Travel Guide | Cairns

The Big List; A Guide to Traveling Australia’s East Coast

Mossy takes Australia… Lauren Mossberg shares her ultimate guide to Down Under

Allow me to preface this guide by saying … I am broke now. If it hadn’t been for my parents paying for my food and school-related trips, I could not have done nearly as much as I did while abroad. And for that, I thank them endlessly.

Now to the good stuff … I studied abroad at the University of Queensland in St. Lucia, a suburb of Brisbane in Australia. I left the US on February 12 and came home June 28. Every day in between was unreal, more than I ever could have expected it to be.

Why Australia? Like many people, I knew I wanted to study abroad. Though I studied Japanese for four years in high school and one year in college, I was not comfortable immersing myself in a non-English speaking country. That narrowed my search down to London or Australia. I wanted to escape the snow at all costs, as I get enough of that in Syracuse.

So, it was decided. I was going to study abroad Australia, in the land of cold brews and kangaroos. And koalas, of course!

Also, one of my best childhood friends was going as well, so we would go on this adventure together.



Before you leave the US, you need to figure out how you’ll be banking while abroad. Charles Schwab has a ‘high yield investor checking account’ that I would highly recommend.

You can apply online. After a week or two, you’ll receive your credit/debit card. This card has ZERO ATM fees worldwide. I repeat… ZERO ATM fees! Schwab reimburses you for any fees that you may be charged at various ATMs. And while this may not seem like a huge deal right now, it will certainly come in clutch every time you go to the ATM and get charged $3 to take out some cash.


I used Semester in Australia, or SiA, to get housing. They have accommodations in Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast, and Brisbane ranging from shared houses to apartments. They can also help you organize living in the university colleges if that’s what you prefer.I was in a 6-bedroom house in St. Lucia, a Brisbane suburb, and it was a perfect location. The house was fully furnished and right up the street from campus.Through SiA, I was also able to book a pre-semester trip in Sydney.



Flying around Australia can get pretty expensive. However, there are some airlines that tend to be cheaper than others. Tiger and Jetstar are, more often than not, the cheapest ways to fly. However, you need to learn how to pack light if you don’t want to pay for checked luggage. Most airlines have a 5-7 kg weight limit for carry-ons (that’s 11-15 pounds). Supposedly the rule came about because too many people were dropping their heavy carry-ons on passengers’ heads. True story, a flight attendant told me that once!

In Brisbane, City Cycle allows you to rent bikes and it’s a great way to get around. If you return the bike in less than 2 hours, you don’t get charged.



G’Day Sydney is SiA’s pre-semester trip for students using SiA for housing. The trip was 4 days/nights and it allowed us to make friends before the school year started.

Where to Stay: 

Wake Up Hostel

What to See/Do: 

Harbour Bridge: if you have time, go on the bridge climb!
Sydney Opera House
Manly Beach
Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach Farmer’s Market
Blue Mountains
Featherdale Wildlife Park: Be sure to feed the wallabies!
Coogee to Bondi Beach walk
Cockatoo Island

Eat Here:

Trio: is best for brunch.
Young Alfred: is an Italian restaurant you can’t miss.

After Dark: 

Side Bar
World Bar

Lauren w roos


I was living in a small suburb of Brisbane called St. Lucia. St. Lucia is a bus/train ride away from both the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast. In the Brisbane CBD, there’s plenty of restaurants and shopping, especially around Queen Street Mall. Southbank, specifically, is home to some great restaurants and dessert places. Since I spent most of my time in Brisbane, I had ample time to explore the city and surrounding areas.

What to See/Do: 

Queen Street Mall
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary: you can hold the koalas  and play with the kangaroos here.
Streets Beach
Sunshine Coast
Gold Coast
Tamborine Mountains: go on a wine tour and explore the wineries
XXXX Brewery
Wheel of Brisbane
Mt. Cootha: there’s a great view of the city and surrounding area
Cedar Creek Falls
Southbank Cinemas: movies are only $6 AUD
Heron Island
North Stradbroke Island: easy to get to by ferry
Watch an AFL game. The Brisbane Lions don’t have the best track record, but the matches  are super fun
Story Bridge Adventure Climb

Eat Here:

Brick & Bean Cafe: our go-to for brunch
Guzman y Gomez: the Chipotle of Australia
Chocolateria San Churro: great place for dessert
Max Brenner
Ole Sangria Bar
Harajuku Gyoza
Live Fire
Bamboo Basket
The Bagel Boys
It’s Doughnut Time
La Porchetta
Bean on Dean
Cucina by Toscani’s

After Dark: 

Royal Exchange (RE)
Our Place
Stock Exchange
The Fox Hotel
Alfred & Constance
Red Room



Whitsundays is home to some of the world’s most amazing beaches, with crystal clear water and bright white sand. This was my favorite beach by far! It’s beautiful. I also went skydiving over the beach, which was thrilling.

Where to Stay 

Beaches Backpackers

What to See: 

Skydive the Beach & Beyond
Airlie Lagoon
Cruise Whitesudays
Whitehaven Beach

Eat Here:

Beaches Bistro
Jane’s Café


Noosa is a cute beach town that’s similar to the Hamptons, and is only a Greyhound bus away from Brisbane. It was my favorite beach town because of the great shopping and restaurants.



Where to Stay 

Nomads Hostel

What to See 

Beach town
Noosa Main Beach

Eat Here: 

Café Le Monde
Betty’s Burgers and Concrete Co.
La Vida Noosa

waterfall fun


There isn’t much to do in Darwin, except swim with crocs and go to the sunset market. But there’s a lot around Darwin, including the national parks. My friends and I chose to go with Territory Expeditions on their 3-day Kakadu/Litchfield 4WD Tour. It was an all-inclusive tour that really got us out and about in the national parks and the different creeks and gorges.

Where to Stay 

Melaleuca on Mitchell

What to See/Do:  

Wave lagoon
Sunset Market: the best place to watch the sunset
Crocosaurus Cove & the Cage of Death
Kakadu National Park
Litchfield National Park

Eat Here:

Dolce Café
Sunset Market: where you can find a ton of great food vendors here



Cairns is the major tourist city for people going to see the Great Barrier Reef. The boat cruises through and around the reef are endless.  There are some cruises that are multiple days, but my friends and I decided on a single day cruise with Passions of Paradise. We booked everything through Party Paul at Ultimate Party Adventures, who we had met on our pretrip in Sydney. Cairns is where their office is, and we were able to hop onto the Ultimate Party Pub Crawl as well.

Where to Stay 

Gilligan’s: party central – if you’re a light sleeper, consider staying somewhere else

What to/ SeeDo 

Passions of Paradise Boat cruise

Eat Here:


Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is essentially in “the outback”. I did a 3 day Uluru & Kings Canyon tour with Emu Run. The tour consisted of gorges, waterholes, multiple views of Uluru, Watarrka National Park, and a champagne sunset in front of Uluru. We camped in swags one night… it was interesting, but certainly worth it.

uluru glasses


Where to Stay:
Pioneer Outback Lodge

What to Do 

Uluru Camel Tours- I did a sunset ride and it was absolutely beautiful
Uluru (Ayer’s Rock)

Eat Here:

Sails of the Desert (a full-blown buffet that I went to for breakfast and dinner)



 Byron Bay is also a Greyhound bus ride away from Brisbane. It’s a cool, laidback, and hippy kind of beach town. It has great cafés and shopping!

hosier lane


Where to Stay: 

Byron Beach Resort. It was right across the street from the beach, and they provide a free shuttle downtown. It’s the perfect location.

What to Do:

Dolphin Kayak
Byron Lighthouse (the most eastern part of mainland Australia – try and wakeup to see the sunrise here)

Eat Here:

Miss Margarita
Asia Joe’s
Bay Leaf
Café Byron

brighton beach


I went to Melbourne twice: once for the Australia Grand Prix and once with friends to really explore the city. From Melbourne you’re able to go to St. Kilda (to see the cutest penguins), Brighton Beach (home to the iconic beach huts), and the Great Ocean Road (Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, etc.). There are tour packages you can purchase for the GOR, but we decided to drive it on our own. My friends and I rented a car through Jucy.

Where to Stay: 

Bayview Eden (hotel)
Discovery Melbourne (hostel – gives you the option the rent a towel for a few dollars… do it! It will help save space when you’re packing)

What to See/Do:

Eureka SkyDeck 88
Queen Victoria Market
Hosier Lane: go here for the awesome graffiti
Federation Square
Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG)
Yarra Olympic Park
Fitzroy Gardens

Day Trip: 
Great Ocean Road. Stop alongside the road to appreciate the views of the lookouts in n Lorne and Apollo Bay – Loch And Gorge and the Twelve Apostles are  must-sees.

Eat Here:

Red Spice Road
Seven Seeds
Vegie Bar
Jerry’s Milk Bar
Operator 25
Papa Gino’s

After Dark:
Berlin Bar
Cookie Rooftop Bar

aussie flag

Lauren Mossberg

Syracuse University | 1 story

I'm a senior at Syracuse University majoring in Advertising with an emphasis in Integrated Marketing Communications. I'm also pursuing minors in Marketing and Fashion & Beauty Communications. I'm a thrill-seeking, sports-loving, coffee-drinking, hyper-organized, foodie who studied abroad in Australia spring 2015.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You Might Also Like

Submit a Story

We promote all blog articles on our social media sites so stay tuned as we shout out your published work. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Don't have an account?
Sign up for one here.

Products We Love