Ultimate Backpacking Guide for Australia

Australia is the dream destination for many travelers of all styles. The Eden of the backpacker who will earn money for two years to continue his travels and the exotic destination on the other side of the world for the rest of the travelers.

Five great metropolises to discover and a vast continent that is home to authentic gems of nature and some other creatures. Snakes, giant spiders, crocodiles and sharks are some of the particular animals that inhabit this remote and unpopulated continent.

Everything you need to know for your trip to Australia:

  1. Best tips for Australia
  2. Best time of the year to visit Australia
  3. Four week itinerary backpacking Australia
    1. Days 1 to 10: Sydney
    2. Days 11 to 13: Brisbane & Surfers Paradise
    3. Days 14 to 17: Noosa
    4. Days 19 to 23: Airlie Beach
    5. Days 24 to 26: Cairns
  4. Backpacking budget Australia
  5. Where to stay in Australia
  6. What to do in Australia if you have more time

Official exchange rate 1EUR = 1.56 Australian Dollars

Best tips for Australia

Australia is not like the rest of the destinations that I have published recently. It requires some planning and here are some tips.

  • Visas: If you go as a tourist it is immediate for many nationalities. If you go on a working holiday, do it well in advance and make sure you have all the requirements and permits in order, there are many visa options for all profiles.
  • Plan: Most activities and accommodations (like in Europe) are sold out a few days before you arrive at the destination, so manage it in advance to avoid being left stranded.
  • Budget: Australia, along with New Zealand, is by far the country where I have spent the most money, accommodation, food and activities are very expensive.
  • Transportation: Get the Greyhound north-south voucher or vice versa to make unlimited trips in the same direction for a certain time.
  • Distances: Everything is very far away, it is better to have less and more than not to run from one place to another and not see anything, don’t rush, choose 4 places and explore them.

Best time of the year to visit Australia

Australia is in the southern hemisphere, which means that for most of my readers the seasons are changed in relation to the northern hemisphere. December to February is summer and June to August is winter. However, the large size of the country means that it enjoys different climates in different parts of the country.

  • Northern Zone: Cairns and Darwin are the main cities in these regions. They have a tropical climate with monsoon seasons that run from November to March while the rest of the year is a dry climate.
  • Southern Zone: From Sydney to Melbourne; It has a more European climate, while Sydney is more moderate and Mediterranean, Melbourne is more British, that is, colder and rainier.
  • Middle and central zone of the country: Perth, Brisbane have a dry and hot climate most of the year while the interior of Australia has a completely desert climate with temperatures of +40ºC.

Four week itinerary backpacking Australia

Usually, I wouldn’t stay as long in a city as I did this time in Sydney. But it must be said that after 6 months traveling, Sydney was the first time I felt at home. Similar culture, friends I had met from my travels and endless things to do. Plus, how could I not enjoy Christmas and New Year in Sydney?

Days 1 to 10: Sydney

Sydney is an exciting city with many places to explore, in 10 days I only got to see a small part of it, but here are some of my recommendations.

  • Beaches: Most of Sydney’s beaches are very well equipped, with grills for barbecues, green areas with tables and benches and a number of shops near them. One of my favorite and least touristy recommendations is Manly in the northern part of Sydney, you can take the ferry to get there. The most popular are Bondi Beach with the legendary Icebergs pool, Bronte and Coogee. If you go for Christmas, any of these four are a great option to spend Christmas in a swimsuit or bikini.
  • Parties: Glass Island was my favorite, it is a boat that for $35 takes you around Sydney Bay from where you will have the best views, the party lasts about three hours. If you are there for the New Year, without a doubt you cannot miss the party at Luna Park, it is almost the only way you are guaranteed to see the fireworks near the bridge without saving your place from 7 in the morning.

When walking through the center you should not miss the iconic Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Bridge which you can climb, a walk through the botanical gardens surrounding the bay and if you have time I recommend that you go to South Head for one of the most beautiful sunsets with the Sydney Skyline in the distance.

Something I loved is celebrating Boxing Day (Boxing Day) at Royal Randwick Racecourse, an exciting day of horse racing where you will find half of Sydney betting on the horses and having drinks.

If you want to rent a car and get away from Sydney, these are my two best recommendations:

Daytrip to Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains National Park is a park that is a couple of hours west of Sydney, there are many trekking routes and paths that take you to different places. They range from a couple of hours to several days entering the national park. As you walk you will come across waterfalls and wonderful views and some other fauna such as snakes.

Daytrip to Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay for me was one of the big surprises, even though we weren’t very lucky with the weather and it rained and it was quite windy… We managed to see kangaroos! For that alone it was worth it, we went around the national park several times, playing on the beach and exploring some caves in its cliffs. On the way back to Sydney (2:30h drive) we made a technical stop in Kiama to see its Blowholes in the rocks.

Days 11 to 13: Brisbane & Surfers Paradise

It was time to leave Sydney behind after two weeks so on January 1st with a good hangover on me I set off with a morning flight to Surfers Paradise, an extension of the Goldcoast city, honestly Surfers doesn’t have much to offer other than immense beaches with strong gusts of wind and impressive waves and a multitude of amusement parks and other sports. It doesn’t have much charm, it’s just a “classic” holiday destination with big skyscrapers, it personally reminds me of Benidorm.

Brisbane, however, is a city you could live in, Brisbane is undergoing a spectacular transformation, as it is going to host the 2032 Olympics. The city is being tidied up, the canal that separates both banks of the city is being remodeled and leaving beautiful and the city is immersed in a construction boom. Apart from all this, there are several museums to visit along the river and most of them are free as well as the City Hall on the North Bank.

If I were to repeat this trip, I would skip these two stops and go to Byron Bay.

Days 14 a 17: Noosa

Noosa is a pleasant coastal town north of Brisbane. Noosa has some beautiful cliffs that you can explore via the Noosa Coastal Walk that will take you to several iconic points of this city. Alexandria Beach, Hell’s Gate and Boiling Pot, where with a little luck you can spot dolphins.

But if you come to Noosa you are probably going to K’Gari, also known as Fraser Island. To get your Fraser Island tour you will have to book it with a travel agent, normally it is 3 days and 2 nights and in my case in high season I paid $459 which would be equivalent to about €299.

4WD Fraser Island Tour

Next to the Whitsundays, Fraser Island 4×4 tour is the top activity you can do in Australia. I had my doubts before doing it, but I couldn’t be happier that I did it and would 100% recommend it to anyone.

Basically they take a group of 30 travelers, generally young people, and they put you in 4 jeeps with a guide and you spend 3 whole days touring the island from top to bottom, driving along the beach, sandy roads and fighting against the rising tides.

You will be sleeping in tents, having barbecues, bondfires, drinking on the beach until the early hours of the morning and during the day you will drive along sandy roads to Lake McKenzie (one of the lakes with the clearest water there is), climb through huge sand dunes to reach Wabby Lake, you will jump on inflatables along Eli Creek, you will see the SS Maheno, an old sunken ship and if you go with time you will reach the north of K’Gari to take a swim in the Champagne Pools.

An unforgettable experience

Days 19 to 23: Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach is a halfway point between Noosa, which has a particular charm, and the massively touristy Fraser Island. Airlie Beach combines endless activities to do near the town, and over time it has become the main backpacker destination on the Northeast coast along with Cairns. You can go skydiving, jetskis, speedboats, airplane tours, but the one that stands out the most is the Whitsundays cruise.

Personally, you can do it in 3D2N or 2D1N, no more and no less than this combination. The Whitsundays are a wonderful place that you should leave time for and what better way to see it than by sailing on a sailboat. The price is a bit stingy, but the $367 or €235 is well worth it.

Whitsundays Cruise

Whitsundays cruises leave early from the docks north of Airlie, these are sailboats about 25 meters in length with a crew of about 4 people and about 20 travelers. I warn you that it is not the most comfortable place to sleep, but it is worth seeing how the sails take you out to sea, the sun sets between the mountains and you wake up with a coffee on board while the sun begins to rise on the horizon.

The main highlight of the trip is Whitehaven beach. The beach stretches for 7 km and its sand is made up of 98% small pearls of pure silica, making it dazzlingly white and fine. The magic of sand beads is that they do not retain the heat of the sun. This makes it the perfect sand for walks on the beach without burning the soles of your feet! It is also what gives it this characteristic turquoise blue color.

We were also lucky enough to see some lemon sharks and some manta rays in addition to diving in several reefs.

Days 24 to 26: Cairns

Finally, the last stop in northern Australia is Cairns. Cairns is the largest city north of the Australian east coast and this means it has a fairly tropical climate. Sultry heat as if it were Thailand and torrential and unexpected rains. It is a great backpacker center because there is a lot of temporary work, but if you are passing through as a traveler, there are a couple of excursions that are worth it.

In my case, I did the waterfall excursion with Uncle Brian and they took us to Wooroonooran National Park where we bathed in several lakes, slid down the Josephine falls and climbed after the popular Millaa-Millaa waterfalls.

Daily budget for backpacking Australia

You have to come to Australia a little willing to break the bank, I’ll tell you what I spent the money on so you have a reference:

Accommodation: €22 per night, it may not seem like much, but it is a result of the fact that several excursions already include accommodation and between cities I had to spend a couple of nights on the bus, but really we would be around €30 for a dorm in a hostel . In the new year these can go up to €100 per night.

Food: If you’re traveling on a tight budget, the best thing to do is cook at the hostel, home or in the van… There are supermarkets everywhere, but my best tip is the $5 AUD pizzas from Domino’s Pizza, I practically ate them One a day.

Transportation: Without a doubt, if you are not in a hurry or want to burn money, use the Greyhound voucher, it is the most economical thing you will find. With a little advance notice you can find flights between the main cities for €70-80.

Leisure: Here is the mother of the lamb, many activities you have to do on tour, such as Fraser Island, Whitsundays and the rest of the days you will always be doing something or going out at night. The best alternative to save money on drinks is GOON, wine in a carton that is very cheap.

Where to stay in Australia

Did I tell you that Australia, along with New Zealand, has the worst hostels at the highest price?

  • Summer House King’s Cross // Sydney: Definitely the worst, I stayed four nights here, the vibe was okay, but the room smelled like food and the bathrooms weren’t very clean. Additionally, the staff was not the most pleasant.
  • Bondi Beach Apartment // Sydney: Together with my friend we rented an apartment two minutes from the beach in Bondi. The best choice we made, feeling at home for a week.
  • Backpackers in Paradise // Surfers Paradise: A very cool style five minutes from the beach, beautiful on the outside and horrible on the inside. The bathrooms were a drama.
  • Chill Backpackers // Brisbane: The kitchen was chaos and the staff was quite rude, the rooms and bathrooms quite correct. Good vibe.
  • Nomads Noosa // Noosa Heads: Great for meeting people and spending a few days before or after your Fraser Island excursion. It has a swimming pool and every day there is some activity, they do their best to get everyone involved.
  • Nomads Airlie // Airlie Beach: A little more spread out than the one in Noosa, but with very cool and clean rooms, it is a very social hostel.
  • Gilligans Hostel // Cairns: Come party here, but stay at least one street away if you don’t want to watch your bed bounce around the nightclub below until 4am.

What to do in Australia if you have more time

I am not a big lover of cities and having seen so much of Sydney I would definitely not go to Melbourne, I would choose these following stops:

  • Magnetic Island: I would have liked to make an intermediate stop between Airlie and Cairns and Magnetic Island has beautiful wildlife that I missed.
  • Northwestern Australia Roadtrip: Rent a van in Perth and go to Darwin and Alice Springs
  • Tasmania: Touring Tasmania’s national parks has to be an once in a lifetime experience.

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