What to do for Spring Break? Gold Coast to Airlie Beach and back again.

Coming to Griffith University as a student that started in February, Spring Break was upon us quicker than we expected. All of a sudden my friends and I were scrambling to try and find something available that we could do that would give us the most out of the break. After checking just about every camper van website around, we went to the various travel agencies that are in Pacific Fair. Sitting in STA Travel for about 3 hours we had finally booked an excursion tour in Airlie Beach and a rental car to get the three of us there and back.

Don’t get me wrong it was a hilarious and amazing time, with some of the most breathtaking views, but there are a couple things we could have gone with knowing before the trip. So I thought I’d share a bit about our trip to help anyone planning on making a similar journey. Here are my top 10 tips to survive the trip!

1. Bring snacks.. lots and lots of snacks

This is not a short trip. Without stops, its a good 14 hours depending on traffic and the amount of kangaroos you’ll have to slow down for. This being said you’ll want to stop and see some of the amazing sites along the way which take up time. Make sure you have a cooler or two and lots of nibble foods because there will be 4 to 5 hour stretches where you may not find a place that really has food for you.

2. Watch out for the wildlife

You will probably see a variety of different animals on this type of trek and you definitely don’t want to have killing a kangaroo as part of your road trip memories. We attempted to go down to see Agnes Waters which requires about an hour long drive off track where we happened to see so many kangaroos on the side of the road I couldn’t even put a number on it.

3. Plan out the trip

Plan out things you want to see or places you want to go. I can’t stress this enough, we didn’t have as much time as we needed to plan it out before and probably missed out on some pretty cool things. It’s also good to have an idea of where you’re heading before since some of the area may not have phone service and you may be without your GPS.

4. Accommodation

We stayed at the Nomads Airlie Beach Backpackers hostel, it was a great place and crowd. We did occasionally have a couple visitors in the room and by that I mean cockroaches. It was clean though, and we weren’t spending much time in the room. Definitely make sure that if you going anywhere during a holiday and don’t want to sleep in your car you have something figured out or booked before. Sleeping in a car may be fine in normal weather but not when the temperature gets so hot here.

5. Book in a tour package

The tours package we got at STA travel included our accommodation and 3 days of activities. The first day we need a catamaran cruise to Whitehaven Beach, second was an island hopper pass, and our final one was the Great Barrier Reef snorkel.

Whitehaven beach was amazing, we were with Camira our big purple catamaran that had an awesome lunch and all inclusive bar. They made us a bit terrified about the jelly fish (stingers) in the water and we didn’t take our wetsuits off but really it’s up to your own judgement. I accidentally picked up a crab at one point but managed not to run into any jelly fish.

The island hopper pass gave us 4 tickets to go between Daydream Island, Hamilton Island Airport and Hamilton Island. On Daydream island you have to get a picture with the mermaids but be careful walking on the beach there because its all shells and can be a bit tough. We swam at the pool on the resort on Daydream island. It was a great place to finally cool off, and would be a beautiful place to stay. Going over to Hamilton Island we were starving and hopped on the shuttle to go over to the beach side of the island. To stop at the beach you get off at the Reef View Hotel, amazing looking place with a great burger! We then spent the rest of our day on the beach there in and out of the water. Just make sure you don’t miss the last ferry of the day back or you may have to sleep out there.

Our last tour was out on the Great Barrier Reef pontoon with Cruise Whitsundays. We had a great day snorkelling, meeting the big fish there, having our buffet lunch, checking out the semi-submersible submarine, and even making our way down the slide a couple times.

After doing a full three days of activities we felt we definitely got our moneys worth and after finding out the regular pricing for doing them individually I would highly recommend finding a package because it can really cut the costs down.

6. Be prepared

There are certain things that are basically a necessity up in Airlie. For one make sure you have bug spray, if you are studying in Gold Coast you may be thinking that oh I’m fine there aren’t any bugs here. There are tons up in Airlie, when I was out the one night I had 7 bites in 5 minutes, sprayed my bug spray all over myself and then I was in the clear for the rest of the night at least. Sunscreen is so important here especially when you are going on a boat, the sun, wind and water are all working together to give that extra crispy burn. I’ve travelled to a lot of different hot places before and I have never managed to burn my lips except for on Camira. I was wearing 50 SPF and 30 SPF on my lips and I got burnt nearly everywhere. That being said make sure you also have aloe vera just in case.

7. Must Sees

Airlie Beach – If you’re there for the tours make sure you also go around and see the area, try to visit the market if you’re there on those days.

The Whitsundays – Everything we saw and all our tours were amazing, only suggestion would be to do the overnight tours to the islands.

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach

Eungella National Park – An adorable little place to stop, and if you’re lucky or there at the right time you may see a platypus.

Rockhampton Zoo – First and only free zoo I’ve ever been to.

Hervey Bay – Stayed in a fantastic Airbnb here, adorable little place to stop.

Rainbow Beach in Inskip – nice place to stop and also where you can continue onto Fraser Island if you decide to. We didn’t have time but it is highly recommended to at least have a day if you want to go over.

Rainbow Beach

Noosa Heads – Very busy but worth the stop, water is nice but watch out for sea lice and rinse off well.

Mooloolaba – Amazing place to see the sunset, had lots of places to see on the boardwalk.

Mooloolaba Beach

Any of the beaches along the Sunshine Coast are probably a decent bet, these are really just the ones we happened to stop at or found good reviews on.

8. Sunset and sunrise

One of the most memorable things for me that we did on the trip was something so simple and free. We got to see the sunrise and sunset from the beach. On our way back home we stopped to sleep and planned to leave early with enough time to get to the next closet beach in time to see sunrise. This happened to be Kemp Beach in Rosslyn, we went out on the beach and then got to have a nap after the sunrise. I do highly recommend again to wear bug spray, but I got some great pictures and the water was nice there as well. For sunset we stopped in Mooloolaba on our last night of the road trip, it seemed like a great little place and wish we had a bit more time there.

9. Check social media

On the way to Airlie on our trip we were googling beaches and different towns to try and figure out last minute if we could stop there or if it was worth it. We lucked out on some and some we definitely could have passed on. On the way back home we started checking on Instagram and Twitter, this showed if the beach was actually popular, if people had been there, and gave us real photos instead of the google images that may all be the same.

10. Enjoy yourself

I know it goes without saying but really, soak up as much as possible.. whether it be the view or the sun. It can be stressful to try and see as much as you can in a limited time. The thing is, this is your first break from school and if you aren’t going to be working on projects than make sure you aren’t using the time stressing. Even if you feel you could see or do more, just relax and take in your surroundings. Another great thing about this sort of trip is being off the grid. The country roads will send you in and out of service and if you end up doing boat trips there’s another large chance you won’t be connecting to anything out there. So take lots of pictures and enjoy the time without the constant notifications while you can.

Oh and if you have time always take the scenic route! 🙂

– Jess.


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