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Agnes Waters – A Pretty Little Beach Town

Agnes Waters – A Pretty Little Beach Town

After Fraser Island, we went back to Noosa for one more night. That night we said goodbye to our Fraser Island friends over burritos and tacos. The following morning we were on a Greyhound and preparing for our entire day of travelling. We’d never heard of Agnes Waters we chose to stay there for a couple of nights to break up the almost 24-hour coach journey to Airlie Beach.

Finally, we reached Agnes Waters at around 6 pm. The hostel was huge and our dorm for the next 2 nights was a little log cabin with 3 bunk beds. It turned out that we were staying in the same dorm as one of the guys from Fraser Island. We all decided to walk half an hour into Agnes Waters’ town centre.

A Sleepy Town

This consisted of walking along a poorly lit main road with loads of crickets and toads buzzing the whole time. When we got to the town centre we soon realised it may be a bit difficult to get food. With just one restaurant in the whole area that was fully booked and every shop already closed, we ended up eating in a service station. We got the hostels free bus back and watched some of the Olympics. That night we discovered that Agnes Waters is absolutely freezing at night. With just a thin sheet to cover me and no warm clothes, I spent the whole night shivering myself to sleep.

Our Final Surf

We had heard that Agnes Waters is the last stop up the East Coast where you could surf. So the next morning we got up and headed for the beach. We rented a couple of boards and carried them to the beach. Renting surfboards was so cheap here, around $20 per person for the day! Unfortunately, we didn’t think to check the waves before we got there. After a good half an hour of sitting in the ocean without any waves, we headed back to shore. Our day was spent surfing, sunbathing and walking along the beautiful, quiet beach. We learnt from our mistake from the first day and had a big, late lunch in one of the cafes in the centre. We also went to the shop to buy food to cook later that night.

Surfing Agnes Waters

Agnes Waters Beach

Our last night in this sleepy town was spent at the hostel bar, eating fajitas and drinking beer. The next day we had another long journey to Airlie Beach. This time it was an overnight coach trip, leaving in the late afternoon and arriving early the following morning. On our final day, we stayed in the hostel. With so much land to explore there was plenty to keep us occupied.

If you’re thinking of heading to Agnes Waters on your East Coast trip then consider renting surfboards or taking a surf lesson. With the boards being so cheap to rent it’s a must. Also look into Scooteroo; a motorbike tour which takes you to the town of 1770. This nearby town is definitely worth a visit if you want to see Captain James Cook’s second landing point and first landing in Queensland.

Noosa and the Everglades

Noosa and the Everglades

Our next stop along the East Coast brought us to Noosa. Described to us as a rich person’s Byron Bay we were excited to explore the area. As the Greyhound had picked us up from the zoo it was pretty late by the time we arrived. We were staying in the Nomad’s Hostel for 2 nights, a short walk to the main beach and Hastings Street. Hastings Street runs parallel to the beach and is where you can find boutique shops and restaurants.

On arrival, we checked in and went straight to the onsite bar for a $10 burger and free beer. As Noosa is a popular stop before Fraser Island there were lots of backpackers. We ended up talking to some people in our dorm who had just returned from their Fraser Island tour. That night we went to sleep quite early for our tour of the Everglades te following morning.

The Everglades

For our Everglades tour, we were with a company called Noosa Everglades Discovery. They picked us up from our hostel and took us to Noosa River where our boat was waiting. Shortly after we were on the river and heading to the everglades. Noosa’s Everglades are one of just two in the World, the other being in Florida. This unique area of subtropical wetland is home to over 44% of all Australian bird species. It also has a history of logging, with some signs of it’s past still recognisable. For instance, part of the river becomes very shallow, at some points barely even knee deep. In order to transport the logs down the river, they dredged a boat-sized path which is still used today when accessing the everglades by boat.

As we headed into the everglades we were surrounded by a blanket of lilypads which are in bloom for most of the year. Not far from here was where we reached our first stop. Here we got off the boat and had morning tea in the bush. After filling up on cakes and coffee it was time to split up. Some people remained on the boat while some others were given canoes and told to carry on down the river until the next stop. We were on the boat for this part of the trip, and would later canoe the return journey. This part of the journey was the most picturesque. Here the water becomes almost opaque due to the tea tree content. The colour of the water combined with the lack of wind creates a mirror effect, where the trees perfectly reflect on the water.

Canoeing in the Everglades

The distance between the first stop and our lunch stop was around 3 kilometres. Knowing that we had to canoe on the return journey after eating didn’t feel me with confidence. Eventually, the canoers made it to the lunch stop where we had a BBQ and were shown a building from the logging days. This is also where Sam decided to go for a swim, in the freezing, black water which we were later told was home to Bullsharks. On the return journey, we were each given an oar and told to meet them further down the river. After struggling to figure out how to get the canoe moving in a straight line we were on our way. The everglades are said to be one of the top places to canoe in Australia, and I can see why. Being so low down you can feel the canoe slicing through the water, creating a ripple in the otherwise flat river. I was pleasantly surprised by the ease and peacefulness of the journey and didn’t want to stop when we eventually caught up with the boat.

The boat ride back took around an hour and we were back in Noosa by around 6 pm. That night we went to the hostel bar again for food and drinks. We met a few people who would be on the same Fraser Island tour as us so we spent some time with them.

Noosa Everglades

Exploring Noosa

For our final full day in Noosa, we decided to see the beach and have a look around some of the shops. Although the beach isn’t massive, it is pretty. With white sand, waves perfect for beginner surfers and a national park lining the South end Noosa main beach is perfect for a day of tanning and swimming. You can also hire Stand Up Paddleboards and surf boards here if you fancy something more adventurous.

Noosa Main Beach

After a walk along the beach, we found ourselves along Hastings Street. With surf shops, boutique clothing shops and handcrafted jewellery I was in my element. Sam wasn’t so impressed as I dragged him round every shop. After repeatedly having to remind myself I couldn’t spend all my savings on bikinis and anklets it was time for food. As we had a super early start the next morning for Fraser Island we decided to stay in the dorm. We ended up making friends with some drunk guys who were pre-drinking there.

To find out about my time in Fraser Island, what we did there and my favourite parts have a look at my article. For other articles I have written, check out my portfolio.

Surfers Paradise: A Cityscape and an Ocean Break

Surfers Paradise: A Cityscape and an Ocean Break

A Whole New State

Our first stop in Queensland took us to Surfers Paradise. This beachside city along the Gold Coast is known for its’ high rise buildings and idyllic beaches. It is often compared to Miami and on arrival, it was clear to see the similarities. A row of high rise buildings lining the beautifully blue ocean and the continual stretch of beach is what makes Surfers Paradise. Now it was time to see if this city lived up to its name.

Surfers Paradise Sign

Exploring Paradise

We quickly checked into our hostel and dumped our bags before exploring the place we would be calling home for the next 2 nights. A short walk from the hostel brought us to the beach. In the late afternoon, we were disappointed to find that most of the beach was in the shade. The sun was setting behind the tall buildings, casting long shadows across the sand.

We headed back towards the streets and along the main strip. The strip felt very commercialised, with a McDoanld’s overlooking the beach and an array of branded clothing shops and chain restaurants. The contrast between our previous stop, Byron Bay, and this one was alarming. It’s not until you travel around Australia that you realise just how vast and varied it is. We had a quick browse through the surf shops and got approached by various tour companies.

By this point, it was the early evening so we headed back to the hostel. Our first night also happened to be a ‘big night out’ in Surfers Paradise. The hostel claimed that over 300 backpackers would be arriving and heading out on a bar crawl. We waited a while, drinking a cheap bottle of wine until it was clear that nobody was going to show up.

Instead of wasting our money we went out to see the night markets along the beach promenade. After browsing through the stalls and walking back along the sand we ended our night with a cheap game of mini golf just a few minutes away from our hostel.

Surfing at Surfers Paradise

The following morning we got up early and went straight to the beach. Having recently finished our 5 days of Surf Camp we were keen to test our skills at Surfers Paradise. We rented a couple of the big foam surfboards and wetsuits for two hours and went straight to the beach. Choosing a section of the water where there were no other surfers to laugh at us, we paddled out.

After an hour of nose dives and spectacular falls, it became clear that we weren’t quite as good as we thought. The waves we had been learning on at Surf Camp were tiny in comparison to the ones further up the coast. By the end of the two hours, we were exhausted, bruised and slightly disheartened. After dragging the boards back up to the rental shop we went back to the beach for a chance to sunbathe and swim in the clear water.

Surfers Paradise Surfboards

A Long Walk

As well as relaxing on the beach, we also decided to walk along it. At first, this was a pleasant way to see the city but the beach never came to an end! We were heading north and ended up walking to Sea World (boo), about 7 km away from Surfers Paradise. This did mean that the beach was almost empty and untouched. This was clearly an expensive area, with huge 5-star hotels and houses. After admiring this part of the Gold Coast we began our long walk back along the beach.

Surfers Paradise Beach

What Else To Do

Our stay in Surfers Paradise was brief and on a budget. Therefore we didn’t do a lot of the big Gold Coast attractions. But if you have more time and money to spend then you should definitely consider going to Movie World, Wet n Wild or some of the other big attractions on offer. There is normally a package you can buy which gives you access to all of the attractions for a set price.

The Verdict

I was underwhelmed by Surfers Paradise. I was hoping for a chilled out surf town with boutique shops and family run restaurants. But was met with big brands, chain-restaurants and pushy tour guides. Maybe if we weren’t on such a budget we would have had more fun exploring the theme parks.

The beach itself was lovely, with clear water, no rubbish and plenty of space but the overall city was not the paradise I was after. If you’re a good surfer and just looking to test yourself then the waves in Surfers are perfect for you, but there are other stops along the Gold Coast which are less touristy and definitely worth looking into.

Surfers Paradise Ocean

Byron Bay: Where the Hippies Come to Play

Byron Bay: Where the Hippies Come to Play

Our final stop before crossing the border into Queensland was Byron Bay. This well-known beach town is a popular spot for tourists, backpackers and hippies. A pristine beach where surfers and dolphins take it in turns to ride the waves makes this stop a must.

The Hostels

When we stayed at Byron Bay we split up our accommodation – spending 3 nights in the first hostel and 2 in another. This was due to a deal we had on accommodation with Nomads (a chain of hostels all over Australia).

Arts Factory Lodge

Our first 3 nights were spent at the Arts Factory Lodge. This hostel is owned by Nomads and featured in The Inbetweeners 2 movie. Although it’s about a 15-minute walk out of the town centre, there is a free bus that takes guests there regularly. There is also a beach volleyball court on site, a swimming pool as well as surfboard and bike hire. If you don’t fancy staying in a standard dorm room you can choose from a teepee, an ‘island retreat’ and a private room just to name a few. There is also camping facilities here as well as the option to park your campervan in the car park and use the hostel’s facilities.

This hostel attracts a wide variety of people and the herbal smells only add to the character of the relaxed, surfer meets hippy clientele. You definitely won’t get bored here. With free activities as well as paid massages, palm readings and lessons in didgeridoo making. Whether you’re weaving your own dream catcher or taking part in the weekly talent show you’re sure to make friends and memories at this one of a kind hostel.

Nomads: Byron Bay

Our last 2 nights in Byron Bay were spent in the other Nomads hostel this town has to offer. This time we were in a prime location, right in the centre of the town and only a few minutes from the beach. This hostel is a lot more simple with generic dorm rooms, a standard kitchen area and shared bathrooms.

But, there are still plenty of opportunities to save money and make friends. Most days there was some kind of meal offer on, including a weekly BBQ. As well as this there was a movie night. The facilities at this hostel included a small swimming pool with a hot tub, some hammocks and surfboard rental.

What we got up to

The Lighthouse Walk

During our 5 days in Byron Bay, we managed to see most of the main tourist attractions. On our first day, we headed straight for the lighthouse walk which takes you to the most Easterly point of Australia’s Mainlland. It also follows the coast and runs alongside the beach, ending with the perfect vantage point to watch the sunrise or set. This walk is well paved and not too steep, with stairs and handrails provided. Depending on what time of year you’re visiting, it is also a great opportunity to spot dolphins and whales.

Byron Bay LighthouseByron Bay Lighthouse Walk

Shopping

If like me, you love everything bohemian and the overpowering smell of incense sticks then you should try and set aside a day for shopping. Rummage through friendship bracelets, locally made jewellery and hareem pants until you feel at home in this hippy town. Or, check out the surf shops to feel like one of the locals when you head to the beach. The surf shops also offer surfboard hire, so if testing your skills in Byron Bay is on your todo list then shop around for the best rates. If like Sam you have no interest in shopping, then find a quirky bar or set up your towel on the beach and relax.

Byron Bay Shops

Dolphin Kayaking

One of my favourite moments from our time in Australia was sitting in a kayak, less than a metre away from a pod of at least 15 dolphins. Our tour company (Go Sea Kayak Byron Bay) picked us up from our hostel and drove us to the beach. We were all given wetsuits, lifejackets and helmets along with a safety brief. After carrying our kayaks to the water’s edge we learnt the basics of kayaking and were pushed off into the waves. We quickly paddled out to the ocean, eager to spot fins emerging from the water. As well as keeping an eye out for dolphins we often saw whales along the horizon. It is also common to see sea turtles, stingrays and small sharks while on this tour! Not long into the 3-hour tour, someone spotted a dolphin. We waited for the dolphins to approach us, not wanting to frighten them away. It wasn’t long before we were surrounded by a pod of playful dolphins, swimming and jumping around our group.

It was amazing to see so many wild dolphins come up close to the kayaks and definitely a unique experience. But, after around 2 hours of paddling through the wavey ocean, we were all aching and ready to make our way back to shore.

The Beach

Australia is known for having pristine beaches and Byron Bay certainly doesn’t disappoint. Stroll along the white sand and cool off in the waves which are patrolled by lifeguards. As well as the perfect beach, there is also ideal surfing waves, so grab a board and try and catch a few back to shore. If sand and surf isn’t your style then take a seat on the grass along the front. Here you can work on your tan while listening to buskers and sipping on fresh coconut water. Every evening this area comes alive with fire breathers, drummers and other entertainers.

Byron Bay Beach

The Markets

Check out the local farmer’s markets that happen each week in Byron Bay. Find fresh, local produce and gifts just a short walk away from the centre of Byron Bay. You can also expect live music, spontaneous dancing and happy people. Although we ran out of time to explore many of the markets, I believe they are all slightly different, some selling souvenirs, clothing and locally made gifts. Find out more about the markets here.

The Verdict

It’s hard not to love this chilled out beach town. Whether you want adventure, relaxation, a good atmosphere or great company you can find it all here. With great places to eat, including lots of vegetarian and vegan options and cool cocktail bars you can leave Byron Bay feeling refreshed.

Surf Camp: Finding Our Mojo

Surf Camp: Finding Our Mojo

Where Next?

A few hours South of Byron Bay is a small beach called Arrawarra. With consistent waves ideal for beginners and barely anyone else in the area this is the perfect spot to learn the basics of surfing. While we travelled up the East Coast we spent 5 days here and left feeling confident enough to hire surfboards and try out our new skills.

Surf Camp Beach

The Arrival

Our Greyhound Coach dropped us off at around 4 am. A minibus was ready and waiting to take us to our new home for the next 5 days. On arrival, we were taken straight to our room – a shipping container with 2 bunk beds. We were told our first surf lesson would be at 10 am so we had a few hours sleep before starting our first day at surf camp.

We woke up, I found the bikini that was least likely to fall off in the waves and we headed to reception. After a brief walk around the camp, the receptionist took us to surf school. An outdoor seating area complete with hammocks and more surfboards than I could count.

Surf Camp Sign

Surf School

A tanned guy with long blonde hair introduced himself as our surf instructor and took us through the basics. We learnt about rips, different kinds of waves and hand signals (most importantly shakas along with a loud ‘yewwwww’ when you catch a wave). We were told to pick a wetsuit from the rack. They were torn and had holes in and were all slightly damp, making them hard to put on.

After the essentials, we grabbed some massive foam surfboards and walked 5 minutes to the beach. Here we did a quick warm up before learning the most important part of surfing – the pop-up. We were all instructed to lay on the sand on our hand drawn surfboards and started paddling. After a few paddles, an imaginary wave approaches us, at it reaches our toes we do another 3 paddles before ‘popping up’. The way we were taught to pop up is to bring your front foot up to your hands, your back foot up to the knee of the front foot and stand while simultaneously turning your feet to the side.

On land, I had mastered the pop-up and wanted to test my new found skills in the water. We carried/dragged our huge surfboards into the water and waited for a wave. I was the first to attempt riding a wave but was unsuccessful. Next was Sam, he has some weird talent of being good at any sport and obviously stood up the first time. And finally was the other girl in our group, who also didn’t manage to stand. On my second go I was determined to ride my first wave, and somehow I managed it! For the rest of the 2-hour class, we took it in turns to try and stand up. Sometimes succeeding but generally falling off in some spectacular ways.

Surfing Surf CampSurfing Surf Camp

The Camp

We wriggled out of our wetsuits and headed back to camp. It was almost lunch so we hung around the seating area where we would be eating. As it was still the middle of offseason the camp was extremely quiet – there were more staff members than actual guests. Eventually, someone called out that it was lunchtime and a surge of Mojo Surf staff appeared, forming a line for the food.

The surf camp food was pretty simple, just tonnes of pasta and rice and salad piled on a plastic plate. It was fine for a few days but by day 5 we were sick of eating pasta every day! After having seconds we decided to go and explore the camp. This place was quite basic – with one large room for food that gained a ping pong table when food wasn’t being served, a campfire area, shipping container dorms, a few teepees (for extra accommodation) and a brief walkway to the beach.

The thing that really made this place special was the people. On our first evening, a new group of surf beginners arrived at the camp for their lessons the following morning. We all sat together eating our pasta and discussed travelling, home countries, experiences and plans. The lack of signal and expensive WiFi charges meant everyone was happy sitting and talking without the distraction of their phones.

That evening was the weekly trivia quiz night at the nearby pub. We all decided to go along and test our international knowledge. We had quite a mix of countries in our group including English, German, Dutch and French so we were feeling confident. Unfortunately, all of the questions were about Australia and we did awfully! After 4 hours of surfing, Kangaroo Golf and a very early morning we were tired and in desperate need of a good night sleep.

When We Weren’t Surfing

Unfortunately, as it was offseason there was not a lot around camp to fill the time when we weren’t surfing. Luckily, for an extra charge, you could do other afternoon activities with the instructors. These included ocean rafting, kayaking, kangaroo golf and a 2 hour afternoon surfing session. We all opted to pay the extra and took part in most of these activities. A personal favourite of mine was Kangaroo Golf. Despite being awful at playing golf it was cool to be at a golf course where wild Kangaroos called home. Although these bouncy creatures weren’t as friendly as the ones you’ll find in zoos they let you get close enough to get a selfie.

Ocean Rafting Surf Camp

Kangaroo Golf Surf Camp

As well as outdoor activities we also played a lot of ping-pong and made a few trips to the bottle-o. On Saturday nights Surf Camp becomes a party camp. After buying our alcohol the social/chill out room gets transformed. We ended up teaching each other drinking games from our home countries and learning loads of new ring of fire rules. The camp fire also created a perfect setting for a few beers or a bag of goon. Although our clothes did end up stinking of smoke by the end of the 5 days.

The Verdict

Apart from learning to surf we also learnt the best cure for a hangover. An early morning and going into the ocean. After a few nose dives, I felt as good as new. From our first surf lesson to over 20 hours of supervised surfing we had learnt to stand, slow down and speed up, turn and how to get out to the back of the set. We were also taught surfing etiquette and good warm ups before heading into the ocean.

Overall, our time in surf camp was an amazing experience and if you have enough time I would recommend staying for the 5 days. But, if you don’t have the time at least try and stay for a couple of days. Although we were ready to leave and get back to reality by the end, the isolated location made for the ideal setting for this chilled out surf camp.

If you want to have a look at booking your own Surf Camp experience then head to their website. Mojo Surf hold lessons in Byron Bay and Bali as well. Lengths of stays vary from a single surf lesson to a 3-month surf instructor course.