This year I hit my 7th visit to Australia ever. Whoa! I have done all sorts of crazy things in this country: studied for a year in high school, travelled all across the country, interned in a language school, house-sitted, worked some random backpacker jobs, threw myself out of a plane and dove deep down with the prettiest of all of the Great Barrier Reef fish. I have been to the Red Center several times, visited the west and east coast and almost all the big cities.
And still I have never travelled along the coast between Sydney and Brisbane, something I always wanted to do. I just didn’t know how. I first liked the idea of driving myself but quickly realised it would be quite tiring and I probably wouldn’t enjoy my destination much as I would need to recover from so much driving every time. The train was going very slow and there are just too many connections to be caught to have a fun ride. So I thought a bus trip sounded alright. I just wanted to do something different, a bit more local where I could experience some aussie culture and see places off the beaten backpacker path.
I had never heard about Loka until this stage but I immediately liked the idea of a flexible bus pass which included some unique places along the known coastal route. On top of that, I could also travel at my own pace because with this bus pass you can simply hop off at any destination and stay for however long you like and then just hop on the next bus passing through. Perfect. Decision made.
And so my journey began.
It was a rainy day when I left Wollongong after two pretty awesome weeks of house-sitting in this lovely seaside town just an hour and a half south of Sydney. I had risen early this morning to get to Sydney to catch the Loka hop on hop off bus with a small group of about 15 other people from all over the world. That morning in the rain and with all the heavy traffic Sydney for the first time really looked its best in the rear view mirror, it was time to get out of the city!
After a bit of driving, a rainy toilet stop and more driving (and me happily snoozing off, I guess one of the perks of being driven instead of driving yourself) we stopped for a quick lunch to then arrive into one of Australia’s famous wine region, the Hunter Valley. Looking out left and right, there were vineyards perfectly lined into row with impressive wineries scattered across the green hills in-between. Stopping off at the Hope Estate, the first thing that caught my eye was quirky kangaroos hopping over the edges of the huge property. On the second floor we were greeted with a small wine tasting of red and white wines while enjoying the view and chatting with the group slowly getting to know each other a little more.
The last stop for the day, our cozy homestay in Barrington Tops National Park truly blew my mind. I mean I have been to many places in Australia and know there are some really beautiful national parks and yes, this is definitely one of them!
Tubing down the river in the late afternoon, relaxing in the hot spa afterwards while the pizza baked in the stone-oven and waking up to a view like this the next morning – absolutely priceless.
After breakfast in the morning we were following the sun, like Xavier Rudd sang on the bus as we drove off. This time it was even longer legs of driving making me once again realise how big Australia is. And I am only seeing a really tiny part of it too – just 950 kilometer from Sydney to Brisbane. Hence not a bad idea to be on the Loka hop on hop off bus and be driven.
I am glad it’s not a boring point to point bus either where everyone does their own stuff but where stops with activities along the way are included like stopping at the Koala hospital just before lunch to see these ridiculous cute faces sleeping in the trees. Unfortunately, we were on the other side of the fence and couldn’t get any closer but I guess that’s okay since I’ve held a koala before and know they can be quite smelly and are not really a soft as you’d expect, still they remain one of my favourite animals in Australia.
Finally, after another lot of driving we arrived at Spot X, a beachfront surf camp near Coffs Harbour. The location is absolutely unreal, as the ocean and waves are right there, just perfect for a surf camp. Catching the last rays of the sun, it was jumping right into the water before even unpacking.
The cool thing about this flexible style of travel is that you can hop off at any destination and just stay there for a few days until the next bus will pick you up. So that’s exactly what I did, I ended up staying 4 nights at the Mojosurf camp catching waves, soaking up the amazing Australian sunshine every day and getting to know so many other travellers from all over the planet.
On Sunday it was yet again time to throw all my stuff into the bag and catch the next Loka bus heading onwards.
Before heading further north there was one more stop though. Some people had told about the remote River Retreat before, a large open field with cute tipis, a big bonfire place in the middle and the opportunity to sleep under the stars in a swag. I was excited.
Unfortunately, the weather must’ve hated us. After baked potatoes, beef burgers and grilled marshmallows we sat around the bonfire together listening to music, drinking and chatting the night away. Until it slowly started drizzling which quickly developed into heavy rain and everybody ran to save their swags and bags to then dance under the tipi roof instead of the stars. In the morning it was yet again raining and we had to bbq our eggs and bacon for breakfast back at the Mojosurf campground.
Finally the sun was peeking through the dark clouds when the bus took off from Spot X yet again. Another 3 hours later we arrived into beautiful Byron Bay. I already knew this next stop was where I would hop off for 10 days to catch up with an old friend of mine, soak up the sunshine, surf at Wategos Beach, do some shopping in the many cute stores and just enjoy the hippie atmosphere and eat in nice cafés. I recommend you try Twisted Sista Café, The Roadhouse or Top Shop.
There’s really nothing else you need to do in Byron but relax and enjoy! Oh and definitely visit the Cape Byron Lighthouse and if you have time, consider taking a little tour into the hinterland visit magnificent waterfalls and charming mountain villages.
Way too fast it was Wednesday morning again and I was off for another early start to head with Loka on to Brisbane. With a small coffee stop in Burleigh Heads spotting some early bird surfers and heading through the high rises of Surfers Paradise, the bus reached my final stop Brisbane before lunch time.
Some people on the bus where going even further as there is a Loka pass that will take you all the way up to Cairns. The only thing you have to organise along the way is your accommodation which you can however easily do over the web app. And don’t forget, you have to feed yourself too! Some overnight stops are already included in the bus pass price.
So if you want to travel along the East Coast of Australia, you can either stay with the same group and simply travel the minimum time to make it a tour-like experience or if you want to be a bit more flexible like me, just jump off at different places and re-join the next bus, you’ll sure get to meet tons of people along the way and most of the time you’ll catch each other again and again in another place as you travel on, happened to me with all the three busses I was on, we caught up lying at the beach in Byron and dancing reggae at the Arts Factory at night.
Are you planning to travel the East Coast of Australia soon?
Thank you to Loka for making this trip possible. All opinions and recommendations expressed in this post are as always my own.