Written by: Jaii Fredregill
Destination: Brisbane to Melbourne, Australia
Visited: March 2019
The journey my husband, Matt, and I took over our 24-days of camping along the eastern coast of Australia was an all-out-balls-to-the-wall road trip during which we tried to see as much as possible as we camped along Australia’s east coast in our Spaceships campervan.
We have just set out on what we hope will be a full year of traveling, so our time and money are limited. If you share these limitations, or are setting out on your own campervan adventure, here are some of the best sites, between Brisbane and Melbourne, that we found for camping, hiking, snorkeling and just wandering around.
Streets Beach, Brisbane
Streets Beach, Brisbane
Streets Beach is a manmade beach located right in the center of Brisbane’s central business district. It is surrounded by bars, restaurants, and shops that host a lively nightlife for urbanites, tourists and beachgoers. Swimming and lounging at the beach are free and it is patrolled regularly by fully trained lifeguards.
Stanley St Plaza, South Brisbane QLD 4101
Streets Beach Website
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Opened in 1927, Lone Pine was the first koala sanctuary in Australia and remains worthy of your support to this day, when koalas are in more danger of decline than ever before due to loss of habitat, disease, and malnutrition. The sanctuary continues to perform research and work toward the sustainability of koala. You can learn more at the sanctuary, where you can also see native animals like kangaroos, emus, wombats, and platypuses. Admission was AUD 34.50 per adult, which is not cheap but does help to support the sanctuary.
708 Jesmond Rd, Fig Tree Pocket QLD 4069
Take a swim at friendly Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour Coastal Walk
If you are looking to stretch your legs, I recommend the short 20-minute headlands walk from Diggers Beach to Parks Beach in Coffs Harbour.
To find the trailhead, park in the parking lot on your right and walk to the beach where you will find a staircase leading up to the headlands from the beach. This walk is a nice place to take a break from driving and you get an excellent view of both beaches. If weather permits, enjoy a swim before getting back on the road. There are public toilets and a picnic area next to the parking lot.
Explore the shops on Bellingen's main drive
We passed through a lot of cute, old-timey looking towns during our trip down the coast, but Bellingen was our favorite. The funky main street of this little township has maintained its original storefronts and has everything you need for stocking up or putting together a picnic at nearby Dorrigo National Park. The butchers, supermarket, cafes and other shops sell quality, local products at a range of prices.
Skywalk lookout at Dorrigo National Park
Dorrigo National Park
This is the place for a nice long walk and a picnic. There are several different walking trails that range from 1 km-15 km, with 2-5 grade levels. All the trails will lead you through the tranquil forests and on some, you will also encounter a waterfall. Picnic areas and bathrooms are clean and free to visitors.
Lyrebird Link, Dorrigo Mountain NSW 2453
Dorrigo National Park Website
Checking in at Waves Campground
When a cyclone warning led to a 6-day closer of all seaside campsites run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, it became quite a challenge to find places on the coast with clean basic amenities.
After a few nights of staying at some disappointing places, we discovered Waves Campground. This is an excellent place to stay just outside of Port Macquarie. The amenities were plentiful and clean, and the beach across the road was full of surfers, and swim-friendly waters. Several nice nature walks are nearby, and there’s even a small café for those who love coffee and hate cooking as much as I do.
954 Point Plomer Rd, Crescent Head NSW 2440
Tacking Point Lighthouse
Port Macquarie Coastal Walk & Beaches
This lovely coastal town sits just south of the Hastings River and is a popular destination for local and visiting holidaymakers. It is known for whale watching and wine tasting in the nearby wine tasting region. There are also several budget-friendly activities for those who are just passing through.
Port Macquarie’s Coastal Walk is an excellent way to see the coast and enjoy the beaches. Signage posted along the way will help you to learn the city’s history as you go, and be sure to stop for a dip, or to watch the surfers, when sunnier skies prevail. The walk begins at Westport or in can be joined at any of the four major points it passes, which include, Town Beach, Flynns Beach, Shelly Beach, and Tacking Point Lighthouse.
Just a short 5-minute walk from Tacking Point Lighthouse is Lighthouse beach, which was almost totally empty and had calm waters for swimming.
Still cute, right?
It is free to visit the Koala Hospital, a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility established in 1973 and run primarily by volunteers. The hospital treats many sick and injured koalas and offers guided or self-guided tours to inform and educate the public about the plight of the koala and the dangers facing them today.
Lord St, Port Macquarie NSW 2444
Sydney Harbour and Opera House
Sydney Harbour and Opera House
The Sydney Harbour and Opera House were a must for us as first-time visitors to this lovely city. As lovers of salt and sea, we decided to spend the remainder of our time checking out some of the local snorkeling.
Bennelong Point, Sydney NSW 2000
Manly Beach, Sydney
You can reach Manly Beach from Sydney by ferry, bus or train. Since we were looking at having to pay steep parking rates to leave the campervan in Sydney, we decided just to drive to Shelly Beach and pay the fees there, which are AUD 8 per hour or AUD 40 for the day. We enjoyed a fun and relaxing day here. From the parking lot, it is just a short walk down to the beach, which has public toilets, changing areas and an outdoor shower.
Snorkeling Shelly Beach
Shelley Beach is part of a marine reserve called Cabbage Tree Bay, which is relatively sheltered, making for easy snorkeling in calm waters. We were even lucky enough to come across a juvenile Dusky Whaler Shark.
Sadly, our hunt to find a sea dragon was not successful, but we did make our way down the path to enjoy a swim at the main beach. There are plenty of food options to be found, though the more affordable ones can be found just across the street from the main beach among the shops.
Estuary Cobbler Jervis Bay
Jervis Bay Snorkeling
Snorkeling in Manly was such a good time that we really started seeking out more places to go as we continued along the coast. Shark Net Beach, just south of Huskisson Beach was one of the better suggestions we received.
The water was calm, and we saw several sting rays, some kooky fish and an Estuary Cobbler during our poking around in the kelp garden. Eel-tailed catfish are venomous, by the way, so you should not actually poke them.
There are quite a few, so if you have your own snorkel gear you can save quite a lot by bringing it along. The water does get cooler as you go south, so it’s not a bad idea to bring your wetsuit as well.
Depot Beach - Home of the Kangaroo
Depot Beach Campground, Murramarang National Park
This campground deserves a mention because it was one of the nicer campgrounds we stayed at, though the bathrooms could use a good scrub. There were several local families among the campers, taking advantage of the nearby beach and numerous trails in this scenic national park.
The grounds were full but not overcrowded. Be sure to bring dollar coins if you would like a hot shower. The cost is AUD 1 for 4-minutes of hot water. There is also a camp kitchen with a flat top and the first pizza oven I have ever encountered in nature.
What probably makes this campground and beach most popular is the abundant number of kangaroos hanging around. When we were there it was like a kangaroo super highway.
2A Depot Beach Rd, Depot Beach NSW 2536
Depot Beach Campground Website
Maloney's Beach Batemans Bay
Batemans Bay Snorkel Trail
There are three stops on the Batemans Bay snorkel trail are Maloney’s Beach, Sunshine Cove, and Guerrilla Bay, so you can easily spend your entire day exploring. If you are going to snorkel just one, I must recommend Maloney’s Beach, due to the exceptional luck I had at spotting sea life there.
Short-tail Ray Maloney's Beach
Maloneys Beach is 12 km / 7.5 miles north of Batemans Bay. When you arrive, drive past the day use area to the beach and park. When facing the ocean, you will see a group of tall yellow rocks jutting out of the ocean to your right, this is where I had the best snorkeling of the day.
As soon as we got in, I spotted an Australian angelshark, which bolted away quickly. Next, I passed this mammoth short-tailed stingray. Holy crap! We weren’t that far out, and it was semi-buried in the sand, so as much as its nearly 2-meter wide outline looked like a stingray, I didn’t believe it until I cautiously approached, and it looked me right in the eyes. Naturally, I was excited but also terrified as I took my eyes off it to pop my head out of the water and call my husband, Matt, over to see this beast that must weigh in at 500 lbs (225 kilos) or more.
For the remainder of the snorkel, we saw the usual suspects, like fish and average sized stingrays. Little did we know as we made our way back to shore that we were in for one final surprise, as two dolphins approached us and swam past. This stop was well worth our time and there were even kangaroos hanging around the day use area when we stopped off to fill out water jugs.
Sunshine Cove Beach
Sunshine Cove Beach
This quaint sandy beach tucked away just off the main road is only a short drive away from Maloneys Beach. I have been told great things about snorkeling in this area. Unfortunately, the conditions were not great when we arrived and there was nearly no visibility, so we did not stay long.
Beautiful Guerrilla Bay
Finally, we headed another 5 miles / 8 kilometers away to the striking and secluded shores of Guerrilla Bay. The bay is divided into two parts, experienced and beginner. When you are facing the water, the easier snorkeling will be to your right and the more challenging to your left. These rocky waters can be tricky to maneuver, so if you’re new to snorkeling or heading in with kids, you may want to stick to the friendlier waters to the right.
Note: None of these beaches have outdoor showers, and the one shower we found near Guerrilla Bay is gross, so you may want to camp somewhere with showers.
Stretch your legs and fill your belly at Bodalla Dairy
This roadside creamery is a nice place to stop and stretch your legs or grab a bite to eat after a day of snorkeling. Meals, ice cream and fresh cheese can also be purchased here if you’re getting hungry.
52 Princes Hwy, Bodalla NSW 2545
Check out some street art on Hosier Lane, Melbourne
The Lanes, or “laneways” of Melbourne’s CBD once served as passageways for horse-pulled carts but are now home to some of the city’s trendiest shops and cafes. Hosier Lane has become synonymous with street art and is often filled with visitors snapping selfies in front of the many murals.
Come hungry to the Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Queen Victoria Market
Queen Victoria Market is an amazing stop for budget travelers and anyone looking to try the local meats, produce, cheeses and baked goods. Behind the main building, you will also find an open-air market with clothing, accessories, local crafts, and souvenirs.
This charming market also hosts festivals and features performances from a range of local musicians and performers. It’s a great place to snack and shop. Check the website for events and more information on stalls and shops.
Queen St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Little Penguins at St. Kilda Pier
To see the little penguins Australia is famous for, head to St. Kilda Pier where they live on the breakwater just behind the big building at the end of the pier. Go at dusk when they swim home to the breakwater rocks. You can see the penguins for free, but of course, never feed, touch or disturb them in any way, including with flash photography, loud noise/talking, or by bringing your dog along.
Pier Rd, St Kilda, Port Phillip, Victoria 3182, Australia
We have now experienced campervan camping on the east coast to the full effect. We’ve seen it all; beautiful landscapes, picturesque beaches, exotic wildlife, and rancid toilets. Along the way we have encountered everything from cyclones to wildfires, learning to make the best of our circumstances despite arguments, personal meltdowns over swarming insects (that would be me), and all other minor obstacles.
If you are traveling on the cheap, there are plenty of things to do and see and even free campsites and rest areas available. However, you can find basic campsites along the way on the Spaceships App or Wiki Camps AU app for as little as AUD 10 per night. A well-located campsite, seaside for example, typically cost AUD 10-21 per adult per night, depending on amenities.