I have been working as a Travel Agent in the Backpacker industry for a while now, and travelled the length and breadth of Australia, I have noticed some things that visitors to our country really should know before they set foot on our shores if they are to get the most out of their trip to Australia.
The first thing you should know if you are from Europe is the size of Australia. It is HUGE. If you were to put a map of Australia over mainland Europe it pretty much covers the whole thing.
So, bearing that in mind, it is going to take time to get from one place to another. There are a lot of attractions in every part of Australia, so for example if you want to see all that the East Coast offers, the best way of doing that would be to either:
A) Get your own wheels
B) Hire a camper van or
C) Get a hop on/hop off bus pass
There are pros and cons to each of these options. If you are travelling on your own it may be better for you to get a bus pass as you will meet loads of people on the way at all the stops and in the huge network of hostels. Singles may find Hop on Hop off buses such as Oz Experience and Greyhound Mini Traveller way more social and way more rewarding than being in a camper van. Couples and groups of friends may well prefer the camper or own car option.
The reason you need to be conscious of the distances is the fact that if you want to see say the surf coast of NSW, Fraser Island, the Whitsundays and the Barrier Reef you need to allow yourself enough time to explore each area comfortably and not be in a rush up the coast. So often I see people arrive in Byron Bay with very little time left to see the Reef coast of Queensland and all its amazing attractions. This is the East Coasts playground. The north coast of NSW (ie Byron Bay Shire) offers arguably Australias best beaches with warm sub-tropical waters year round, dolphins, whales and secluded and sheltered bays that are perfect for learning to surf.
Most backpackers opt for the self drive 4 Wheel Drive tours of Fraser Island that go over 3 days and 2 nights such as our own Fraser Island Tours - allow yourself 4 or 5 days for this as you can get deals which include accomodation before and after the tour. Town of 1770 is a perfect stop off after Fraser Island and on the way to Whitsundays. It's still got a quaint village atmosphere but has some amazing tours such as Scooteroo where you get to ride Harley and Chopper Scooters around on the highways in black leather jackets like a big Bikie gang. Quad Biking is another awesome activity here - one of the best things I've ever done in my life!! You can also access the pristine southern Barrier Reef from here at Lady Musgrave Island.
The Whitsundays is best enjoyed by taking an overnight live-aboard sailing tour. These are all-inclusive trips where your meals, snorkelling and visit to beautiful Whitehaven Beach are all included. They are great as you get to experience waking up in the islands on a boat, jumping into the clear tropical waters and swimming with technicolour reef fish whilst also meeting loads of other peeps from all over the world. They are very social and you can bring your own alcohol so its party time too!! Give yourself at least 3-5 days to enjoy the Whitsundays and the crazy night life of Airlie Beach - the port town and gateway to the islands. If you are doing the 3 day 2 night sailing, make sure you get a nights accomodation after the tour in Airlie Beach - as everyone you meet on the boat will be out that night to let their hair down ;)
Cairns is the backpacker capital of Australia where you can bungy, explore ancient rainforest, scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and get up close to a man-eating Salt Water Crocodile (don't worry you will be in boat!!) You could spend the best part of a week here.
Don't squander all your time and money in the big cities of the south and find that you have hardly any time to cover the big distances and awesome natural beauty of the northern half of the coast. Be aware that one of Australia's favorite pass times - drinking - has become very expensive as it is heavily taxed by the government and it is easy to arrive in Sydney or Melbourne and go crazy in the pubs - but you may blow your budget for the things you actually really came to Australia to see in the first place.
Wine is relatively cheap in Australia - a cheap bottle of REAL wine will only set you back $6-$10. Goon is not real wine ;) It has many additives and is pretty bad for you.
So to sum it up, give yourself time to enjoy Australias amazing and lush East Coast and with a little bit of pre-planning you won't have any regrets about how you allocated your time and will have the trip of a lifetime!! No worries.