The East Coast of Australia is a dream destination for many. With its stunning beaches, famous cities like Sydney and Brisbane, and the breathtaking Great Barrier Reef, there’s something for everyone.
If you’re an adventure seekers, you can enjoy surfing and snorkelling, while those who love culture can explore vibrant city life and rich history. Plus, with its friendly locals and diverse wildlife, it’s a place where unforgettable memories are made, making it a must-visit spot for foreign visitors.
Australia’s beautiful East Coast has been drawing travellers from all over the world for decades. The postcard white sand beaches, shimmering water, world-class surf, and laid-back Australian island ambience – this is an exciting way to spend 3 weeks on East Coast of Australia.
We also have this massive 3 weeks across Australia itinerary where you could include a visit to the West Coast.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO THE EAST COAST OF AUSTRALIA
Before you go book anything, there are a few things you should be aware of about visiting Australia, specifically the East Coast. In this part of the itinerary, I will help you decide when to visit, how much to budget, how to get around, and other travel tips:
When is the best time to go to the East Coast of Australia
The best time to visit the East Coast of Australia is generally during spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May). These seasons offer pleasant weather with moderate temperatures, ideal for outdoor activities and exploring the coast.
The peak tourist season is during the Australian summer, from December to February. This period sees the warmest weather, perfect for beach activities, but it also brings larger crowds and higher prices.
Winter, from June to August, is cooler and less crowded. While it’s winter, the climate remains relatively mild, making it a good time for those who prefer a quieter experience.
The rainy season varies along the coast but is typically during the summer months, especially in the tropical regions of Queensland, where you might experience tropical showers and occasional cyclones.
Are 3 weeks enough for East Coast of Australia
If you put together a list of cities properly, 20 days on East Coast of Australia is plenty of time. You can easily visit 4-5 cities. Planning what mode of transportation to use will also play a big role in ensuring that you can maximise your time without wasting it on airport and transport terminals.
What to pack
This depends on which season you plan to visit and the activities you want to do. If you’re an experienced surfer, you probably want to bring your own board, but you can also rent at many places along the Sunshine Coast.
If you plan to hike, don’t forget to bring comfortable shoes. I also recommend you bring at least one jumper/pullover because the wind at night, especially along the coast, can still be chilly, even in summertime.
How to get around
Getting around the East Coast of Australia offers various options. The most affordable is often buses, providing extensive coverage at low costs. But they can be the slowest choice.
For speed and convenience, flying is ideal, especially for covering long distances quickly. Trains offer a scenic and comfortable journey, though they might not be the fastest.
Renting a car is ideal for flexibility and exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations. It allows you to travel at your own pace and access areas not served by public transport, making it a great choice for a comprehensive and personalized travel experience.
However, Australia is massive, even with just visiting the East Coast. This means that you must craft your travel itinerary carefully to avoid spending more time driving than exploring.
This 3 weeks on East Coast of Australia itinerary is perfect for renting a car though. You can pick up the vehicle in Melbourne and then take it all the way to Sydney (it’s a 9-hour drive, but you can also take a break in Canberra for a night and explore the capital city.
From Sydney, you can take the car to the Blue Mountains, and finally, your last leg of the trip, from Sydney all the way to The Whitsunday Islands. You can then drop it off there and fly from Whitsunday Coast Airport to Cairns.
Language and currency
The main language spoken in Australia is English. While English is predominant, the country’s multicultural population also means that languages like Mandarin, Italian, Arabic, Cantonese, and Greek are widely spoken within various communities.
The main currency in Australia is the Australian Dollar (AUD). Tourists generally cannot pay with other currencies directly. Card payments are widely accepted and often more convenient than cash, especially in cities and tourist areas. Using cards also provide better exchange rates and security for international travelers, but don’t forget to have some local cash in hand for emergencies.
Average travel cost for East Coast of Australia
The cost of a vacation in Australia can really vary depending on your style and level of comfort. Visiting during the summer season, the prices skyrocket. On the other hand, the shoulder seasons can save you a great amount of money.
- Affordable: Budget travellers can expect to spend around AUD 1,500-2,500. This includes hostel stays, public transport, and mostly self-catered meals.
- Midrange: For a more comfortable trip with midrange hotels, some dining out, and domestic flights or car rental, the cost can range from AUD 3,500-6,000.
- Luxury: Luxury travellers might spend AUD 8,000-15,000 or more. This includes staying in high-end hotels or resorts, dining at upscale restaurants, private tours, and possibly internal flights in business class.
These estimates cover accommodation, transport, meals, and some activities. Prices can vary based on the specific destinations within the East Coast, the season, and personal spending habits. Activities like diving, guided tours, and special experiences will add to the overall cost.
If you plan to do extreme activities such as sky diving, diving, surfing, and others, you should really make sure that you have travel insurance valid for Australia.
Australia has a strict visa policy. There are a limited number of countries that could visit Australia without a needed visa.
If your passport is from the US, Canada, the UK, the EU, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan, you can enter and travel around Australia for up to 6 months, depending on what passport you hold.
However, all visa-free countries are still required to get an eVisitor permit, which you can obtain online. Make sure to get this at least one or two weeks prior to your departure date to Australia.
New Zealand citizens have a freedom of movement in Australia.
Other foreign visitors not mentioned above must apply for a visitor visa from the nearest Australian embassy or consulate in your location.
You must also remember that Australia has a strict import law. There are many foods that you cannot bring here (e.g. dried fruit, homemade food, etc), which were put in place to protect its sensitive ecosystem.
Other travel tips
You can start arranging some travel items, such as booking your accommodation and tours, once you have the dates picked. It’s the hotel that you want to book as soon as possible, especially if you plan to visit during the peak season.
The travel sites below are what we highly recommend on our blog because many of them are super flexible with cancellations and offer a wide range of choices.
PINNED MAP OF MUST-SEE PLACES ON THE EAST COAST OF AUSTRALIA
Click the enlarge button on the top right corner. Credit: map data: Google
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3 WEEKS ON EAST COAST OF AUSTRALIA ITINERARY
Starting in Melbourne, Victoria, and ending in Cairns, Queensland, this detailed itinerary takes you through 3 Australian states. This means that if you follow this itinerary, you want to book your flight into Australia to Melbourne and then fly out of Cairns.
From mountainous bushland and rainforests to the whitest sand beach in the world to small surf towns, iconic sprawling cities, and pristine islands, this itinerary has it all.
For extra local tips and tricks to help you have the best time possible, I also reached out to my friend Luca Saunders. Luca is an 18-year-old traveller and creator of the travel blog Hello World, Here I Come. She’s also an Australian local who’s spent a large amount of time travelling up and down the East Coast.
So what are you waiting for? Here is the top 3-week itinerary that’s guaranteed to give the best, authentic, and memorable experience of Australia’s beautiful coastline.
Melbourne for 4 days
Melbourne is one of Australia’s most popular and iconic cities, known for its art and music scenes, lively young crowds, and delicious food.
Melbourne is one of Australia’s most accessible cities by plane, making it a good starting point to access the greater East Coast. You can also take plenty of day trips to famous landmarks like the Great Ocean Road, 12 Apostles, and more.
From here, you can pick up a car rental, or you can do that once you reach Sydney instead.
Things to do in Melbourne
- Go to an art gallery
You wouldn’t have really visited Melbourne if you didn’t check out the city’s famous art scene. Visit the famed Australian Museum of Modern Art, then head to the Linden New Art Gallery to see some of Australia’s upcoming contemporary artists’ work.
- Go to an underground concert
Melbourne’s music scene is renowned, but not for large artists in stadium tours. Melbourne has a thriving underground music scene, with tiny packed bars showcasing local bands and artists. These shows aren’t often publicly promoted, so head to a Melbourne music Facebook page to see what you can find.
- Do a day trip along the Great Ocean Road and Visit the 12 Apostles
The best day trip from Melbourne has to be a drive along the Great Ocean Road. You can even stop along the way to see the iconic 12 Apostles. (suggested tour). So book a tour or rent a car and head out for a full day of exploring some of the country’s most dramatic coastal scenery.
- Take a food tour
Melbourne has some of Australia’s most diverse and delicious cuisine. Grab a tour or simply walk through the streets of some of Melbourne’s hip districts and find an unbelievable range of cuisines to taste. I recommend visiting A1 Bakery and Very Good Falafel.
- Try a delicious Australian coffee
Australia is famous for its coffee, and for good reason. Just walking around, you’ll find thousands of little coffee shops dotting the streets. The best coffee usually comes from small businesses, and for the full experience, get yourself the quintessential Aussie drink, the flat white.
- Take a walk through Fitzroy and Northcote
Fitzroy and Northcote are two of the city’s trendiest suburbs. Take a walk through the graffitied back allies to see street art, vintage shops, tiny galleries, record stores, and hip restaurants.
Accommodations in Melbourne
- Affordable: Space Hotel or Flinders Backpackers
- Mid-range: The Victoria Hotel or Atlantis Hotel
- Luxury: The Langham or Crown Towers
Sydney and The Blue Mountains for 6 days
Sydney and its nearby Blue Mountains are two of the most famous spots to visit in Australia. Sydney is famous for its iconic landmarks like the Opera House and Harbor Bridge, while the Blue Mountains are famous for their stunning viewpoints and diverse native Australian forests.
To get there from Melbourne, you can either take a short 1-hour flight, a 10-hour train or drive for roughly 8 hours. From the airport, the centre of Sydney is easily accessible due to the city’s amazing public transport system.
Things to do in Sydney and The Blue Mountains
- Visit the iconic Australian landmarks
You can’t visit Sydney without visiting its iconic Australian landmarks. The Opera House, Luna Park, and the Harbor Bridge are the two most notable.
For the cheapest experience, I recommend taking the Ferry from Circular Quay to Luna Park, which takes you right under the harbour bridge. From there you can take the train back over the bridge to see views of the Harbour and Opera House.
Then take a picnic lunch and relax next to the Opera House in the beautiful Botanical Gardens.
- Relax at Manly Beach
Next, you have to visit the city’s iconic beaches. The best by far for overall experience is Manly. The beach has beautiful bright green ocean pools to swim and relax in, plus a surf break and hundreds of beautiful cafes, stores, and restaurants lining the beachfront.
But make sure to put on sunscreen, and the Australian sun is relentless!
- Spend 2 days in the Blue Mountains National Park
A visit to Sydney is incomplete without heading to the Blue Mountains National Park, which is also where Luca grew up. The Blue Mountains are one of Australia’s natural wonders, with mountains that are actually… blue to the eye.
The Mountains are the perfect place to go if you’re looking for peace, beautiful scenery, bushwalks, and adventure experiences. Relax under a waterfall, head for a walk, and enjoy the beautiful ambiance.
The Mountains are also one place in Australia where you can see snow! Read more in Luca’s expert guide on seeing snow in Australia.
Read more about what to do and see in Luca’s Guide about why the Blue Mountains are worth visiting!
- Go rock climbing or canyoning
One thing you must do in the Blue Mountains is experience Its world-class adventure. The Mountains are considered to be a mecca of Australian rock climbing, and with towering cliffs as far as the eye can see, that’s no surprise. Similarly, if you aren’t comfortable with heights, a canyon might be the way to go.
If you aren’t experienced, make sure to book a tour instead. Try to book only tours with local guides from local companies, as private tourism has hurt the Blue Mountains over the last 10 years.
Accommodations in Sydney
- Affordable: Wake Up! Sydney Central or Sydney Harbour YHA
- Mid-range: Mariner’s Court Hotel or Meriton Suites
- Luxury: Sofitel Darling Harbour or Radisson Blue Plaza or Shangri-La
Noosa, Fraser Island, and The Whitsunday Islands for 9 days
Next, rent a car for the road trip of your life. Starting in Sydney, drive 11 hours up to the Sunshine Coast, stopping along the way if need be. You can take a night off at Rockhampton City, which is about 6 hours from Noosa, and then 5 hours to The Whitsunday Islands.
Spend 2 days exploring the beautiful beach town of Noosa, which has an unbelievable balance of facilities, rainforest, and beautiful beaches.
Then, drive just 4 hours from Noosa to K’gari (meaning paradise), also known as Fraser Island. Spend 2 days there to soak up the unbelievable wildlife and natural scenery.
From there, drive up to Airlie Beach, where you can access the beautiful Whitsunday Islands. The Islands are famed for being the whitest sand in the world and are an incredible place to explore Australia’s beautiful beaches and marine life. You need at least 3 days to experience this slice of paradise.
Things to do in Noosa, The Whitsunday Islands and Fraser Island
- Noosa- Explore the hidden beaches
Noosa is famous for its beautiful boardwalk that spans from the town centre, along the main beach, and along the coast through the surrounding national park. Take a walk along the boardwalk to see some of Queensland’s most beautiful scenery, and hop off to spend some time at one of the pristine hidden beaches!
- Noosa- Do a surf lesson
Noosa has been a hub for surfers for decades. Take an afternoon to hop on a board and enjoy one of Australia’s world-class surf breaks. If you’re a pro, you can rent a board along the beach. If not, grab a surf lesson and experience a big part of Australia’s beach culture.
- K’gari- Drive a 75-mile beach
Taking a drive along a 75-mile beach is one of the best things to do on Fraser Island. Cars are allowed on the sand, so many locals can be found on nice days parked on the beach with a picnic and some beers to watch the sunset.
Driving along the beach is one of the best ways to experience the beautiful coastline to the fullest!
- K’gari- Explore the natural wonders
K’gari/ Fraser Island has some of Queensland’s most incredible natural sites. Find teaming Australian wildlife like quokkas and kangaroos, dunes as tall as the Opera house, crystal clear water, and native Australian bushland as far as the eye can see.
Spend a day simply hopping between the famous Champagne pools, the Pinnacles, Lake Mckenzie, or take a drive along the sandy 4WD tracks from Eurong Beach to Kingfisher Bay to see the sub-tropical rainforest
- Whitsunday Islands- Relax on the whitest beach on earth
Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands has been named the whitest beach on earth multiple times, and you can’t visit the area without seeing it at least once. Boats to the beach depart from the Port of Airlie Marina or the Coral Sea Marina daily.
- Whitsunday Islands- Take a snorkelling tour
And you can’t miss a stay near the great barrier reef without going snorkelling. Here you can see vibrant coral, schools of colourful fish, turtles, manta rays, and much more. Dives and snorkelling expeditions can be expensive, but they’re well worth the experience and exposure to marine life you can’t find in many other places on Earth.
- Airlie Beach – Go Skydiving
For the adrenaline junkies among us, Airlie Beach is one of the best places on earth to go skydiving. Jump from 15,000ft and fall over some of the bluest water and lushest rainforests on the planet. The air is also warmer, making skydiving an even more enjoyable experience!
Accommodations in Noosa
Accommodations in Rockhampton City
Cairns for 2 days
And finally, fly or drive from Airlie Beach to Cairns at the northeast tip of Australia. The city has one of Australia’s biggest airports, making it a great place to finish up your East Coast trip. But spend 1 to 2 days exploring the city before heading off.
Here, you can also reach The Great Barrier Reef, which is definitely a must-see during your 3 weeks on East Coast of Australia. Plus, the fact that you can simply lie on the beach and enjoy the sun and water, is a great way to wrap up your trip.
Things to do in Cairns
- Head to Crystal Cascades
Head to Crystal Cascades for a nice afternoon relaxing by the natural freshwater pools and waterfalls. Drive through the rainforest to find this secluded spot, if you rented a car in Sydney, make sure to keep it to make these waterfalls more accessible!
- Take the Kuranda Scenic Railway
The Kuranda Scenic Railway is a train service that has been running since 1891 over the great dividing range, from Cairns to the town of Kuranda. The railway runs over raised tracks around the rainforest, towering mountains, and beautiful waterfalls.
Make sure to bring your camera! This is one of the most beautiful scenic train rides in Australia.
- Grab a bite to eat at the Cairns Night Markets
Finally, you can’t miss grabbing some delicious food at Cairns Night Markets. The markets have over 70 stalls and vendors, with countless choices for a delicious dinner experience in the city.
Accommodations in Cairns
MUST-TRY AUSTRALIAN DISHES AND DRINKS
Australia might not be known for their food, but you have to try at least a few dishes and see which ones you like. Plus, it’s a diverse country offering fusions from cuisines of India, East Asia, and Europe. Don’t forget to try the local coffee as well as visiting breweries.
- Barramundi Fish – A popular Australian fish often grilled or fried.
- Moreton Bay Bugs – A type of lobster native to Queensland, usually grilled or barbecued.
- Lamingtons – A classic Australian cake, dipped in chocolate and coated in coconut.
- Meat Pie – A staple snack, often filled with minced meat and gravy.
- Chicken Parmigiana – A pub favourite, featuring breaded chicken topped with tomato sauce and cheese.
- Damper – A traditional Australian bread, typically baked in a campfire.
- Pavlova – A meringue dessert with a crisp crust and soft, light inside, topped with fruit and whipped cream.
- Vegemite on Toast – A quintessential Australian spread made from yeast extract, commonly eaten on toast.
- Tim Tams – Iconic Australian chocolate biscuits.
- Anzac Biscuits – Oatmeal coconut cookies, originally made for soldiers during WWI.
- Fairy Bread – Bread spread with butter and covered in sprinkles, a children’s party favourite.
- Golden Syrup Dumplings – Sweet dumplings made with golden syrup, a classic comfort food.
- Flat White – A popular coffee drink, similar to a latte but with a higher coffee-to-milk ratio.
- Bundaberg Ginger Beer – A famous non-alcoholic ginger beer from Queensland.
- Lemon, Lime and Bitters – A refreshing drink made with lemonade, lime cordial, and Angostura bitters.
SUMMARY OF 3 WEEKS ON EAST COAST OF AUSTRALIA ITINERARY
This East Coast of Australia Itinerary has everything, spanning 3 states and all kinds of experiences. From white sand beaches to sprawling mountains to iconic cities and towns, you’ll be able to experience everything the East Coast has to offer.
With Luca’s extra local knowledge, you’ll be able to visit undiscovered gems, have fun, adventurous experiences, and explore only the best the East Coast has to offer.
I hope that you found this itinerary for 3 weeks on East Coast of Australia helpful in planning your upcoming trip.