Australia’s Best Backpacking Routes for Budget Travellers

Finding the top-notch backpacking route in Oz on a shoestring can be a bit of a slog. We know all too well the juggle between itching feet and a skinny wallet, especially since more than 9 million travellers hit up Australia last year alone, all keen for an epic adventure without copping a hefty bill.

Our guide’s chalked full of the best tracks, insider tips, and must-visit spots for budget-conscious explorers wanting to take on Down Under. Ready to give it a burl?

Key Takeaways

  • Backpackers can explore Australia affordably by choosing routes like the East Coast from Sydney to Cairns, the Red Centre from Melbourne to Darwin, and the West Coast from Perth to Darwin. Each offers unique experiences, such as city life, stunning beaches, ancient cultures, and breathtaking natural wonders, without costing a fortune.
  • For budget-friendly travel in Australia, staying in hostels or campsites, using public transportation or carpooling, cooking meals instead of dining out, and enjoying free activities like hiking and exploring national parks are great ways to save money while experiencing all that Australia has to offer.
  • Planning plays a crucial role in backpacking through Australia on a budget. Researching destinations thoroughly for affordable accommodations and activities is key. Additionally, packing essentials lightly ensures mobility and comfort during travel. Safety precautions are paramount, including knowing local emergency numbers and keeping documents safe.
  • Shoulder seasons between March–May and September–November offer fewer crowds and pleasant weather, making it ideal for backpackers looking for discounted accommodations and lower prices on attractions while still being able to enjoy outdoor adventures across various Australian landscapes.
  • Various budget-friendly activities cater to every interest, ranging from coastal hikes along the East Coast’s Bondi Beach or wilderness treks through forests in the Blue Mountains; cultural explorations in Melbourne’s street art-filled laneways; wine tasting in Hunter Valley; wildlife encounters at Halls Gap; relaxing beach days at Byron Bay; or discovering Adelaide’s markets.

the most popular backpacking routes in australia

The Most Popular Backpacking Routes in Australia

Discover the iconic East Coast, spanning Sydney to Cairns, and immerse in the vibrant cities and stunning beaches. Explore the rugged Outback along the Red Centre route from Melbourne to Darwin for an unforgettable adventure.

Experience the raw beauty of Australia’s West Coast with a journey from Perth to Darwin, uncovering its diverse landscapes and hidden gems.

The East Coast (Sydney to Cairns)

We explore the East Coast from Sydney to Cairns, highlighting the best stops for budget travellers. This iconic backpacking route offers a mix of vibrant city life, serene beaches, and lush rainforests.

In Sydney, dive into cultural landmarks and bustling markets. Then hit the coastal road north, stopping at must-see spots like the Blue Mountains and Coffs Harbour before soaking up the laid-back vibe in Byron Bay.

Our journey continues through Queensland’s tropical landscapes, with detours for outback exploration and coastal hiking trails. We experience the Great Barrier Reef’s underwater wonders near Cairns without blowing our budget.

Offering an array of budget accommodation options and backpacker hostels along the way, we can affordably enjoy this beautiful stretch of Australia. Now let’s head inland to discover what The Red Centre (Melbourne to Darwin) has in store for us.

The Red Centre (Melbourne to Darwin)

Embark on an epic adventure from Melbourne to Darwin, exploring the heart of Australia. Experience the awe-inspiring landscapes, ancient Aboriginal culture, and breathtaking natural wonders on a budget-friendly backpacking journey.

Traverse the iconic Outback, witness the majestic Uluru at sunrise or sunset, and explore the rugged terrain of Kings Canyon. Along the way, encounter unique wildlife and immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of this remote region.

Marvel at stunning rock formations such as Kata Tjuta and marvel at desert oases like Ellery Creek Big Hole. Take advantage of affordable camping adventures or budget-friendly accommodations in cosy hostels while experiencing the vastness of this extraordinary landscape.

The West Coast (Perth to Darwin)

Embark on an unforgettable adventure along the West Coast, from Perth to Darwin. Discover stunning coastal hiking trails, breathtaking wilderness treks, and scenic walking paths that showcase Australia’s natural beauty.

Immerse yourself in the rugged landscapes of Port Campbell and Halls Gap, where budget-friendly travel meets awe-inspiring experiences.

Explore the cultural hub of Melbourne before venturing north through Adelaide towards the remote expanses of Western Australia. Along this route, backpackers can encounter unique wildlife, ancient rock formations, and captivating Aboriginal heritage.

Tips for Backpacking in Australia

When backpacking in Australia, we prioritise budget-conscious travel. We plan our adventure meticulously for maximum enjoyment and minimal expense.

Budget travel advice

When backpacking in Australia, it’s essential to prioritise budget-friendly options. Look for hostels or campsites instead of expensive hotels, and consider public transportation or carpooling to save on travel costs.

Additionally, cooking your meals rather than dining out can significantly reduce expenses. Take advantage of free activities like hiking coastal trails and exploring national parks to make the most of your budget while still having an unforgettable adventure.

Remember to always stay mindful of your spending and seek out deals or discounts wherever possible. Planning ahead and being flexible with your itinerary can also help you find affordable options for accommodation and activities as you explore Australia’s stunning landscapes.

Planning your adventure

When considering planning your adventure, think about the following key aspects to make your backpacking trip in Australia a memorable and successful experience:

  1. Research: Conduct thorough research on the routes, destinations, and accommodations you wish to visit. Look for budget-friendly options that match your preferences.
  2. Itinerary Planning: Create a flexible itinerary that allows you to explore various locations within your chosen route. Consider the travel time between each destination and plan accordingly.
  3. Packing Essentials: Pack light but ensure to carry essential items such as a reliable rucksack, comfortable clothing suitable for outdoor activities, sturdy hiking boots, a first aid kit, and a refillable water bottle.
  4. Safety Precautions: Prioritise safety by familiarising yourself with the local emergency numbers and keeping copies of important documents like passports and visas in case of any unexpected issues.
  5. Accommodation Booking: Secure budget-friendly accommodations in advance to avoid last-minute expenses and ensure availability during peak seasons.
  6. Local Guidelines: Familiarise yourself with the local guidelines and regulations of each destination, including any necessary permits for trekking or wilderness camping.
  7. Outdoor Skills: Brush up on essential outdoor skills such as navigation, setting up camp, cooking outdoors, and wildlife safety measures to enhance your backpacking experience while exploring Australia’s scenic landscapes.

Choosing affordable accommodations

After planning your adventure, the next step is choosing affordable accommodation. Here are some tips for finding budget-friendly places to stay while backpacking in Australia:

  1. Look for hostels or guesthouses in popular tourist areas, as they often offer affordable dormitory-style rooms.
  2. Consider camping at designated campgrounds along hiking trails or near national parks to save on accommodation costs.
  3. Utilise budget hotel chains or online booking platforms to find discounted room rates in major cities and tourist destinations.
  4. Explore the option of shared accommodation, such as Airbnb or vacation rentals, for a more economical and local experience.
  5. Research farm stays or eco-lodges, which can provide unique and cost-effective lodging options in rural areas.

Budget-friendly activities

Looking for budget-friendly activities while backpacking in Australia? Check out these exciting options to make the most of your adventure:

  1. Explore coastal hiking trails along the East Coast, such as the Bondi to Coogee walk in Sydney or the Noosa National Park Coastal Track in Queensland.
  2. Enjoy wilderness treks in the Blue Mountains, where you can hike to stunning lookout points and marvel at the natural beauty of the region.
  3. Take a guided tour or self-guided exploration of the Hunter Valley wine region, sampling delicious wines and local produce without breaking the bank.
  4. Experience the vibrant arts and culture scene in Melbourne with its street art laneways, free public galleries, and live music performances.
  5. Visit Port Campbell on the West Coast to witness the awe-inspiring limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road.
  6. Embark on budget-friendly wildlife encounters at Halls Gap, where you can spot kangaroos, emus, and other native Australian wildlife in their natural habitat.
  7. Discover Adelaide’s affordable food markets and festivals, offering a taste of diverse culinary delights from around the world.

Must-Visit Places on Australia’s East Coast

Explore the vibrant city of Sydney, with its iconic Opera House and stunning harbour. Discover the natural beauty of the Blue Mountains, offering breathtaking views and outdoor adventures to suit every traveller.


Sydney offers a vibrant city experience with iconic landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Visitors can explore the bustling markets at The Rocks, relax on Bondi Beach, or take a ferry to Manly for picturesque coastal views.

Strolling through the Royal Botanic Garden provides a peaceful escape from the urban hustle, offering stunning views of the harbour and city skyline. Darling Harbour is another must-see spot featuring entertainment venues, museums, and dining options along its waterfront promenade.

Visitors can also venture into Sydney’s diverse neighbourhoods to indulge in multicultural cuisines, trendy cafes, and quirky street art. From world-class shopping at Pitt Street Mall to taking in panoramic vistas from atop Sydney Tower Eye’s observation deck, the city has something for everyone.

Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are a must-visit destination for nature lovers. You can hike through lush rainforests, marvel at cascading waterfalls, and take in the stunning views of the iconic Three Sisters rock formation.

You’ll also find charming villages and boutique shops to explore, making it a perfect stop for those seeking a peaceful retreat amidst breathtaking scenery. Wildlife enthusiasts will be delighted by the chance to spot native Australian animals like kangaroos and koalas in their natural habitat.

Venturing into the Blue Mountains opens up opportunities for outdoor adventures such as abseiling, rock climbing, and horseback riding. For those seeking a more leisurely experience, there are scenic train rides and cable car journeys offering panoramic vistas of the region’s beauty.

Hunter Valley

Moving on from the stunning Blue Mountains, the Hunter Valley is a must-visit destination for wine enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Situated just a two-hour drive north of Sydney, this picturesque region is known for its world-class wineries, rolling vineyards, and charming cellar doors where you can sample an array of award-winning wines.

Take a leisurely bike ride or hike through the beautiful countryside, indulge in gourmet dining experiences at renowned restaurants, or simply relax amidst the tranquil surroundings with a glass of local wine in hand.

The Hunter Valley offers a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure within easy reach for budget travellers seeking an authentic Australian experience.

Coffs Harbour

Coffs Harbour showcases stunning beaches and a relaxed atmosphere. Visitors can explore the iconic Big Banana, indulge in water sports at Jetty Beach, or take a stroll through the tranquil North Coast Regional Botanic Garden.

The town also offers scenic hiking trails at Muttonbird Island and an opportunity to witness marine life at Solitary Islands Marine Park.

With its blend of nature and attractions, Coffs Harbour is a must-visit destination along Australia’s East Coast backpacking route for budget travellers seeking adventure and relaxation.

Byron Bay

Byron Bay offers budget travellers a laid-back atmosphere with stunning beaches, great surf, and a vibrant arts scene. Visitors can explore the town’s eclectic shops, enjoy fresh local produce at the markets, or take in the breathtaking views from Cape Byron Lighthouse.

For those seeking adventure, there are opportunities for kayaking with dolphins and snorkelling at Julian Rocks Marine Reserve. Budget-friendly accommodation options include hostels and campgrounds, while free activities such as walks to nearby waterfalls and scenic lookouts provide an affordable way to experience Byron Bay’s natural beauty.

Whether you’re looking to unwind on the beach or immerse yourself in creative culture, Byron Bay has plenty to offer budget-conscious travellers without compromising on memorable experiences.

must visit places on australias west coast

Must-Visit Places on Australia’s West Coast

Explore Melbourne’s vibrant arts and culture scene, showcasing renowned galleries and street art. Wander along the stunning coastline of Port Campbell and marvel at the iconic Twelve Apostles rock formations.


Melbourne offers a vibrant mix of culture, music, art, and food. Explore the laneways filled with street art and hidden cafes. Visit the iconic Flinders Street Station and wander through the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Marvel at the stunning architecture in Federation Square or relax by the Yarra River. Take a day trip to Phillip Island to see adorable penguins or venture out to the Great Ocean Road for breathtaking coastal scenery.

Immerse yourself in Melbourne’s diverse neighbourhoods, from trendy Fitzroy to historic St. Kilda Beach. Don’t miss out on the city’s bustling nightlife scene, which offers live music venues, rooftop bars, and eclectic restaurants serving up delicious global cuisine.

Port Campbell

Situated along Australia’s stunning West Coast, Port Campbell is a picturesque coastal town that offers breathtaking ocean views and natural formations. Visitors can explore the iconic Twelve Apostles, towering limestone stacks rising from the Southern Ocean.

The nearby Loch Ard Gorge provides an opportunity to delve into local history with its dramatic shipwreck story and beautiful beach. Outdoor enthusiasts can also take advantage of the Great Ocean Walk, a scenic trail showcasing rugged cliffs, lush forests, and secluded beaches.

Venturing further inland from Port Campbell leads travellers to the enchanting landscapes of Port Campbell National Park. Here, visitors can marvel at other notable rock formations such as the London Arch, the Grotto, and the Bay of Martyrs.

Halls Gap

Continuing our backpacking journey through Australia, we arrive at Halls Gap, a charming town nestled in the heart of the Grampians National Park. This picturesque destination offers breathtaking scenery, stunning hikes, and abundant wildlife encounters.

Visitors can explore the striking sandstone ranges, cascading waterfalls, and vibrant wildflowers while spotting kangaroos and native bird species along the way.

Hiking enthusiasts will delight in the diverse range of trails catering to all skill levels. From strolls to challenging treks, there’s something for everyone. After a day of exploration, travellers can unwind at local cafes or enjoy a barbeque amidst nature’s splendour.


Continuing our journey through Australia’s West Coast, Adelaide offers a mix of vibrant city life and laid-back coastal charm. Explore the bustling Central Market for delicious local produce and multicultural eats.

Wander along the scenic River Torrens or take a day trip to the nearby Adelaide Hills for wine tasting and picturesque landscapes. Embrace the artsy vibe in the beachside suburb of Glenelg, or soak up some history at Port Adelaide’s maritime museum.

Whether it’s food, nature, culture, or history you’re after, Adelaide has something for every budget traveller.

The Best Time to Travel to Australia for Budget Travellers

Plan your backpacking adventure to Australia during the shoulder seasons or off-peak times, and consider budget-friendly activities based on the season. Discover the best ways to save on airfare and make the most of your budget travel experience in Australia!

Shoulder seasons

Shoulder seasons in Australia offer ideal weather and fewer crowds, making it a perfect time for budget travellers to explore. During these times, which fall between the peak and off-peak seasons, you can enjoy discounted accommodations and activities while still experiencing pleasant temperatures.

These shoulder seasons usually occur in autumn (March to May) and spring (September to November), providing an excellent opportunity for budget-friendly adventures.

In addition to lower prices, visitors during shoulder seasons can make the most of outdoor activities such as hiking or exploring national parks without the large tourist crowds. It’s also easier to secure reservations at popular attractions or restaurants during this time, allowing you to enjoy a more relaxed travel experience without compromising on adventure.

Off-peak travel

Transitioning from the ideal times to visit Australia on a budget during shoulder seasons to off-peak travel is another savvy way to ensure cost-effective adventure. This period varies by region but generally occurs during the winter months of June to August in most parts of Australia.

Travellers can take advantage of lower airfare, discounted accommodations, and fewer crowds at popular tourist destinations. Exploring during this time provides an opportunity for backpackers to immerse themselves more deeply in local culture and enjoy a quieter, more authentic experience.

Choosing to journey through Australia during off-peak periods also means indulging in outdoor activities like hiking or wildlife watching with fewer tourists around. Additionally, it offers a chance to revel in unique seasonal events that might not be available during peak times, such as whale watching along the coast or stargazing in remote areas.

Ways to save on airfare

To save on airfare, consider booking flights in advance to secure the best deals. Flexibility with travel dates can also lead to significant savings. Look out for airline promotions and discounts, and sign up for fare alerts to stay informed about price drops. Additionally, consider alternative airports and connecting flights for cheaper options. Choosing budget-friendly carriers or opting for economy-class tickets can also help you save on airfare costs.

Budget-friendly activities based on the season

Visiting the Great Barrier Reef for snorkelling and diving during the dry season.

Explore Australia’s Best Backpacking Routes

When planning a backpacking adventure in Australia, consider the diverse routes available for budget travellers. Explore the East Coast from Sydney to Cairns, venture through the Red Centre from Melbourne to Darwin, or embark on an affordable journey along the West Coast from Perth to Darwin.

By adhering to budget-friendly tips and itineraries outlined in this guide, backpackers can make the most of their Australian travel experience without breaking the bank. For those seeking adventure and affordability, Australia’s backpacking routes offer an unforgettable exploration of this vast and captivating country.

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