East Vs West Coast – Australia

In my youth, I had no real desire to see Australia, it had always been the distant land of Neighbours, Home and Away (popular 1990’s TV shows), Kylie Minogue and of course the Kangaroo, but not once did it cross my mind to actually visit. As previously referred to my blogs, my concentration was fixed solely on America. Funny as I already had family there on both sides of the country, so it would have made sense to visit.

It wasn’t until my first ‘around the world’ adventure in 2006 that Australia became a big part of my wandering memories collection. Since, I have visited four additional times occasionally to repeat locations but mostly to new places. Ultimately what has to be considered when discussing Australia is its size, it is officially the 6th biggest country in the world (roughly the size of Europe), so a trip East to West can take as long as New York to LA or even London to Moscow.

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I have been lucky to have extensively explored this magnificent country including: traveled

  • Sydney to Cairns (East Coast),
  • Port Douglas to Cooktown (North East),
  • Sydney to Melbourne (South East),
  • Melbourne to Adelaide (South),
  • Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs (South to North via what is known as the ‘Red centre’),
  • Broome (North West)
  • Perth to Exmouth (West Coast)
  • Perth – Albany (South West).

So as you can see, I only have the North East (Cairns to Darwin), North West (Darwin to Broome) and the long journey of South to West (Melbourne to Perth) to go.

As you may have guessed that means that I am asked a lot of questions about Australia and am more than happy to advise where I can – so if you need any advice – feel free to email awanderingmemory@hotmail.com

A question I am often asked, is that of ‘should I visit the East or West Coast of Australia?’. It’s such a difficult question and tricky to answer as both offer amazing experiences in their own right, and it really depends on what you want out of the experience. If it’s 5 star hotels, pubs, clubs and a real party atmosphere the East coast delivers every time. But if it’s the more relaxed, less commercialised, scenery centric, quiet life, then the West Coast is magnificent.

Let’s start with the East Coast that houses locations and experiences such as Bryon Bay, Fraser Island, the Whitsunday islands, Magnetic Island, the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest, Surfers Paradise, Noosa, and who could forget the iconic city of Sydney. I will, throughout the life of this blog, share stories and reviews of all of these mentioned places, but as an entirety the East Coast houses a collection of contrasting locations and simply unmissable experiences.

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The East Coast route of Sydney to Cairns spans over 2,600km, so the fastest method of travel is definitely flying. This however doesn’t reach all of the smaller wonders, therefore bus tours and campervans are also a popular choice. I did it on a bus tour – reviewed on Tripadvisor here. My experience of these locations were originally back in 2006, therefore using it with a pinch of salt is advised mainly due to Australia becoming increasingly popular and economically stronger – therefore prices have skyrocketed. My second visit  was just Sydney and the far north east in 2010, but flew over the coast due to time constraints.

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I have heard that no longer do the tours include all the optional extras such as Zorbing, bowling, didgeridoo playing, boomerang slinging and dinners on the beach. Nowadays that’s all an additional cost on top of your tour, but well worth it for the truly Australian experience. I was traveling alone in 2006, therefore the bus option was perfect for me, as I met a host of like-minded travelers who shared in each and every experience (some I still have lasting friendships with). Containing such special locations such as Fraser Island, Bryon Bay and the Whitsunday Islands, and pretty much any adventure money can buy, the East Coast of Australia holds its own against any worldwide holiday. In it’s entirely the East Coast had elements I would rate as my top experiences of all time, but also had places (such as Surfers Paradise, Brisbane and Mission Beach) I was just got nothing from at all. The mix was 70% to 30% at best.

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So now onto the West Coast, which is just as large a distance Perth to Broome as the East Coast at 2,600km. The West Coast however is far less tourist driven, with huge distances between even the smallest of settlements. It’s rugged coastline and dramatic change in scenery is one of the things I loved the most about it, that and the fact you can drive for hours and meet a soul.

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Don’t get me wrong there are also some amazing locations that bring in the tourists such as Monkey Mia, Coral Bay, Cable Beach, the Pinnacles and Kalbarri. But there are also lesser known locations such as 80 mile beach, the Karijini National Park, Cape Range National park, Cape Leveque and even a few of the Roadhouses, that offer lesser known but priceless memorable experiences.

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As the distances from location to location are so vast, the travel options are limited. Bus routes and tours do go to the area but are lesser known than their East Coast equivalents. We conducted this trip as a couple in a campervan in 2015, which has the benefit of entire flexibility. However, the cost of the hire can be pretty extreme if booked last minute, but taking into account the accommodation aspect it works out cheaper than even the Greyhound bus. The landscape differs considerably from day to day, you have lush green forest, and the next day you have clear white desert, then harsh red desert, and for an aspiring photographer it’s a dream. The amount of wildlife also is far more accessible, with Kangaroos and Emus littering the roads in the evening and Eagles and Ospreys soaring in the sky’s above. Speaking of which you can also see Penguins in Western and Southern Australia (Melbourne and Perth) which in my opinion is always worth the trip.

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Overall there are less tourist hot-spots on the West Coast, but nevertheless there is a certain inescapable charm about the towns and villages you pass through that negates these. It’s a slower pace of life, with limited accommodation and commercialism. As such the unexpected experiences really do come to life in the West, where as the East you always know what you are getting.

One comparison I definitely know the answer to is that of the reefs, the Great Barrier Reef Vs the Ningaloo Reef. Believe me, as an experienced diver there is no comparison, the West Coasts Ningaloo Reef hand down holds supremacy over the over-dived, touristy, disappointing Great Barrier Reef. I have heard that diving the far North of the Great Barrier Reef still holds its own (around Lizard Island) but unfortunately the majority of dive boats on the East Coast do not go that far. The Ningaloo Reef holds some of the greatest dives I have experienced with Marine life and colourful coral galore. If you can afford it a flight over either of these reefs on a clear day is also worth its weight in wandering memory gold.

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Both Coasts also have additional options from Sydney, a trip down further South to Melbourne is well worth the time and in the West, a trip to the beautiful Margaret River and the remarkable towns of Denmark and Busselton are magical.

I think as I grow older the West appeals to me more, as the rugged landscapes, sense of solidarity and adventure really drills home with me. Certain attractions in Perth are starting to rival their Sydney counterparts, yet there is something special about Sydney that you just can’t beat. The East Coast also houses some of my greatest experience memories, such as night kayaking, beach partying, lassoing a goat, Zorbing and skydiving the reef. It still poses a very difficult question – that will solely depend on what you want yourself.

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As the much debated question rages on, I would offer one piece of advice, don’t rush a visit to either of these locations. Take time to appreciate every element of the magnificence both coasts have to offer, and remember you can always come back.

More information on the West Coast – Cape Range here

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