Cairns to Melbourne – Two Months of Travel

The east coast of Australia is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in the world. This well traveled route is home to many bucket list sights such as The Great Barrier Reef, Whitsundays and the Sydney Opera House, just to name a few. 

We spent two months backpacking ‘the coastal trail’, the name given to the 4000km route between Cairns and Melbourne. During this time we attempted to see everything the route had to offer. From lush rainforests, pristine beaches, seaside towns, cosmopolitan cities and iconic sights.


We had a few options on how to travel the east coast. Our main worry was how do we travel this huge country without spending a fortune?

We could travel via cheap domestic flights which would result in only visiting the main cities. We could hire a car or camper van but this was working out as the pricier of options when we researched fuel costs on top of the rental costs. The cheapest option was to explore the east coast of Oz by bus. We chose to book our tickets with Greyhound which were on promo at the time of purchase at 20% off. 


We purchased the “hop on, hop off” bus pass. This allowed us to travel in one direction (Cairns to Melbourne) and hop off at any point along the was as often as we liked. This pass suited our style of travel perfectly, we could tailor our itinerary to suit us.

When we purchased our tickets online we were then emailed a log in number for the Greyhound website. It is here we booked our bus and selected our seats. We could also change our travel dates if our plans changed.


The buses were comfortable with reclining seats, charging points for phones, wifi, air-con and a toilet on board.  If you are looking for an affordable way to travel Australia then we highly recommend traveling with Greyhound. 

Where to stop off on the east coast of Oz?


We began our Aussie road trip in Cairns after a short flight from Bali. Cairns airport is pretty small and only 10minutes from the city centre. It is from here you can access the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest.


Mission Beach

Next stop was Mission Beach, we were here for one reason. Brian wanted to fulfil his number one bucket list goal and skydive!! Mission beach has a reputation as being the the best skydiving spot in all of Australia with a beach landing.


Magnetic Island

We then made our way to Townsville and from here we got the boat to Magnetic Island. Just a 20 minute boat ride, Magnetic Island is a paradise island. Home to beautiful beaches, koalas and hiking trails. This was one of our favourite stops.


Airlie Beach

From here you can access the Whitsundays by either day trip or multi day sailing trip. The town has laid back atmosphere with many boutiques and cafes. 


Agnus Water

A quiet hippy town with stunning beaches. It is the perfect place to wake up early to watch the sunrise over the ocean. Make sure to visit Horizon Kangaroo Sanctuary. The owner cares for many orphaned kangaroos. The kangaroos are adorable and very friendly.


Rainbow Beach

From here you can access Fraser Island on one of the many tours departing the area. Rainbow beach is also home to sand dunes where you can sand surf.



Home to beautiful national parks and another spot where you can depart on a Fraser Island tour. Nossa is busier than the more northern coastal towns. This popular holiday town can be busy and the beaches are a lot more crowded.



Another beach town with lots of nice coffee shops and restaurants. Mooloolaba is a popular spot of Aussies to holiday due to the towns stunning beaches. 



The small town of Caloundra was our not on the bus route with Greyhound. Instead we got a local bus. We spent 5 days here soaking up the sun as we had a Christmas BBQ on the beach. We decided to spend Christmas in Caloundra for the simple reason that the hostel was cheep.



We headed to Brisbane for the New Years celebrations. We watched the firework display over the city and soaked up the atmosphere. Brisbane was the half way point of the trip and we spend a few days sightseeing in the city.



Situated on the famous Aussie Gold Coast and on the boarder of Queensland and New South Wales. If your looking to spend some time on the Gold Coast then we recommend Coolangatta. Surfers Paradise is the most popular town along on the Gold Coast, but Coolangatta is cheaper and the beaches are just as nice. 


Byron Bay

This artsy town is popular spot for surfing and scuba diving. If you are visiting Byron Bay make sure to hike to the famous lighthouse and take in the sights at the most easterly point of mainland Australia. 


Coffs Harbour

Another small but beautiful beach town. Coffs Harbour is a sleepy town home to an abundance of wildlife.



This harbour city has many beaches where surfers gather. It is home to a coastal walk that stretches between Nobby’s Beach and Merewether Beach. Along this walk is the famous Bogey Hole. Built by convicts, the Bogey Hole is an ocean bath from the colonial period. Nowadays its a popular swimming spot for locals and tourists alike.



The unofficial capital of Australia best known for its harbour home to the Sydney Opera house and Sydney Harbour Bridge. After you have visited all the city sights you can take a day trip to Hunters Valley wine region and the Blue Mountains for a day of hiking.



The capital city of Australia and the largest inland city. After visiting Sydney you might not be overly impressed. One day of city sightseeing is more than enough. From Canberra you can also access Yarra Valley wine region.



The last stop on the coastal trail Melbourne is Australia’s mecca of all things trendy. With coffee shops on every corner, lane ways full of street art and captivating museums Melbourne is known to the the cultural capital of Australia.


Follow our travel adventures on our Instagram where we post all things travel related.

To book your Greyhound bus pass click here to book direct. We recommend only booking direct with Greyhound and not a third party as they will hike up the price adding their own booking fees.

CLICK HERE for your one stop shop for booking tours in Australia. We use and recommend Get Your Guide as their prices are competitive and they offer free cancellation if your plans happen to change.

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3 thoughts on “Cairns to Melbourne – Two Months of Travel

  1. What an incredible trip! I don’t drive so really encouraging to hear that there’s a hop-on, hop-off pass to make the traveling to so many different places possible. Very encouraging to know! Great read too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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