The South Island of New Zealand is without a doubt…
A dream of mine came true when I got the chance to explore Australia’s East Coast with Stray Australia on their Mick Pass– a hop on, hop off tour that takes you to all the hotspots along the coast from Sydney to Cairns. My first week in Australia was incredible. I touched down in Sydney, hiked in the Blue Mountains, saw koalas and tried out all sorts of water related sports. I can’t even believe that I have only been in this beautiful country for just a week as I have experienced so much already. Read all about my first adventurous week with Stray Australia in my first part of the Australia Diary. Another week full of highlights was lying ahead of me.
Day 8: Exploring Byron Bay
It was time to explore what Byron Bay has to offer. Here you will find tons of cute cafés and amazing brunch spots. I wish I had a week in this place to eat my way through all of them. Very high on my list was „Folk at Byron“, from which I saw lots of mouth watering pictures on my instagram- simply love to get some ideas and inspiration through this little app. I borrowed a bike from the hostel and after quick cycle I was able to enjoy a very delicious avocado toast and big mug of cappuccino there. Fuelled up for my day it was time to see some more of Byron and check out the many boutiques and cute shops. I had a long list of places that I wanted to visit, so I cycled into town to check them all out. Window shopping is a great thing to do, or if you have some cash saved up and want to shop some unique pieces definitely do it here in Byron Bay. I found so many dresses to add to my holiday wardrobe. In the afternoon we cycled to „The farm“ which is a great spot out of town with good food and a sunflower field that is great to snap some photos. One thing not to miss on the weekends is the artisan market in town. Here you can shop some handmade clothes, jewellery. that you won’t find elsewhere. There are also quite a few food stalls with different foods from all over the world. We ended up buying some snacks and had a picnic on the beach to watch the sunset.
A must thing to do in Byron Bay is the lighthouse trail. The best time to go there is at sunrise, however I am not a morning person so unfortunately I overslept.
Day 9: Driving up the Coast to Noosa
It was time to make our way up to Queensland. We stopped at a viewpoint in the morning to take some pictures of Surfers Paradise from a distance. The funny thing is that Queensland and New South Wales have a time difference of one hour. There is a monument that marks the border of the two states, so when taking your photo you can stand in two different time zones at the same time ;). Along the route there were a few options for people to hop off. First stop was Surfers Paradise and shortly afterwards Brisbane. I opted for Noosa that day, which is a relaxed little town on the beach. Here I stayed at Nomads, a hostel located about a ten minute walk from the beach. I was looking forward to just relax for the next few days after a full on itinerary. The lookout in Noosa is a great place to go for sunset, however since that was unfortunately closed, I headed to the beach with a bottle of wine and some new friends from the hostel to watch the sunset. Along the promenade there are quite a lot of different restaurants to choose from. We opted for burgers and headed back to the hostel. Nomads is the party place in town and there is something going on in their bar every night, so we danced the night away.
Day 10: Exploring Noosa
This was my free day in Noosa. The highlights in Noosa are the Noosa Everglades, which are one of two Everglade systems in the world – the other one being the Everglades in Florida. I opted to do the national park and take a walk along the coast to explore. You will be able to spot some fascinating wildlife, small bays and rock pools. After that I headed back to the beach to sunbathe and relax and had an early night.
Day 11: Off to Rainbow Beach
After some chill time at the hostel pool, we took a bus to Rainbow Beach in the afternoon. The journey was about two hours and we arrived at Dingo’s Backpackers early in the evening. The next morning one of the highlights of my Stray Australia tour was about to start: Exploring Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world.
Day 12-14: Fraser Island Tour with Dingo’s Backpackers
Dingo’s Backpackers organizes a very popular three day, two night 4WD Tour of Fraser island. We gathered early in the morning for some breakfast and a safety briefing. We were split in groups of 8 and got our own car for the tour. The fun thing about this tour is that you get to drive a 4WD yourself on the beach and across the island. A short ferry ride took us to Fraser Island.
Here are some fun facts for you: Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world covering a surface of 1849 square kilometers. It is 123 km long and 25 km wide. The aboriginal name of the island is k’gari which translated as paradise.
The first day included a fair bit of driving which was a lot of fun as the roads… in fact are no roads, we were simply driving on the beach and on small off road tracks through the jungle. It is a bit challenging, but a great experience. Our first stop was Lake McKenzie, a large fresh water lake in the middle of the island and also one of the main sights. The water is really clear and the sand is white. As we got there we experienced some quite extreme changes in the weather. Lightning, thunderstorms, heavy rains and hail and then back to sunshine and that all in the matter of an hour.
After some swimming and playing some beach volley ball, it was time for another 2.5 hour drive to our campsite. The campsite where we were staying belongs to Aboriginals and is maintained by them. Our tents were already set up for us and on the campsite you will find all facilities such as kitchen, showers and toilets and even a small nightclub. In our groups we prepared our meal for dinner and had a couple of drinks before calling it a night. It was a long day of driving and we were all quite tired plus we had a day filled with a lot of adventure lined up.
After breakfast it was time to jump in the cars again and continue our tour exploring the island. First stop were the champagne rock pools where we had about two hours to swim and relax. So why the name? It is simple: the waves crash on the rocks and as a reason of that there is a lot of foam and bubbles in the pools.
Up next was Indian Head. A short walk up the hill revealed amazing views of the island, the long sand beaches and the ocean. From up there you are even able to spot some dolphins. My tip is to bring closed shoes. It isn’t a difficult hike, but the sand gets extremely hot and can burn your feet if you are only wearing flip flops.
We headed back to the camp to prepare lunch and have a little siesta. In the afternoon, just a quick drive away from the camp is a creek. It is a really nice place to take a swim and float down the creek in some old car wheels. The water is incredibly fresh and you can even drink it. In between the cars we set up a volleyball net and played some games while others relaxed on the beach in the sun. For sunset we stopped at the Maheno shipwreck, which used to serve as a hospital ship in the first world wore and washed a shore in 1935. We experienced a beautiful sunset on the beach and snapped some photos.
It was our second and last night camping and once we got back to the camp site, we prepared a BBQ and sat together and chatted for a while. At the camp and on most parts of the island there is no phone reception and also no wifi. Send messages to your loved once and answer important emails before getting there and then simply enjoy the digital detox and engage with your group and get to know the other travelers and have fun.
On the last day we had a swim in a tea tree lake after a challenging drive across the island. The color of the lake appears to be red and the water is really good for your skin. After a quick lunch stop it was time to take the ferry back to the mainland. The 3 day tour will set you back around 500 Australian dollars, but I would say this unique experience is worth every penny. Fraser Island is simply unique and stunning and something not to miss.
Day 15: Dolphin Feeding and off to Emu Park
This day was an early wake up call once again. I thought it was just going to be a long travel day, but our guide Linda surprised us with the fact that we are going to start the day feeding the dolphins. How cool was that. At the Barnacles Dolphin Center you can feed the humpback dolphins. They are wild dolphins and after an injured dolphin was found by fishermen, they took care of it and released the dolphin back to nature, since then the dolphin keeps coming back together with his family. When we were there, we saw three generations of dolphins, the oldest being 31, the youngest being two years old. The feeding is regulated by the wildlife conservation act. The dolphins just get a small amount of food, so they continue hunting in the wild. They like the human interaction and that is why the come back. Rules are strict: before the feeding you have to disinfect your hands and the dolphins shouldn’t be touched. The money that is made from the feeding will go towards the conservation program.
After a quick lunch break in Noosa we took the train up to Emu Park. For that part of the journey Stray uses trains instead of buses as the journey is really long and the trains are faster and more comfortable than a bus. The train ride was 6 hours and once we got to Emu Park it was evening. At our hostel we got some dinner prepared for us from the owner and went straight to bed.