Australia travel | Australia travel tips | Uluru | Outback Australia | Whitehaven Beach | Australia beaches | Magnetic Island | Queensland | Whitsunday Islands

Australia travel | Australia travel tips | Uluru | Outback Australia

*Before you start reading please know that this post is about traveling Australia’s East Coast and backpacker trail. I am not judging the country as a whole as I have yet to be everywhere. This post is mainly to inform those who plan on traveling to Australia’s most well-known spots.*

Australia is one of those far off destinations that you have dreamt about visiting since you were a child. It’s a foreign place across the world that just doesn’t seem tangible, yet it is and it sits alone in the Pacific Ocean waiting for you to discover its distant shores and red centre.

There are white sand beaches so soft that you could melt into the golden shores for endless days, water so blue you have to blink twice to see if it’s real and animals so unusual it’s like they’re out of an artists sketchbook.

Yes, Australia is full of all kinds of amazing, wonderful, speechless sights and things so wacky that you would never have thought them to be real. Australia is a destination unlike any other yet it is like so many others.

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Yes, the water was that blue, Whitsunday Islands, Queensland

Australia is the place that you want to tick off your bucket list, the country that you’re the most excited for and the continent that will wow you the most.

Well, sorry to burst your bubble but Australia is, in my opinion, completely overrated, or at least the the spots where most traveller’s tell you to go to.

First, here’s a little background on my experience with Australia: In December 2016 I flew to Sydney to experience an epic night, ringing in the New Year. A week later I moved to Melbourne with my working holiday visa in hand. Job hunting was unsuccessful (that’s a whole other story) so 3 months later I headed to Brisbane where I then travelled north, worked in a hostel for a few weeks and then travelled down the East Coast from Cairns to Sydney then to the Outback.

I did not visit the West Coast or Tasmania so please know that I am not judging these parts of Australia, just the parts that most people go to when they visit.

As I travelled the East Coast I was constantly questioning why people were so excited to visit Australia. I wondered what exactly people were raving about and I started thinking that maybe I was doing it wrong. I was hitting every hot spot along the coast, trying all the must-do activities (other than sky diving because jumping from a plane is not my thing) and I just wasn’t getting it. I wasn’t getting Australia. So 5 months into my 1 year trip I decided to call it a quits.

There were a number of reasons why and most of them were because I just found Australia to be overrated.

Australia travel | Australia travel tips | Uluru | Outback Australia
You can bet my trip to the outback was pretty darn expensive.

Expensive

Without a doubt the worst thing about travelling in Australia is how expensive it is. Every time I brought out my wallet I wanted to cringe. What do you mean you want me to pay $13 for a pint? Some things were just plain ridiculous, others I could understand and there were some things that I found cheaper (compared to Canada) but I could count those things on one hand.

Why was I paying more for avocados in a country that actually grows avocados?

Sure, there are ways that you can save money in Australia but there is no way that you’re going to be able to travel this country on a budget. You can try, I certainly did but you won’t be very successful.

My biggest point to people is why would I fly to Australia when I could fly to Asia or Central America for less and see beaches that are just as beautiful? Which leads me to my next point…

READ MORE: How to Plan the Perfect East Coast Australia Itinerary on a Budget

Australia travel | Australia travel tips | Whitehaven Beach | Australia beaches | Whitsunday Islands | Queensland
Whitehaven Beach from above because I paid $180 for a scenic flight…

Beaches

We all know there are beaches in Australia and that it is one of the main reasons why tourists want to visit Australia so bad. In fact, there are over 10,000 beaches in Australia. But I’ll let you in on a little secret…most of them look the exact same.

Sure, there are some that are considered to be among the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world and those I absolutely encourage you visit. Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island is by far the best because it has the purest form of silica in the world. You can’t get a whiter beach. But it’s not somewhere you can lay down on and chill because of the hoards of tourists flowing through.

If you want a beach that doesn’t have tourists you really need to get off the beaten path, which most people don’t do. I recommend Yamba along the East Coast but even there is getting popular, now referred to as ‘the new Byron Bay’.

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Australia does have some pretty sweet treats, Aqua S, Melbourne

Foreigners

When you go to a new country you expect to find mostly the locals there. That is not the case in Australia. So many foreigners flock to Australia on a working holiday visa that it’s rare to find an Australia serving you in a cafe, bar or restaurant. Walking the streets you’ll hear more German, Irish or French accents than you will Australian. And the majority of the people you will meet will not be from the Land Down Under.

Of course there are Australians around, especially if you go to smaller towns and get out of the big cities. But it’s a little frustrating to want to get to know a new culture if there’s more of other cultures around.

What I found the most frustrating was when I was travelling down the East Coast there were so many people speaking one language that I constantly found myself surrounded by it, even to the extent that on a tour half the group spoke English, the other half spoke their native tongue and so we were split.

I do understand that when travelling there are many languages spoken however in a country that speaks English I wasn’t expecting to feel so segregated. It was frustrating, annoying and in my opinion, it got to the point where people were just being rude about it.

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Magnetic Island, Queensland

Western Culture

Since Australia is so far away from everyone else you expect it to be widely different. And in some instances it is. But for the most part I was sadly disappointed. Western culture is a huge part of Australian culture. You have fast food joints on every corner, the same big store brands are in every mall and overall the culture is just the same.

I was expecting to be able to tell my friends of new things I would discover in this unfamiliar territory but instead I came home raving about Tim Tams (basically cookies dipped in chocolate) and giggling about how some McDonald’s are actually labelled as ‘Maccas’, the Australian slang for the chain.

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Were you really in Australia if you didn’t feed a kangaroo?

You’ll Be Just Like Everyone Else

I know, I know moving to Australia on a working holiday visa or visiting for vacation is something that a lot of people do. But you don’t realize exactly how many people are actually doing it until you get there and discover half the people in your hostel are actually looking for a job too because guess what? They too went to Sydney for New Year’s and then moved to Melbourne to find work.

You are not alone.

Ask someone about their travel plans and don’t you know it they’re planning on travelling up the East Coast too. And they can’t decide if they should rent a campervan or take the Greyhound bus and you end up talking because you’re debating the same thing.

It’s the same everywhere you go in Australia. Basically, everyone has the same plan, is around the same age, is struggling to find work and complains about how expensive the country is.

Sorry not sorry but I just summed up what travelling in Australia is like.

Australia travel | Australia travel tips | Atherton Tablelands | Queensland
One of the tours I did through the Atherton Tablelands a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Queenslad

Tourist Trap

This point is simple, Australia feels like a giant tourist trap. From the time you step off the plane in Sydney or Melbourne you are bombarded by tours to this destination, or holding a koala here, or petting a kangaroo there or trying skydiving over this beach.

It’s never ending. Yes, you can get away from these things when you get off the tourist trail but all the parts you want to see of Australia are on the tourist trail.

Did I hold a koala? Yes. Did I pet a kangaroo? You bet. Did I go on tours? Absolutely. There things you have to do in Australia because you’re there and some you can’t do anywhere else.

But that doesn’t help the fact that Australia tourism knows that you want to do these things and so you see the same thing over and over in every destination. By the end of your trip you’ll be sick of it.

Everything is Far

Australia is a huge country and a lot of people don’t understand its sheer size. To make it simple, it’s about the same size of the USA and all of the main tourist attractions in Australia are scattered around the edges with one main attraction in the centre.

Travelling along the East Coast is often done by driving and it can sometimes take stretches of 9 hours just to get between two spots. So why don’t you stop somewhere in between? Because there’s nothing in between. Australia has a few major cities that hold most of the population, the rest is pretty much just small towns with not much to do.

So while you’re thinking you can visit Australia for 2 weeks and see a lot you are sadly mistaken. You won’t even scratch the surface.

Australia travel | Australia travel tips | Great Barrier Reef | Whitsunday Islands | Queensland
One of the awesome “older” friends that I met, snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday Islands

Everyone’s Young

This isn’t referring to the population of the country, but to the travellers that Australia appeals so much to. I struggled a lot when travelling down the East Coast to find people who weren’t 18 and didn’t want to party every night. Cuz hangovers starting hitting me a lot harder when I turned 22 and my wallet was not an endless pocket of cash.

I did manage to find some awesome older (by older I mean mid 20s to early 30s) people to hang out with who were fun and closer to my age but the majority of those travelling around Australia and there on working holiday visas are quite young. Even though you can qualify for a working holiday visa up until the age of 35.

I’m not the only one who felt this way, many of the awesome older people I met were just as happy to meet me.

After I came back home from Australia everyone was asking me what I thought of the country, as well as if I saw any snakes or spiders and met any boys (the answer is no to all 3).

I tell people my honest opinion, that I think Australia is overrated, and I watch the look of shock pass over their face. People aren’t used to hearing that this dream destination of theirs is not all that it’s hyped up to be.

But…

As much as I say Australia is overrated and constantly complain about how much I spent there I will always tell people that they should visit. Am I in a rush to go back there? Absolutely not. But do I want to go back and see more of the country, the not so touristy parts? Definitely.

I don’t think Australia lives up to a lot of its hype because the price of everything really makes your visit so much more complicated. You have to start dropping things from your bucket list or start watching your savings disappear.

Australia has so many incredible places that you really can’t see anywhere like Uluru, Whitehaven Beach, Fraser Island and the Heart Reef. But it is not a destination I encourage people to rush to because in a lot of ways it’s just like everywhere else.

If you want an incredible destination to experience culture, amazing sights and not break the bank there are a ton of other places I would encourage you to travel to first.

And when you do go Australia, you’ll love these posts

29 Comments

  1. OMG this pretty well sums up how I felt about New Zealand, but I had a hard time putting it into words.

    • Really?! Everyone I met in Australia raved about New Zealand and said they liked it better. I will have to lower my expectations before I go!

  2. Seriously? Overrated? I don’t find Australia overrated at all. I used to live in Townsville, there you will find more locals than tourists and working holiday’ers. If you go by bus then yes Australia is expensive! I travelled the West Coast by car, getting rides by locals and sharing the gas money and I paid around 40 dollars a day for my entire trip there! And I even ate out a couple of times. Of course everyone is going to Whitsunday etc., but if you go outside of the season there aren’t a whole lot of people (of course more than on some of the more remote beaches). It sounds like you only did the regular path then of course you will meet a lot of people and serious there are plenty to do between the main cities! E.g. between Mackay and Airlie Beach you have Cape Hillsborough, Eungella National Park and Conway National Park. If you travel by bus and only goes on tours you will see what everyone else is seeing and you wouldn’t see what I consider the “actual” Australia .

    I am sad you don’t like Australia. I hope you will go back one day and experience the “real” Australia 🙂

    • Anna, I definitely will be back. I would love to road trip and see more. I know there is more than the East Coast and I did visit Townsville! It was lovely 🙂

  3. Hi Taylor, Thanks so much for such an honest post! Something we rarely see. I actually can’t remember the last time I read a blog post that doesn’t rave about a location. It’s quite refreshing. When I read the title I actually thought it was going to be click bait and the post would be satirical!

    It’s interesting because someday we would like to get Australia, but honestly it’s not that high on our list at the moment. Mainly because we kind of envision some of the things you mention. But I feel like so many random people ask us excitedly if we are going to Australia soon- and I honestly feel kind of bad saying it’s not currently a priority!

    Thanks again for the honesty, love it! -Anna (Delightful Travellers)

    • Thank you Anna! I LOVE reading honest blog posts and I have the most fun writing my own. I think it just upsets people when someone writes something not positive. Glad to hear you still want to go, I wouldn’t rush but it’s definitely still worth being on your bucket list!

  4. Interesting article. I think it is good that you wrote a critical piece on Australia. Not every country is a click for you.
    I hope to visit Australia someday though LOL

    • Thank you! It is my personal opinion and you’re not, not every destination clicks for everyone. Definitely, visit Australia, it is beautiful and there are totally parts worth visiting. I just wished I did it when I was younger or older (when I’m not backpacking).

  5. Its such a shame you didn’t get to Tasmania or the West Coast! They’re without a doubt my favourite parts of Aus and I think your perception of the country would be completely changed with them. I’ve been in Australia for a year now and have spent under a month in Sydney and Melbourne, haven’t done any tours, have seen HEAPS of snakes and haven’t even done the east coast! I don’t spend much money either, by free camping and travelling independently. By doing this its much easier to meet aussies and enjoy both aboriginal and modern Australian culture. It’s such a shame you left Aus so soon because there really is so much natural beauty! I hope you return one day and experience it in a different way, because my Australia experience couldn’t be more different!

    • Haha okay so I was just lucky I didn’t spot any snakes because I would have freaked out! But yes I will be back to visit Tasmania and the West Coast 🙂

  6. Janice Stringer Reply

    I agree with Australia being pricey. I think that is probably the biggest misconception going around that it may be cheap to visit. But, it is an amazing country and for me – it connected me with all the learning I had intellectually experienced as a kid at school and had become fascinated about. So you could say it was personal! 🙂
    Which if I’m honest was what made it all special. Bringing to life what I had only ever read or watched programs on tv about.
    And the best way to see it, is slowly and taking into account what you want. Drinking your way through it, as some do, is such a waste I think.
    But I loved Byron Bay – Learning to surf with Serena was cool. Finding out about their lives there fascinating and it felt like christmas for us. Which was odd in July!
    It has so much to offer when you scratch the surface. Can’t wait till I go again!
    Great post!

    • Thanks Janice! I know travelling down the coast was only just scratching the surface, I have to go back and see more! I like Byron Bay but loved Noosa, if you didn’t have the chance to visit there then I highly recommend it on your next trip 🙂 And as you mentioned, it’s all personal. Unfortunately mine was not the best but I think a second trip will change my mind.

  7. We are planning a trip to Australia this December. This post actually reaffirmed our insight that Australia is overrated and unduly expensive. We are confused between visiting Cairns or Whitsundays. Also, I feel Cairns would be relatively lesser expensive than Whitsundays. Would love your perspective on it. Thanks 🙂

    • I would visit Cairns, it is stunning and there is a lot to do around the area! Also because the Whitsundays were hit earlier this year by a cyclone and unfortunately it damaged a lot of the coral and the islands took quite a beating. It will have had some time to recover by December but obviously won’t be back to its prime beauty for some time!

  8. While I’ve never personally traveled down Australia’s east coast, from peoples’ descriptions I pretty much expected it to be just as you described. I love Australia, and I think it’s an awesome country, but I can see how many travelers would feel exactly like you. I had a great time when I was there, but I was also visiting my Australian boyfriend at the time, so I got off the beaten path a lot. Sure, the Great Ocean Road was cool, but I much preferred to spend a night out drinking at Dim Sum with his friends, stay at his cabin in the mountains, and ride ATVs on his grandparent’s farm. Granted, the wine tasting in Yara valley was FANTASTIC (and free).

    Aside from having a local to show me around, I think the other thing that helped with my enjoyment was that I didn’t expect Australia to be very exotic. At the time I was daydreaming about studying abroad in China, so while I was super excited for kangaroos and koalas, I wasn’t expecting much of a culture shock. I would say the biggest shock I had was going into an outhouse to see a giant web with about a hundred giant dead spider skins. WTF AUSTRALIA!

    Australia is a great country and the people are fantastic, but I think the only way to really enjoy it is to A) be 18 years old or B) hang out with actual Australians. Hopefully you can head back when Chris and I are there sometime and Chris can show us both around 🙂

  9. A lot of the issues you found while traveling in Australia seem related to the style of travel. Tour groups and hotspots are almost always going to be overrated in every country. You will also be with people from all over the world and won’t find the genuine ‘Aussies’ you mentioned you had been excited to meet. Australian culture is well and truly alive, there’s a million and one hidden gems in Australia also. I suggest you get off the tourist trail and off the beaten path, hitch hike, make aussie friends and let them show you around if you are looking to be immersed in the culture. You won’t find it on the Great Ocean Road while battling Japanese tourists for a view of a rock in the ocean. Hope you come back for a second round!

  10. Stuart Masefield Reply

    So you travelled Australia for 5 months and think you are a travel expert on Australia? You fell into the tourist traps. A local would never go anywhere near Byron Bay or the Whitsundays. A local would never go anywhere near a place that offers you to pat a kangaroo. You also made the mistake everyone makes in thinking the east coast is where you should travel. The real Australia starts in South Australia up into the Northern Territory and then into Western Australia. Don’t bash an entire country based on you being stupid enough to fall into tourist traps

    • I never claimed to be an expert. I will be back eventually to visit other areas in Australia!

  11. I am an Australian who is an avid fan of travel in Australia. I say this not because I am Australian but because I have traveled the world extensively and because I have traveled Australia extensively.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion and experience and I don;t care much that you didn’t apprecaite Australia. What I think is so wrong about this article, is you have written a totally inaccurate click bait type article.

    Apologies, there is some accuracy – Australia is expensive and distances are far. But anyone who has done their travel research would know this. Which is the responsibility of each traveler to be aware of. But I complain about the cost of Australia all the time so I agree and am okay with you whinging about that.

    But your other comments are truly unfounded and complete evidence of the fact that you didn’t move beyond the typical tourist trail and the typical tourist tour bus.

    There is nothing wrong with traveling like this but you cannot evaluate a travel experience based upon this.

    I see zero mentions of Northern Territory (apart from Uluru) or TAsmania, or Western Australia or South Australia. It seems like you think the East Coast is Australia and the East Coast is towns like Bondi, Byron Bay, Yamba – your recommendation for a beach off the tourist path. It’s ridiculous. The majority of Australian beaches are pristine without a soul on them. You ONLY went to touristic beaches and yet you feel justified to write a post like this. Total click bait BS

    The rubbish s about feeling segragated due to languages is complete evidence that you traveled on a tour bus. We traveled around the country for 18 months and barely heard another language spoken. I’ve from the Sydney area and also lived on the Gold Coast and spent a lot of time in Melbourne – some of Australia’s most populated areas. I rarely ever heard other languages dominating.

    You haven’t moved beyond the hostel and the typical tourist trail to even see what the real Australia experience is like. Did you spend time with the Indigineous. How did you get around? Did you camp or couch surf or live like a local in Airbnbs? If you want to get an authentic experience of a country then don’t travel like a tourist which is exactly what you’ve done and then complained that it’s overated.

    Australia is far from perfect and is not for everyone and it is perfectly okay to share your experiences with others, it is not okay to give such an unfair representation from a very limited experience. I’d recommend experiencing it from a more authentic local experence and traveling the depth and breadth of it, away from all the backpackers, so you can give a fair and just assessment as to whether it truly is overated or just the backpacking experience of it is.

    • Caz, everything you have to say is fair, and no I didn’t get off the tourist path which was disappointing. However this is all so many people get to see, whether by choice or budget or time. I do plan on coming back to Australia and exploring elsewhere but for the price it is and what the majority of people to get see in Australia it is in my opinion overrated. I would never encourage people not to go to Australia because it is stunning, it was didn’t live up to the expectations that so many build for it (though I’m sure it would is some areas!). I respect your opinion as I know your blog and that you are very well travelled to many places. I haven’t given up on Australia yet and I hope one day it will change my opinion. But for now I think there needs to be an article out there that isn’t constantly raving about the country.

      • Louisa Klimentos Reply

        Not many people rave about Australia Only about four million tourists visit Australia per year copared to a whopping seventy million people that visit France .My relatives overseas always bag Australia and they never have visited it.Expensive yes,overrated no

        • Australia is just super hyped up in North America, this is definitely what caused me to think that’s overrated.

  12. I’m sorry you had a negative experience in Aus. In Sydney it’s pretty easy to get off the tourist trail and experience the suburbs. But remember Australia is multicultural and not all locals have English as a first language. As a Sydney local I explore and blog about suburbs of Sydney and am constantly amazed about the rich diversity there is in this city.

    • It wasn’t all bad! There were certainly spots I really enjoyed. I’ll definitely have to explore more of Sydney when I come back one day!

  13. As an expat in Oz who loves her new home country I was expecting to disagree with you but in truth you have perfectly summed up my experience of backpacking the East Coast in 2007 – perhaps that should have been the subject in the post rather than Oz in general?! I spent 9 weeks travelling from Cairns to Melbourne with an epic xmas and New Years in Sydney but the main reason I loved it was because we made a great group of friends and completely embraced all the tourist must-dos as well as partying often. (That hurt the budget after South America!) I wouldn’t change my experience for the world but it certainly wasn’t the cultural experience I’ve had travelling Oz since moving here. As someone mentioned above if you decide to come back I thoroughly recommend hiring a car or having a local show you around to escape the tour groups. Regional parts of Victoria, NT, NSW and Queensland have so much more to offer than their big cities and you’ll meet lots of quirky Aussie characters too! Completely respect your honesty though and sorry if people gave you grief over it haha

    • I definitely want to come back! I know there’s still much to see however because Australia is hyped up so much I was expecting more from even the tourist areas. I’m happy to hear you’re enjoying it though, there certainly are great things about Australia!

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