16 Day Sydney to Cairns Essential Budget Package

The ultimate Aussie East Coast road trip that covers well, absolutely everything!


We put together this exclusive Real Adventure Group package as the absolutely best way to travel up the iconic East Coast of Australia. We didn't miss anything out: Sailing in the Whitsundays, Barrington National Park, surfing at Spot X, Fraser Island, Magnetic Island, an indigenous aboriginal camp and so much more. We have included all the cool stuff you should do in Australia in the price like kayaking, boat trip and snorkelling in the Whitsundays, a crocodile farm, and surf lessons.

Our RAG 16 Day Sydney to Cairns trip leaves Sydney for a first night river side in the Barrington National Park. From there we overnight in the not so secret Spot X surf camp for surf lessons and a bonfire beach night. Before heading to Byron Bay we overnight at a special stop in a teepee camp called River Retreat. After Byron Bay it is an overnight stop at Rainbow Beach and then two full days exploring the white sand beaches and tropical forests of Fraser Island. Spot Dingoes, swim in incredibly clear freshwater lakes, and wander the deserted sandy beaches beneath a seemingly endless starry night sky. 

After another night at Rainbow Beach we head north to Rockhampton and the cool coastal town of Emu Park. There is loads of time here to get close to the farm animals, spot turtles, crocodiles, and relax by the pool (although we don't recommend getting close to the crocs) because tonight we take an overnight train to Airlie Beach. Maximising our travel time we are immediately picked up from arrival and taken out to the Whitsundays Islands by boat and the famous Whitehaven Beach for snorkelling, swimming, sunbaking and beautiful exploratory walks. We overnight in the party town of Airlie Beach if you have anything still left in the tank!

From Airlie Beach it is on to Townsville and overnighting at Magnetic Island before another very special night staying with an indigenous aboriginal family in the Tully Gorge National Park. Learn about how the indigenous Australians crafted food and arts from the rainforest and hear traditional dreamtime stories around the campfire. We complete this ultimate Aussie road trip with a train trip north to the city of Cairns - gateway to the Great Barrier Reef for diving and snorkelling or on to the Tropical Far North (not included).


Booking Conditions

Age Restriction: 18-69

Fitness Requirement: Good level of fitness and a sense of fun

What's included

  • Professional guides
  • Private bus and Queensland Rail transport
  • Accommodation and camping with all bedding
  • All sightseeing, walks and meals as indicated
  • All national park fees and return ferries to Fraser Island, Great Keppel Island and Magnetic Island
  • Activities as specified

What To Bring

  • Hat and sunscreen
  • Walking shoes
  • Insect repellent
  • Water bottle
  • Swimsuit/towel
  • Flip flops/thongs
  • Camera



Day 1 : Sydney to Barrington Tops
We head to the Hunter Valley wine area to do a tasting at one of Australia’s most famous vineyards. We then head through the backcountry to our stunning stop on the edge of Barrington Tops National Park (a World Heritage Listed Area). We stay in a private lodge overlooking the Barrington River. We have included river tubing down a scenic part of the river for the afternoon. Warm up and relax in the giant hot tub before dinner. Meal(s) included : Dinner
Meals :Dinner

Day 2 : Barrington Tops to Surf Camp
Wake up in the morning and enjoy breakfast with an amazing view. We then head north, with a break to visit a koala hospital to learn about their efforts in preserving Koalas, and at a nature reserve to spot wild kangaroos hopping along the incredible coastline, then travel on to our waterfront accommodation at the Surf Camp, arriving in the early evening. Meal(s) included : Breakfast and Dinner
Meals :Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3 : Surf Camp to River Retreat
This morning you can take part in a group surf lesson or just relax on the beach. The surf lesson is included in the price of the tour package. In the afternoon we travel to our River Retreat and go for a guided canoeing trip, spotting wildlife along the way. In the evening have an Aussie BBQ, learn how to cook some damper and toast marshmallows around the campfire. Meal(s) included : Breakfast and Dinner
Meals :Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4 : River Retreat to Byron Bay
We leave our camp and head up towards Byron Bay, Australia’s famous surf and arts town. We stop in the picturesque town of Yamba along the way and go for a walk or a swim at the Angourie blue pools (weather dependent). We have an orientation drive on the way to Byron Bay to help you get your bearings. Meal(s) included : Breakfast
Meals :Breakfast

Day 5 : Free Day in Byron Bay
Explore, learn to surf, party, visit the alternative town of Nimbin (additional cost), or just relax and take in the laidback, hippy vibe. We recommend taking a walk to the lighthouse to view the Australian mainland’s most easterly point. IMPORTANT NOTES: Your Stray guide won’t be hanging out with you today, as he/she is getting a hard-earned rest. They will, however, be able to help you book any activities or give you some tips on restaurants etc before you arrive in Byron on day 4. Meal(s) included : None
Meals :None

Day 6 : Byron Bay (via Gold Coast & Brisbane) to Rainbow Beach
We depart Byron Bay and cruise up to the New South Wales/Queensland border. We then drive into the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Noosa before we continue onto Rainbow Beach for the night. At Rainbow Beach we take a walk up to Carlo Sand Blow for either the sunset or sunrise. IMPORTANT NOTES: After checking in to Frasers on Rainbow you will need to reconfirm the start time of your kayak tour which takes place on day 9, as tide times determine what time you will start your trip. Meal(s) included : Dinner
Meals :Dinner

Day 7 : Rainbow Beach to Fraser Island
Get ready for two full days of exploring World Heritage Fraser Island. After a short 10-minute ferry ride from Rainbow Beach you start your adventure of four-wheel-driving on the roads of sand. During your stay on Fraser you will have the chance to spot dingoes in the wild, swim in crystal clear freshwater lakes and swimming holes, hike through world heritage rainforest and explore the diverse landscapes in this unique habitat. Before heading to bed don’t forget to look up to enjoy the millions of stars and maybe even spot the five stars on the Aussie flag – the Southern Cross. Meal(s) included : Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Meals :Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8 : Fraser Island to Rainbow Beach
After your second day on Fraser Island, your guide will return you to your Rainbow Beach accommodation in the late afternoon where you have dinner included. Meal(s) included : Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Meals :Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9 : Rainbow Beach
Today you will have the chance to witness some of the spectacular marine wildlife the Fraser Coast is famous for. You will be treated to a dolphin-watching kayak tour and Great Beach 4WD ride within the Great Sandy National Park. On this three-hour tour you have the chance of seeing Bottlenose dolphins, Humpback whales (May to November), turtles, manta rays, sting rays, soldier crabs and an array of marine birdlife. Make sure you bring along your swimsuit, towel, sunscreen, water, camera, a dry change of clothes and any snacks you may wish to eat. Meal(s) included : Breakfast and Dinner
Meals :Breakfast, Dinner

Day 10 : Rainbow Beach to Emu Park
Today we head to the train station to start our train journey. We travel to Rockhampton then get met by a local bus, which takes you to Emus Beach Resort. We get welcomed onto the resort and find out more about our Stray Treasure Island Experience for the next day. Meal(s) included : Breakfast
Meals :Breakfast

Day 11 : Great Keppel Island - Emu Park — Overnight train — Airlie Beach
We have an awesome island day planned with return ferry transfers to Great Keppel Island and its 17 stunning beaches. We depart early to head to the tropical paradise Great Keppel Island. Relax or have a go at the optional water activities (snorkeling/kayaking etc). We head back to the mainland late afternoon with a quick stop to walk to Bluff Point before returning to the comfort of your accommodation for an evening meal Meal(s) included : Lunch, Dinner
Meals :Lunch, Dinner

Day 12 : Whitsunday Islands, snorkeling, reef and Whitehaven Beach
Today provides an exhilarating ride to world famous Whitehaven Beach, pristine snorkeling reefs and guided Whitsunday Island National Park walks. Visit the Northern and Southern ends of Whitehaven Beach, spending at least two hours relaxing or exploring the 7km of white silica sand. Walk to the Southern Whitehaven lookout with breathtaking views of Pentecost Island, join the guided walks to Hill Inlet lookout and snorkel for an hour enjoying the amazing hard and soft corals of the fringing reefs. Upon completion of your Whitsundays day trip, you will have the night free to explore Airlie’s great nightlife and choice of restaurants. IMPORTANT NOTES: Please note that your Stray guide won’t be present today and you will be in the safe hands of the crew from Ocean Rafting. Upon completion of your Whitsundays day trip, you will have the night free to explore Airlie’s great nightlife and choice of restaurants. Meal(s) included : Lunch
Meals :Lunch

Day 13 : Airlie Beach (via Townsville) to Magnetic Island
We start early with a local bus to the train, a ferry out to tropical ‘Maggie Island’, and a local transfer to the accommodation. There is much to explore on the island, as nearly 50% of it is National Park with amazing beaches and abundant wildlife. Your guide will join you on a walk around the Island; otherwise you can do more exploring or just relax by the pool. Meal(s) included : None
Meals :None

Day 14 : Free day Magnetic Island
Relax, explore the island or visit the wildlife park at the resort (extra cost). Your guide will not be present today. Meal(s) included : None
Meals :None

Day 15 : Magnetic Island to Tully Rainforest Experience
We travel back to the mainland on the ferry, travel by train to Tully – getting in at around lunchtime. We travel by bus into the amazing rainforest of Tully Gorge National Park. Cool off with a swim in a beautiful swimming hole, before a BBQ dinner and stories about the campfire. Meal(s) included : Dinner
Meals :Dinner

Day 16 : Tully to Cairns
We wake early at our rainforest camp for breakfast and then have an interpretative walk through the forest, learning about the traditional indigenous use of the land. We then travel back to Tully to catch the train north, arriving into Cairns central train station at approximately 4:30pm, where your East Coast adventure comes to an end. Meal(s) included : Breakfast
Meals :Breakfast



Departs: Tuesdays, outside Wake Up! Sydney at 8am, 509 Pitt Street, Sydney

Customers should to be waiting outside the departure point 15 minutes prior to the departure time.

Times are subject to change and will be reconfirmed on your personalised itinerary before departure.

Departure Dates

Departure Dates (Please note, these are scheduled departure dates only, closeouts apply, please check availability when booking).

Optional Excursions

Optional Activities (Available to sign up on tour with your guide)

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Seriously!!! This trip rocks! You won't miss anything the East Coast of Australia has to offer. But it is not all backpacker and party this trip includes amazing off the beaten track exclusive experiences.

Recent Independent Reviews

  • On Real Aussie Adventures

    Explore Australia's stunning East Coast stretching all the way from bustling Sydney to the sunny tropics of Cairns. Full of bucket list adventures, this travel package is designed to help you tick off all those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Perfect for those 18-39 years old.

    On Trip Advisor

    This Tour Exceeded All Expectations

    Travelling the east coast of Australia from Cairns to Brisbane with this tour exceeded all expectations. Having travelled with numerous other backpacker companies (Paddywagons / Kiwi Experience / Stray), despite really enjoying them I felt they were all pretty commercial and stayed to the beaten track when it came to providing experiences.

    This tour differs from this, as they have some amazingly cool partnerships with farms and an indigenous rainforest camp, in which proper locals give you the tour. You really get to see how the locals live and learn about the real story of the people of Australia!

    The good, the bad and the ugly! For me this was great, as even momentarily you feel like part of the community, instead of some annoying tourist! …….Another great aspect is that you travel with your tour guide, I had the most lovely girl called Robyn. She knew her stuff about Australia, but also loads of general knowledge and I am a sucker for a fun fact!

    So, to sum up if you want a backpacker trip, which is flexible, gets you an ‘off the beaten track’ experience, traveling with some really interesting and ‘hip’ people….get yourself on this bus!! 

    On Trip Advisor

    Had a Ball!

    Hi, I'm not sure where to put a review of this trip, so have just grabbed onto a thread.

    My friend and I sent both of our au pairs to travel the East Coast of Australia on this tour. They'd worked hard and deserved it.

    They both had a ball, adored their trip and came back with a plethora of fabulous photos. I'd happily send another again. We chose this particular tour in consultation with them mainly because it was guided; they are 19 year olds; and it seemed to go to some interesting places rather than just the touristy ones! 

    On Facebook

    5 Stars!

    I travelled with this operator from Sydney to Cairns and absolutely loved it! It is a great way to explore the East coast while also going to not-so-mainstream places.

    You meet lots of fellow backpackers along the way and I really like how you become a tiny family after a few days (or sometimes only hours) of travelling together!

    A big thanks to my two tour guides: Flinders and Joni. Flinders did the Sydney to Noosa leg. He is the funniest guy, and makes everyone feel at ease. Even on the long bus rides there is never a dull moment with him! Joni did the Noosa to Cairns leg. She is the sweetest and makes sure there is a little bit of adventure in every day! So yeah, 5 stars!  

    On Facebook

    Had a Blast!

    Chose this trip up the east coast and its been amazing. Ended up with a small group but we all got along really well and had room to spread out on the bus.

    Our guide, Flinders, was a hilarious character and showed us a great time. Had a blast! 

    On Facebook

    A Huge Thank You...

    This 5* goes to Flinders, a huge thank you to you for making our tour from Sydney to Byron/Rainbow Beach so brilliant.

    Provided plenty of laughs and dealt with some grumpy brits. Grateful to be a part of your first tour, good luck with future tours and here's to hoping you have easier people to deal with!

    Thank you to this company for hiring great staff. 

    On Facebook

    Loved Every Moment!

    Made it to Cairns after nearly 5 weeks on the east coast and I have loved every moment of my tour. Cappie (guide) is 5* all on his own, the best company, always an insanely high vibe, not just a guide, everyone's friend! Such a diamond.

    Thank you Cappie!