So here we go, Part 2 of backpacking the east coast. I seriously cannot tell you how much I love writing this stuff. It feels like I’m back in the rainforest, swimming in the ocean, sitting on a cliff watching dolphins, or climbing up to a lighthouse. This brings me so much joy sifting through my photos and memories and writing about it. I hope every person that reads this feels inspired, feels the wanderlust inside them, or comes to Australia to experience it themselves – or if you’re lucky you’ll do all three.
Something I’ve learnt while travelling is to chose an album you are currently infatuated with, and play it over and over while travelling. So when your travels are over and you replay that album, you have the memories engrained in your brain. For me, this trips soundtrack was Half Moon Run’s new album Sun Leads Me On. Seriously an amazing album, and a Canadian Band!
Fun Fact: I like weird folk/ alternative / indie music that no one else likes.
I tried my best this trip to remain present, it’s something I’ve been trying to work on for a while. It’s simple to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and not take in each moment and absorb it, and remember it. We constantly are looking forward instead of being present. So in everyplace I went, I took a moment to myself to take a breath in threw my nostrils, and out through my mouth – yoga taught me this. This clears the lungs, the soul, and the mind. It works for me, maybe it’ll work for you too.
Day 11- Airlie Beach:
Ah so we left off in Airlie Beach. We got back from the Whitsundays tour and went to the Airlie Beach Lagoon, a hot spot for everyone on a sweltering day like that one. We met up with my favourite German, Loti, and hung out in the shade for a few hours.
We took the overnight bus from Airlie Beach to Rainbow Beach. A lovely 15-hour bus ride – now when I say lovely I am being completely sarcastic because it was painful and long as. Anyways we made it to beautiful Rainbow Beach after a detour, a mishap, and a grumpy bus driver! Yay!
Day 12- Rainbow Beach:
So we arrived in Rainbow Beach early that morning and went to our hostel to get checked in, went for breakfast and then walked around. I went down to the beautiful Rainbow beach and looked around, its such a scenic beach, plus it was hot and sunny, not a cloud in the sky so the day was bound to be splendid. I seriously had to pinch myself so many times that trip. But Tara and I weren’t really sure what we were going to do that afternoon, as we hadn’t planned anything. Maybe take a walk to the Carlo Sandblow and check it out, but just a thought. So as we strolled down the only road in Rainbow Beach as it seems, we walked into one of the travel places to check out what Rainbow Beach. It turned out that they had a special on skydiving that day. It was a 14,000 foot skydive with a 75 second free fall. Mission accepted.
I’d always wanted to skydive and right then and there it seemed like the best thing to do and a good birthday gift to myself. (My birthday was in 4 days). So we kissed goodbye a huge wad of cash and headed back to the hostel to get cleaned up and ready. I was so excited, I had bungee jumped before and I simply loved the adrenaline rush. I was addicted to scaring myself to the point of total exhaustion and I love pushing my limits, so naturally I had to skydive. We headed out to the office around 4 p.m. for the sunsets skydive. I decided not to tell my parents I was doing it until after – we don’t call my Mom Wendy-the-worry-wart for nothing.
So 2 lovely gentlemen welcomed us – I met my partner Richard, a fellow Canadian from Montreal. He was hilarious and said it was more exciting for him to go to the grocery store than to skydive as he had done it just over 7000 times. I knew I was in safe hands. So we got geared up and loaded into the van to drive out to the plane. When we arrived I could instantly feel the butterflies in my stomach and I welcomed them because regardless of how scared or excited I was it would never regret this. We loaded into the tiny plane and I was basically sitting on Richard. Poor dude. As we took off the view instantly was amazing. I could see all of Rainbow Beach, Fraser Island and Carlo Sandblow (thank god we skydived instead of going to Carlo Sandblow, seriously). It was an impressively clear afternoon and the weather was perfect. We slowly climbed higher and higher in laps and finally we reached 14,000 feet. Tara jumped first as she requested it, and then Richard and I followed. As we were just about to jump I asked if we could just jump and not sit on the ledge for a long time. So naturally as we dangled our feet out the plane he made me wait a few seconds, I instantly could feel the butterflies in my stomach turn to a brick and then we jumped…
Also, I know what you’re thinking, how does she look that good? Well let me tell you it’s a tough thing when all your arm fat acts as wings, you’re wearing the sportiest and clearly the least flattering sunglasses on earth, your mouth is so dry but you have to smile so hugely to prevent your face fat from flying away, and your hair is wacking the poor dude behind you. If someone still looks amazing while sky-diving… they’re a keeper.
The feeling of free falling is the strangest and most amazing feeling ever I have decided. 75 seconds of tumbling, trying to smile, and look around while you plummet to the ground and then he pulled the shoot. Instantly we were kicked back and then he let me ‘steer’. So we twisted and turned in the sky as we fluttered to the ground. The view was a picturesque sunset with turquoise waters, lush green foliage, and the sand welcoming us down. I put my legs up just as we were about to land and landed with a soft pouf in the sand on my bottom. I instantly felt like I needed to do it again. But what a freeing feeling, I simply loved it and will definitely have to do it again, maybe even higher next time. Sorry Mom.
Day 13- Fraser Island:
Fun fact about Fraser Island: it is the world’s biggest sand island stretching 120 kilometers. The beach is also used as the main road.
I woke up early, had a big breakfast and fueled up for the day. I waited outside the hostel for our ‘shuttle’. A huge bus pulls up with wheels the size of me and big enough to fit 50 people on it. I climbed aboard and we were off, we ripped through Rainbow Beach and out to the ferry to head to Fraser Island. Fraser Island looked beautiful above, but it didn’t prepare me for it on land. Our bus pulled onto the ferry, we pushed through the current and reached the other side, the bus roared to life and lurched forward into the sand. This machine was clearly built for this, its interesting that the beach is actually the main road on Fraser Island. Our guide ‘Wazza’ was clearly an experienced guide and had driven this hundreds of times. He spoke of the currents and when you can and cannot pass certain parts of the beach. He talked about what to expect over the next couple days, the natives, dingoes, the aquatic life, and everything that encompasses the island.
I realized I may be on the most dangerous island ever after hearing what Wazza had to say. Basically don’t go into the ocean because sharks, don’t go into the bush because dingo’s, don’t go into the loo alone because spiders, and don’t think about it before bed – because nightmares. Dandy. I was in for a treat.
We were headed North up the island to the champagne pools. A famous place to take a dip in man made pools on Orchid beach. After a walk along the beach, playing in the pools, and imitating the little crabs, we back down to Indian Head Lookout.
Indian Head Lookout gave panoramic views of the whole island, but it did require some serious glute power. We climbed up the rock face like little billy goats to reach the top, thank god for the ocean breeze. I love being able to look at where I once was, we looked down the beach and saw the Champagne Pools, a huge sand dune, and the captivating ocean, looking friendly as ever. Actually, Captain Cook named it this on his first venture to Fraser Island, he named it due to the local’s he met and saw along the beach.
Then we were off to see the famous Maheno Shipwreck. The Maheno has sat there since 1935 and it is somewhat of an icon on Fraser Island. She was originally built in Scotland and was launched in 1905 and journeyed from New Zealand to Australia for many years. I loved how well preserved it was and it was fun to test out my photography skills.
Finally throughout all this heat and walking through sand, and up and down it came relief. We headed to the lazy river or Eli Creek. But first I had to get into my swimwear… so I headed to the bathrooms, which were in the middle of the bush. So no biggie, a good friend had previously warned me about the toilets on Fraser Island and to check the toilets and ceilings for snakes before sitting down. So I did just that but I had no idea there would be dozens of huge spiders that seemed to be quite curious of my exposed skin and grow by the second. Anyways faced my fear and got in there with dozens of spiders, I don’t think I have ever gotten changed so quickly in my life. Then we all headed down to the creek, you walk up beside it on a footpath and then float down and continue the pattern. The water was perfectly clear and chilled and it soothed our burnt skin instantly. Seriously so much fun and I seriously, how could you not enjoy it after a sweltering day like that? It was a wonderful way to end a hot and sweaty day.
As the day came to a close Wazza wanted to make one more stop at the Kirrar Sand blow. We trekked in through the woods and were lead to a vast sand dune. We trudged through and checked it out. Some people traipsed up the dunes and ran down. I’d never gotten so close to sand dunes before, but I loved the rippling effect and made for a pretty sunset.
We got back to the resort and had the deepest sleep. A full day of fresh air and adventuring always makes for the best sleeps.
Day 14- Fraser Island:
This morning we headed out for a lengthy hike in the sand. After doing the 5 kilometer walk in the sand and running up and down the sand dunes to get to Lake Wobby, I have concluded I need to start training in sand, because it is the best leg workout to date. Holy! Anyways we made it in, ran down the sand dune and were welcomed by Lake Wobby in all its beauty. It has such pure waters there is only two species of fish in it, and actually one of them is the one that eats the skin off your feet when you get pedicures… so that was a strange feeling in the water when you weren’t expecting it.
After a run up the dunes to get out, a bucket of sweat, and a treacherous walk out, we chugged some water and were headed to Central Station. This was a long, narrow, bumpy road to the center of the island. All the roads on the island are still the sand roads… and they are not a smooth ride we will say. It was very fun to bump around and get tossed like ragdolls as we headed into the thick of the rainforest. We did the 2-kilometer Pile Valley walk, which pleased me very much. I got to get immersed in the rainforest yet again. There were also so many lizards it was startling, literally they scared me every since time. But what an amazing rainforest, I hugged a 2000 year old tree and looked like a stick bug on it, but it was a massive brut and needed a hug. So amazing.
Then we were off to Lake McKenzie or Boorangoora. Lake McKenzie is a stunning work of art. I had talked to a lot of people about it before and they raved about it and I understood why once we arrived. The lake itself is made up of 100% pure white silica sand so it as smooth as anything, and the water is so pure no species can survive in it. This was my first encounter in Australia where I felt perfectly safe swimming and didn’t have to think about something grabbing me and eating me. Anyways we frolicked in the water and played around for a few hours and then finally it was time to head back to Rainbow Beach.
We had the bumpiest ride out of the bush and as we drove along the beach back to Rainbow Beach I felt so thankful to have experienced it. I finally understood why everyone loved Fraser Island. It was still so rugged with no paved roads, its not commercialized or built up, it still has wildlife. It is still known as a native island and it is so well preserved, it felt rugged, it felt natural.
Day 15- Noosa:
We arrived in Noosa mid afternoon and checked into our amazing hostel – Flash packers Noosa. I highly recommend it. They picked us up in a shuttle with our massive backpacks and drove us to the hostel – how’s that for service?
We then headed down to Sunshine Beach for a quick stroll. The wind was so strong that day the sand felt like it was pelting us and I tried to wait it out but I felt like a sticky powdered donut. So we decided to talk a stroll down to the ever famous and trendy Hastings Street instead. I absolutely loved the feel down there, and all the shops were very cute and unique. We had a lazy afternoon, checked out the main beach, and then headed back to the hostel for a quiet night and ramen noodles. Clearly living up to the backpacker stereotype.
Day 16- Noosa:
So today was my birthday! Yay the big 2-1! I’d done a ton of research on Noosa and I had come to the conclusion there was no way I wasn’t going to hike through Noosa National Park, because I mean what 21 year old doesn’t want to get super sweaty and hike on there birthday. I had seen so many beautiful photos of the National Park while being in Australia it was instantly a must do for me! Anyways we did the Coastal Track, which went from our hostel through a wooded trail, and then opened up to follow the coast. There were so many beautiful vantage points and panoramic views. Along the way you have to stop and visit the famous Alexandria Beach (a nudist one by the way… 😉 and Hell’s Gates. Hell’s Gates boasts large volcanic rock formations that look very eerie and desolate. I can now see why it is called Hell’s Gates. From there we strolled along the stunning coast and past Tea Tree Bay, and then back into Noosa. My one wish for my birthday was to have ice cream, so I did just that. I had 2 scoops of gelato at 11 a.m. I like birthdays.
From there we went back to the hostel to meet up with one of our amazing fellow travellers from Germany. We met Loti in Cairns and instantly clicked. She is such an amazing young lady, and a funny and friendly traveller so we got along perfectly. We all went out for dinner, and I got a burger bigger than my head. That night we went back to the hostel to meet up with yet another lovely traveller we met in Cairns, and then had some drinks and headed out to celebrate my 21st. Goon, ciders, vodka, sex on the beach, a slippery nipple, and tequila later, I was feeling 21, and having a time. It was such a good night of dancing, drinking, and spending it with new friends made it that much better!
Day 17- Noosa to Mooloolaba:
We took a long, sickening bus ride from Noosa to Mooloolaba. We trekked through the town, and made it to our AirBNB, which was in the heart of a cute neighborhood. We were greeted instantly with cute little pupps, and I realized that AirBNB’s are the best way to make 4 legged friends. Once we made it there, we ordered pizza and sprite. It was needed. That night when our Airbnb host got home we went for a drive through the city and went down to 2 beaches at either end of Mooloolaba. The waterfront was quite beautiful with nice storefronts, and cute cafes.
Day 18- Mooloolaba to Surfers Paradise:
This morning we went to an amazing breakfast and coffee place recommended by our Airbnb. Seriously a 9.5 / 10 on my coffee snob scale. Then to top it off had a splendid nutella and banana crepe. Heaven. Sorry dudes, Aus has turned me into one of them, I am a coffee snob. But we toured around Mooloolaba, and then were off again to head to Surfers Paradise. We arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed in Surfers and instantly were surprised. I didn’t know what to expect but it wasn’t this. It’s a strange mixture of stunning white beaches and then skyscrapers. Something I hadn’t seen before along the coast.
Day 19- 21 – Surfers Paradise:
The next couple days were a blur really, as anyone’s time in Surfers Paradise is. We lucked out and were about to stay with Tara’s cousin Jay for the next couple days. Surfers Paradise is known as a place to go out and have a couple, but nothing prepared me for the nightlife. I tried to lay pretty low for a couple days, explored all the stores, ate a lot of pancakes, and basked on the beautiful beach. I am not one for shopping so I found Surfers to be slightly less exciting for myself. But nonetheless I found other things to do. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about Surfers Paradise to be honest; it seemed very commercialized, loud, and really based on its nightlife. It also didn’t help that Schoolies was in full swing so hundreds of 17 and 18 year olds were on a drunken rampage through the city. But made the best of it regardless.
I realized that a short bus ride away was the Currumbin Wild Life Sanctuary, about 30 minutes South of the heart of Surfers Paradise. It was well worth the bus ride. We toured the grounds and I got to hold a koala! Dream come true! His name was Sunny and he was the sweetest little fluff around. Among the wildlife sanctuary were also kangaroos, massive crocodiles, emu’s, cassowaries, and a massive display of birds and reptiles. We also watched the bird show which was amazing and each bird was trained to swoop in and out. It was a pretty neat little show with King Parrots, Pelicans, Native Australian Eagles and many more. Such an awesome day, and I’m not one to support zoo’s but this wildlife sanctuary actually had an animal hospital on site, and showed how their efforts and their animals had been rescued and helped. It was pretty astonishing.
On our last night in Surfers Paradise we went out with Jay (Tara’s cousin) and went to an assortment of lively bars and clubs. I drank an absurd amount and had such an amazing night out.
The next morning we were headed off once again, hung-over, dehydrated, and self-loathing once again on the bus.
Day 22- Surfers Paradise to Byron Bay:
We arrived in Byron Bay and I instantly felt gravitated towards it. I’m not sure if it was the locals waving and smiling, the ocean, the hippie shops, or the tie dye I have grown to love oh so very much, but I seriously have a crush on Byron Bay. A crush that will most likely last me a lifetime.
We checked into our hostel and headed out to check out the town. I loved the entire feel of Byron Bay. Although small, every single road was lined with organic smoothie bars, tie-dye shops, cute gelato places, and trendy restaurants. We weaved through the streets and made our way down to the ocean for a sit, and to take in all the interesting characters of Byron Bay. I feel like the saying ‘it takes all kinds’ really suits Byron.
Day 23- Byron Bay:
This morning we woke up and headed out to do the Cape Byron Bay Lighthouse walk. The lighthouse was a 3-kilometer walk from our hostel, so really not that far. But, I didn’t realize how uphill it was. Anyways regardless of the stairs, the sweat, and the sun beating down on me, it was an amazing walk. We passed by the ever-popular Watego’s beach and climbed up to turn around and face panoramic views of the lighthouse, Byron Bay Beach, and to the South we saw Tallows Beach.
I think my favorite part about hiking, is the feeling of exhaustion, and the feeling of reaching the top. It’s the feeling of accomplishment and overwhelming beauty that makes every single step worth it. I seriously believe that hiking is so good for the soul, and I wish I did it more often. The fresh air, the views, being with Mother Nature, and the ocean, I don’t think there is much in this world that can beat that.
I will say, the walk up to the lighthouse is quite strenuous and requires water, and some endurance but it is beyond worth it.
Day 24- Byron Bay:
The next morning I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and joined a group of people from our hostel to watch the sunrise at Byron Bay Lighthouse. I just couldn’t stay away. We got dropped off at the base of Watego’s Beach and climbed the stairs yet again, but this time in the dark. I was leading the group of girls, walking in the pitch black, and suddenly a wallaby jumped out and hopped along on his merry way. It scared me regardless of being cute and fury or not.
Anyways, we made it to the top just in time, and stayed for almost 2 hours. Staring in awe. I swear this was the highlight of the trip for me. 2 hours of watching the ocean, the clouds, the sunrise, and watching what Mother Nature does best. Shine and inspire. When we finally left, I left in awe, inspired, and felt in sync with myself yet again. It was like meditation and the most soothing kind to. Good for the soul.
After watching the amazing sunset, I went back to bed for a little bit and woke up refreshed and ready to go yet again. Today was our final day of travel and I could definitely feel it. I felt a rush of sadness, of thankfulness, and wanted to make the most of today.
We headed down to Tallows Beach a really long, completely isolated beach. The swell was massive and surfers were braving the waters. I really loved this beach. At one end were huge, rocky cliffs, and at the other end – well I couldn’t see it because the beach was so long. I took a walk along and basked in the moment and the splendor of the beach.
We met up with a fellow Canadian this afternoon for a lovely mixture of burgers, beach, sunburns and finally gelato. Just some of my favorite things, when we met up for burgers I had no idea what I was in for clearly. She said she had gone there the day before for a cheap burgers, fry and drink combo and that it was life changing so I agreed. We entered the small alleyway of the shopping arcade and found Beloporto. $10.00 was all it took for me to fall madly in love. A burger bigger than my head, fries and a coke. Does like get better? Seriously this burger was the crème de la crème of burgers – mind you I don’t even like burgers that much, so that says it all right there. Anyways once our bellies were beyond full, why not let it all hang out on the beach right? So headed down to the beach to work on that sunburn and lost track of time. Its neat running into someone from Canada on the other side of the world, its so easy to bond on the Canadian-isms. I loved it. Finally, headed back to the hostel, but not before I got another gelato. Mars Bar was my flavor of the day.
That afternoon I boarded the bus back to Sydney, with mixed emotions. I was happy to be headed home and to have experienced such amazing things in such a short time, but I was also sad. I was so inspired the whole time I travelled, no work, no sense of time, just my backpack and me. It really is an amazing feeling to have nothing, but feel everything.
Not every moment of the trip was all smiles and giggles, but regardless of the situation I remained positive. You have to – ‘Be happy in this moment, for this moment is your life.’
Til next time friends, safe travels and good vibes.
I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment. – Hiliare Belloc