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If you are planning your first solo trip to Australia, then you must have a lot of questions about where to go, what cities you should visit in Australia, etc. After all, Australia isn’t exactly a budget destination, and you want to maximize your time down under.
I’ve travelled to Australia twice, and both times I visited the east coast because the majority of the cities and activities are along the east side of Australia. There are metropolitan cities, scenic coastal towns, and numerous gorgeous beaches.
I’ve compiled everything I know and put together the best 10-day itinerary for travelling on the east coast of Australia. Keep reading because I included a lot of budget tips and travel ideas for each city mentioned in the post.
How to get around East Coast Australia
My itinerary maximizes your 10 days in Australia, and you will experience the most efficient route on the east coast including an overnight train and long-distance buses.
One of my budget tips is to travel overnight, which means you save money on accommodation. While you are saving money, you can make the most of your 10 days by doing the travelling at night versus day, where you can enjoy all the sites and attractions.
If you feel overnight transportation is not for you, there are many low-cost carriers as well. However, I would suggest booking something as soon as possible as airfares are cheapest when you book ahead of time.
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Before you fly to Australia
Before you go to Australia, take a look at my list of 17 things you need to know before travelling to Australia. I included helpful information about Australia, including applying for ETA and other tid bids you might want to know.
Australia itinerary: 10 days trip along the east coast
The best way to spend 10 days in east coast Australia is by flying into one city, travel by land and fly home from another city.
First, the 10-day journey starts with arriving in Melbourne. Then travel up the coast to Sydney via an overnight train. Next, visit Byron Bay, the Gold Coast and finally, end the trip to Brisbane, where you will fly home.
Here is a summary of all the cities you will visit and the number of days you will spend in each city:
- Day 1-3: Melbourne
- Day 4-6: Sydney
- Day 7: Byron Bay
- Day 8-9: Gold Coast
- Day 10: Brisbane
Day 1 – 3: Melbourne (3 days)
Any amazing east coast Australia itinerary must include one of the most liveable cities in the world, Melbourne.
Once you arrive in Melbourne, make sure to get a Myki Card to travel around the city. For more information, check out my post on information about Australia.
All the attractions in Melbourne mentioned below can be found in my detailed post on Melbourne.
Transportation from Melbourne Airport to Melbourne
Once you arrive at Melbourne Airport, take the Skybus into the city. Skybus has six routes that will take you to different parts of the city. Purchase a ticket at the kiosk at the Skybus stop with your credit card and hop on the next scheduled bus. For more information about Skybus and different routes, click here.
Central Business District
The Central Business District (CBD) is the center of Melbourne. It has all the major attractions, delicious ethnic restaurants, fantastic entertainment, and all the major shopping centres.
Visit Hosier Lane, the most famous graffiti alley in Melbourne. You can also find graffiti at Centre Place, AC/DC Lane, and Croft Alley. Also look for Melbourne’s iconic laneway, Degraves Street while you are in CBD. The short pedestrian street has many al fresco restaurants and coffee shops.
One of the best things about travelling within CBD is the Free Tram Zone. The zone is east of Docklands, north of Flinders Street, west of Spring Spring and south of Victoria Street. If you are travelling only in the free zone, you don’t need to tap your Myki Card. Check the Free Tram Zone Map for the exact location.
Fitzroy is a bohemian suburb best known for street art, music and vintage stores.
Find vintage clothing stores, second-hand bookstores, eclectic restaurants and bars along Brunswick Street. Also, check out Lost and Found Market for vintage and second-hand clothing, furniture, books, and other knick-knacks.
South Yarra is a high-end neighbourhood full of boutique retail stores and trendy restaurants. It is an excellent place to spend a leisurely morning. The boutique stores on Chapel Street are one-of-a-kind and cafes have the most delicious brunch menu.
If you want to visit a city beach, visit a pier with penguins, go on rides in an amusement park and stroll through an eclectic pedestrian street full of boutique shops and restaurants, then you must visit St Kilda, a popular seaside suburb in Melbourne.
First, visit St Kilda Pier where you might see a penguin or two hiding behind the rocks. Then visit St Kilda beach, which is a city beach within walking distance. And if you want to visit an amusement park, walk over to Luna Park which is not far from the beach. Then finally, walk over to Fitzroy Street for good food and window shopping.
A visit to Melbourne is not complete until you visit the Brighton Beach Boxes at Brighton Beach. The colourful bathing boxes were built over a century ago for seaside bathing. Each one of the 82 bathing boxes is constructed out of a timber frame and iron roof.
Brighton Beach is an excellent spot for a leisurely afternoon and one of the best places for viewing the sunset. So make sure to bring your bathing suit and a beach towel!
Melbourne has some of the best food in Australia, and a majority of the good food can be found in South Melbourne Market in South Melbourne. From the freshest seafood to savoury meat pies, you will find anything you want from food vendors to sit-down restaurants. And you might pick up some souvenirs to bring home too!
Southbank is a neighbourhood south of CBD and Yarra River. The area is known for commercial high-rises, apartment towers, art museums and green spaces.
If you like contemporary art, get cultured at the National Gallery of Victoria and Buxton Contemporary. Also, visit the Royal Botanical Gardens Victoria, which is just east of the museums. The walk through the park is quite scenic and relaxing.
Staying in the CBD area is the most logical choice as it gives you the most flexibility to move around and also minimizing travel time.
While Melbourne is not a budget destination, there are fantastic options for mid-range accommodations.
Stay two nights at the Ibis Melbourne Central Hotel. The room is small and compact but has everything you need for a short-term stay. The double bed is comfortable, and the hotel is newly renovated. I enjoyed the clean room and appreciated the convenient location. Check prices & reviews: Agoda
Transportation from Melbourne to Sydney
At the end of the third day in Melbourne, pick up your bag from your hotel and take the overnight train from Melbourne to Sydney.
The journey takes about 11 hours where the regional train departs at 7:50 pm at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne and arrives at 6:59 am the next day at the Central Train Station in Sydney.
You can purchase the train ticket online or at the customer service counter at Southern Cross Station.
Day 4 – 5: Sydney (2 days)
Sydney is the largest city in Australia, and it attracts over 4 million international visitors each year. With two of the most recognizable landmarks, the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge as the backdrop, it is no wonder that Sydney has one of the world’s most beautiful harbour.
To make the most of the two full days in Sydney, get an Opal Card, a rechargeable smartcard for public transportation in New South Wales. For more information, check out my post on information about Australia.
And for more details about each attraction mentioned below, take a look at my Sydney post.
Central Business District
Start your day bright and early and explore Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD).
First, you must visit the Sydney Opera House, the most famous 20th-century architectural wonder in Circular Quay. Then walk around Circular Quay and visit the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia to see displays of Australian art and modern Aboriginal art.
A visit to The Rocks is a must for any Sydney itinerary. Meander through the cobblestone laneways to see Sydney’s oldest area. Essentially, the Rocks is the area where European settlers decided to settle back in 1788. Learn more about the Rocks by taking one of the walking tours.
There are several ways to experience the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There is a Bridge Climb if you want to climb to the top. Or you can walk across the bridge on the pedestrian walkway.
Chippendale is a hip neighbourhood with many contemporary galleries, restaurants and markets.
Visit the White Rabbit Gallery to see Chinese contemporary art and have tea in the onsite teahouse. Also, visit Galerie Pompom nearby, a cozy, small gallery that features contemporary artwork by local artists.
The best eateries, bars and coffee shops are in Surry Hills, a hip and stylish neighbourhood just south of CBD.
Spend your time browsing through vintage second-hand stores, enjoying the beautiful Art Deco buildings and enjoying an evening of sample some of Sydney’s best restaurants and awesome cocktails.
The best way to get to Manly Beach is by taking the ferry from Circular Quay in CBD.
As soon as you arrive at the pier, follow the signs and find The Corso, which is the pedestrian street with surf shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants. Walk through The Corso promenade until you reach Manly Beach. You can rent a surfboard and spend some time in the water or head over to Shelly Beach for standup paddleboarding or snorkelling.
It’s easy to spend many hours in either Manly Beach or Shelly Beach as they are some of the best beaches in Manly.
The best way to go to Watsons Bay is by ferry from either CBD or Manly. The scenic ferry ride is comfortable and very enjoyable.
Once you arrive at Watsons Bay Wharf, walk across the park to The Gap Lookout where you can see dramatic cliffs of the Wreck of the Dunbar. Follow the walking path walking north; you will find Lady Bay Beach on the way to the Hornby Lighthouse. On the way back to the pier, take the scenic route where you will see Camp Cove, a small quiet beach which will lead you to a small residential neighbourhood and eventually lead you to the Marine Parade path.
You haven’t truly seen Sydney if you haven’t visited Bondi Beach.
Bondi Beach is a bit busy, but it is still a highlight for any Sydney tour.
But the real highlight (in my opinion), is the Bondi to Coogee Walking trail. The trail is a very popular coastal hiking trail and can be done during any time of the year. The walking trail meanders through different neighbourhoods and will take you to Tamarama Beach, Bronte Beach, Clovelly Beach, and Coogee Beach.
The hike is super easy! It takes about 2 hours or so (depending on how much time you spend at each beach). But take your time and enjoy the scenery.
Similar to Melbourne, Sydney is not a budget city. But there are plenty of excellent mid-range accommodations and the good news is, you only need to book one night in Sydney.
Stay one night at Veriu Central, which is right by the Central Train Station. You would want to have a comfortable bed for a good night’s rest, especially if you didn’t get any proper sleep on a train the night before. Plus your next leg of your journey starts at Central Train Station. Check prices & reviews: Agoda
Transportation from Sydney to Byron Bay
At the end of your day in Sydney, take an overnight Greyhound long-distance bus to Byron Bay.
The journey starts at Central Train Station (Bay 5 & 6). Make sure you arrive half an hour early to put away your luggage and to board the bus.
The Greyhound bus leaves Sydney at 6:00 pm and arrives in Byron Bay at 6:30 am the next morning. There are several stops along the way for food and bathroom breaks. And make sure you book your ticket in advance so you will guarantee a seat to your next destination.
Day 6: Byron Bay (1 day)
Byron Bay is a little piece of paradise on earth! Known as a surfing seaside destination, Byron Bay is a famous coastal town for many travellers.
Even if you don’t know how to surf, you can still enjoy the seaside town. You can enjoy several golden beaches, bike around town, boutique shopping, or relax in the most charming coastal town in Australia.
For detailed information about all the Byron Bay sites mentioned above, take a look at my post on how to spend one day in Byron Bay.
Byron Bay Attractions
Beaches of Byron Bay
First, visit Byron Beach, the main beach for some sun and fun. Many people visit the beach from early morning to after sunset. And you will find many people at the main beach, swimming, surfing or simply enjoying the beach.
To the east of Byron Beach, you will find The Pass, a favourite spot for more experienced surfers. And to the west of Byron Beach, The Wreck is just north of the public parking lot.
And don’t leave Byron Bay without visiting Tallow Beach, which is on the southeast side of Byron Bay. Walk east along Lawson Street, and turn into Tallow Beach Road. The road will take you directly to Tallow Beach.
A visit to Byron Bay must include a hike to the Cape Byron Lighthouse in Cape Byron.
First, follow the signs for Cape Byron Walking Track in the Cape Byron State Conservation Area. The walking track is a marked path that will take you to everything you need to see in Cape Byron, including several beaches, lookout points, and a lighthouse.
On the way, you will find Clarkes Beach, The Pass, Fisherman’s Lookout, and Wategos Beach. Keep following the signs and they will lead you to the most easterly point of Australia mainland. From there, follow the path and walk up to Cape Byron Lighthouse.
Continuing on the path, you will see a panoramic view Tallow Beach from Cape Byron. Keep walking on the track, and it will take you back to Byron Bay.
Byron Bay Accommodation
Accommodation in Byron Bay is a bit more expensive than Sydney and Melbourne. But there are outstanding budget accommodations that won’t break your budget.
Stay one night at Wake Up Byron Bay, which is located opposite of Belongli Beach just a little outside of the main part of Byron Bay. The reason why I like this hostel even though it is slightly out of town is because of the free bike rentals. You can borrow one of their Jordaan Lekker bikes for free, and you can easily bike into town in 15 minutes along the bike path. Check prices & reviews: Agoda
Day 7 – 8: Gold Coast (2 days)
Gold Coast is a famous coastal city on the east coast of Australia. While there are many things to do in Gold Coast, the golden beaches are the highlight of the Gold Coast. People are drawn to the beautiful beaches and gorgeous subtropical climate.
Get a Go Card while you are on Gold Coast. It is super helpful to have a Go Card when you take public transportation in Queensland. Check out my post on information about Australia for more details.
Transportation from Byron Bay to Gold Coast
The best place to stay in Gold Coast is Burleigh Heads. From Byron Bay, you will have to take a long-distance bus and a public bus to get to Burleigh Heads.
First, take a Greyhound long-distance bus from Byron Bay to Coolangatta. The bus stops at the old transit centre across from Coolangatta Bowls & Recreation Club near Griffith Street.
Then walk over to Griffith Street, the main street in Coolangatta, and catch local bus 700 going north, heading to Burleigh Heads. Get off at the stop between Memorial Park and Mowbray Park which is just next to Burleigh Heads Beach.
At any time you are confused about which bus to take and where you should get off, input your starting point, and your destination in Google Map and the app will figure out the route and tell you exactly which bus you should take.
If you want to learn more details about all the Gold Coast sites mentioned below, take a look at my post on the Gold Coast top 10 activities.
Gold Coast Attractions
At the south end of the Gold Coast is a quiet town called Coolangatta. The town straddles on both Queensland and New South Wales and is a popular spot for retirement. But don’t think there isn’t anything fun to do in Coolangatta, there are plenty of activities!
One of the best things you can do in Coolangatta is to swim in one of the most famous rock pools in Gold Coast, Snapper Rocks. Strong ocean currents create natural pools of water over time. While the tide is low, you can swim in these marvellous natural pools of water.
Also, rent a surfboard and head over to Duranbah Beach. You can rent a surfboard from one of the places in Coolangatta including Inverted Bodyboarding Gold Coast and Coolangatta Board Store.
Further up the coast, you can learn surfing at Currumbin Alley. You can take lessons with Currumbin Alley Surf School. They offer lessons for all ages and all levels.
And if you want to stay on land, stroll through the boardwalk along Currumbin Creek. The path takes you through Tarrabora Reserve and Beree Badalla Reserve.
Perhaps Surfers Paradise Beach is one of the most famous beaches on the Gold Coast; I think it is a bit over-rated as many other beaches and towns are much more attractive and not as busy. But it is still worthwhile to check out the area and see what the hype is about.
And finally, you must visit Burleigh Heads in Gold Coast. Located in the centre of the Gold Coast, it is one of the most beautiful parts of the coastal city.
One of the highlights in Burleigh Heads is Burleigh Heads National Park. There are several paths in the park, but the most famous one is the Oceanview Track, which lines the perimeter of the park where you can see the South Pacific Ocean and rocky shores. Also, don’t miss Tumgun Lookout, the highest point in the park where you can see a panoramic view of the area.
Another popular activity is standup paddleboarding on Tallebudgera Creek. Rent a board from All Coast Paddle Board Hire and enjoy a few hours paddling on the calm seawater.
While you stay in Burleigh Heads, spend some time on James Street. There are many boutique stores, good eateries and excellent coffee shops.
Gold Coast Accommodation
My favourite spot in the Gold Coast has to be Burleigh Heads without a doubt.
Burleigh Heads has excellent options for accommodations, wonderful cafes and restaurants, access to the best beaches for surfing, proximity to a national park with various hiking paths, and so much more. I like the relaxing beach vibes of Burleigh Heads, and it is not touristy at all.
Stay two nights at Burleigh Hub Bliss Airbnb accommodation, which is a private room at the bottom floor of a townhouse. The Airbnb accommodation includes a private bathroom and access to a kitchen. And when you arrive early, you may be able to leave your backpack there while you explore the Gold Coast. Just check with the host in advance if that is possible; she is friendly and easy to communicate with.
And if you are not part of Airbnb yet, please use this code to claim your $35 Airbnb discount.
Day 9 – 10: Brisbane (1 day)
Brisbane is the capital of the Sunshine State. As Australia’s third-largest city, “Brissy” as locals lovingly call it, is one of the friendliest cities in Queensland.
Most people would want to spend more time in Melbourne or Sydney. But I feel Brisbane is an underrated city and visitors should experience this friendly city as well.
If you haven’t already, get a Go Card, a rechargeable smartcard to take public transportation in Queensland. Check out my post on information about Australia for more info on how to get around Brisbane.
Transportation from Gold Coast to Brisbane
To maximize all your time in Brisbane, take the earliest public bus and train to Brisbane from Burleigh Heads. Then you should have most of the day and the following day (depends on when you leave Brisbane).
From Burleigh Heads, take a bus 765 or 753 to Varsity Lakes Station. From there, take the train on the Gold Coast Line to Brisbane and disembark at Fortitude Valley Station. See map for more details.
Then take a 10-minute brisk walk to your hotel. See more details of the suggested hotel below.
And to learn more Brisbane and other things you can do alone in Brisbane, check out my post on 36 things you can do in Brisbane.
Central Business District
Exploring Brisbane on foot is one of the best ways to get to know the city.
From your hotel (see suggested hotel below), walk towards Story Bridge and the City Reach Boardwalk walking path starts from the base of the bridge and wraps around the perimeter of CBD and to Brisbane City Botanic Gardens.
And if you want to walk from CBD to Teneriffe, walk along the City Reach Boardwalk and Riverwalk for a stroll through the neighbourhood of New Farm.
If walking is not your thing, hop on one of the Brisbane Free Bus Route 30, 40 or 50. These free buses will take you to different parts of CBD.
Since Brisbane is the last stop on your 10-day itinerary, make sure to do all your shopping on Queen Street Mall in CBD. There is a heritage-listed shopping arcade called Brisbane Arcade that is worth checking out.
And if you like to shop, wander around James Street Precinct in Fortitude Valley. The area has the swankiest boutique stores selling clothing, jewellery and other items.
I’m not big on shopping but I liked window shopping in James Street Precinct.
New Farm is a quaint riverside suburb in Brisbane. Watch a show at Brisbane Powerhouse, which is at the south end of New Farm. And visit Jan Powers Farmers Market at Powerhouse on Sunday to buy local produce and organic products. Then bring all your goodies to New Farm Park and have a picnic.
At the base of New Farm, you can catch a free ferry ride on CityHopper which takes you from Sydney Street Station all the way to North Quay in CBD. The scenic ferry ride is comfortable and relaxing.
Get cultured in South Bank by visiting the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and Queensland Art Gallery (QAG). Both galleries display modern contemporary art with a focus on the art of Australian and Asia. The entrance to both galleries is free.
Then visit the Pillars Project, where it features outdoor murals by eight local graffiti artists. The outdoor gallery has seven-metre tall murals on concrete pillars under the South Brisbane Underpass.
If you are missing the beaches of Byron Bay and Gold Coast, head over to Streets Beach where it has a large man-made lagoon pool and sandy white beach, I know this isn’t exactly the same, but it is a good option for some sun and fun in the city.
Since you only have one night in Brisbane, go all out and splurge on one of the best design hotels in the world, The Calile Hotel. Personally, I love the design of the hotel and appreciate all the details in the guestroom, lobby and restaurant. Stay in the Urban Room and enjoy every bit of the resort-like atmosphere. Check prices & reviews: Agoda
Transportation from Brisbane to Brisbane Airport
The Airtrain takes about 35 minutes from Fortitude Valley Station to Brisbane Airport (BNE) which is 14 km away from your accommodation. The ride costs $16.15AUD, and you can use your Go Card.
Are you ready to book a trip to the East Coast of Australia?
If this is your first time travelling to Australia, you must visit all the cities mentioned in this blog to get the best of the best of East Coast Australia. There are many other places to visit, but if you only have 10 days in Australia, make sure you take all the tips and advice from this blog to make the most of your trip to Australia.
Where to go in Australia
Wondering where you should go in Australia? Check out my guides to the best cities to visit in Australia, including: