Everybodys favourite hippy hangout, this northern New South Wales coastal town has a habit of drawing backpackers in like moths to a flame, then zapping them with a burst of lethargy that renders them incapable of continuing with their travels. Instead they lounge around Byron and nearby bastions of alternative living (think Nimbin) in a rather sweet smelling haze, eking a living out of mundane cleaning tasks or igniting dormant creativities and contributing to the arts and crafts industries to keep themselves fed and dry. And who can blame them really? With the surroundings of that part of New South Wales as a playground, Id find it hard to move on too. Pristine coastline with a generous swell and turquoise waters are complemented by the mountainous rainforests of the interior, providing a myriad of worlds for touring and exploration. Leave? But we've only just got here...
Airlie is the opposite to Byron Bay in many ways. No one comes here for too long- a week or two at the most and then theyre gone. The reason is simple: no bodies liver (not even that of a booze swilling backpacker) could survive any longer. Airlie's reputation as a party town is a large one, a reputation that transcends cultures, borders and continents, and leaves the one street town with a lot of expectations to fulfil. Yet Airlie never disappoints- and as a result its bars and nightclubs are spoken about in revered tones by swillheads and party animals the world over. But thats not the reason people come to Airlie Beach. The real reason is the Whitsunday Islands- 74 islands lying just off the coast, to which Airlie is an almost exclusive gateway. With attractions like Whitehaven Beach and a host of resort islands including Hamilton and Daydream, The Whitsundays are the perfect cure to any hangover.
As our primary international gateway, Sydney is the first port of call for most backpackers. You can picture the views when landing- the large natural harbour with its famous residents the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House rising up to meet you; the city stretching away as far as you can see; the white specks of beach dotting the shoreline. Its hard to move on from a place as beautiful as this, and luckily for most backpackers there is enough work available in this big city to ensure they can stick around for a while. The bars and night clubs of Kings Cross provide a sufficiently seedy outlet for their hedonistic ways, and accommodation is easy enough to find either in hostel form or in semi permanent sub-lets. There is a cornucopia of attractions nearby that also help to keep the need to move on in check, including the Blue Mountains and the Hunter valley.
Across the continent to Western Australia, where backpackers make the pilgrimage to check out the desert, the surf and Perth, in no specific order. Perth is somewhat out on a limb in Australia, and has the distinction of being the most isolated city in the world- although the criteria by which this is gauged are up open to consideration. Perth is a funky city, where the creative freedom of south-of-the-river regions such as Fremantle complements the organisation of the city centre and the northern suburbs, meaning there is something for everyone here. Its also a city that is fully entrenched in the surf culture- kilometres of beach front on its western side ensure that, with the consistent swell leaving lots of smiling surfers. To the south are lush wine growing regions where fruit picking and farm work are available, and the ubiquitous beautiful beaches of WA are there in force too.
Melbourne sits at the heart of cultural Australia- a city of galleries, museums, parks and gardens. Doesnt really sound like something a backpacker would enjoy does it? Well not really, but its the buzz of Melbourne that attracts and excites them. This city never sleeps, and the weekends seem to run from Thursday to Tuesday. Culture isnt just about museums, where theres culture theres live music, theatre, all night dance parties and lots and lots of fun. And theres lots of that in Melbourne, especially during the hot summer months when the day seems to last forever, the beaches are abuzz with activity and that almost tangible holiday vibe is thick in the air. With a city this large there is always work going somewhere, so backpackers can earn some income to supplement their full weekends! Nearby hotspots such as Phillip Island and the Great Ocean Road are perfect road trip routes that require minimum effort and organisation- which as we all know, is exactly what a backpacker needs!
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