If you’re planning a gap year and wondering how to fit in all the amazing places Australia has to offer, you’re not alone. It’s a big country! But with some careful travel planning, there’s a good chance you’ll have enough time between work to travel the East and the West coast of Australia.
The East Coast (between Sydney and Cairns) and the West Coast (Perth to Broome for the sake of this blog) offer two completely different travel experiences. If you have to decide between the two (sob), keep reading to decide for yourself which side of this massive country you’d like to explore more!
The weather in Australia was (amongst many things) a big draw for me when deciding where I wanted to travel and whilst Australia is known for non stop sun, there are seasons here like anywhere else! If you plan carefully you can ‘follow’ the sun and avoid the wet season here in Oz as much as you can. For me, the West coast wins hands down when it comes to weather. That’s not to say that you don’t get great weather on the East coast but WA is renowned for A-M-A-Z-I-N-G hot, sunny days. Perth boasts more sunny days per year than any other Australian capital and with all those beautiful beaches to enjoy it on, it’s a great place to head to if you’re a big beach lover! During the ‘wet season’ which runs from November to April, you can expect hot, humid days with heavy rainfall on the East coast of Australia in northern Queensland. This area is also prone to cyclones in the wet season so it’s best to avoid it if you can and travel smart. The best time to visit northern QLD is from April to November but don’t be completely put off from visiting northern Queensland during the wet season. It doesn’t rain every day and when it does you’ll get heavy showers for a few hours followed by sunshine. It’s an amazing place and if your trip does fall in the wet season you’ll get to experience the Daintree Rainforest in all it’s glory!
Australia is massive. You might have heard that you can actually fit the whole of Europe or North America inside it! Western Australia is the largest state in the world (1/2 the size of Europe!) and QLD comes in close second so it’s no surprise that you’ll need a good few weeks to travel either coast properly. If you’re travelling overground on a bus, train or driving yourself, I’d suggest between 4-6 weeks to travel the East or West coast. Giving yourself a month or more to travel means you’ll be able to see everything properly and not rush. There are so many amazing things to see and it really is the trip of a lifetime so it’s worth doing it properly! If you’re limited on time, organised group tours are a great way to go. You’ll be able to travel either coast in about 14 days where you’ll see the highlights and have an experienced guide with you along the way. I know people who have spent months on both the West and the East coast, stopping to work along the way so if you’re planning a longer trip that’ll work too!
The Ultimate East coast package is a fully flexible 30 day package that can be extended if you’re planning to travel for a bit longer. Check it out here. We also have lots of amazing tours on offer and great deals on campers if you want to do a road trip instead so get in touch with our travel agents for help and advice!
What to do
Apart from spending your days chilling at the beach, visiting national parks and firing up Aussie BBQ’s on the beach (It’s a tough life!), there are so many other things you can do on both the East and West coast of Australia.
WA is perfect if you want to get off the beaten track a bit more. The Kimberley’s, a region in the north of WA, is the world’s largest wilderness area covering 423,000 square km and with a population of only 30,000 people so you’ll really be able to experience the Aussie outback! Along the coast you’ll find National parks to hike and camp in, lots of beaches to chill at and the amazing Ningaloo Reef. WA also has some of the best surfing in the world so if you’ve surfed before, get to Margaret River to try out some of the world famous waves. One of the most popular activities on the West Coast is swimming with the biggest fish in the world, the whale shark! You can do this during Whale Shark season which runs from April to June – definitely one for the 2015 bucket list! There’s also skydiving, water skiing, swimming with mantarays, sandboarding, diving and feeding wild dolphins at Monkey Mia amongst many other things!
The East coast is jam packed with places to visit and activities to do from Surfcamps and Cattle station stays to Castaway Island and Hunter Valley (wine region) tours. It’s also home to the famous Whitsunday Islands and Fraser Island, both ‘must-sees’ on the East coast! If you’re into high adrenaline/extreme activities such as Skydiving, Bungy jumping and white water rafting, you’ll love Cairns, the adventure capital of Australia. Cairns is also the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef so if you’re looking to try out some diving or just want to snorkel in the world’s largest coral reef, you’ll be coming to the right place! In the surrounding area of Cairns you’ll find the beautiful Daintree rainforest, the Atherton Tablelands and some lovely little towns such as Kuranda and Port Douglas.
It’s safe to say that whether you travel the East or West coast, you won’t run out of things to do!
Who came to Australia to see kangaroos in the wild and cuddle a koala? Whilst there is more to this beautiful country than cuddling cute little furry things, getting close to Aussie wildlife is an experience and an inevitable part of your trip down under. Did you know there are more Kangaroos than people in Australia?! You’ll come across heaps of Aussie wildlife all over Australia, some of them cute…others, not so much! Head to Queensland to cuddle a koala in a nature park (not a good idea in the wild!), head to Port Macquarie on the East coast to visit the koala hospital and to the West coast to spot big red kangaroos in the wild. Be prepared to spot the swarms of fruit bats flying over the town in Cairns in the evening and keep an eye out for wombats (cute!) on the road at night.
Australia is home to over 10,000 beaches and both the East coast and the West coast have some of the best! WA has more beaches than any other state so if you’re a beach babe/dude head over to the West coast. Perth alone has 19 beaches close to the city so you can spend your days lazing in the sunniest city in Oz! The Coral coast, home to the Ningaloo Reef, is another great beachy location where you’ll find unspoilt, uncrowded and untouched stretches of white sand.
The East coast of Australia has some amazing beaches too! The famous Whitehaven beach in the Whitsunday Islands was voted one of the best beaches in the world. It has got the worlds whitest sand, sand so fine you can clean your teeth with it! Stretching along 57km of coastline, The Gold Coast (just south of Brisbane) is also well known for it’s stunning beaches, surfing and sun (along with one of the biggest party scenes on the coast.) As you travel up the East coast, you’ll find less and less beaches off the mainland and it’s not advisable to swim in some of the beaches that are there due to stingers and even the odd croc in far north Queensland! Cairns for example has no beach but does have a big man made lagoon you can swim in for free and cool off in the sun.
If you’re looking to party your way along one coastline look no further than the East coast to satisfy all of your partying needs! The East coast is home to the famous ‘Full Moon Party’ on Magnetic Island, the backpacker party capital Cairns and lets not forget the famous party cruises that take place in the Whitsunday Islands.
Perth on the West coast is a relatively small city compared to others in Australia and whilst you’ll get your choice of clubs and pubs to party in the city you can’t bank on having a crazy all nighter with heaps of other backpackers like you can along the East coast.
Overall the West coast is a bit less ‘travelled’ than the East coast so it’s great if you’re looking for a bit of an Aussie outback adventure. The East Coast accommodates for heaps of backpackers every year so you’re guaranteed to meet people and there will always be something going on somewhere!
So really, it’s actually difficult to choose between the two … they both offer different experiences in parts and have similar experiences available in others. It comes down to personal preference! If you don’t have time to travel both, and you still can’t decide, why not talk to our Travel Crew .. they can answer any questions you have as they’ve all travelled Australia (they may even give you some handy insider info on a few hot spots!)
If you’ve travelled Australia and have any help and advice for fellow backpackers, feel free to comment below!