An Absolute Aussie East Coast Adventure With Wild Kiwi
By guest James Vodicka
Two weeks to travel the entire East Coast of Australia… you must be kidding, right? I thought the same thing two weeks ago, but after spending the last fortnight on a crazy road-trip adventure with Wild Kiwi tour and ten other travellers, I can assure you, it might just be the most enjoyable two weeks you can have Down Under. Travelling from Sydney to Cairns over 14 days, the tour stops off at all the best spots – the Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley, Port Macquarie, Byron Bay, Brisbane, Noosa, Fraser Island, Whitsunday Islands, Atherton Tablelands and Cairns. That’s more of Australia than most Aussies have even seen.
Days 1 & 2: Sydney To The Blue Mountains
Kicking off the trip in Sydney, we passed through Milson’s Point for a quick photo stop on the harbour with views of the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Luna Park, before heading North towards the Blue Mountains. Arriving in Katoomba in the afternoon, we spent the last few hours of the day exploring the walking trails of the Blue Mountains National Park, with stunning views over the dramatic Three Sisters peaks. In the evening we had our first of many group dinners at a local pub for a true Aussie dining experience. Waking up early the next day and squeezing in a short walk to a spectacular local lookout, we were on the road again heading towards the Hunter Valley.
Day 3: Hunter Valley & Port Macquarie
The crew over at Wild Kiwi sure know how to kick off the tour with a couple of star attractions… wine & koalas. Not together, obviously, although that does sound like the perfect backpacker experience. The wine tasting at Tamburlaine Winery is perfect for the less adventurous among the group and for those who would choose a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon over river rafting any day of the week. But don’t worry river rafters, you’ll get your chance later in the trip!
As a surprise, breaking up the drive from the Hunter to Spot X, we also pulled into Port Macquarie’s koala hospital for a glimpse at some of Australia’s cutest furry locals. Lazing about in the gum trees above, all of the koalas at the sanctuary are on the road to recovery from sickness or injury with the help of the hospital’s volunteers.
Day 4: Spot X Surf Camp
Time to hit the beach. Pulling into Spot X Surf Camp, just North of Port Macquarie, the tour hits the coastline for the first time, just in time for sunset and a night of chilled shenanigans. The camp at Spot X is straight out of a 70s surf film, with a communal vibe and passion for surfing that runs deep, attracting tourists from all over the world keen for a glimpse into Aussie surf culture. Wild Kiwi offers a surfing lesson as an inclusion in the tour price, so there’s no reason not to hit the waves and see what all the fuss is about.
Day 5 & 6: Byron Bay
Get used to sandy feet and salty hair, the rest of the tour beach-hops up the coastline, passing through some of Australia’s most iconic beach towns. First on the list, and the spot I was personally most excited about, Byron Bay is one of Australia’s most iconic coastal communities. First popularised by hippie surfers 50 years ago, Byron has transformed into a booming hotspot of alternative surf culture. I had never visited Byron before the tour, and immediately fell in love. Chilled out cafes, great beaches, a stunning National Park and a relaxed vibe… what else could you ask for?
We made the most of our couple of nights in Byron, watching the sunset at Fisherman’s lookout on our way into town, kayaking with dolphins at Wategos Beach, sampling the local produce at Byron farmer’s market and surfing The Pass. We also watched the sunrise from Australia’s most easterly point at Cape Byron lighthouse, explored the hidden bays and spectacular coastline of Byron’s National Parks. I’m already itching to get back to Byron to experience more of what is on offer. First stop, snorkelling with turtles and sharks at one of Australia’s best underwater spots, Julian Rocks.
Days 7 & 8: Noosa & Fraser Island
Into the second half of the trip, we left the Wild Kiwi van in Brisbane. Before picking up a few new group members, we then jumped on a train and headed to Noosa on the Sunshine Coast. There are charming cafes and restaurants, pristine beaches and one of the best National Parks to explore in Australia. We spent a couple of days relaxing, spotting wild koalas, swimming in the natural rock-pools and chasing dolphins down the beach as they cruise down the coast.
One of the highlights of the trip was the day-trip to World Heritage listed Fraser Island. Located just north of Noosa, it is the largest sand island in the world. Also one of the adventure hotspots of Australia, perfect for camping, 4WD and outdoor activities. The tour departs early from Noosa and after driving down the beach, heads inland to explore the incredible freshwater oasis of Lake McKenzie. After an extravagant bush BBQ, the tour ventures further into the wilderness for a rainforest tour ending with some extreme off-road driving past Rainbow Beach and the spectacular Coloured Sands.
Days 9-11: Whitsunday Islands
Further North and getting closer to the tropics, the tour really kicks into another gear once we arrived into the Whitsundays. Jumping straight off the train and onto a yacht, we set sail to explore the 74 islands and their stunning beaches and reefs for two days. Staying overnight on the yacht, the experience really is something that you’ll never forget. There are stops to snorkel the coral reefs off Hook Island and see the spectacular Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach, voted pretty consistently, as Australia’s best beach.
The most outstanding part of the overnight sailing tour, for me at least, was actually the food. Freshly cooked before every meal by the talented crew, the food onboard Siska is delicious – probably better than 99% of the tour-food I have experienced around Australia and abroad. There are even vegan options for each meal, and we’re not just talking lazy salad alternatives, but unique and delicious vegan-friendly offerings. Siska is open to other travellers and adventurers, so after two days on a boat with a group of complete strangers, there’s a pretty high chance of making some new friends too.
Days 12-14: Cairns & Atherton Tablelands
With the Wild Kiwi tour finishing up, it was bittersweet to arrive in Cairns. We had a full day to enjoy and explore the local sights. Most of the group headed to the Great Barrier Reef for snorkelling and diving. It’s fair to say I’ve seen my fair share of the underwater world over the past few years. In the same token, the abundance of marine life and health of the coral on the outer reef was as spectacular as ever. We had great weather conditions, with one of the clearest and calmest days I have ever experienced on the reef.
On the last day of the trip, we headed up into the Atherton Tablelands. Exploring rainforests, swimming in waterfalls and sliding down natural waterslides, we learnt what true adventure is all about. If you get a chance to extend your trip by a few days, explore the Daintree Rainforest, Port Douglas, the islands off Cairns or Cape Tribulation. Tropical North Queensland is one of Australia’s most spectacular attractions. No wonder its the only place in the world where two unique World Heritage Listed sights actually sit side-by-side.
As a two week tour, Wild Kiwi’s Absolute Aussie East Coast Adventure packs more in than I could ever imagine. It is a fantastic way to explore the East Coast within the timeline of a standard holiday. This tour honestly does an incredible job at hitting the East Coast’s best locations in a wonderful mix of relaxation and adventure. I couldn’t plan it any better. I consider myself so lucky for the opportunity to further explore and enjoy the very best of what Australia has to offer. Watch out New Zealand, after these last two incredible weeks I might not be able to resist joining one of Wild Kiwi’s other tours!