Discover our Top #16 of the best spots to visit on the East Coast of Australia. Among large cities, national parks, beautiful beaches and sensational activities, the East Coast Australia has many places to discover. To help you plan your trip, here is a selection of 16 destinations not to miss!
#1 East Coast Australia: Sydney
Well known and famous all around the world, Sydney should obviously be one of the most essential steps of your journey on the East Coast Australia. With over 4.5 million inhabitants, this cosmopolitan city combines world-famous landmarks such as the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, and with no doubt one of the most beautiful bays in the world. Enjoy the vibrant life of its center or its charming surrounding areas like The Rocks or Newtown. Enjoy a run in the large Botanic Garden with breathtaking views across the bay, or discover its many museums and even the Australian wildlife in the heart of the city (Darling Harbour). If you prefer you can also relax on its many beaches, enjoy several coastal walks or surf or head towards Bondi or Manly for the trendiest places.
#2 East Coast Australia: Blue Mountains
Just a 2 hours drive from Sydney, the Blue Mountains National Park covers 240,000 hectares, and comprises forests, rivers, waterfalls, gorges … When you arrive at the Echo Point, you will have an overlook over the famous Three Sisters, an unusual rock formation representing three sisters who according to Aboriginal legend were turned to stone. To visit this beautiful park you can choose between several hiking trails such as Wentworth Falls or Evans Lookout. Katoomba and Blackheath are the main cities of the area and will offer a magnificent point of view and a completely different landscape. The national park is also the site of natural habitation of the emblematic the Lyre bird. This bird is capable of imitating any bird songs that he hears in the forest, as well as the unnatural sound made by humans.
#3 East Coast Australia: Jervis Bay
When you arrive in Jervis Bay you realize that heaven on earth is not only a utopia. With the reputation of having the most beautiful beaches in the world, super clear waters and white sand, Jervis Bay is the perfect place to relax and why not say hi to the many dolphins that live in the bay. Do not miss the Booderee National Park ($11 for two days), which offers beautiful walks. For snorkelling there is a little place further South: Hyams Beach which is popular with amateurs and professionals. Jervis Bay has been a Marine park for 18 years and has unique and healthy ecosystems in Australia. That’s why the crystal clear waters of Jervis Bay are home to over 100 bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales. You can easily book a tour to see those amazing creatures.
#4 East Coast Australia: Port Macquarie
All koalas lovers should stop at Port Macquarie. Indeed, the city is surrounded by statutes of koalas painted by various artists. You can visit a hospital for koalas for free where you have the possibility to adopt a koala (donations are appreciated and will help to save the little animals). Port Macquarie also has very nice beaches and many museums and historical sites where you can learn more about the history of Australia, such as the Church of Apostle Thomas built by convicts in 1821.
Spend the day exploring the Billabong Zoo in Port Macquarie. The zoo is committed to education and home to over 80 species of native and exotic mammals, reptiles and birds. During your visit, learn about the lives of the animals in the wild and conservation efforts.
#5 East Coast Australia: Byron Bay
This trendy city Byron Bay is renowned for its cool atmosphere, relaxation centers, its lighthouse and its beautiful beaches. The Cape Byron, only minutes from the city, offers a beautiful view of the coast and also a very good lookout for whale watching during the migration period. A walk will lead you to the Captain Cook Lookout, an observation platform located on a rock surrounded by the water!
#6 East Coast Australia: Surfers Paradise
With its famous beach, tall buildings, its nightlife and theme parks. Surfers Paradise is the must-see of the Gold Coast. You will always find an activity to do no matter what time of day or night it is. You can also take the time to climb up the QDeck to enjoy a 360° view.
#7 East Coast Australia: Brisbane
Located 25 km from the ocean and built on the banks of the Brisbane river, this city is the capital of Queensland. It is a modern and vibrant city with an amazing mix of architecture where the roofs of Victorian churches got mixed with large coloured glass buildings. With pleasant temperatures, all year round you can enjoy a walk in the Botanic Garden or go to the other side of the river in the Southbank Park to enjoy a swim in the artificial lagoon with views over the city. Grab a map at the visitor centre on Queen Street Mall to discover the historical monuments and the main centres of interest of the city.
#8 East Coast Australia: Noosa Heads
It’s a posh seaside resort on the Sunshine Coast where you can stop to enjoy some ice cream, go to the beach or go shopping. The excellent “Coastal Track” is a pleasant coastal walk accessible from the beach of Noosa Heads and leading to the National Park where you can see kangaroos, koalas and even some dolphins.
#9 East Coast Australia: Rainbow Beach
Visit Rainbow Beach to enjoy its beach and the surf courses proposed. Once there you can admire the coloured cliffs flowing into the ocean or walk on the large sand dune Carlo Sandblow offering a beautiful view of a beach on one side and on the Great Sandy National Park on the other side.
Book a tour to drive across a pristine stretch of white sand with a 4WD all the way from Noosa to Double Island Point. Admire the stunning scenery of the Great Sandy National Park, and take in the impressive views from the Double Island Point Lighthouse. Have a look out for turtles, sharks, manta rays, and dolphins in, along with humpback whales between June and October.
#10 East Coast Australia: Fraser Island
With 184,000 hectares, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and the only place where trees grow in the sand. It is also the place of the most purebred dingoes which live freely on the island. To travel on the island you will need to take the ferry from Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach. Being only accessible to 4×4 you can go with your own/rented vehicle or through one of the many organized tours. On site swimming is strongly discouraged, but you can refresh yourself in the Champagne Pools. Do not miss the famous wreck of the Maheno on 75 Miles Beach, the Cathedrals which is a series of brightly coloured cliffs, or Indian Head, one of the best observation point for dolphins, rays, sharks and whales during their migration.
#11 East Coast Australia: The Whitsunday Islands
The Whitsundays comprises 74 subtropical islands scattered along the coast. Most of them are uninhabited and are national parks, while a few have large resorts for tourists. Airlie Beach is the main departure point to the islands. You can visit those islands via trips of one or more days or by taking a ferry that will take you to one of the islands. It is also possible to discover the Whitsundays by plane, seaplane or helicopter to enable you to have an overview of the archipelago. Do not miss the famous Whitehaven Beach, the 7 km beach of extraordinary white sand and turquoise water.
#12 East Coast Australia: Great Barrier Reef
The World Heritage listed, magnificent reef, stretches almost 2600 km between Bundaberg and the Northern tip of Cape York. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living thing on Earth and even visible from outer space. There are 2 ways to experience the reef: choosing a trip of one or more days by boat to go diving or snorkelling, or gaining altitude and admire the coral formations by air. The major cities to depart in order to discover the reefs are Cairns and Airlie Beach with its very popular Heart Reef.
#13 East Coast Australia: Mission Beach
Mission Beach is one of only a few spots in Australia where two World Heritage areas meet. The Wet Tropics Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. You can find the Cassowary here (the most dangerous bird in the world). Many walks are available from the city and will lead you in the heart of the dense rainforest. Mission Beach has also a beautiful 14km beach lined with coconuts where you can explore the wreck of “Lady Bowen“.
#14 East Coast Australia: Atherton Tablelands
Located west inland from Cairns, this vast medium-altitude plateau offers stunning scenery and abundant wildlife. Do not miss Millstream Falls, 5km west of Ravenshoe, the widest waterfalls in the country and the Waterfalls Circuit, a 15km narrow road that leads to Elinjaa Falls, Zillie Falls or Millaa Millaa Falls, where you can swim in the heart of the rainforest. You may also be able to see platypus in Platypus Park near Atherton, or rock wallabies at Granite Gorge Nature Park near Mareeba.
#15 East Coast Australia: Cairns
Located in the heart of the “Wet Tropics” with a warm and humid climate. Cairns is the second largest city in Queensland. This is a very dynamic city but mainly known as a departure for trips on the Great Barrier Reef. Despite the heat, you cannot swim outside the artificial lagoon located on the seafront due to crocodiles and deadly jellyfish in the ocean.
#16 East Coast Australia: Daintree National Park
Daintree National Park is located in Far North Queensland, 100 km Northwest of Cairns and became World Heritage site in 1988. To access the National Park you will have to cross the Daintree River on a cable ferry ($22/vehicle). Then a single sealed road will lead you to the beautiful beach of Cape Tribulation. Along the way, there are many short walks for you to discover the lush tropical forest of the park. The 4WDs will be able to keep going north on the Bloomfield Track to reach the small town of Cooktown.
Book a tour and explore the Daintree River and Rainforest, Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge and more in one adventure-filled day. Be part of the wildlife river cruise, learn about the fragile ecosystem and try to spot crocodiles
- The Perfect 15 Day Itinerary: Brisbane to Cairns drive
- The Top 10 things to do along Australia’s West Coast
Updated on the 20th of February 2020. First published on the 14th of January 2016