Posted by Eleina Antoniou on 24 October 2018 | Comments


Australia’s east coast is a bucket list destination for nature lovers and adventurers from afar, however many travellers embark on the backpacker budget itinerary with little thought for the environment. Here are our suggestions for a backpacker itinerary of the east coast where you can not only pack light but also tread light by selecting ECO certified products and tours.

The journey from Melbourne to Cairns spans around 3,000km so it’s recommended to factor in transportation first. By utilising a coach service such as Premier Motor Service or Greyhound Australia, you can purchase a hop-on-hop-off pass which gives you the freedom to explore a variety of destinations that interest you. Coach services not only significantly reduce your carbon footprint in comparison to self-driving or flying, but also save you serious dollars, leaving you extra money to spend on experiences.


Welcome to Melbourne, the first stretch of your east-coast trip. Once you’ve explored the city, head out to the Peninsula Hot Springs for a relaxing experience in nature or the Werribee Open Range Zoo, which is home to both Australian and African native animals on a 200-hectare property.

1. peninsula hot springs

Photo: Peninsula Hot Springs 


After buying Melbourne’s famous coffee every day, you’ll be thankful to save on accommodation on your overnight bus trip to Sydney. Once you’ve arrived in Sydney you’ll be welcomed with views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and an abundance of cafes. Whilst you’re travelling through Sydney, be sure to take a trip to the Blue Mountains National Park, you can catch a bus or train to the park and do a self-guided tour or join one of Tread Lightly Eco Tours' walking or 4WD tours.

tread lightly eco tours 1 

Photo: Blue Gum Forest / Tread Lightly Eco Tours

Port Macquarie:

Once you reach Port Macquarie you’ll feel the relaxed vibes of this picturesque coastal town brimming with beaches, waterways and some great food and wine bars. Thirty minutes south of Port Macquarie, you can explore the Camden Haven, a little slice of heaven with uncrowded pristine beaches, walking treks and national parks and whilst you’re there you can stay at the Diamond Waters Treehouse Retreat which honours the philosophy of ‘nurture by nature.’

Diamond Waters Treehouse retreat FAcebook

Photo: Diamond Waters Treehouse Retreat

Coffs Harbour:

If you enjoy nature walks and national parks, stop off in Coffs Harbour and enjoy a hike or two at Bruxner Flora Park - the Forest Sky Pier is a unique way to experience the Coffs Coast and mountain views.

Byron Bay:

Byron Bay is famous for its surf, beaches and quirky shops and cafes but if you’re looking for an adventure, check out Byron Bay Adventure Tours. Go kayaking with dolphins, climb Mt. Warning at dawn for amazing views, or mountain bike through the rain forests. Regardless of the adventures you seek you can explore Byron Bay a variety of ways with a tour company that cares for the environment.

Byron Bay Adventures Tours

Photo: Byron Bay Adventure Tours

Gold Coast:

You’ve made it to Queensland! The Gold Coast offers extraordinary experiences from chasing waterfalls and staying in eco lodges in the national parks to skyscrapers and beaches that stretch for kilometres. There’s nothing quite like seeing a rainforest from above and the Tree Top Challenge offers just that: a non-invasive way to experience what it’s like from the rainforest canopy, whilst ziplining through Mt Tamborine or Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. After experiencing it from up high, why not meet some fury friends down under at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. If heights aren’t your thing you can head out on the water with Sea World Whale Watch & Sea World Cruises (between May and November) to get a glimpse of the magnificent whales.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary FB 

Photo: Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary


Once you’ve checked out what Queen Street Mall has to offer, walk along the river at South Bank on your way to the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, where Riverlife offers the chance to abseil or rock climb with Brisbane city views behind you. Alternatively, you can hire a kayak or stand up paddle board if water sports are more your thing. For the adventures out there with a little more time in Brisbane, head out to Stradbroke Island where you can camp or glamp at Minjerribah Camping and venture off to explore the island’s nature-based activities.

Minjerribah camping fireplace 1

Photo: Minjerribah Camping


Whilst you’re in Maroochydore, why not take a cruise with ECO Certified Cruise Maroochy Eco Tours?  You’ll be able to explore the flora and fauna that surround Maroochy River and discover the area’s rainforests, wildlife and wetlands.


In Noosa, stop in at Massimo's Gelateria for a gelato and take a walk along the esplanade to soak up the atmosphere of this stylish beachside haven. If you want a break from the sand and shops, check out The Discovery Group, who run canoe and river cruises through the beautiful Noosa Everglades.   

Noosa Everglads The Discovery Group Keigh Hamlyn

Photo: Noosa Everglades - The Discovery Group / Credit: Keith Hamlyn

Rainbow Beach:

Spend a day or two relaxing by the sandy beaches in Rainbow Beach. There are also national parks to explore and a variety of other outdoor experiences to try. Rainbow Beach is iconic for its coloured sands, and the best way to discover these are with a Surf & Sand Safaris 4WD tour where you’ll drive past the region’s best spots.

Fraser Island:

What’s a trip to Australia’s east coast without a day trip to Fraser Island – the world’s largest sand island? If you’re keen to meet other travellers and have a few extra days to spare, check out Nomads Fraser Island Tours for two and three-day trips to the island, or if you prefer to self-drive, look out for Fraser Dingo 4WD Hire, whose PINK is GREEN initiative demonstrates their commitment to protecting the pristine environment of this World Heritage Listed island.

Nomads Fraser Island Tours

Photo: Nomads Fraser Island

Hervey Bay:

Explore this coastal city by day and experience the region’s famous whale watching tours with Advanced Ecotourism Certified operator Hervey Bay Whale Watch; a family owned company with a strong passion for protecting our marine life and oceans by reducing pollution and minimising their environmental footprint.

hervey bay whale photo

Photo: Hervey Bay Whale Watch – Radim Klimes Photography 


Bundaberg, although famous for its Bundaberg Rum, is also the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the pathway to several natural wonders including Mon Repos Conservation Park and Lady Elliot Island. If you’re travelling through the months of November to March, Mon Repos Conservation Park hosts a turtle encounter experience where you can watch the baby turtles hatch and make their way to the water. If you can’t wait to explore The Great Barrier Reef, you can head over to Lady Elliot Island via a scenic flight from Bundaberg and stay at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, where you will experience world-class experiences with minimal environmental impacts.

Lady Elliot Island FB 

Photo: Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort

Airlie Beach:

An Australian resort town and the gateway to the magnificent Whitsundays. After exploring Airlie Beach for a couple of days you can venture out to sea on a tour of the Whitsundays, you’ll be able to see and experience the beauty whilst preserving it for future generations by choosing to discover the Whitsundays with any of our ECO Certified operators including: Ocean Rafting, Australian Tallships and Southern Cross Sailing, Charter Yachts Australia, Kiana Sail and Dive, and OzSail Adventures.

Kiana Sail and Dive

Photo: Kiana Sail and Dive


Townsville is home to the Reef HQ Aquarium which has marine life and coral from the Great Barrier Reef as well as a sea turtle hospital – this is a great educational stop before heading out on a snorkel or dive. If you want to get your dive certification before heading up to Cairns, Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive have a program for you. For animal lovers, there’s the Billabong Sanctuary Wildlife Park, which is home to koalas, wombats and crocodiles, as well as Magnetic Island - 2/3 of which is national park and home to a colony of Australia’s furry friends – koalas and many other Australian wildlife.

Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive

Photo: Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive


Welcome to Tropical North Queensland, the region that puts Queensland on everyone’s bucket list. Once you’ve explored the esplanade of Cairns, check out the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, ECO Certified for over 20 years and a truly unique experience offering pristine views over the rainforest canopy. Next up, if you haven’t already, tick ‘see The Great Barrier Reef’ off your bucket list and book yourself in for an experience of a lifetime with Quicksilver Connections or Wavelength Reef Cruises which are both part of conservation programs and integrate sustainable practices on their tours to minimise their environmental footprint. Continue through the north by checking out the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. After a long trip, why not immerse yourself into nature by staying at Silky Oaks Lodge and Healing Waters Spa and treating yourself for your last couple of nights?

skyrail rainforest cableway 2 

Photo: Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

That concludes our East Coast Australia Ecotourism itinerary; stay tuned for other Australian itineraries to come. Let us know in below which destinations you’re looking forward to exploring!


[Cover photo: Ocean Rafting]

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