We booked our East Coast Trip from Sydney to Cairns through Ultimate Oz, an Australian based backpacker company. In this post I'll discuss our experience traveling with them, the cost and if it ultimately was the cheaper and better choice.
Organising nine people 2400miles is a logistical nightmare. Having met through Ultimate Oz Sydney start-up week, the obvious choice for us was to book through them again. They offered a four-week tour from Sydney to Cairns with all the top spots and activities already paid for. All nine of us were guaranteed to stay together and everything from accommodation to our transport would already be pre-paid and booked meaning we had little to do to prepare. Our trip cost $2799 which we saved up for many months before all of us could afford the trip. It was a big investment for us, however we were told it was cost effective and would mean we had a big group heading all the way up the East Coast.
Our transport which Ultimate booked for us was Loka travel, a smaller company that took groups of 24 at any time from point A to B. When we first boarded the bus in Sydney we met the others who we thought we might be with for the next few weeks. There were two girls who were travelling together, a couple, two boys who were travelling together, five girls together and three girls and one guy who were travelling by themselves. My group made up over half of the group! By our second stop, Olivia who was travelling alone, stayed in Spot X, starting the process of dropping off and picking up other travelers. This is how it continued for the remainder of the trip. In Byron Bay we lost some of the girls we had really gotten on with and didn't see them again for a long period of time after this. We were also split amongst different accommodation here due to capacity, which meant we didn't hang out as a big group. The Byron Bay is how it continued for the majority of the trip.
As the tour continued, we met new people on the buses and trains, some who were socialable and others who weren't. Again these people would come and go and stay with us for either a day or a week. We were lucky to spend the Whitsundays with the group of five girls however we were all split up for Fraser island.
Luckily, I was part of a large established group the whole time and therefore wasn't dependent on making new friends. However, it was great to meet new people and add to our group. It was strange to make new friends and to quickly leave each other when all of us who booked through Ultimate Oz were under the impression that we would stay within a set group for the whole four weeks.
For those who were solo travelling I think it was pretty tiring having to constantly meet new people and say goodbye to others who you had a connection with. One girl who travelled the whole length of the country with us, Abbie, was miraculously on the same schedule as us. We became really close and she was so glad she could make a firm group of friends on the tour rather than fleeting friendships. I felt for those who had a less constant schedule and who we would see from time to time at different locations. The tour didn't guarantee friendship and the safety that many find in tours as they have a group of ready made mates included. This was odd for us as other tours we had all taken in the past kept the same group of people together for the time period meaning you were guaranteed a good time and good friends.
We could have organised everything ourselves and had a similar experience without booking through Ultimate Oz. Although it saved the headache and meant everything was sorted for us, the Ultimate Oz name didn't stay with us throughout the trip and wasn't the experience we expected.
I still had an amazing time exploring the East Coast, however if you're a solo traveler and are booking through a tour such as Ultimate Oz to guarantee friends to stick with for the four weeks this is unlikely to be the reality unless you're really lucky. You would meet as many people travelling completely independently and would also have the flexibility to stay with someone if you both got on. Everyone on the East Coast is either travelling up or down and therefore at least 50% are heading the same way as you are!
In terms of cost, I'm sure we could have also done the trip a little cheaper however with nine people to organise, we paid for the convenience.
East Coast with Ultimate Oz wasn't the experience we expected but I wouldn't change how we did it, we did make some great friends and some awesome memories.
If you want to read more about what the East Coast Trip includes, what you can see and experience, I have written my trip in weekly instalments here.