Just returned from solo-backpacking up the East Coast of Australia, almost three weeks in total. I went to a lot of places, and in the interest of the sanity of the reader, I’m going to divide my thoughts into two separate posts. This post will detail my experiences in each town, and the next post will have a bit more insight and reflection. Both will probably be long.
If you don’t feel like reading, I’ll take this opportunity to state that I’ve never had much more fun in my entire life. If you would like to read, please carry on.
Byron Bay (4 days):
Byron Bay is small beach town in New South Wales. It has a very relaxed, semi-hippy atmosphere, and is just a very pleasant place to be overall. While in Byron, I did some surfing, ocean kayaking, and took a day trip to Nimbin. Ocean kayaking was definitely my favorite; you feel pretty awesome crashing through those massive waves as you paddle out, and you can ride them when you come back to shore! Surfing was cool as well, yet predictably frustrating. It is not an easy sport. Finally, Nimbin. I’ll actually start a new paragraph on Nimbin, as it is most worthy of elaboration.
Nimbin is a small town fiercly dedicated to marijuana. This sounds cool (to some), but I personally found Nimbin to be pretty average and moderately lame. Basically, every store and person, decoration and passing glance is essentially screaming “get high now!” While weed is technically illegal, you can buy it in its many forms with laughable ease. I tried the pot cookies (sorry Mom and Dad) as recommended, which unfortunately sucked. On the other hand, there is a really cool museum in Nimbin (dedicated to, you guessed it), and some other nifty pictures to be taken. Overall, the town can best be characterized as “unique,” and certainly worthy of a visit if you are nearby. Don’t get your hopes too high though.
Again, pretty unique. I quite like the Dalai Lama quotes as well; he’s a dude.
When I wasn’t on the water or waiting for my cookie to kick in, you could probably find me on the beach. Byron Bay life essentially revolves around the beach, and for a good reason. It was legitimately gorgeous.
Really, really decent. Definitely would’ve spent a few more days in Byron, if time permitted. Also, you should move here ASAP, Ricky Nicolai. Trust me.
Surfer’s Paradise (1 day):
Surfer’s Paradise? Laugh. Out. Loud.
Not one person, place or view in Surfer’s would ever lead me to call this place “Paradise.” Honestly, it was nothing short of awful. I’ve never been to Vegas, but I would imagine that this place is an infinitely less sweet and endlessly more pathetic version of Vegas. It’s probably the Ed Hardy capital of the world too, and was just very disgusting overall.
I actually spent my 21st birthday in Surfer’s which, ironically, turned out to be very fun. I basically rounded up a crew of English kids from my tacky-as-all-hell hostel, and went out and painted the town red. I ended up having a great time.
I’m only going to post one picture from Surfer’s, which turned out nicely. It was actually not even taken in the city, which is probably why I am so keen on posting it.
Kind of cool, actually. Taken from the bus.
Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island (5 days):
Ooook. Now I’m smiling again.
Fraser Island was likely one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. We went to Fraser for 3 days and 2 nights, driving on the beaches and through the rainforest with 4WD jeeps. There were 32 of us in all, 8 per car. We cruised around the island during the day, checked out some of the truly ridiculous scenery, and partied/camped on the beach at night.
This is the type of trip that depends heavily on the group. Ours was f*cking awesome. Again, I had an absolutely unreal time on Fraser Island. There really wasn’t a dull moment.
Our group, standing in front of the Maheno Shipwreck:
From left to right (so I can remember when I read this in 20 years):
Sebastian (Sweden), Toby (England), This Guy (States), Steph (England), Sarah (England), Cyrien (France), Thomas (France), and Kyle (States)
You’re all great.
Some more pictures from Fraser:
Place was beautiful, weather was great. Girls were pretty, music was fresh. Food was good, stars were nice. Dingoes were everywhere.
My experience on Fraser Island was something I will not soon forget. In case I do, it’s probably a good thing I’m writing out this massive blog post.
Furthermore, I should mention that I stayed in Rainbow Beach the day before and after my stay on Fraser. It’s basically a tiny beach town where you get briefed on the trip, and then get hammered with your group when you return. Not much to do in Rainbow, but we did see the coolest sunset in the history of time.
Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays (4 days):
After a surprisingly painless 14-hour overnight bus ride from Rainbow, I arrived in Airlie Beach. As Rainbow was the gateway to Fraser, Airlie was the gateway to the Whitsundays.
The town was super chilled out, similar to Byron. I was moving so crazy slow in Airlie Beach, with no Nimbin pot cookies to aid me either. Lovely place, great nightlife. Some cool people there too.
Probably took me a good 45 seconds to cross each street. So chilled out here.
The next morning I left for my sailing my trip, which was, predictably, super fun.
Weather was nice, and I had a great group. Boats really aren’t my thing, but snorkeling, beaches and being fed like 9 meals a day definitely is.
Boat is at like, a 50 degree angle here. We were doing some legitimate sailing.
The next few pictures are from Whitehaven Beach, which I believe is regarded as the “nicest beach in the world,” as it has the “purest sand in the world.” It’s a pretty fluffy label, but there’s a good reason for it.
Sand purity is judged by silica content, which is the pure mineral quartz found in the stuff. When glass is made from sand, it must be filtered for this quartz, which is generally not in high abundance. At the lovely New Jersey shore, I’ve been told that the silica content in the sand is around 4-5%. This beach is a bit different.
This silica content in the sand on Whitehaven is 99.89%. Pure sand actually squeaks when you dig your heel in; the sand at Whitehaven sounded like nails-on-a-chalkboard if you simply dragged your big toe in it. Shit was wild.
Lastly, you are actually forbidden by law to take sand from Whitehaven. In fact, the only people that are permitted to remove the stuff is NASA, as they legitimately used this sand to make the lens of the Hubble Telescope. No lies.
The last picture is taken while standing on the sand in the first picture, looking left. This sand stretches right, where it should emerge from the bottom left corner of the second picture, and curl around to the top left. Since it is high tide, the water in the second picture is covering it. Check the colors in this water though. Pretty cool.
Cairns (4 days):
Cairns was the last stop. I arrived there at night, and went scuba diving the following morning. Scuba was actually super cool, and definitely something I’d like to do a lot more of in the future.
It’s actually pretty funny when you go to places like this, where uncommon activities such as scuba are very ordinary.
Me to friends at home: “Yo, I went scuba for the first time.”
Friends at home: “Dude that’s sick, I’d love to do that some day.”
Me to 18-year-old girl in Cairns: “Yo, I went scuba for the first time.”
18-year-old girl in Cairns: “Really? First time? I did my 20th dive this morning. I’m certified, chump.”
Jokes, as the Canadians would say.
Other than scuba, I really didn’t do much in Cairns. I’m seriously all about getting my travel activities done first and foremost; I’ll wake up for sunrises, do every walk and trail, go to museums, etc. However, I seriously didn’t feel like doing anything except partying in Cairns. Fortunately, there was a very logical reason for this.
I’ve stayed in a lot of hostels in my day. Before I got to Cairns, it was recommended that I stay at Gilligan’s Backpackers Resort. I suppose I thought Gilly’s would be cool, and perhaps even one of the better places I’ve ever stayed. This place could not have been any more underated.
Gilligan’s holds about 500 kids. There’s like 5 floors, 5 kitchens, and 5 TV lounges. There’s also a beach. And a casino. And 2 bars. And yes, a full-out night club.
This place was an absolute joke. Literally the most ridiculous place I’ve ever been. When you walk in, there’s a sign that says “every night is a party at Gilligan’s.” It’s super cheesy. I didn’t care by the end of it. Gilligan’s. My. God.
So yea. If you go to Cairns, STAY IN GILLIGAN’S (this could not be any more deserving of capitalization). Holy hell.
Some pictures from Cairns:
Quite pretty, actually. Cairns was similar to Byron and Airlie, but with a bit more going on. Think more shops, more bars, more streets acts, more music. However, same kind of people, and same super chilled out atmosphere. Lovely.
This is going to conclude the first blog post regarding my East Coast Aussie trip. It’s really quite basic, as intended. Don’t worry though, I’ll get all kinds of deep and meaningful in the second part. Doing what I do best.
Thanks for reading, or for just skimming the pictures. Don’t be afraid to comment either, dedicated follower!