If you had only 24 hours to spend on the East Coast of Australia, and some kind of epic, futuristic teleportation machine (something like Jeff Goldblum had in ‘The Fly’ but with less dismembered ears, gross body goop and weird mad science vibe), where would you go?
Here are a few suggestions for your time in Queensland and New South Wales – One for every hour of the day!
Start your epic ascent of Mount Warning at the very top corner of New South Wales (most easterly point of Australia, so first to see the sun) shortly after 3am from the car park at the base of the mountain, to bring you to the top in time for a truly magical sunrise – https://www.aussiebushwalking.com/nsw/mt-warning-national-park/mt-warning-summit-trail
Unzip your swag in the small hours to admire a million more stars at night than you even knew were there, away from towns and cities light pollution. An Indigenous camp in the rainforest of Tully Gorge National Park in North Queensland can take you on this adventure and teach you so much more than the sky at night – http://www.ingan.com.au/about-ingan
Not ready for your night to end (or for your day to start)? Take yourself along to Strawberry Hills Hotel in Surry Hills to make the most of one of the few remaining 24 hour bars in NSW, average beer price $5.20 and it doesn’t even feel like a mugging waiting to happen – bonus!!
Watch an incredible sunrise at Narrabeen Tidal Pool, one of the best rock pools on the Northern Beaches of NSW and a very popular photo spot. The sodium vapor from the pool creates the perfect lighting for a sunrise shot if you’re a keen photographer or Instagrammer.
A surf lesson at Byron Bay if you’re looking for somewhere iconic to say you managed your first Hang Ten (best of luck with that), or Agnes Water near the town of 1770 is home to possibly the cheapest surf school in Australia, Reef to Beach Surf School. Just $17 for a 3 hour lesson including all gear hire.
A morning walk in Noosa is pretty unforgettable. Take the Boardwalk up from Main Beach to the start of several hiking tracks of all different distances and abilities – spot Koalas, Goannas and a few massive QLD spiders and if you have enough time (and water) then definitely take the full hike across Alexandria Bay (nudist beach, don’t be alarmed by the odd swinging sausage on a local jogger) and right along to Sunshine Beach where the rich and famous seem to hang out.
Take a hike in the Blue Mountains before the day gets too hot. Make sure you take every trail, there’s so much more to this area than just the Three Sisters where the other 9 million tourists hang out, really explore this place. I can recommend a picnic lunch to eat on the rock at the bottom of Wentworth Falls. Best way to discover this waterfall is from the bottom – spectacular! (not the waterfall pictured, because a photo wouldn’t do it justice)
Take a scenic flight over the Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef and see these iconic spectacles from the air, probably the most breathtaking scenery you’ll ever witness from the sky. Take your tour with GSL Aviation at Airlie Beach to get the full works with the Reef & Island package – https://gslaviation.com.au/airlie/scenicflights
If you’re not a keen flyer, I can also recommend the jetski tours from Airlie beach out to Daydream Island, where you’ll be able to play out on the open waters, either on your own jetski for full control, or team up with a friend and share the driving to cut the cost in half – http://www.jetskitour.com.au/
Cape Tribulation is the only place on the east coast of Australia where you can experience both a beach and rainforest horse ride in one morning. The whole Daintree Rainforest is a phenomenal place to spend some time and the beaches of Cape Tribulation are the perfect border to that – the only place in the world where two UNESCO World Heritage sites collide – and they’ll have you galloping in no time – http://www.capetribhorserides.com.au/
Make the drive inland from Innisfail a little more exciting, by stopping off just south of the incredible Atherton Tablelands and drive the Milla Milla Waterfall Circuit. There are a few stunning stops here and none of them are far to walk from the car park – http://www.millaamillaa.com/waterfalls.htm
Make sure you have 4WD if you head up as far as Cape Tribulation, because your trip is worth nothing if you don’t take the scenic Bloomfield track right to the very end (and then a little further into the local dry community for another phenomenal waterfall stop-off). It’s an unsealed road and could get you into a little trouble with your hire company if you don’t take it slowly, but so worth it!
Kuranda Scenic Rail from Kuranda Village to Cairns departs at 2pm and takes you through the memorable scenery of North Queensland – Not to be confused with the Skyrail… that one’s a little disappointing for the price! – http://www.ksr.com.au/Pages/Default.aspx
Pay a visit to Alf’s Bait Shop in Summer Bay! (“closer each daaaaaaay”) Or Palm Beach, as it’s known locally. Just a couple of hours north of Sydney and you can snap that iconic wistful silhouette shot of you hanging around near the beach entrance with a surf board tucked under your arm. Don’t actually surf here though, Bluebottle jellies EVERYWHERE! Maybe just grab an ice cream and stalk a few of the actors during filming.
Some beautiful scenery to be witnessed at Barrington Tops National Park, and where better to see it from than drifting down the river with your arse hanging in the water through the inner tube of a grader tyre. Stay at local farmhouse backpackers Twistops Retreat to get involved in a little afternoon river tubing – http://www.twistopsretreat.com.au/about/4533155783
Take the Fort Walk on Magnetic Island for Koala Spotting and a little history lesson and position yourself up high for the sunset!
Watch the sun set over the rainforest from one of the perfect secluded beaches in Cape Tribulation.
Witness the Milky Way developing right before your eyes, as you enjoy dusk over the spectacular Wallaman Falls in Queensland.
Catch a show at Sydney Opera House. I saw a New York production called Club Swizzle while I was there; I highly recommend this if it comes to your town. Otherwise, there are always plenty of shows available at the Opera House and they aren’t ALL Opera if that’s not your thing. I was also pleasantly surprised by the price! – https://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/events/whats-on.html
Discover the reef at night! Enjoy a different perspective on life under the sea from Lord Howe Island, NSW. You can stay in the comfort of a glass bottom boat to enjoy the view, or get up close with your underwater torch – http://www.lordhoweislandtours.com/141/
Be a cliché and pull up a stool at the bar to enjoy a true Aussie tipple at the Old Bundy Tavern in the town of, yup, Bundaberg! Naturally, your drink of choice will be… You guessed it – Bundy rum and coke!
Visit Horsehead Rock (30 Mins South of Narooma on the NSW South Coast) at night for a chance to practice some impressive astro-photography.
Enjoy a few last minute jukebox favourites before kick out time at the Three Rivers Hotel in Greenvale, an old mining town in North Queensland. This friendly little hotel bar is the subject of country singer Slim Dusty’s song of the same name. Have a listen and then go visit the iconic little family run pub for a warm welcome from the locals.
Head to “Frankies Pizza” in Sydney before the 1am lockout for pizza by the slice and any kind of music you want. Walk in through a classy bar with a chilled out atmosphere; through to a rock bar in the next room, with a grungy vibe, live music every night and all the people watching you could possibly need; or further on through a little fire exit door from this space which takes you down further underground into a 1950’s style jazz theme in the tiny downstairs bar. Whatever your tastes, you won’t be disappointed here! Check their website for upcoming events, or just show up! http://frankiespizzabytheslice.com/
If jelly wrestling, Bogan Bingo, pole-dancing and wet T-shirt competitions are your thing, then maybe arrive a little earlier in the evening, but if you hit 2am and you haven’t made it here yet then RUN! You can’t have a night out in Cairns without ending up at Gilligans Backpackers and Nightclub. With so many different areas to dance inside and out, there’s probably music and a style somewhere in here to suit your taste.
If you don’t take at least one of these suggestions when you’ve built your teleportation device, I’ll be truly offended.
Whatever you choose to do with your time on the east coast, have a great time doing it!
Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted – John Lennon