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You'll be travelling up the coast on a mix of our Stray buses, comfortable trains and ferry.
Local Tour Guide
More than just a guide - expect entertaining commentary, extra support and local secrets.
Stray Mate App
View your itinerary and book your transport, accommodation and activities on-the-go.
Have a bed reserved for you at every Stray overnight stop. Book and pay via our Stray Mate app.
12 month travel pass
Your pass is valid for 12 months from the first day of travel. Hop on and off anywhere along the route.
- Wine tasting, Hunter Valley
- Koala hospital visit, Port Macquarie
- Kangaroo spotting, Emerald Beach
- Canoeing experience or Bush walk, River Retreat
- Angourie Blue Pools, Yamba
- Byron Bay Orientation Drive
- Carlo Sand Blow Walk, Rainbow Beach
- Guided Rainforest Walk, Airlie Beach
- Forts Complex/Radical Bay Walk, Magnetic Island
- All National Park Fees
Not included: The cost of your accommodation, meals and extra activities is not included in a hop-on hop-off pass. You have the flexibility to choose what suits your budget and pay-as-you-go. These can be booked via the Stray Mate app, often at an exclusive Stray price!
Is this trip right for you?
✓ Do you want to explore with a group of like-minded travellers?
✓ Do you want to take the pressure off, kick back relax and let someone else do the driving?
✓ Do you want to start in Sydney and finish in Cairns, with the option to hop on and off along the route?
The Mick Freestyle Pass is a beaut choice for you!
Do you want accommodation, activities and meals included?
Check out the Mick Freestyle Tour.
UNIQUE STRADEMARK PLACES
- Barrington Tops - Stay riverside on the edge of the beautiful Barrington Tops National Park.
- River Retreat - Head out on canoes to spot wildlife, before cooking a group BBQ under the stars.
- Spot X - Shaka brah! There really is no better place to learn to surf and catch some waves along the East Coast.
- Emu Park - Snorkels at the ready... Emu Park is the gateway to the incredible Great Keppel Island, home to some of the most diverse marine wildlife on the East Coast.
- Tully Rainforest Experience - Get off the grid in the world heritage Tully National Park, chase waterfalls and tell stories around the campfire.
Get inspired and start planning your trip!
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The itinerary below is for the current season. Given the nature of our trips and lack of control over weather, what we do each day might occasionally vary.
N.B. Hop off at Rainbow Beach or Noosa to visit Fraser Island and at Airlie Beach to visit the Whitsundays.
G’day, mate, and welcome to your Stray adventure! We depart the big city of Sydney early this morning to make our way to the Hunter Valley wine region for a tasting at an award-winning vineyard. From there, we carry on through the backcountry to our first stunning Strademark stop right on the edge of the World Heritage-listed Barrington Tops National Park. At our Stray exclusive accommodation beside the Karuah River, you can choose to go river tubing on the mild rapids, go for a bush walk, or visit a local farm. Finish the day with a shared group dinner and a couple of drinks round the campfire. Dinner, breakfast and activity included in the accommodation price.
See More moment: Spend the night on the edge of the World Heritage-listed Barrington Tops National Park, well and truly off the beaten track!
We depart after breakfast and journey north through the remote countryside back towards the coast. Our next stop is the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, where you can get a closer look at Australia’s laziest (and arguably cutest) marsupials. Check out the information centre to learn all about the hospital’s efforts to rehabilitate, protect and preserve the koalas. After this, we head to Emerald Beach, an iconic kangaroo hangout, where if you’re lucky you can spot them hopping along the beach. We arrive at our beachfront overnight stop Spot X in the early evening.
The morning at Spot X is all yours. Learn to surf in some of the best beginner waves in Australia, or for those who already know how to 'hang 10,' rent a board and show us what you can do! We recommend staying longer to do a Surf & Stay if you are keen to really hone your surf skills. You can also swim and chill out on the beach or sink into a hammock at the camp. We depart around midday, grabbing a bite to eat in town before travelling to our relaxing, rural River Retreat. Spend the afternoon on a guided canoe trip down the Nymboida River to learn about the area, which is home to amazing birds, snakes, and the incredibly shy platypus, and unwind with a refreshing dip in the river. This evening, we’ll gather round a bonfire and sleep in wilderness cabins or tents beneath the stars.
See More moment: Head out on a guided canoe trip or walk to spot wildlife and learn about the fascinating local history. In the evening, cook a classic Australian meal together and watch the stars.
Do More moment: Your stay here helps to support the local community of Nymboida. Once a hub for white water canoeing, the town has struggled since a crucial dam was shut down. With the help of community volunteers and Stray passengers, the centre is being revived.
Next up - Byron Bay, known as the most chilled out town in Australia! On the way there, we stop in the picturesque seaside town of Yamba for lunch. We'll also visit the Angourie Blue Pool, an old quarry that was accidentally (and awesomely) filled by an underground spring, meaning you can now cool off in an epic fresh water pool right on the beach! Upon arriving in Byron Bay, we’ll take you on an orientation drive around town to help you get your bearings, showing you the points of interest and the top spots for food, shopping and nightlife.
You have two full free days in Byron Bay to "cheer up, slow down, and chill out” as the town’s famous welcome sign instructs. And there is plenty to do in this laidback hippy town: practice your surfing skills down at the beach, walk to mainland Australia’s most easterly point at the Cape Byron Lighthouse, search for dolphins and other marine life on a sea kayaking trip, or visit the alternative town of Nimbin. Tonight, get out to experience Byron’s eclectic nightlife – there is always something going on!
You have another free day in Byron Bay today. Tick off any activities you didn’t get the chance to do yet, or pass the day wandering the township and exploring the many boutique shops and cafes. Eating your way around Byron is an experience in itself, and there are plenty of vegetarian options available!
*If you arrive in Byron Bay on Saturday's bus, you will have 3 full days in Byron Bay. The next departure is Wednesday.
This morning we cross the border from New South Wales into Queensland. Our destination today is Rainbow Beach, but those with more time might want to hop off and explore tourist hot spot Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast, Queensland's capital city of Brisbane, or the upmarket resort town of Noosa. After a big travel day, you'll welcome the chance to stretch your legs this evening with a walk to Carlo Sand Blow in Rainbow Beach to catch a gorgeous sunset. If you want to visit fantastic Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, you can depart from Noosa or Rainbow Beach.
After stopping briefly to pick up those who stayed in Noosa, we depart from Cooroy on our first train journey of the trip. Kick back for a scenic train ride to Rockhampton, where we meet the bus and your Stray Guide to head to our next Strademark destination, Emu Park. While at Emu Park you’ll have the option to visit stunning Great Keppel Island, snorkel with turtles and hike to some secluded white sand beaches (extra cost); or you can choose to do your own thing!
See More moment: Our stay at Emu Park provides your chance to get up close and personal with the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll have the chance to snorkel and play amongst one of the seven wonders of the world.
Please Note: Some trips may have an extra night at Emu Park.
Today we recommend opting to visit the highlight of the area, Great Keppel Island, a tropical island paradise at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. Catch the ferry for a day of snorkeling or kayaking (extra cost) before exploring the island itself in search of the perfect white sand beach for a little afternoon rest and relaxation. Tonight, we’ll gather together for dinner at Emu’s Beach Resort before we catch our first overnight train to Airlie Beach.
The train arrives in Prosperine early in the morning. Your Airlie-based Stray Guide will meet you at the train and accompany you on the bus into Airlie Beach. They'll help you store your bags, and then grab breakfast (extra cost) and give you a brief orientation of the town to help you get your bearings. You'll have the rest of your day free in Airlie Beach to do as you please. Airlie Beach is the gateway to the famous Whitsunday Islands, another backpacker favourite. Many people choose to hop off here and do a multi-day sailing trip, but it is also possible to do a day tour. You can also choose to join your guide for a hike in the rainforest to see amazing almost 360-degree views of Airlie and the Whitsunday Islands.
You'll be up with the parakeets this morning with a medley of transport to catch today. Travelling by bus, train and ferry (oh my!) we arrive at our destination of Magnetic Island in the late morning. Nearly 50% of ‘Maggie Island’ is national park land, and it's chock-full of amazing beaches and abundant wildlife. Your legendary local guide will meet you at the train station and then join you on a scenic walk to either the beautiful Radical Bay beach or the historic Forts Complex for incredible views and amazing photo opportunities. Join in the group pizza dinner tonight (extra cost).
See More moment: This island paradise is your best chance on the East Coast to see koalas in the wild! Keep your eyes out for these sleepy marsupials, rock wallabies, and colourful birds as you explore the forested island.
Please Note: Some trips may have an extra night at Magnetic Island.
We catch the ferry back to the mainland in the morning, and travel by train to Tully, arriving at lunch time. From here you can join our Stray exclusive Rainforest Experience (additional cost) or continue on the train to Cairns. Those who choose the Rainforest Experience will travel by bus into the heart of the stunning Tully Gorge National Park. We’ll cool off in a beautiful swimming hole this afternoon, before heading to our camp for a BBQ dinner (included) and spend the evening sharing stories around the campfire.
See More moment: Head deep into the tropical rainforest of Tully Gorge National Park. Learn about the native flora and fauna in this incredible World Heritage Area.
This morning you can take a guided walk through the forest to learn about the traditional indigenous usage of the land. In the afternoon, we jump on the train to our final destination, Cairns. We arrive by late afternoon, so you'll have time to get ready to celebrate the final night of your epic East Coast adventure. There's heaps to do in Cairns so check out your Stray Mate app for all the best options.
The days and times shown below are for the current season. To see future timetables, please visit our Timetables page. N.B. These are subject to change based on weather.
- Monday (Minimum 14 days, free day at Magnetic Island)
- Wednesday (Minimum 15 days, extra free day in Byron Bay, free day at Magnetic Island)
- Saturday (Minimum 15 days, extra free day at Emu Park, free day in Tully)
Sydney to Barrington Tops
|Barrington Tops (Arrive)||15:00||15:00||15:00|
Barrington Tops to Spot X Surf Camp
|Barrington Tops (Depart)||09:00||09:00||09:00|
|Spot X Surf Camp (Arrive)||17:00||17:00||17:00|
Spot X Surf Camp to River Retreat
|Spot X Surf Camp (Depart)||12:30||12:30||12:30|
|River Retreat (Arrive)||15:00||15:00||15:00|
River Retreat to Byron Bay
|River Retreat (Depart)||09:30||09:30||09:30|
|Byron Bay (Arrive)||15:00||15:00||15:00|
Free Day 1 in Byron Bay
|Byron Bay (Free Day)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Free Day 2 in Byron Bay
|Byron Bay (Free Day)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Byron Bay to Rainbow Beach
|Byron Bay (Depart)||08:00||08:00||08:00|
|Gold Coast (Depart)||09:30||09:30||09:30|
|Rainbow Beach (Arrive)||15:30||15:30||15:30|
Rainbow Beach to Emu Park
|Rainbow Beach (Depart)||09:30||09:30||09:30|
|Maryborough West (Depart)||14:40||14:40||14:40|
|Miriam Vale (Depart)||16:35||16:35||16:35|
|Emu Park (Arrive)||19:30||19:30||19:30|
Emu Park to Airlie Beach (Overnight Train)
|Emu Park (Depart)||21:30||21:30||21:30|
|Airlie Beach (Arrive)||07:20||07:20||07:20|
Free Day in Airlie Beach
|Airlie Beach (Free Day)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Airlie Beach to Magnetic Island
|Airlie Beach (Depart)||05:05||05:05||05:05|
|Townsville Train Station (Depart)||09:38||09:38||09:38|
|Townsville Ferry Terminal (Depart)||10:30||10:30||10:30|
|Magnetic Island (Arrive)||11:30||11:30||11:30|
Magnetic Island to Rainforest Experience
|Magnetic Island (Depart)||07:50||07:50||07:50|
|Magnetic Island Ferry Terminal (Depart)||08:20||08:20||08:20|
|Townsville Ferry Terminal (Depart)||08:50||08:50||08:50|
|Townsville Train Station (Depart)||09:53||09:53||09:53|
|Rainforest Experience (Arrive)||15:00||15:00||15:00|
Rainforest Experience to Cairns (via Tully)
|Rainforest Experience (Depart)||11:00||11:00||11:00|
|Tully Train Station (Depart)||13:57||13:57||13:57|
Need to Know
Some key details...
- Transport - Travel by bus, train and even ferry for those heading to Magnetic Island! All included in the price of your pass and organised by Stray.
- Guides - Your Stray guide is your go-to for entertaining commentary, interesting facts, crazy stories and travel advice. Between Sydney and Rainbow Beach, your Guide is also your Bus Driver. Between Rainbow Beach and Cairns, where we travel on the fast, comfortable trains, you'll have In-Location Guides who will meet you at the station and show you around.
- Validity - This Freestyle Pass is valid for 12 months from your first day of travel.
- Hopping on/off - Hop on and off as much as you like along the travel route. To hop back on, simply book your next travel date and pickup location through our Stray Mate app
- Minimum Days - You don't need to hop off if you're short on time - you can travel your pass in the "Minimum Days". There are non-travel days throughout the route so you will not be travelling everyday.
- Departures - Buses/trains run to a seasonal timetable with multiple departures per week.
- Booking Buses - Use the Stray Mate app to manage your trip - you'll receive log in details in your Booking Confirmation email. If you're on a short timeframe, we recommend booking all your buses in advance.
- Accommodation - Book Stray preferred accommodation as you go via the Stray Mate app - there will be a dorm bed allocated to you at each overnight stop providing you book via the app 24 hours before.
- Activities - Book activities as you go via the Stray Mate app.
- Stray Travellers - Our travellers are from all over the world, are energetic, adventurous and mainly aged between 20-35. 75% of our travellers are travelling solo.