Queensland

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef Australia,

All I can say, is get to the Great Barrier Reef as soon as humanly possible, if you are planning onever seeing it. It is true that most of the reef is dying and becoming bleached from pollution and damaged from climate change. If you are a non-believer in climate change, check out how our ocean's largest reef is handling it at the Great Barrier Reef... you'll be a believer.

I don't want to scare you from spending your money to go see this magical place because it's epic. The Great Barrier Reef is enormous. Australia is enormous and it stretches along the entire northeast coast of Australia. We had a good friend that had family up in the Cairns area so, we decided to see it there. Trips from the Gold Coast were quite cheap, as well, if you bought your flights in advance.

There are plenty of boats that will take you the two hours out to see the GBR. We wish we could give you a run down of all them with price comparisons and everything, but a room mate of ours had already done a tour with Rumrunner Tours, out of Cairns, and had nothing but good things to say about it. So, we chose that one. We also have nothing but good things to say about it as well. They were very accommodating to three of the people in our group being vegetarians and vegans, which was unreal awesome! It was a two-day, one-night trip. We stayed on the boat and they cooked all our meals. Beers were $3 each; the cheapest beers in Australia.

Because we went in the slow season (just before the jellyfish infestation that usually happens over there), they offered all the snorkelers three free dives after a couple of skills lessons and safety exercises. No one in our group had ever done the scuba and we definitely did not expect to learn at the most epic place on earth to learn to dive, the Great Barrier Reef. But, we did and it was unreal. The things you see beneath the snorkel surface were crazy cool. We saw turtles, a color changing octopus, and we swam thru canyons of reef. It was epic. I felt like a mermaid.

Another highlight of slow season was there wasn't another boat insight. We had every reef we went to all to ourselves. But, I remember feeling terrible about the way that I felt after our first reef we stopped at tho. I felt like I must be jaded or the GBR had been over hyped. It was grey. The fish were colorful, but the reef was grey. People excited for my trip were telling my how mind blowing it was, as you swam face down looking into the deep dark ocean to the reef. Then, all the sudden, an explosion of colors would rise up out of the bottom of the ocean into tall reef-like skyscrapers with schools of colorful exotic fish swimming about. The only thing right about that statement, in my first experience, was the colorful fish swimming about. I was kinda bummed when we got corralled back onto the ship for lunch.

After lunch, we moved on to another reef location. The second location was just as epic as all my friends had promised. My mind was literally blown from all the colors. All of us didn't want to get out when they called us all in for dinner. I think a couple of us even pretended like we couldn't hear the bell. :)

If you aren't able to get the free scuba, I would say that you don't really need to spend the money on scuba. The times that I was snorkeling were some of the times that I saw the coolest schools of fish. Sometimes the bubbles from scuba equipment can scare the fish away. So if you are trying to save money and still have a great experience, I would say stick to the snorkel. You will have an amazing experience anyways!

Road trippin - Girraween to Bald Rock

Bald Rock National Park

At some point in your Aussie travels, you'll want to head away from the beach towards the outback.  If you're around the Brisbane/Gold Coast Area, there are two amazing National Parks that offer classic unusual outback terrain and it can all be done in a matter of three days.  So pack up your rigs and get ready to head into the outback territory on the Queensland/New South Wales border.

 Day 1: Driving out to Giraween takes anywhere from 3:30 min to 4 hours depending on where your coming from.  If you're into wine you can stop by an array of wineries in the Stanthorpe region before entering the park.  There are two campgrounds available in Girraween - Bald Rock Creek and Castle Rock, both are pretty much the same.  You can stay at either spot and access the park.  There are tons of day hikes inside the park.  We would recommend hiking to the natural bridge and onto the Pyramid summit where you will find an amazing balancing granite boulder.  Another great hike is to Castle Rock, where you can get killer views of the entire area.  Girraween is known for it's granite rock formations and I recommend taking some time to walk the tracks and marvel at how some of these rocks even exist in the middle of the outback.  Take an evening stroll around the park and you will definitely come across plenty of kangaroo.

 Day 2:  Wake up and if your feeling up to it, take a morning stroll and boulder around the granite, or have a cuppa and be on your way.  The drive from Girraween to Bald Rock is not very far. If you're low on gas, I recommend hitting up Tenterfield for fuel and supplies for your next evening.  The camping grounds are just right at the base of Bald Rock. Find a good spot, set up, and explore the area.  Bald Rock is Australia's biggest Granite monolith and it's an amazing rock to scramble up.  There is also an amazing old growth gum forest at the base of this monolith.  This park is seldom visited. So, don't be surprised if you only see a few other campers/hikers around.  We recommend catching the sunset over the outback from the summit.

 Day 3:  Set your alarm about one hour before sunrise get your headlight on and start the predawn summit up Bald Rock face.  If weather permits you will witness an amazing sunrise over a sprawl of gum and eucalyptus forest below.  Enjoy the solitude from this amazing rock and even take your shoes off for some of the best earthing in Australia.  After you're satisfied, head down, chill out at camp, and get ready to pack up and head out.

You can wrap the trip up by taking the B-60 to the A-1 and head north a bit into Byron Bay which is easily Australia's most iconic beach town.  Check out our Byron guide here.

Road trip Rainbow Bay to the Sunshine Coast

Sunshine Coast Australia Noosa

Grab your boardies, sunnies, and get ready to slip, slop and slap (Aussie jingle for being sun safe).  The Sunshine Coast is a beach haven serving up plenty of surf, sun, and natural beauty.  

Rainbow Beach - Sand dunes and sunshine - Start this journey off north, in Rainbow Beach, where you will find a quiet town with a massive beach and sand dune section that expands south as far as the eye can see.  Spend a day exploring the dunes.  Release your inner child and roll down the dunes into the beach below.  If your lucky enough to have a 4x4, you will be able to access some amazing camping anywhere along the beach.  If you don't have a 4x4, drive up north a bit and stay and one of the many campsites along Inskip Road. 

Noosa - Right point breaks and national park strolls - Noosa Heads is home to some of the friendliest right handed point breaks in QLD.  If you're luckily enough, you will be able to get some amazing rides here though, I recommend a long board.  If you're looking for more high performance rides, check out Granite Bay and Sunshine Beach on the south side of the headlands.  If surfing isn't your thing, there are plenty of trails to rock pools and more secluded beaches than you will find in Noosa's main beaches.  One of our favorite places to relax and surf was at Sunshine Beach. It was always amazing to us that once you drove to the south side how little people would be at the beach.  Noosa is a tough place for sneaky van camping. So, be careful and check out our guide to sneaky free camping.  

Sunshine Coast - Beach towns and mountains - After a few days exploring Noosa head, an 45 minutes or so down south the the Sunshine Coast where you will find an array of friendly surf and classic Aussie surf towns.  Start at Coolum Beach.  Walk up Mount Coolum (more of a hill) for some amazing views of the Sunshine Coast.  Head down the coast checking out all the small shops and cafes on your way.  We recommend posting up at Kawana Beach for the night, where we had no problems and met some amazing locals.  Wake up check the surf and then head out to the Glasshouse Mountains.  You'll find easy to difficult trails here.  If you're looking for something easy, check out Mt Ngungun for amazing views of the mountains.  The brave can head to Mt Tibrogargan for a rock scramble up to the top.  After this hike, you can head down and check out the Australian Zoo, which was home to to the late great legend, Steve Irwin. 

From here, Brisbane is just a short drive South.  We wouldn't recommend much in Brisbane it's a pretty boring city, in our adventurely opinion.  We say that you just power through and head to the Gold Coast for more options.  

Byron Bay

Byron Bay Australia Travel Tips

Byron Bay is easily Australia's most iconic beach towns.  If you come to this laid back town, it's easy to get caught up in the tourist trap and have yourself second guessing about why the region gets so much hype.  But have no fear, we are here to help you steer clear of the madness and keep your wallet closed and enjoy this magical place on the cheap.

First of all, the town on Byron itself has gone from a small town bohemian paradise to what we like to call Byron Pay. The word is out about this sweet little town and there is massive influx of Euro backpackers trashing the area. In response, council has made every beach paid parking and they are on a daily hunt for vanlifers trying to bust a cheeky camp. They will not hesitate to issue you a hefty fine if caught sleeping in your vehicle. This entire town tries to cash in on their tourist reputation by trying to lure you in and get you to open up those wallets to have a unique laid back bohemian experience.  We write this blog for travelers that have their own vehicles and want to escape the ordinary and live as a local and experience this place and it's charm.  Here are 5 must do's and free activities to check out on your Byron Bay holiday.

1.  Wategos Beach - Get up at the crack of dawn and drive down to Wategos beach the only beach in Byron with free all day parking and watch a classic east coast sunrise.  The car park fills up quick but if you arrive at around 6am your guaranteed a premier spot overlooking the best beach in Byron.  Wategos has an amazing and very friendly right handed point break that is suitable for all surfers.  While it's more of a long boarders destination, it can serve up some great rides for all board sizes.  There are also a handful of amazing walks around Wategos you can walk to the most eastern tip of Australia, the iconic Byron Lighthouse, and all the way to Main beach in Byron.  Make sure to bring in food for the day there are nice BBQ's around but the cafe is a bit pricey.  We highly recommend visiting the Cafe on the Waves coffee van which is there almost every morning from 6am till about noon. 

2.  Broken Heads Reserve - Just a few kilometers outside of Byron is the Broken Head Nature Reserve.  Most tourists don't have vehicles or the knowledge of this hidden gem. So, most days especially weekdays, this reserve is almost empty.  Short walks can take you down to remote Kings and Whites beach where we have many times had this beach to ourselves.  Drive to the end of Seven Mile Road to Seven Mile beach and walk this long stretch of beach in solitude.  We've even seen bioluminescent algae here and have had some of the most amazing nights star gazing at the Milky Way Galaxy at this secluded beach.

3.  Mount Warning - Just an hour drive inland will bring you to Mount Warning.  Once an active volcano, Mt. Warning is the highest peak in the region and visible from Byron Bay.  During the winter months, the peak at Mt. Warning is the first place to see the sun rise in mainland Australia.  While it isn't the easiest hike, it is something that every traveler visiting the east coast should do.  In order to reach the summit by sunrise, you'll want to arrive around 3am.  We slept in the car park to make sure we made it up to the summit in time.  From the summit, it's an amazing experience to watch the sun rise over Byron Bay.  After the hike we recommend driving through the quirky town of Nimbin for breakie and maybe even a few brownies for your relaxing day in Byron.

4.  Whale watching - While there are numerous wale watching outfitters in the region, one of your best bets to watch these amazing creatures is from a short walk from the Wategos car park.  From July to October, Humpback whales dominate the ocean.  From cape Byron, you can see countless whales and calves breaching, tail and fin slapping, and preforming all kinds of whale behavior right from the point.  You'll be amazed a how close they will come to the rocks.  The whale migration it's easily one of our most unforgettable Aussie experiences.  If you really want to get up close and personal, you would want to board a tour but you will be amazed at what you can see from Cape Byron. 

5. Food and Drink - While never spending a dollar is ideal, eventually, we all have to eat. This is where I recommend opening up that wallet, because after all, ramen and PB&J get old. There is one cafe on the way into Byron that I just can't deny stopping at, Folk Cafe. I go in for a Beetroot Late and come out with a full tummy. I just can't help it. This down to earth spot has some of the most creative and interesting hot beverages you will ever encounter.

To top off your Byron Bay experience, pop on over to Stone & Wood easily one of our favorite beers in Australia. If you are interested in touring the facility and seeing how the magic is made, they do tours daily. Or if you were just looking to wet your whistle, they have inexpensive flights with the following beer just $5. Take advantage of the $5 beer... you'll never see a deal like that again in Australia.