matter how awesome the place is, if you don’t have great people with you it will only ever be an average experience. The people on my Fraser Island trip made it for us, they made our East Coast experience because two different groups of them met up with us later on for other trips. We were actually lucky enough to have two of the girls on our Whitsundays trip and three of the boys were with us in both Airlie Beach and Cairns which was an amazing reunion! We were lucky and our whole gang bonded pretty much instantly which set us up for an amazing time playing in the lakes, driving like maniacs along the beach and whale spotting. The accommodation was brilliant and we really appreciated not camping because it did get cold at night there, we were staying in four bed dorms must metres from the beach where we were stargazing at night and dingo spotting in the day.imageAs you can see from the pictures, Fraser Island truly needs no filter – but I love them so hey. During the few days we visited Mackenzie Lake and the Champagne Pools which were both absolutely beautiful, the lake was filled with crystal clear waters and the pools were perfect for an afternoon dip and trying to catch fish. Indian Head was worth a stop-off because this was the first place I spotted whales on the East Coast – the whole horizon was filled with water spurting from their blowholes and below us sharks circled. As you’re driving along the beach keep your eyes peeled because there are whales swimming alongside the Island and they always wave a fin to say hello. Swimming at Eli Creek is a refreshing way to spend the last few hours of the trip and don’t forget to check out the Maheno – a huge shipwreck on the beach. My favourite part was definitely Mackenzie Lake and the driving around the island – I was the only girl in the car and definitely gave the boys a fright with my driving.image

 

What to pack?

Pack light – just a small bag with one or two changes of clothes, swimmers, mosquito repellent if you get bitten a lot, warm clothes for nighttime, lots of goon and a towel. You seriously don’t need much and you probably won’t bother to shower when you’re there, none of us did. Make sure you take your camera and even better if it’s a waterproof one!

Have you been to Fraser Island – what did you think? What tour did you choose? Which was your favourite East Coast tour? 

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imageThe incredible natural beauty of Noosa has made it a highlight of the east Coast for me, even now after having finished the trip I still look back on it as one of my favourite places. I wasn’t expecting much after Brisbane, if anything my expectations had been lowered but I was blown away by how much I loved Noosa. It helped that we were back by the ocean and were staying with a National Park right on our doorstep – I’m definitely less of a city girl and more of a nature lover. We were unfortunately staying at Nomads hostel which not only was one of the dirtiest hostels I’ve ever stayed on – throughout Asia and Australia – but it was at the bottom of a huge hill we had to climb every day to get to the beach. Any of my Norfolk readers will understand my aversion to hills after being raised in the flattest part of the UK. The hostel was horrible – the kitchen was unusable and the staff were not very helpful – I don’t mind if they want to get stoned all the time but it would be great if they could actually function in their job instead of staring at you blankly and giving you the wrong keys twice.imageimageThe hostel might have been rank, but we barely spent any time there. Up first in the morning, we were out running through the national park and discovering more and more beautiful viewpoints, sunbathing on the beach, walking through the woods and up to the sunset viewpoint, and just discovering the area. On our first day, we did a big walk at sunset through the coastal path of the National Park, it was gorgeous. The ocean on one side and the woods on the other, koala bears clinging to eucalyptus trees, so many viewpoints to stop and and enjoy watching dolphins playing in the waves. It was stunning and obviously a popular route from the numbers of people walking along with us and running the path. We decided to try a run the next day and explore the other paths through the woods – there were several to choose from and I don’t know how anyone could ever get bored of them.imageWe spent our days sunbathing on the beach or exploring the town which was filled with places to eat and shop – sadly I had no money to enjoy the shopping! One evening we walked up to the sunset viewpoint to watch the sun go down and this is definitely worth a look – offering a beautiful view across the whole of Noosa bathed in a golden glow, it’s one of the best things to see there. Although it was pretty chilly on the walk down, as soon as the sun set in Noosa you started to feel the difference in temperature. Our nights were pretty fun too, especially when we returned to the hostel for a night after our Fraser Island trip with the entire gang and partied the night away. It was a hilarious night filled with way too many drinks and laughs, and we even managed to win some pretty awesome prizes! Nomads at Noosa had the best prizes on offer of any backpackers hostel I have seen so far so definitely get in on them! The boys managed to score a free Whitsundays trip and I won a free North Island Kiwi Experience Pass for New Zealand for doing nothing other than putting my name in a raffle!image

What did you think of Noosa? Do you prefer cities or being out in nature?

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imageNow I’m sure many people are going to seriously disagree with me over this one but that’s fine, I’m just sharing my experiences of this city. We arrived after a few hours on the bus and were already feeling blue after leaving the Surfers gang behind, hungover after last night’s drunken antics and exhausted from travelling. We arrived at the hostel – we were staying at Bunk – and were surprised to see how huge it was after staying in such a small place in Surfers. To be honest – I much prefer the smaller hostels, they’re so much more personal and welcoming, the bigger ones always seem to remind me of a slobby version of a Travelodge – functional and impersonal. I was pretty unimpressed when the girl on the counter said our room was ready but we couldn’t check in until 2pm – it was 9am. I know the hostels have their rules but considering the room was ready and clean it seemed a bit rubbish we couldn’t be allowed up there for a shower and some sleep. Instead we had to wander round the city waiting to be allowed to check in.imageimageNow we only had three days in the city, which I know doesn’t give you much of a chance to get a first impression – particularly as I’ve found most who love Brisbane are the ones who have ended up living and working there. But I was pretty disappointed, it was such an unattractive city after the likes of Melbourne and Sydney, it seemed so unexciting after the previous places we had been. On our first full day there, we decided to go for a long walk around the city, through the harbour and botanical gardens, around the city and beyond. We spent hours exploring the city and by the end of it we felt no different about Brisbane – we found no hidden gems, we found no really stunning views across the city and we met no one exciting along the way. It was such a shame and I so wanted to find more in this city, to find something I loved, but it just wasn’t for me. It seemed strange, although we made the best of it, I couldn’t find anything I loved about Brisbane like I did about Sydney and Melbourne. That night we went out for drinks at a great bar down the road which had a live band on, that was probably the best part of our time in the city, but it was quickly followed by the worst.imageYou may have already read about what happened that night in this previous post – about how we met this young lad who was staying in our room, how he was pilled up to the eyeballs, and how he ended up pissing all over our dorm while we slept. How we woke up to find puddles of piss everywhere. Not impressed was a serious understatement. Luckily that day we had already planned to vacate the hostel early and head to Australia Zoo for the day – thank goodness as it gave the cleaners chance to work their magic. Australia Zoo is a fantastic day out – I don’t normally agree with zoos but this one is great as it really looks after the animals better than many. We caught the train first thing from a station round the corner and after about an hour and a half of napping we arrived and climbed on to a bus to reach the park. I had bought us discount tickets using the Groupon App and would really recommend it as they were about half price! It was so easy and quick to get there, and we must have spent about a good six hours walking around, watching shows and visiting the animals. We could have easily stayed longer but the skies were starting to look stormy.imageimageIn the end we treated Brisbane like our recovery time between Surfers and our next destination, Noosa. I think the city would have made more of an impression if I went there to work, or if we weren’t so exhausted, but we’ll have to leave that for another time as we were already packed and ready for our Greyhound and ready to get the hell out of there. Excited for the next few days in Noosa before we were due to head on our Fraser Island tour!image

 

What did you think of Brisbane? Did you stay for a short or long time? What did you love or hate about the city? 

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imageWe had the most amazing time in Surfer’s Paradise, but make no mistake, it was one of the least amazing places we visited on the East Coast. The actual town was reminiscent of Blackpool or equally flash seaside towns, but the hostel we stayed at remains one of my favourites in Australia. It really proves just how important the people you meet affect your experience of a place – they make it or break it – and how different your experiences of travelling can be as a result. I’ve been very lucky and met some amazing people on my travels – but the highest concentration of awesome people in one hostel had to be in Surfers Paradise Backpackers Resort and has only just been recently beaten by my new home at Dingo Moon Lodge in Darwin. The only difference? I’ve had over a month here to develop this family, back at Surfers it was just three days! When you’re this far away from home though, it becomes more important than ever to form these bonds with people and to create your own family on the road.imageI loved the hostel instantly, we had a warm welcome from the staff who were also all staying there, and were invited to join the 6pm volleyball game that took place every day – it was a great way to get everyone together and having fun. We met pretty much everyone instantly and the motel vibe of the hostel was great for providing places to hang out, with a bar, shared kitchen and seated area right by the volleyball court and a pool tucked away in the corner. Our days were spent lazing at the beach which was a ten minute walk away – although I wouldn’t get your hopes up too much for this beach, it’s definitely nothing compared to Byron Bay. And when we were there it was pretty windy and we struggled to find a sheltered spot where we wouldn’t get sand blown into our faces. But it was nice to spend a few hours down there with the gang, playing games in the sand and tanning.imageThe nights were when the hostel came alive, everyone would cook huge dinners together, play volleyball, and then have drinks around the table. Sometimes we ended up going out in the town which was full of okay bars – but we always had a fantastic night because of the people we were with. Our best night out had to be the final one together when we all joined in the weekly pub crawl on the same night of the New South Wales vs Queensland State of Origin match. Now for someone who isn’t usually into watching sport, I was getting very over excited about State of Origin, the last match I had seen was when I was in New South Wales so naturally I had supported them and been bitterly disappointed. Now I was over the border, I decided to switch alliances and we had the whole pub crawl and the rest of Vanity bar going crazy over the game. It was a brilliant atmosphere and we had so much fun, after seeing Queensland smash New South Wales, we moved on to a series of other bars eventually ending up in Sin City. As usual, the bars were distinctly average but it was the huge gang of people we were with that made the night completely hilarious. Sadly the next day we all parted ways as Mark and I headed further up the coast to Brisbane and they moved on to new places.

Have you found the perfect hostel family? Why do you think we forge such close bonds so quickly when on the road? 

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imageAfter a long overnight bus ride – the longest I had been on since that horrible crash in Cambodia – I was exhausted from being unable to sleep and glad to arrive in Byron Bay. As we arrived in the seaside town, the sun was rising over the ocean and gave us a stunning first look at the place that would be our home for the next few days. After a few hours passed out and recovering at our hostel, Backpackers Inn, we hit the beach and wandered up to the town. There are many great hostels to choose from in Byron, and so many go for Arts Factory or Aquarius, but to be honest, I loved our little hostel – it was the only one that led straight to the beach and it was small and cosy. The others were much further back in the town and meant a bit of a trek to see the beach or visit the lighthouse. It was great to be a two minute walk from the beach and we spent many hours laying out down there, sunbathing and swimming in the chilly waters. We even spotted dolphins right by the shore on our very first day there – I swear my heart stopped for a second when I realised what I was seeing and how close they were.imageThere was so much to do in Byron, we had about four or five days which allowed us plenty of chill time and plenty of activities. My favourite day was when we did the walk up to the lighthouse and spotted countless dolphins playing in the surf, it was amazing and so beautiful up there. It’s about a two hour walk to the top, but we took our time and stopped off a lot to watch the dolphins. When facing the ocean, you head as far down the beach to the right as possible then check out the first viewpoint and watch the body boarders and surfers for a bit. After, head up the path and keep on going through the woods, past Watego’s Beach and up towards the lighthouse. There are lots of smaller beaches to check out along the way so take a towel and a book if you fancy stopping. You’ll also want to take water, and we took a picnic for when we reached the top. We went back in July and if was still pretty windy and chilly at the top so you might want to take a jumper like I did, but also pack on the sunscreen as it does get hot. My favourite part was a path that led off the easterly point of Australia where you could go right down to the sea – this is where we sat and watched the dolphins at sunset.imageAnother day was spent taking to the waves and attempting to stand up in our first surf lesson – it was booked through Backpacker’s Inn and cost around $60 each – a bit pricey but worth it as we were really taught how to master the waves and could all stand up by the end of it. We had a great group and spent about three hours out in the water with wetsuits and surfboards included. Being a small group of eight, we had plenty of one-to-one coaching from the two teachers and were given loads of help and support along the way. We did our lesson in the afternoon which I was glad about as the sun had warmed the sea slightly – I was dreading getting in the water but it was much warmer in there than on the beach. After a 15 minute water break, we were begging to get back in the ocean to warm up! Don’t expect to come back with no injuries – my whole body was aching the next day and I had bruises all over my legs and elbows from breaking my fall each time the waves knocked me down, but it was a fantastic workout and lots of fun. Especially when we got to watch the sunset from the ocean.imageWe were both very keen to spot more wildlife after seeing so many dolphins, so we decided to go on a Go Sea Kayak trip which promised we would spot dolphins, whales or turtles or our money back. It was a great trip, despite us being very hungover, and we spotted so many more dolphins which swam just metres away from us. It was a great few hours spent out on the water and was so easy to paddle the kayaks – anyone could do it. Unfortunately, despite staring at the horizon we didn’t see any whales and only one of the group spotted a sea turtle, but it was still worth the $60-odd dollars for the day, especially knowing that we had been on such an ecologically sound tour. Byron Bay is all about protecting the environment and the animals within it which I love. imageThe town of Byron is beautiful – a great place filled with live music, great food and a fantastic chilled out atmosphere. It’s not a party place which is nice, as it was so cold going out at night when we were there, but we still made it out for dinner and some fun. I loved going to the edge of town for the sunset drumming circle in the evenings, it sounds a but hippy dippy but it was great watching the beautiful sunsets with this musical background. We ate out a few times, at a cafe in the town, a Thai restaurant and a tapas restaurant – all delicious and I would highly recommend – especially the Thai restaurant which I believe was called Lucy’s. It was definitely one of those places where there is so much more to do in the day and the nights are spent chilling and recovering. But one of my great memories from the nights had to be sitting with an aboriginal guy on the pavement at 3am, peeling oranges for him as he played me the guitar. Definitely not a place to be missed on your East Coast trip!image

 What was your favourite activity in Byron Bay? Where did you stay?

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imageWhether you’re writing it just for yourself, for your family and closest friends, or an audience of thousands every month – writing a travel blog can provide you with a home for all your previous memories, photos and experiences. All those amazing moments you had while travelling through the jungles, mountains, cities and deserts spread across the globe are combined into one amazing story, with you as the main character. So many travellers I meet carry with them a travel journal, as do I, which is a lovely way to keep note of thoughts and moments along the way, but in today’s modern age, a blog is an even easier way to combine all your photos, words and videos into a multimedia collage of your time on the road. For those who haven’t been following Absolutely Lucy for as long, I actually started this blog as a lifestyle blog around a year before deciding to come travelling, I then developed it into a travel blog as well so I could capture every moment and share it with my readers along the way.

Travel blogging along my journey has been one of the best things about travelling – not only because I get to share it with you guys, but simply because I love to write and doing this has given me a reason to. I love that I can look back over my time in Asia and Australia, and find all my pics, videos and stories in one place, I love that I can share it with friends who were there at the time and others who would have loved to be. Even better, my stories and experiences have given me the opportunity to reach out and help advise or inspire others to face their fears and to go out and do the same. I’ve heard from so many fellow travellers who have read my blog and been inspired to start their own, or who wanted advice on how to go about doing it, and it’s great to be a part of. So many say to me they wish they could write, that they are jealous of those who can, but that should never stand in your way when it comes to blogging. In blogging you don’t have to write a certain way, it’s all about your unique voice and how you express yourself. If that comes in the form of a picture diary, or homemade videos then who cares?

10 reasons to keep a blog while you travel:

  1. It’s fun! You love writing and find it a great outlet for everything that’s stored up in your head, so why not pour out every memory on to the page so you have a record of it?
  2. You’ve had some pretty damn amazing experiences since travelling, many of which took your breath away, so why not share them with others?
  3. One day, ten years from now, you could be sitting in a cold office looking out the window at dreary, rainy old Britain as you work a job you can’t stand – create something that will keep the daydream and the memory alive.
  4. It gives you focus and something to work on creatively, it’s so easy to get lost in a backpacker life of going out every night and sunbathing every day but never achieving anything you can measure. It’s nice to have something to show for your time.
  5. It looks good on your CV to show you have great computer skills, social media experience and the drive to create something you’re not being paid for.
  6. It can grow into something amazing if your blog actually gets noticed and draws enough followers, you could end up doing it for a living!
  7. It’s fun to share blog posts and videos with your travel buddies after you’ve parted ways and to relive the memories and the jokes.
  8. It’s a great way to connect with other travellers and other bloggers – I ended up becoming great friends with two travel bloggers I never would have met if it weren’t for blogging and arriving in Phuket at the same time. Plus you can offer advice and tips to other backpackers.
  9. It helps you keep track of the days, what you did and when – after six months or even a year of travel, the days kind of blur into one and it’s easy to forget.
  10. What else are you going to do while you’re laying in a hammock by the pool?! With most travellers carrying laptops or iPads with the. These days it’s pretty easy to keep up. I do all my blogging on an iPad mini and its been a dream to work on, plus great for storing all my pics and videos, and it’s way smaller and lighter than a laptop.

Why did you start a travel blog? If you haven’t already – would you?

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imageWhen we think of backpackers, we definitely have two very different images in our minds – some of us might have a rather rose-tinted view of sun kissed limbs stretched out on the beach in skimpy bikinis watching on as muscly guys play football on the beach in their shorts. Those who have actually been backpacking will know there are usually big bags under our eyes from late nights, that we’re all a bit soft around the edges and around 20lbs heavier than we were before travelling thanks to indulging in too much pizza and beer. It’s pretty difficult to keep with any kind of fitness routine, or to maintain healthy eating while backpacking – often the easiest and cheapest options are the least beneficial for your body. (Read my top tips on how to try and stay fit and healthy while travelling here)

Despite the fact that you might not always be at your absolute peak of physical fitness while backpacking, I think it is fair to say that many people feel the most body confident they ever have. Body confidence is something that plagues us all, whether we want to admit it or not. Some of us have it in bucket loads, others barely have enough to keep them going for a two week holiday in the sun. But something I’ve noticed about backpackers is that despite them coming in all shapes, sizes and colours, they all have this radiant glow of sheer confidence and knowledge of their fabulousness that shines through. When you look at them, you don’t notice their love handles, cellulite, beer belly or stretch marks. All I see is the huge smile on their faces, the golden brown glow of their skin and the fun that sparks out of them. Where does it come from? Well it’s all down to confidence. But why are they so confident?

  1. Happiness. These backpackers are the happiest and freest they have ever been and it radiates out of them, as the Roald Dahl quote says, they will always be pretty when happiness shines out of them like sunbeams.
  2. Most backpackers in Asia and Australia come from somewhere like the UK, Germany or Canada – it’s much colder there and there’s definitely not as much sunlight. See what effect a heavy dose of vitamin D can have?
  3. A good tan. It hides a multitude of sins and everyone looks better with bronzed skin. It makes you look slimmer, healthier, plus you don’t want to plaster yourself with as much makeup and fake tan which makes you feel more beautiful.
  4. Less time and effort is spent getting ready because you’re so busy and you get lazy, and yet you feel better for it. You rely more on your natural self and become more confident in it as a result. In Asia, makeup on nights out is pointless. It will be sweated off in minutes, so you get pretty used to seeing your face without makeup and even start to prefer yourself without it.
  5. Knowledge of the world around you, seeing outside your little bubble at home, it makes you an authority and sets you apart from the crowd. Knowing that you’ve seen something and experienced a world outside your own makes you realise that you are different in the best possible way.
  6. More space for your personality to shine. When you meet backpackers, particularly in Asia, it is not about how people look or who is beautiful or fit. What’s important is who is funny, who has something to say, a story to tell, an opinion worth sharing? It’s about conversations by firelight all night long, not about posing in clubs. You become valued for so much more than your looks.
  7. Fun becomes more important than what you look like when you’re having it. You live for the moment and aren’t bothered by that roll on your tummy when you’re skinny dipping after a tipsy night with friends or snorkelling with sea turtles. Travelling gives you a much better sense of perspective.
  8. Really getting to know yourself makes you realise how awesome you are and that you really should have this confidence. That no one can make you feel less that incredible without your permission and that’s something you just won’t give.
  9. Fearlessness. Seeing how much you’ve accomplished by yourself and knowing you kick ass, knowing you can take anything that’s thrown at you and smash it. Knowing that you have well and truly proven to anyone who ever doubted you quite how capable you are.
  10. Living in a bikini every damn day. It’s the dream, but the thought would scare some chicks. Trust me, there’s no better way to feel comfortable in your own skin than to expose the majority of it at the beach every day. Seeing every contour of your body under direct sunlight is definitely a way to really get to know it and to accept it. Plus seeing everyone else’s bodies on full display make you realise that nobody is perfect.

This post was originally published on the Base Backpackers blog and won me a free bed for the night in a Base Hostel! Find the original here.

What do you think makes backpackers so beautiful? Do you feel the most confident and happy you’ve ever been?

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