We booked our trip up Australia’s east coast before we even left New Zealand. Our friends at the Travel desk in the Base Hostel in Queenstown advised us to book what we definitely wanted to do in advance instead of waiting just in case anything filled up during the popular summer holidays.
We ended up booking three weeks worth of travel, accommodation and tours from Byron Bay up to Cairns before we even left Queenstown. After finally getting to experience it all, we can honestly say we had the time of our lives. Major thanks to Jules & Nick, who both seriously hooked it up for us. If you’re in Queenstown and looking to book tours in NZ or AUS, we definitely recommend you go talk to them.
The method to our east coast madness was to take a LOKA bus/train tour from start to finish. We took the Kat Tour (pictured above), but there a ton a options to choose from. This is one of the two most popular travel options for people (and by people I mean backpackers) looking for a tour/travel combo, the second is Greyhound. Both companies can book tours for you in each location and give you the flexibility to hop-on, hop-off as you like.
The key difference, as we understand it, is that LOKA makes use of the train system as well as buses, Greyhound operates with just their own buses. We both agreed that, while the trains are very nice and comfortable, the idea of just not having to get on and off constantly to switch from one to the other would’ve been nice. Definitely check out both options to see which you’d like better, but either will get you where you want to go.
If you know your time frame and your budget and you don’t want to rent your own car, another great alternative, these two companies are your best bet. If you can, especially during popular travel times (for us, our December dates coincided with school break in AUS so you can imagine), book your pick-ups and tours in advance and then just show up.
LOKA runs buses nearly every day at all major stops on the east coast and everyday at the most popular ones. Check out their schedule online and make sure you reconfirm your pick up locations a day in advance with your driver. That’s about all you need to do!
When the drivers pick you up they deal with everything between your start and final destination. This includes train tickets, stops, and door-to-door stops at different hostels along the way to collect and deposit people. Everyone we met who worked for LOKA was incredibly nice and helpful with any questions we had. The buses were clean and cool and everything ran smoothly. Yeah, the hours are a little nuts (hello, 4 a.m. wake up), but it’s called budget travel for a reason people!
From start to finish, our LOKA tour included:
Noosa (Fraser Island)
Airlie Beach (Whitsundays)
Magnetic Island (this stop included the ferry to get to and from the island)
We booked through Base Travel, so our tours weren’t booked through LOKA itself, but you can book through most hostel travel desks or just do it yourself! LOKA is a great way to get around the east coast without a car and doubles as an excellent way to meet cool people looking to do what you’re doing.