The final East Coast trip I will write about was sadly a bit of a disappointment. We were kind of expecting it so it wasn't a big shock, but when we booked the trip we hadn't really known much about it. Cape Tribulation was sold to us as being a chance to get closer to nature and see the rainforest and national parks in all their glory, it was sold to us as a completely different experience to all other trips on the East Coast and not one to be missed. Well, I'm sorry to say it but I think it was one that could easily have been missed out on. I spent most of the day feeling like I was on a school trip being lectured with fact after fact instead of somewhere I could really experience. Don't get me wrong, I love visiting national parks and forests - I actually prefer that kind of trip a lot of the time, but I just didn't feel we really had an opportunity to get much farther than the footpath. Nothing felt very wild about the trip, it was all so safe and so controlled. The trip cost around $187 but I really don't think it was worth that - I would much rather have kept the money and used it to hire a car for the day to go with friends.
We started off early on a long drive out to World Heritage listed Mossman Gorge which was probably my favourite part of the day - I loved the setting, it was beautiful and great to start the day with a swim, even if the water was a bit cold! It was nice to have the chance to stretch our legs after the long drive, but sadly we were on a tight schedule and didn't stay there very long.just before we had headed down to the gorge we were welcomed to the visitor's centre by an Indigenous guide who told us about the history of the area and the Ku Ku Yulanji people who inhabit the region. It was really interesting to hear about the beliefs and the traditions of these people as I hadn't yet had much of an opportunity to learn much about the indigenous population other than those I had seen drunk in the streets. It was so lovely to be welcomed be someone who had grown up in the community from which these beliefs came. After we were finished at the gorge, we went down to the Daintree River where we were taken out on a cruise to spot crocodiles and any other wildlife along the banks. It was nice to see a different landscape for a bit, but I have to admit we were pretty bored on the boat, there were just a few things spotted - some birds and two tiny crocs that looked more like big lizards to me.After the cruise, we were off for a guided walk around the forest where our guide took the opportunity to teach us all about the different plants and the history of how they came to be in this place. He talked to us all about how the landscape emerged and how the ocean met the jungle causing mangroves - it was interesting but it did feel like I was in a lecture for university. Filled to the brim with knowledge, we headed to Cape Tribulation for lunch and to head down the boardwalk to see for ourselves where the coral reef met the rainforest. This was beautiful. And why? Because it was the wildest and most uncontrolled part of the day - we were allowed to walk down by ourselves to discover what lay at the end of the short walk and we had free time to walk around the beach and take photos. It was lovely to not be rushed and to have time to actually appreciate what I was seeing, plus it really was beautiful. The day finished with homemade ice cream and a stop at Alexandra Lookout - an amazing viewpoint from which you can see for miles. This spectacular viewpoint offers views right across the Daintree River estuary and beyond to Snapper Island and the Coral Sea. It was a lovely note to end the day on.
I'll be honest and say that I would never do this trip again, and I wouldn't recommend it to others. While there were good points, like getting the opportunity to learn a lot about Aboriginal culture and history, I did feel like the information could have been better delivered to feel less like a lecture. It was a long day where I felt I spent a lot of time wanting more from the trip - whether it was more excitement, more freedom or less lectures. Perhaps me and that type of trip just don't go well together, but I think if I were to return to the area I would definitely want to check out the Uncle Brian's Fun, Falls and Forest tour, which according to some friends of ours was a great day of swimming in waterfalls and exploring the rainforest. Much more what I had in mind when I booked the Cape Tribulation trip. It totally depends on what type of trip you prefer, but for me, I would have preferred not to spend nearly $200 on the Cape Tribulation trip - I just feel there are ways of giving an education tour without losing the interest of your audience, and ours was definitely lost. Plus there was a real lack of getting the group to bond - we were just left to our own devices which meant a lot of people kept to themselves and barely said a word all day. I much prefer the trips that get you all involved from the start all day long and who throw facts at you but interweave them with fun, conversation and stories.
Have you been on the Cape Tribulation trip - what did you think? Did you do Daintree and Cape Tribulation by yourself - how was your experience? What kind of trips do you prefer?
This was without a doubt one of my favourite trips of the whole East Coast, sitting happily alongside Fraser Island in my memories it was one of the most unexpectedly awesome trips I have done since travelling. Why? Well, when we booked it, we were just so excited about Fraser Island, Whitsundays and all the rest that the white water rafting trip kind of fell to the back of our minds, especially since we wouldn't be doing it until the end of our travels. The backpacker/travel agent who booked our trip for us raved about the trip after she had booked it for her and a friend, she really recommended the Xtreme trip. I was naturally cynical because I figured she was mainly just trying to sell us a trip, but when else would I get a chance to try Xtreme white water rafting? It made the final cut of our plan and off we went for four weeks of fun on the East Coast, but when we reached Cairns we were getting a bit bored of trips. Not so much the trips, but the 'organised fun' with these groups when we wold have preferred to be with the friends we had already made. It sounds a bit negative, but we'd had four weeks of intensive travel-party-trip-party-repeat and we were exhausted. Plus we went on two trips in Cairns alongside this one and they were both let-downs; our Great Barrier Reef trip as you read about in my previous post, and the upcoming Cape Tribulation.I was still really excited for the trip, and a little bit nervous, but my expectations were definitely lowered after the other two. Possibly a good thing, I love when that happens and you end up having an even more amazing time because you're not expecting as much.
We had been booked in with Raging Thunder Xtreme Tully Rafting for the day - sounds epic doesn't it? The trip is priced at $225, but again our price went down as part of booking a larger package. This included pick up from the hostel, a full day raft adventure plus all equipment, you can go from Cairns or Mission Beach, lunch, small groups of six and only about four boats, and lots of other adventures along the way like swimming through rapids, cliff jumping and raft surfing. The guys who ran the trip were brilliant, they were so much fun and really got us all enthused for what we were about to do - each group took it in turns to face along parts of the river and take on tricky areas while the others watched how they would handle it and who would fall in first. The whole day is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Tully River - and trust me, you couldn't feel further from the East Coast. We were lucky and the weather was perfect, just warm enough to dry you off after fall in the water, but cool enough that we weren't getting burnt to a crisp.I won't talk too much about what you do throughout the day because I loved that I had no idea what was coming next around each corner, but I will say this: without a shadow of a doubt, you should choose to do the Xtreme Tully Rafting. Unless you happen to be a really weak swimmer, you will want to experience this. It is scary in places but only because it gives you a chance to conquer fears of jumping from high places, swimming in rushing water and the like, while in as safe an environment as possible. The guides are great at giving advice and talking you through every step, but they also won't let you wuss out or take the easy route. I had done some cliff diving and rapid swimming back in Vietnam but after I injured myself doing it, it did make me a little nervous. But I was more than game for this, you couldn't hold me back from throwing myself off the highest points, diving into the rapid water and sliding around in the raft with the rest of my group. We had a great group and some hilarious moments including one when our guide played a trick on one of the guys and tipped the boat so it flooded on his side - we were all in hysterics while he was screaming in panic.
My favourite part? It had to be when we would go through the large sections where we had to all work together to navigate through the rocks jutting out across the water. It was brilliant fun and we all felt awesome after making it through first time on most of them - although there was a funny one were we all got stuck on a rock and had to climb off the boat to get it free. We made some good friends on the trip and had the best day - we went straight back to the hostel and raved about it to all of our friends who actually booked on to it the following week and said it was amazing! After trying white water rafting for the first time, I can say I am definitely going to be doing that again - it's such a fun adventure day out, a great adrenalin rush and a fantastic workout - we were exhausted after a day on the river. Plus it's so nice to see a different landscape to all those beaches, seeing mountains and river was just so refreshing. It was nice to be reminded that there is something in Queensland other than ocean and dust! Top tips for this trip: wear shorts not just swimwear and don't worry about a camera, you don't have a chance to take photos and they'll do it for you.
Have you been white water rafting? Where did you go and would you recommend it? Have you done this trip - what did you think? What was your favourite East Coast adventure?
There's so many amazing once-in-a-lifetime trips and experiences just waiting for you on the East Coast of Australia, but none quite so well known and impressive as the Great Barrier Reef. This iconic natural wonder is the world's largest coral reef and is one of the biggest draws for tourists visiting the country and backpackers travelling up the East Coast. When you arrive in Cairns, this is the main trip you just cannot miss out on, everywhere you walk there are ticket touts and travel agencies trying to get you booked on the trip of a lifetime, promising a chance to swim with sea turtles, dolphins and even sharks. We had already booked our trip as part of our overall East Coast package and had chosen the Osprey V Premium Reef Cruise from Down Under Cruise and Dive which offered the chance to snorkel, scuba dive, to cruise on the boat and even to see the reef from the air with a helicopter ride back to shore. We were so excited for the trip, it was our chance to see some amazing wildlife and to have a go at diving for the first time. Sadly it wasn't to be, Mark had the chance to try his first dive but I had just had a cold and wasn't able to try it out, I stuck to snorkelling instead. We met at the jetty early in the morning - we had been good and not gone out the night before so weren't hungover thank goodness, we needed all our energy for the day ahead.
Before we knew it we were powering out to sea on a fabulous catamaran with the crew who introduced themselves and gave all the guests a chance to get to know each other. There was a real range of people on the trip, from some much older people to others who were barely 18, some were backpackers and others were on family holidays, others didn't even speak English as a first language. It was great to have such a diverse group and just showed that the reef is an incredible draw for people from all over the world, from all cultures and countries. Some of the guests were serious divers, others were beginners, and others didn't even plan to get off the boat - they were just there for the boat and helicopter rides. Even though I was so excited to snorkel at this point, I couldn't help but feel a bit disheartened by the dark, stormy-looking skies that were darkening the ride out to sea. The crew said not to worry about the weather, that we wouldn't let it get to us but it could be a bit choppy going out to sea - all I can say is, I'm glad I grabbed handfuls of the ginger seasickness tablets they were handing out. I was dreading feeling seasick because it does just ruin your day, I had packed my own Travelcalm tablets but I hate taking medicine for it because it often makes you feel worse. The ginger tablets were incredible and I would swear by them from now on - they rid me of pretty much all my nausea and didn't make me feel tired or groggy. When we arrived at the first snorkel site, I was eager to get in the water and suited up in my snorkel, flippers and wetsuit.Okay so I want to stress at this point, that all of my complaints about the trip have nothing to do with the crew who were absolutely amazing. It was frustratingly all down to the weather and the elements, which cannot be helped, but it did ruin the trip for me. The first dive and snorkel site was extremely open and with no real shelter from the swell and the wind, it was difficult to actually swim there. Not only was the current so strong that it kept dragging us away from the fish and pushing us into the boat, but it also meant we were exhausted very quickly despite being strong swimmers. I barely saw anything worth noting at the site because I was far too busy trying not to end up being slammed against the side of the boat by the waves. Mark was having a much better time on his first dive which took him lower in the water so he was less affected by the waves, the instructors were great and he pretty much had one-on-one coaching through every step. Back on the boat, the waves were getting rougher as we headed out further to sea and lunch was served - the food was amazing but sadly it was difficult to enjoy after spending hours being thrown around the boat and in the waves. I might not have felt sick but I definitely felt unsettled and exhausted. Unfortunately a lot of other people on the boat were feeling sick and suddenly it was turning into sick city - everywhere you turned people were going green, grabbing sick bags and running for the back of the boat. We must have been almost the only pair on there who didn't get sick - it was horrific!
At the second dive site, one guy was unable to go in the water because he was so sick from the waves and several others were huddled on the floor in corners. The staff had their work cut out with everyonebeing so I'll, but you can't fault them, their enthusiasm never faltered and they looked after everyone while continuing to rally the remaining troops into the water. We were pretty cold by now but still eager to get in the water at what we were told would be a much more sheltered site, we were glad to find it was much better and with lots more to see. I spotted a shark swimming along, loads of Nemos and all kinds of rainbow fish but it was still an anticlimax after swimming with sea turtles the previous week. We climbed back on the boat happy that we had actually seen a shark and prepared for the ride home. This was when it all went a bit crazy - a poor woman who had been suffering badly with seasickness all day was knocked off her feet as she came out of the toilet by a passing wave. She went flying and smacked her head on the wall, it started bleeding and she started being sick - it was horrible, we couldn't even get to her straight away because of the crazy waves. Luckily the crew managed to get her up and sitting at a table but she was so ill and frightened by the whole thing that she had to be helicoptered back to the shore. It was all a bit dramatic and after all the vomit and stress of the day, it really killed what little good mood was left. Eventually we headed back to Cairns and you have to give it to the crew, there was one guy in particular who decided to get up and start singing all the old classics - he had everyone singing along and laughing. It was a much better end to the day, but we were gutted to have missed out on the Great Barrier Reef experience. I'm never one to give up - I will be going back to do it again when the weather is better and hope to have a completely different trip.
How was your Great Barrier Reef trip? Did you have a better experience? Can you recommend any good companies?
After an epic four weeks of travelling up the East Coast - taking in the stunning sights of Fraser Island, Whitsundays, Magnetic Island, traipsing through the national park in Noosa and kayaking across Byron Bay, we were more than ready for the final stop on our tour. Cairns is one that everyone talks about and we were excited to see what it would have to offer - if our previous stops were anything to go by it was going to be pretty amazing! More than anything, we were looking forward to the huge reunion we would have with all of our friends we had met along the way - with countless more stops along the East Coast route, we'd lost some friends to places like 1770 and Mission Beach, but we were all due to arrive in Cairns during the same week. When you've got a huge week like this planned, it's important to have a good hostel ready and waiting for you, and in Cairns there's only one that people talk about - Gilligan's! Owned by Base Backpackers, the super-hostel is a multi-level hostel with rooms ranging from four to ten bed, each boasting en suite facilities with a kitchen on every level. To say it was one of the best and most impressive hostels I have stayed in was an understatement - the nightlife was great, the location was perfect being right in the middle of Cairns, it was the cleanest hostel I have ever stayed in and there were loads of deals for those staying there including free backpacker dinners when you bought a drink each evening. We had booked in for four nights, but already planned for stay for at least a week.As soon as we arrived the reunions started, we bumped into some friends we had met down in Airlie Beach and Noosa and went for drinks and dinner. That first night there saw us joining upon the fun and games downstairs as the staff had us all playing Bogan Bingo - a hilarious game we ended up playing over a few different nights. The next few days were spent exploring Cairns - we checked out the lagoon and spent a few days sunbathing and barbecuing down there with friends, we headed out in the evenings for drinks and ended up partying in the Woolshed - another place you simply have to go. It was a blur of fun, goon and complete exhaustion - every night we partied and every day we spent the whole thing out in the sun. Between this we had trips planned including The Great Barrier Reef, Cape Tribulation and White Water Rafting Xtreme - more on these in my upcoming posts. So we were fully booked with plans and on top of this we had to find time to hang out with everyone before we all parted ways as some people flew home, others to New Zealand and others to the other side of Australia.Cairns was a great little place, as soon as you arrived it felt like you were on holiday as you could tell most of the people walking the streets were. It was full of shops, bars, restaurants and more, and the lagoon was packed with sunbathers every single day. I could understand how some people could love it and end up staying to work, but personally it wasn't somewhere I could have stayed longer - I was happy to stay for 10 days of fun with friends but that was what kept me there for so long, not the place. I found myself very aware that it was a holiday town and that people were constantly passing through - that the backpacker culture there was so transient it was less of a culture and more of a business. But that was fine with me, I had no plans to stay longer than we did and I didn't want to work in Cairns, it was just a perfect end to our East Coast trip. So where did we spend our nights? In true backpacker style, we followed the cheap drinks and food which took us to our own balcony, to Gilligan's bar, the Woolshed and Irish bar, and for one night we ended up in a bar around the corner after being offered unlimited drinks and pizza for $20 or $30 on a Sunday night. Best advice for saving money, trawl the streets and keep your eyes open for deals - these girls just passed us some leaflets as we crossed the street for that one and it was a great night!Another really great night we had in Cairns was actually one when we were bored one night and decided to go out for a drink and a walk. We were walking when we heard a load of fireworks going off and spotted the shower of stars beyond some trees, we headed over and saw that they must have been part of an event that was ongoing at the cruise terminal - naturally the journalist in me wanted to know what was going on and walked straight over. Despite it being a private and ticketed event, we waited until the doormen were distracted then snuck in to find a really lovely party going on. It was celebrating an Aboriginal art exhibition opening and how better than to do that with music, champagne, fireworks and food? We ended up checking out the exhibit which featured pieces worth tens of thousands, hobnobbed with the other guests and enjoyed some fancy foods and fine wine. It was a bit of a treat considering we had been living off scraps for the last week. It was a really refreshing change to be around that kind of event and some of the pieces of art were amazing - we ended up having a really interesting night and it was totally different to what we had been up to every other night. I love when you stumble across things like that.
Have you been to Cairns - what did you think? What was your favourite bar in town? Have you crashed any exciting events?
After all the fun and games of Fraser Island and Whitsundays, we headed straight off to Magnetic Island - now this was the one we had no idea what to expect of. We had heard nothing about the island and weren't sure if it would bring us a relaxing time or fun filled action. A bus and a ferry ride later, we arrived at Base Magnetic - which turned out to be easily the best and most beautiful Base hostel I have yet seen. It was stunning, the dorms were little six bed cabins set right on the shoreline and next to a swimming pool, with nothing but space - something which is normally rather lacking in hostels. Scattered around the grounds were loads of hammocks and comfy chairs for chilling and sunbathing, with the beach just in front. Our first evening was spent watching the sunset with a cold beer in hand and making new friends, including a huge group of Canadian girls who we spent most of the three days with and ended up being reunited with in Cairns as well! Our first night was hilarious, filled with silly drinking games, delicious food and a lot of laughs.The next morning, the two of us decided to head out and explore the island, we went bush walking on a trail that started our side of the island and took us way over to one of the other bays past a great viewpoint. It was a pretty hot and sweaty hike, but well worth it for the view (see top pic) and the swim at the other end, plus we got to see some of the national park along the way. It took us a few hours to hike, but was well worth doing - just make sure you set off as early as possible to avoid the intense heat of the day. And keep your eyes peeled for Aussie nature highlights like the wild koalas that cling to the trees along the trail. That was a pretty special sight, being within touching distance of wild koalas and getting the infamous koala selfie, even if we were due to visit the koala sanctuary the day after. There's just something so much more special when you seen an animal in its natural habitat. The landscape is just beautiful on Magnetic Island - from the crashing waves around the base of huge rock faces, to the dense bush and scrubland you trek through to reach from one side to another. The beauty of the island speaks for itself and I love that it isn't a place that tries so hard - there is no expectation of what you have to do when you arrive. There are a huge range of activities on offer, but no pressure to take part in these organised trips, it's more about going off on your own and exploring the island.Our final full day on the island was the best by far, we ended up teaming up with the Canadians and hiring jeeps (it's usually supposed to be Barbie cars but we had too many people and didn't get there early enough) to explore the island. First off we started at the koala sanctuary where we enjoyed a champagne breakfast and meeting lots of different animals from lizards to parrots. The food was delicious and we all filled our plates - typical backpackers! Afterwards, we were taken to meet the koalas and to have our photos taken with them. They were gorgeous, fluffy and oh, so soft. They smelt like eucalyptus and clung on for dear life, it was so adorable, and I was glad to be contributing towards helping rehabilitate them and up the numbers in the wild, but to be honest it wasn't as good as the one we had seen in the wild the day before. The rest of the day saw us heading off to some of the best snorkelling beaches where we took our masks and snorkels into the water to spot fish, small sharks and more diving amongst the coral. A few hours of sunbathing were followed by a quick pit stop at the bottle shop to buy some wine for the sunset, before heading to West Point to watch it set over the ocean. It was the perfect end to an amazing day with new friends and I haven't even told you about the best bit yet!Earlier in the day we did something amazing - my favourite part of the whole day. The girls had heard about a butterfly walk, completely natural and undisturbed by tourism. We parked up on the side of the road and walked into the woods to find ourselves surrounded by hundreds of stunning blue butterflies who swooped around our heads as the branches they perched upon swayed in the breeze. It was magical and like something out of a fairytale - as you walked through they were everywhere and I don't think I have ever seen so many butterflies in one place before. Definitely worth visiting - just ask at the hostel and they'll direct you. All in all, Magnetic Island was a seriously unexpected pleasure and I'm so happy we went, it was the biggest surprise of all of our destinations because we had so little idea of what to expect. I know many miss it out because of time constraints or funds on their trip up the East Coast but I would seriously recommend making sure you squeeze in a couple of days there! After one more tipsy night together, we all parted ways knowing we would be reunited in just a few days in Cairns.
Have you been to Magnetic Island - what was your favourite activity? Where did you stay? What did you think of the Koala Sanctuary?
After Fraser Island, we had one night to party in Noosa and then we're on our merry way again, hitting the road on the Greyhound to Airlie Beach. This one was all set to be one of the best places we visited. Not only was it a beautiful place with lots to do, the gateway to our next adventure on the Whitsundays but it was also where we would be reunited with one of our best friends from back home. We rocked up with two friends in tow, Louise and Jennifer had been on Fraser Island with us and just happened to be booked on the same bus as us, into the same hostel and the same Whitsundays trip! After a long night on the bus, we were all wrecked and had to walk across town laden with heavy bags to the hostel thanks to there being no hostel pick up service. We were staying at Nomads, which was in process of fusing with Base. After Nomads in Noosa our expectations were distinctly lower and we were dreading seeing what we would be staying in for the next few days. We were pleasantly surprised to see how lovely the hostel was - one of the best looking hostels with small lodge style dorms spread across a lawn and set around a swimming poll and volleyball net, the six bed dorms were clean, comfy and spacious. I would hugely recommend the hostel, just don't expect much from the staff. They were some of the rudest, most unfriendly and unhelpful people I have met since travelling.Our days were spent sunbathing by the pool, lagoon or on the beach - the choice of all three was brilliant and the lagoon was one of the nicest and deepest I have seen - just a shame it was so cold! On one morning, we decided to go for a run and explore the coastal path which is definitely worth a walk - it's absolutely beautiful and takes you the length of the bay. Plus you get to walk through the harbour which is full of yachts and you can pretend you're super rich and about to board your own. We ate out a few times, particularly at Fusion, which was just down the street. It was always there for us when we were too lazy to cook breakfast and we even had lunch one time. The food and the wifi was good, and it was very convenient being the closest cafe to the hostel, but the service was pretty slow and forgetful. Most of the time we cooked at the hostel, although it was a bit of a bummer having to put down a deposit for every kitchen item we needed to use, including chopping boards and knives.The nightlife was pretty good in Airlie Beach, it was great having one street with all the bars and hostels on it, and there was alway something going on whether it was live music, karaoke, BBQ's or something else. We spent a lot of time at Magnums and the Irish bar, but also checked out a lot of the others including a nice cocktail bar down the street. The crowd was great at most bars and you could see why so many people got stuck there when they just planned to pass through. Our friend had been living and working there for months and planned to stay there until her visa run out - she was actually working on one of the Whitsunday cruises. We had the best reunion after nearly two years without seeing her, within seconds it was like we'd never parted ways. Much rum was consumed, many stories were exchanged, laughs had, and we ended up getting matching tattoos - all on Mark's birthday. Then we headed out to meet our friends for food and drinks where I had arranged a surprise for him, a group of our closest friends from Fraser Island to come and join the birthday celebrations. It was such a fun night with our whole Whitsundays gang and some of the Fraser crew partying the night away after a movie trivia quiz.The best day we had in Airlie was hands down the day after the birthday celebrations when we were all hungover and needed something fun to distract us from how tired we all were. We ended up going to the inflatable water park and paying just $16 for hours of acting like kids, running around the inflatables and slipping off into the water, attempting to climb ropes and skidding across the giant climbing frames. It was hilarious and so much fun, definitely worth the money, although it did remind us were not as young as we used to be - it was a hell of a lot more exhausting for us lot than for the kids who were running rings around us. It was a perfect final day to have in Airlie Beach before heading on towards Magnetic Island for another adventure. I would definitely recommend planning in a few days for Airlie Beach, we stayed for about four or five around Whitsundays and it was nice to have a few days both before and after - especially to hang out with everyone from Whitsundays after the trip. The hostel is perfect for your stay as it's well positioned and has everything you need - minus smiley staff. Airlie Beach was definitely one of the best places on the East Coast - I could understand why so many ended up getting stuck there, I think we would have if we didn't already have our whole trip booked.
Did you love Airlie Beach? Can you recommend any good places to eat and drink there? Have you had any good reunions with friends while travelling?
The 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.The 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.We 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!
What did you think of Noosa? Do you prefer cities or being out in nature?
Now 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.Now 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.You 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.In 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!
What did you think of Brisbane? Did you stay for a short or long time? What did you love or hate about the city?
After 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.There 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.Another 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.We 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. The 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!
What was your favourite activity in Byron Bay? Where did you stay?
When it comes to planning a huge trip like that standard backpacker route up the East Coast of Australia, it can be a pretty daunting task. Taking anywhere between two weeks to six months to complete, and with such a huge range of trips, activities, adventures and sights to take in - where on earth do you begin? There are so many questions to answer - what will we do, where will we stay, how will we get there? And so many options from sailing trips and four wheel driving expeditions, to waterfall tours and white water rafting. It's no easy task, but one thing I've learnt since being in Australia is quite how much it pays off to plan your trip in advance. A complete contrast to Asia where it usually works out cheaper and easier to be spontaneous and just book everything individually as you go along. Here in the land down under its a much better idea to book all your transport, accommodation and trips as a whole to save big time on cash. It's a shame to take the spontaneity out of backpacking and I'm still not used to it, but booking our trip this way saved us a small fortune.
I didn't realise at the time, but our booking agent gave us huge discounts which seriously cut back our spending and allowed us to save our money for goon. After meeting and talking to so many other backpackers, many of whom booked things individually, we have now realised how good our deal was. All of our Greyhound buses from Sydney to Cairns, all our accommodation and all of our trips were included in a £1,300 package per person with several free meals thrown in and lots of upgrades. During our trip we stopped off at Byron Bay, Surfer's Paradise, Noosa, Fraser Island, Airlie Beach, Whitsundays and Magnetic Island before finishing in Cairns. We stayed in fantastic hostels the whole way, met so many amazing people - you all know who you are - who had us laughing the whole way. We had the chance to take part in lots of amazing trips from kayaking with dolphins and surfing in Byron Bay, to driving four wheel drives around Fraser Island and whale watching, to cruising around the Whitsundays on a catamaran and swimming with sea turtles, to cuddling koalas and driving Barbie cars around Magnetic Island, finishing with white water rafting and a trip to the rainforest in Cairns.To say it was amazing is an understatement - with just two months of travelling together, Mark and I wanted to make sure we crammed in as much as possible and really made the most of our time. By heck we did, we were exhausted and broke by the time we finished the East Coast, but had the biggest smiles on our faces and made some amazing friends for life, some we're still travelling with now almost a month later in Darwin. My best advice? Research and plan everything - think carefully about your money and you can make it go so much further. By reading up about trips and talking to people before you book, you can be sure whether the trips are worth doing, whether they are worth the money, or if you can perhaps get a better deal elsewhere. It's boring to do, but worth it in the long run when you can party a few extra nights or afford an extra trip somewhere along the way. It's also worth thinking about whether you want to drive up the East Coast in a camper van or car, or whether you want to take the bus - in the end it often comes down to experience vs. efficiency - we chose efficiency because we wanted to be hungover on the buses and travel on the cheap but we had friends who travelled in a group in a van and had an amazing time.
There are so many choices and options, just be sure to make informed decisions and always shop around when booking! I'll be posting individually on each place we visited and each trip we took so you can get a better idea of what you might enjoy, but in the meantime I can definitely tell you our absolute highlights were our Fraser Island Trip, Airlie Beach and white water rafting trip - all were amazing and I highly recommend them. Other places we loved included Magnetic Island and Noosa because of the sheer natural beauty of the places, but we also had a blast in Surfer's Paradise thanks to an awesome hostel and crowd we met there.
Have you travelled the East Coast? What was your favourite trip or memory?
I know many of you have been wondering what on earth has happened to Absolutely Lucy, I've had so many lovely emails and messages from you all, but there's no need to worry - I'm back! I took a little blogging break over the last two weeks because I had so much going on that it just became impossible to write anything down, plus the wifi has been so terrible here that I couldn't rely on it to upload new posts. In a big change from the party girl you all know and love, I'm now a responsible citizen with two jobs - and hopefully a third soon - who is looking for an apartment and getting settled for the next few months of working and saving in my new home of Darwin. After spending 10 days in Cairns celebrating the end of a fantastic East Coast trip - more to come on this soon - we flew to Darwin for the next stage of our trip when I would be settling down to live and save for a while. I actually can't believe how much I was craving routine, normality and a steady life after seven months of travelling but it's been lovely to get settled in a more homely hostel and to make a little family with the people here. We're all looking to stay and save for a few months and are getting settled in, which is lovely after having so many friends who passed through my life so quickly on the East Coast.
As I'm sure many of you know, I was travelling for two months with Mark, after we were reunited following six months apart. I'm not sure how many of you actually know that we broke up when I came travelling, but remain the best of friends, and it was amazing to be reunited and to have two months of travelling, partying and just doing what the hell we want. Sadly, all good things must come to an end and he left to fly to Thailand on Monday where he will spend the next three weeks before heading home to go to university. I always say that the worst part of travelling is saying goodbye, and although me and my best friends always say "it's not goodbye, it's just see you later", it doesn't make it any easier. It's hard enough saying goodbye to the friends you make on the road and have the most intense, crazy fun times with for a few weeks or days before parting ways. Having to say goodbye to someone who has been such a huge part of your life for ten years is the hardest thing in the world, and I've done it twice in the last eight months. Last time we knew it would be just six months until we would see each other again, but now we have to go even longer - perhaps seven or eight months at the very least - perhaps longer. It sucks, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices if you want to really live your dreams.
On a totally separate note, I was pretty excited to finally catch up on my emails and receive one that said Absolutely Lucy has been named one of the UK's top 100 Travel Blogs by DiscountMyFlights.co.uk! Read the full post here. I'm so honoured to be counted as one of the final 100 let alone to be listed first - it was such a boost after my blogging break and has really given me the motivation to get back into it. UK online travel website DiscountMyFlights.co.uk released the Top 100 UK Travel Blogs, a list compiled through crowdsourcing on social media sites. Bloggers were nominated from a variety of different sources including travel forums, bookmarking sites, travel communities. Nominees were then validated by the Travel Tips Editor Anna Murray. The company said: "This is a great accomplishment in a competitive and online sector that appears to be growing substantially." It's always so amazing to be recognised for something that started out as just a hobby and has gradually turned into a passion - especially when your passion fades for a while and needs reinvigorating. I'm really proud that AbsolutelyLucy.com has grown into something so special and so happy I could share it with all the amazing friends I've met travelling, who message me on a regular basis to say how much they love the posts, as well as all the people close to my heart I've left back at home. Thanks to all for being a part of this, and I'll be bringing more posts to you by the end of the week!