Top 10 East Coast Australia Cities To Visit

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If you're planning an East Coast Australia itinerary, chances are you'll be visiting some of the country's major cities. Australia may be more famous for its unique wildlife and fascinating landscapes including beaches, coral reefs, and rainforests, but the cities are not to be missed!

Here is our list of the top 10 East Coast Australia cities to visit. Even if you're not a big city-lover, these destinations have something to offer everyone. Most of them are also conveniently located near some of Australia's top natural attractions. Plus, the cities are packed with amenities that are essential to an Australian adventure, whether you're traveling by plane, bus, campervan, or car. If you're just stopping through, or you're planning to stay and work in one of these places, here are the top 10 East Coast Australia cities!

Gold Coast

Top 10 East Coast Australia Cities To Visit

From Queensland down to New South Wales and Victoria, Australia has some world-famous cities that are absolutely worth visiting. Each of these places has history, culture, nightlife, accommodation, cuisine, and more. And many of them have their own beautiful beaches, hikes, and landmarks as well. So add these incredible cities to your East Coast Australia bucket list! We'll list them in geographical order from North to South. 


1. Cairns

Commonly referred to as the "Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef", Cairns is a must-visit for those who love nature. Located right off the coast of Cairns are the sprawling coral reefs and underwater wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. There are endless reef sites and tropical islands where you can immerse yourself in this stunning corner of Australia. 

Cairns is also known for its lush rainforests! Surrounding the city on land, there are lots of waterfalls, gorges, rivers, streams, hikes, mountains, and charming rainforest towns to explore. You can even visit the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest tropical rainforest on Earth! In addition to all the incredible day trips around the city, Cairns itself is a blast. With markets, swimming pools, wildlife centres, cafes, bars, restaurants, hostels, and nightlife galore, Cairns is a true backpacker city that has so much fun in store for you!

Daintree Rainforest

2. Mission Beach

Mission Beach is another excellent city that offers trips out to the Great Barrier Reef. It's actually one of the closest towns to the reef, with reef sites lying just under 40km offshore. In addition to underwater adventures, Mission Beach is popular among travellers because it is one of the best beach towns on the East Coast of Australia. The town itself has the same name as its most famous beach. Mission Beach is a long stretch of golden sand lined with palm trees and warm, turquoise waters. 

The town of Mission Beach itself is pretty small, and it might not even be considered a city. It's more of a coastal town, but it's such a popular place to visit on Australia's East Coast that we had to include it in our list of the top cities. If you do find yourself in Mission Beach, make sure you save time for skydiving! It's one of the most scenic places in Australia to make the jump!

Snorkeling Great Barrier Reef

3. Airlie Beach

A bit further down the coast from Mission Beach, you'll find Airlie Beach. Also more of a town than a city, Airlie Beach is famous for being the "Gateway to the Whitsundays". The town center of Airlie may be pretty small, but it has all the amenities of a big city, including nightlife, a wide range of accommodations, lots of places to eat, and tons of tours running daily

The main reason why you would visit Airlie Beach is not to hang out in the town itself, but to explore the Whitsunday Islands! This gorgeous archipelago of rugged, tropical islands is home to famous locations like Whitehaven Beach and Hamilton Island. And you can also snorkel in the fringing reefs of the Great Barrier Reef here! Whether you explore the islands on a multi-day sailing tour, or you opt for day trips, scenic flights, or other excursions, Airlie Beach is a true gem of East Coast Australia. 

Airlie Beach

4. Noosa

Another one of the best places to stop on the East Coast of Australia is Noosa. This coastal city is incredibly charming, and you'll never be bored here. As you wander around Noosa, expect to see pristine beaches, majestic bushwalking trails, and perfect waves for surfing. Just outside Noosa, you can venture to unique natural locations like the Noosa Everglades, or you can even go offshore and visit the world's largest sand island, K'gari (Fraser Island)!

Downtown Noosa has numerous trendy cafes, boutiques stores, and places to eat and drink. At nighttime, the city ignites with golden tea lights and it's a truly magical place to explore. You'll be captivated by Noosa's charm and energy if you spend a few days here!

Noosa main beach

5. Brisbane

Brisbane is another one of the top East Coast Australia cities to visit. As the capital city of Queensland, Brisbane is a wealth of opportunities and attractions. It's one of Australia's oldest cities, so history buffs will love visiting all the museums and landmarks scattered around town. Nature lovers can visit the Botanic Gardens and the Planetarium, or hike up to Mount Coottha. 

Even if you're just an average traveller looking to sightsee and maybe enjoy some nightlife, there are endless things to do in Brisbane. Hop on a river cruise, climb the Story Bridge, watch the sunset at Kangaroo Point Cliffs, or indulge at Eat Street. Stroll along the Riverwalk, visit local markets, sunbathe at the man-made beach in the city center, or just explore with no itinerary and soak it all in. Brisbane has something for everyone, and it's one of Australia's best cities!


6. Gold Coast

Anyone completing an East Coast Australia road trip or backpacking trip will most likely spend some time on the Gold Coast. This vibrant, energetic city has so many unique neighborhoods, national parks, and beaches packed into its perimeter that you could easily spend weeks and weeks here. But for travellers with just a few days to spare, you'll probably want to stick to the coast. The Gold Coast is famous for its amazing beaches! Whether you want to surf, sunbathe, or just grab a coffee and watch the sunrise on the shore, the Australian beach culture is strong here. 

Surfers Paradise and Burleigh Heads are two of the most famous beach neighborhoods on the Gold Coast. Other cool things to do include visiting a famous theme park, experiencing the electric nightlife, and taking a day trip out to the Gold Coast Hinterland to hike, camp, and explore nature. 

Gold Coast

7. Byron Bay

One of the best beach towns on East Coast Australia, Byron Bay is another top destination Down Under. This little surf village has grown and grown over the years to become a popular tourist location, and few travellers leave Australia without experiencing Byron Bay. 

With a breathtaking coastline and wildlife-filled waters, Byron Bay is like heaven for water sport and fitness enthusiasts. Whether you want to learn how to surf, find some more advanced surfing waves, hike the epic coastal track, whale-watch from the Cape Byron Lighthouse headland, or kayak with dolphins, there are endless opportunities for soaking in the sunshine outside. Throw in the cafes, shops, and bohemian spirit of the town itself, and Byron Bay becomes one of the top East Coast Australia cities to visit!

Byron Bay Lighthouse

8. Newcastle

Located about halfway down the coast of New South Wales is Newcastle, an underrated Australian city. Newcastle is only about an hour north of Sydney, so it often gets overshadowed by its more famous neighbor. But Newcastle is absolutely worth a visit, and it's one of the best places to stop on the East Coast of Australia!

This laid-back coastal city has plenty of stunning beaches, walking trails, and lookouts. On the outskirts of the city on the NSW Central Coast, you'll find breathtaking natural beauty in the form of national parks, vineyards, and sand dunes. Head up to Port Stephens for whale watching and sandboarding, or head west to the Hunter Valley for wine tasting. Or just hang out in Newcastle and surf, eat, shop, sightsee, and relax. If you're looking to escape the crowds while exploring Australia's cities, Newcastle is a great choice. 

Newcastle surfing

9. Sydney

An absolute must on any East Coast Australia road trip or adventure is Sydney! The capital city of New South Wales is arguably Australia's most famous city, and it's definitely one of the most touristy. Full of iconic landmarks, such as Bondi Beach, the Sydney Opera House, and the Harbour Bridge, Sydney is a gorgeous place full of cool things to see and do

Not only does the CBD have a plentiful range of tourist attractions, markets, gardens, museums, entertainment, dining options, and more, but the surrounding suburbs and national parks are full of unique sights. Head west to the Blue Mountains for a day of bushwalking, or head south to the Royal National Park for camping and waterfall swimming. Or visit the Sydney coast and learn to surf, ride the ferry across the harbour to Manly, take on some coastal walks, and soak in the serenity of the Sydney seaside. 

Sydney Harbour

10. Melbourne

Though Melbourne is last on our list of the top East Coast Australia cities to visit, Melbourne is definitely a world-class metropolis. The capital city of Victoria is located on the very south of Australia's East Coast, making it a bit chiller than the other cities on this list. But what Melbourne lacks in sunshine and warmth, it makes up for in other ways. 

Melbourne has a famous coffee scene, with trendy cafes and unique restaurants abound. The city also has tons of cool historic landmarks as well as museums, street markets, colourful graffiti and street art murals, and more. Take a day trip over to the Great Ocean Road for a scenic road trip, or just spend your days wandering around this eclectic city. Either way, Melbourne is definitely one of the top East Coast Australia cities!

Melbourne night market

Check out our top itineraries that include some or most of these amazing East Coast Australia cities!

Or live chat with us online if you need help planning your trip Down Under!

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