3 Week Cairns to Melbourne Express


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Adult (18+)
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3-Day 4WD Tour

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Sunshine City

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Starlit Fraser Camping

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The Whitsundays

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Great Barrier Reef

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Backpackers' Hostels

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Byron Bay

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Greyhound Bus Pass

20 Day Cairns to Melbourne Express


Discover the hottest beachside destinations along Australia’s East Coast with our 20 Day Express Cairns to Melbourne Tour. Start in the unofficial capital of tropical Far North Queensland, Cairns, where you’ll scuba and snorkel through the iconic natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. Follow up with more snorkeling on a sailing adventure around the magnificent Whitsunday Islands, before you head south for a few days at Rainbow Beach.

Also included in this 20 tour is a three day 4WD safari along the sands of Fraser Island, three days in bohemian Byron Bay, three days in the glittering seaside city of Sydney, and safe delivery to the cultural capital of Australia, Melbourne. If you’re feeling bougie, chat to us about adding on a couple of extra nights in Melbourne and throwing in a day tour to the Great Ocean Road to keep the coastal adventure going!

  • Discover the Great Barrier Reef with unique snorkel and scuba experiences
  • Go on a three-day 4WD safari through the dunes of Fraser Island
  • Island hop through the Whitsundays on a two-day, two-night sailing trip!
  • Get an exclusive lay of the land on Australia’s endlessly stunning east coast

Your Sample Itinerary

Day 1

Girls taking selfie by the water

Welcome to Cairns!

Kick off your tour down the stunning east coast of Australia in tropical Cairns! Cairns is where the rainforest meets the reef, the locals are friendly, and the sun is always shining. Your hostel accommodation is in the hub of Cairns’ CBD and will be brimming with like-minded travellers eager to make new friends and have a good time. Relax by the pool or get the party started in Cairns’ throbbing nightlife.


Central Cairns Hostel

Day 2

Snorkeling on Great Barrier Reef

Dive into the Great Barrier Reef

Discover the underwater wonderland of Australia’s most prized possession: the Great Barrier Reef! Made up of over 3,000 reefs and home to more than 9,000 species of diverse marine life, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the best snorkelling and scuba diving spots in the world! Get up close and personal with kaleidoscopes of vibrant coral gardens, tropical fish and dolphins!


Central Cairns Hostel

Day 3

Girl looking out by the water

Discover Cairns at your own pace

A free day in Cairns, the centre of FNQ, is bound to end in a tan, smile and amazing mems. Take a dip in the Cairns Lagoon, head to Port Douglas for a palm tree picnic and try an Acai Bowl at Rusty's Fruit Market!


Central Cairns Hostel

Day 4 & 5

Golden hour drinks

Arrive at Airlie Beach Adventure 

Arrive at the tropical paradise of Airlie Beach, or the heart of the reef, as the locals call it. Drop your baggage at your luxe hostel and explore the sights! Chow down on the fresh legendary seafood, or hit the town for golden hour drinks and a night of partying. If it's thrills you’re seeking, consider booking in for an adrenaline-packed skydive over Airlie’s stunning beaches.


Hostel in Heart of Airlie

Trip Upgrade

  • Skydive
  • 1 Hour Reef & Island Scenic Flight

Day 6 & 7

Man hanging off boat taking selfie with mates in water

Sail the Whitsundays 

Leave the mainland in your rearview and embrace island time as you cruise through the 74 islands that make up the beautiful Whitsundays. Soak up the sun on the sandy white shores, or snorkel alongside rainbows of tropical fish and playful dolphins. Share your island discoveries with new friends over a delicious lunch on board (included in your trip!) as you sail through serenity.


Shared cabin aboard modern vessel

Day 8

Airlie markets, palm trees swaying in breeze

Return to Airlie

Return to your Airlie Beach accommodation for some well-deserved rest and relaxation after your big adventure on the high seas. Take today as fast or slow as you please: work on your tan, update your Insta, or go hard amongst the local nightlife.


Hostel in the centre of Airlie Beach

Day 9

Longshot of Rainbow coastline

Head South to Rainbow Beach

All aboard for Rainbow Beach! Take this opportunity to sift through photos from your adventure so far, update your loved ones back home, or catch up on sleep. In the morning you’ll wake up to the charming coastal town of Rainbow Beach.


Rainbow Beach Hostel

Day 10 & 11

Young people enjoying drinks at The Deck

Explore Rainbow Beach

Named for its glistening dunes made up of 72 different colours of sand, Rainbow Beach is a relaxing beach town surrounded by natural beauty. This marks the halfway point for the tour, so now would be a perfect time to unwind, take it easy, and gear up for another ten days of killer fun. Or you could always let loose at the local rooftop bar, The Deck!


Rainbow Beach Hostel

Day 12, 13 & 14

Girls in white sitting atop 4WD on Fraser

4WD Adventure on Fraser

K’gari (Fraser Island) is bountiful in natural beauty. Let your 4WD guide do the work as you spend the next three days taking in the sights. Jump in the fresh flowing waters of Ely Creek and let us take you on a relaxing cruise out to the ocean, float in the placid, crystal clear waters of Lake Mackenzie, and explore the breathtaking burnt orange sands of Red Canyon. After three days of fun under the sun, return to your Rainbow Beach accommodation and get ready to head south to Byron!


Day 12 & 13 - starlit beach campsite with excellent facilities

Day 14 - return to your Rainbow Beach hostel

Day 15 & 16

Girls walking to Byron Lighthouse

Become a Byron Babe

Welcome to backpacker’s paradise! Embrace the laid-back bohemian paradise of Byron Bay: kick back on the main beaches, cool down with a refreshing beer at the Stone & Wood brewery, or make the trek down to Wategos Beach to enjoy secluded bays surrounded by lush surrounding greenery. Don’t leave before heading up to Byron’s iconic lighthouse and Cape Byron Walking Track for unbeatable views and photo ops of the ocean and headland. Line up a surf lesson or idyllic kayak alongside dolphins, too!


Hostel in the heart of Byron Bay

Trip Upgrade

  • Surf Lesson
  • Dolphin Kayak

Day 17

Girl taking pic of Sydney Opera House

Head South to Sydney

Back to the Greyhound for your next adventure, comrades! Catch up on your beauty sleep so you can step off the bus feeling good, looking great, and ready to cause a ruckus in Sydney.

Day 18 & 19

Girl in front of Sydney Harbour Bridge

Explore the Sydney Sights

When it comes to beautiful cities, Sydney is hard to beat. With a big blue harbour, the iconic 20th-century architecture of the Sydney Opera House, and an abundance of the only beaches in competition with Queensland’s.


Central Sydney Hostel

Day 20

Girls drinking wine in dimly lit bar

Overnight Bus to Melbourne

As your tour draws to a close it’s time to hit the Greyhound one last time for some well-deserved shut-eye. Before you pull up in Melbourne check out what the city has to offer and plan some activities for your stay — with the seaside and bustling city life in such close proximity the possibilities are endless! Think of Melbourne as Sydney’s cooler, grungier little sister. Now would also be a great time to dump some pics of your fabulous adventures on Instagram.

Day 21

Girl peering out hostel window

Welcome to Melbourne!

You’ve arrived at your final destination! The tour may conclude here, but don’t let that stop your adventuring. Melbourne is the cultural capital of Australia with a bounty of good times to be had around the clock, seven days a week. Take a day trip out of town to see the Great Ocean Road, or add an extra three nights on to your tour to explore the free exhibitions, see a show, and hit the town for a night of partying with the friends you’ve met along the way!

Trip Upgrade

  • 1 Day Great Ocean Road Tour

Trip Extension

  • Add 4 nights onto your stay!

What's Included?

  • 2 nights in Sydney
  • 2 nights in Byron Bay
  • 3 nights in Rainbow Beach
  • 3 day/2 night Fraser Island Tag-Along Safari
  • 3 nights in Airlie Beach
  • 2-day, 2-night Whitsundays Trip
  • Luggage Storage Airlie Beach
  • VIP boat after party
  • 3 nights in Cairns
  • 1 Day Great Barrier Reef Cruise including 1 introductory dive
  • Greyhound Bus Pass
  • 4 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 4 dinners

What's Extra?

Optional Trip Extensions

  • Dolphin kayak Byron Bay
  • Surf lesson Byron Bay
  • Skydive Airlie
  • 1 hour reef and island scenic flight
  • 3 nights in Melbourne + 1 day Great Ocean Road tour

Terms and Conditions

Please read our terms, conditions and cancellation policies before booking your East Coast itinerary package. 


Who will I travel with?

This is not a group tour, so you only travel with whoever you book for. Whether that’s solo, with your partner, friend or group of your own choice, spend your downtime how you like and connect with the gorgeous locations on the way!

Is this itinerary guided?

This is a semi-guided itinerary, meaning that professional skippers and tour guides lead any time spent on individual tours (like sailboats, 4WD camping tours, reef tours, and the likes). However, the in-between bits like travel days, downtime and free days are up to you.

That means nobody will be waking you up for your early bus or checking into hostels with you, however, it makes your time in Australia undeniably more personalised and flexible. Read more about our semi-guided itineraries in our FAQs or chat with a local travel agent to match you with your dream experience.

If you are looking to travel with a group of other backpackers and be guided through every leg of your journey by a local leader, check out our fully guided group itineraries.

Are meals included?

4 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 4 dinners are included in this itinerary package, all of which are provided during your day trips. The rest of the meals are up to you, and you will have plenty of access to bars, restaurants and supermarkets along the East Coast.

Do I need travel insurance?

Yes, we strongly recommend that travellers purchase their own travel insurance before their East Coast trip. Travel insurance is not included in your package price, and East Coast Tours is not responsible for personal injury, operator cancellations or delays.

How much spending money do I need per day?

We recommend about $60 to $100 AUD spending money per day. This will cover you for a meal in a restaurant, a couple of beers and some supermarket supplies daily. For details on your daily spending budget in Australia, check out our budget travel guide!

Where will I stay?

You will stay in a variety of beachfront, poolside and city-centre hostels. On your Whitsundays sailing trip, you will spend two nights in a shared boat cabin. On K'gari (Fraser Island), you will be camping in a beachside campsite with hot showers and all gear included. You also have one overnight bus trip.

Can I upgrade to private rooms rather than shared dorms?

Of course! If you prefer some privacy, you can absolutely upgrade to a private room. You will pay the difference from a shared dorm to a private room, and all accommodation is subject to availability. For detailed costs, chat with our friendly travel agents over live chat to secure your space.

What kind of transport is included?

Our itineraries include bus transport which is primarily a Greyhound Whimit Pass. Greyhound Busses are deluxe coaches with in-seat USB charging, wifi, reclining seats, air conditioning and onboard bathrooms. If you wish to upgrade your package, you can book a rental car or campervan through our friendly travel experts to go your own way!

Can I extend or personalise my itinerary?

Simply chat with our friendly travel agents to personalise your itinerary before you book. We wouldn't blame you for wanting longer in the Byron Bay surf or Airlie Beach sunshine!

Are the dates flexible?

Yes, the dates for this itinerary are flexible. Simply input your preferred arrival and departure dates before booking, or chat with our expert travel agents about your timeframe and we'll make it work for you!

East Coast Tours acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners of Country and recognises their continuing connection to land, sea, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all First Nations peoples.

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