The following is an edited version of an email guide I emailed to a couple of friends who I met in Thailand. I have improved the language and added a couple little points, but left it essentially the same. This is not a formal review, but it gives you an idea of what I was doing while working in Australia.
Things to do:
Great Barrier Reef – this is the big one, have to do it. Currently a special with Ocean Free that’ll do you a dive for $20 and it’s a sweet boat. Bungy Jumping here, only place in Aus. Don’t bother with Cape Tribulation (Cape Trib) it’s a bit shit, but the Atherton Tablelands tour is good. Uncle Brians is the best tour, but Captain Matty’s is good too (and a bit cheaper) White Water Rafting, this is great, but a bit of a drive away from Cairns, you can use this to transfer down to Mission Beach though, which is a nice spot, and it’ll knock about 2 hours off the journey down to your next stop
Places to see:
The lagoon, lots of girls, sometimes topless. There’s another one at Gilligans which is smaller, but less kids/old people so better for the ladies.
Where to go out:
Gilligans is king here, it’s got a massive nightclub in the complex, during the week it’s quiet and they do some stupid backpacker things, including wet tee-shirt comps and other stupid stuff. At the weekends it packs out with Aussie locals, the atmosphere take a bit of a dive, but altogether it’s still good, and it’s a good time to meet some aussie chicks too. The Woolshed has a similar vibe, and allows people to dance on the tables, which people like. It seems to be the main competitor of Gilligans, nowhere near as big, but still a good party, and cheaper than gillis. Worth a night. Everywhere else… not a clue!
Cairns – Mission Beach = 2 hours
White Water Rafting – same as above. Sky Diving [EDIT: It’s possible to skydive up and down the East Coast with these guys, and if a jump is cancelled due to weather, they will transfer your booking to another day and location]- a great place to skydive onto the beach. This place is really small and chilled out, a nice rest from Cairns, and some really friendly people in the hostels, but you’ll get bored after a day or so, not much going on here at all.
Mission Beach – Townsville = 3 hours
Townsville is an Aussie tourist hotspot, but very few backpackers here, it’s only used as the port to get over to Maggie Island. This is a place that wants to be Thailand! They have a full moon party, but people have said it’s a bit tame, so don’t bother with that, but you can check it out for a day or two. Seems to be highly recommended by the Irish, so maybe head over and check it out. You can get deals that include your ferry ticket, accom and some meals at the Base hostel if you go to Peterpans. Again, it’s small and chilled, but I’ve been told it’s really good so up to you guys!
Townsville – Airlie Beach = 10 hours (overnight)
The Whitsunday islands are beautiful, and you’ll want to be on the Clipper to have the best time, it’s the biggest boat, it’s got the best vibe and the biggest party atmosphere. Slide, diving board and hot tub on board, it’s for getting loose and having fun. But you’ll still get plenty of time to see Whitehaven beach and do plenty of snorkeling and see the fish! Just don’t get too drunk and a hangover on a boat is no fun. [EDIT: Having been on the Clipper since writing this I would recommend New Horizon, the sister boat. I found the games and attitude on board a little too childish for me, so if you’re over 25 stay away. However if you’re happy to dress up, and run around like a fool, this is the boat for you]
Airlie: Stay somewhere cheap, that’s not nasty (Beaches is nasty, everywhere else is pretty ok [EDIT: Nomads has nice rooms, good facilities and a great atmosphere] Party anywhere you want, there’s one road in Airlie, and it’s pretty short. You can wander up and down fine and you’ll see where is busy and where’s not. Beaches is pretty good and Mambos in the middle is pretty cool. Mama Africa is the only club and stays open pretty late. Just keep it easy, and when you meet a chick who’s game, take her home quick!
Airlie – Agnes Water/1770= 10 hours
This place has two names, it’s confusing. This is a good place to stop for a night or two, they really want to bring more people in here, so you can usually get a free surf trip or something while you’re there. Most of the hostels have free wifi, so make sure you get one of those. The best thing here is that it breaks up your journey to Rainbow beach, saves a long stop over at a bus stop in Hervey Bay, which you don’t want!
Agnes – Rainbow Beach = 8 hours
RAINBOW BEACH/FRASER ISLAND
Rainbow is a cool little town, good place to chill, but with enough backpackers coming through to keep it fun. Most people just rush through though, so it might not be a great place to spend too much time. The best thing here is the DINGOS tour of Fraser Island. This is rad, driving a 4×4 around on the beach and down sand/dirt roads, then jumping out to see some cool shit, or go for a swim in some really nice lakes. It’s the best things I did in Oz, so do it! it’s 3-day 2-nights, camping next to the beach, and pretty high chances of a lay.
Rainbow Beach – Noosa – 2 hours
This place is cool, and crawling with Canadian chicks, definitely worth a stop over, and possibly a good place to stop for a while, work for accommodation get into things a bit more. A good place for surfing as well, so give it a shot. Don’t stay in Dolphins! The town is also near Australia Zoo, which is the biggest and best, so hit that up on your way down to Brisbane
Noosa – Brisbane – 2 hours
Boring. Good botanical gardens, great modern art museum, not much else. Some people love it, I was bored.
Brisbane – Surfers = 2 hours
Not my cup of tea at all! But, very good night life, a little more dressy than other places (no flip-flops or vests) and lots of Aussies on the pull. A good place to meet Aussie chicks though, especially if you get out of the backpacker bars. Has Wet n Wild and Dreamworld, the biggest theme parks in Aus, so give them a blast, but not in the school holidays.
Surfers – Byron = 2 hours
There’s three places to stay in Byron 1) Backpackers Inn – the cheapest place, about 10 mins from the town, not great though 2) Nomads – right in the middle, big party hostel, but one of the most expensive 3) Arts Factory – funky place, lots of people love it, but it’s about 20mins from the town Very cool place, very hippy, loads of people love it, and it’s rad. Great for surfing, and even free board hire if you find the right place, but the boards are made of rocks, [RDIT: it’s worth hiring a decent one if you’re actually serious about giving it a go]. The town is EXPENSIVE though, it’s popular, and expensive to match. You have to go to Nimbin, it’s fun and cool.
Byron – Spot x – 2 hours
It’s a surf camp, nothing else there! Just surf, chill, flirt, and eat. All food provided, and it’s good food!
Spot x – Sydny – 8 hours
SYDNEY…. I’ll finish this later…”
I didn’t ever finish it for my friends, but there is a very brief guide on the Aussie East Coast. It’s good for those only planning a short trip, as it covers all the best bits and basics, so if you want to go for anywhere between 3 and 6 weeks, this will work out well for you.