The East Coast of Australia is a popular choice for many backpackers. Whether you are here on a Working Holiday Visa, or just for a few weeks, chances are your journey will start or end in one of the iconic East Coast Australia cities.
If you haven’t been to a country as vast as Australia before, you may not be aware of just how different each city can be from the next. It can get confusing trying to work out the perfect itinerary – even more so if you are pressed for time and are only able to see a handful of places.
To help you choose and to ensure you have the best time based on what you want to see, we’ve put this little guide together! We will summarise each of the main East Coast Australia cities: what they are good for, the best time to visit, and how expensive they are. Obviously, you can cut costs as much as you would like to, or you can splash out and travel in luxury. We have come at it from the angle of being cost aware but also enjoying ourselves. These are from our experiences but we have tried to be as unbiased as possible!
East Coast Australia Cities: The Lowdown
Melbourne has a reputation of being an artistic, hipster city, with extremely changeable weather. It’s common to hear people describe Melbourne as the place where you can experience all four seasons in one day. It also has a huge sporting history, being the birthplace of AFL, or ‘Aussie Rules footy’.
Good for: coffee lovers, sports fans, laneway exploration, street art
Vibe: laidback, young, vibrant
When to go: December to March
Sometimes referred to as ‘ London by the sea’, Sydney is older, bigger, and more sprawling than the other East Coast Australia cities. Steeped in history and cultural landmarks, and with big sandy beaches a short bus or ferry ride away, Sydney is obviously a popular tourist destination.
Good for: ticking it off the bucket list, city beaches, history buffs, bars and restaurants
Vibe: fast-paced, hedonistic, touristy, exclusive
When to go: November to April
The Gold Coast
The holiday destination for Aussies, The Gold Coast boasts some of the most impressive stretches of coastline on the East Coast. Some areas here are more geared towards tourism than others, so it depends what you are going for. Surfers Paradise has huge nightclubs, huge surf, and huge crowds. Further south, the crowds lessen and the pace slows.
Good for: big beaches, enviable weather (300 days of sun a year), surfing
Vibe: some areas can be a bit tacky, but overall relaxed and unobtrusive
When to go: October to February, being mindful of Schoolies week… you’ll want to miss it
A refreshing mix of city and subtropical life, Brisbane has done a lot to fight for the tourism spotlight that the other East Coast Australia cities boast. The city is made up of a number of different districts known as ‘villages’, and they are all very different from each other. A good place to take in city life if you aren’t a fan of big, noisy cities.
Good for: outdoor socialising, culture vultures, tropical weather
Vibe: cosmopolitan without being arrogant
When to go: September to January
The smallest ‘city’ in our run down, and also the most northerly. Cairns is the closest city to the Great Barrier Reef, but it is so much more than this. Surrounded by actual rainforest and endless sandy coastline, Cairns is small enough to feel friendly but big enough to not get bored in. It’s touristy without being over the top, and your money goes a lot further.
Good for: visiting the Great Barrier Reef, exploring rainforests, crocodile spotting, tropical weather
Vibe: relaxed, slow, casual, neighbourly
When to go: May to November
And that’s our quick run-down complete! Australia is not a cheap place to visit, but we have found that by interspersing periods of employment with periods of extended travel, we have managed to get by.
We are lucky enough to have spent a lot of time here on the East Coast of Australia, but we’re also going to be a bit cheeky and recommend you hop over to Western Australia too. What can we say? We’re obsessed! Check out our blog posts about WA to get some travel inspiration…
Have you visited any of these cities? Which was your favourite?