After two gruelling years of sealed borders, we’re all scrambling to finally take a holiday. But if you’re anything like me and copped multiple job losses in the past couple of years, you might be looking for a budget option.
Seeing as I’ve backpacked in more than 30 countries but barely seen any parts of Australia outside my own suburb, I thought I’d give backpacking in my own backyard a go.
My destination: Tropical North Queensland. An escape from Melbourne’s August freeze and good for most budgets. Seriously, now is your time to go travelling for a week, a month or maybe forever (it’s really easy to get a job in Queensland rn) so here are a few tips to backpack in Queensland for cheap and have the best time.
1. Backpackers pack light
The less you bring, the better time you’ll have, guaranteed.
It’s hot in Queensland so you really don’t need a suitcase full of clothes. Get yourself a proper backpack that fits carry-on size requirements — one with multiple compartments that can zip open all the way around like a suitcase is ideal.
Pack the bare minimum — t-shirts, shorts/shirts, underwear, bathers, toiletries, hat, sandals, microfibre towel, water bottle. Bring one jacket and one pair of runners and wear them when you’re moving place-to-place.
You won’t ever have to pay for checked luggage, you won’t have to worry about it going missing between airports and you’ll be on and off transport *much* faster. You’ll thank me when you’re not hauling your 20kg suitcase up a flight of stairs.
2. Opt for Queensland’s backpacker accommodation
Queensland is incredibly well set up for tourists, especially young tourists, who are already returning in droves from all corners of the world after two quiet years.
There are plenty of youth hostels and affordable accommodation options all over the state and the vibes are indeed high.
Not only are hostels cheap, dependable and fun, they always offer a bunch of free or heavily discounted stuff too like tours, yoga classes, your morning coffee, evening drink specials and even meals.
3. Don’t blow your budget on food
This may be obvious but it’s probably the hardest backpacking tip to follow. Naturally you want to go out and enjoy your well-deserved holiday so try to have a balance.
Most hostels come with kitchen facilities so you can DIY brunch and save your money for, say, a day on the Great Barrier Reef. Even if you don’t have kitchen access you can still make your own sandwich on the road instead of buying lunch.
When you do go out to eat and drink, seek out happy hours, night markets and busy local bakeries or fish and chip shops — there are lots of them, the busier the fresher and a $6 pie or a $10 fish burger can go a long way. And speaking of seafood, it’s everywhere and it’s much cheaper at a casual wharfside restaurant in Queensland than in capital cities. Capitalise on that.
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4. Don’t make a fuss, take the bus
Queensland is big, so for a backpacker covering ground from the sunny Gold Coast to the outback to the spectacular Daintree Rainforest can get expensive. Most people either fly or rent a van or car. Both can get pretty pricey, especially with petrol costing an arm and a leg atm. But there is another way!
No matter where you are in the world bussing is usually the cheapest travel option and Queensland is no exception. Greyhound Australia runs to 111 destinations in Queensland alone and you can even get overnight buses in and out of the state from Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane. Have a look, they have a lot of specials at the moment.
There are also literally hundreds of stunning islands dotted around Queensland and if you want to get out to places like Magnetic Island or the Whitsundays, cheap and quick ferries are in abundance and can all be booked in advance. Talk about luxury.
5. Take advantage of Queensland’s activities and competitive prices
Tropical North Queensland has a lot of activities on offer. With so much to do and operators welcoming back travellers after lockdowns, now is the best time to snag a deal, so shop around.
Outer Great Barrier Reef day trips, snorkelling off beaches, wildlife sanctuaries, swimming with dolphins/turtles/whales/manta rays, sea kayaking, paddling boarding, sunset yacht trips, whitewater rafting, skydiving — you can do pretty much any of this and *so much more* on any part of northern Queensland’s coastline. Honestly, you could pack every single day with activities and still have a metre-long to-do list.
Look at websites that can offer deals for backpackers, like the easy-to-remember Backpacker Deals, or ask around at your accommodation or literally around town.
6. The best things in Queensland are free
Queensland’s natural beauty is breathtaking. You don’t need to pay to enjoy it.
We’re lucky enough that in Australia we don’t have to pay entry fees to beaches or national parks (seriously this is a thing in many other parts of the world) so if you’re bank account’s stressing you out, go for a bush walk, there are thousands. Explore some stunning beaches, there are thousands. Get out and see some cute animals, did you know rock wallabies exist and they’re just hopping about in the open???
And if your bank account’s looking *really* bleak, there are loads of jobs going in smaller cities and towns all over Queensland. Who knows, the humidity might just take hold.
Aleksandra Bliszczyk backpacked Queensland as a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland.