Traveling can be the most memorable experience of your life, but it can also be a lot more hassle than it needs to be. I recently travelled Australia’s East Coast on a ‘Hop on Hop off’ guided tour with Loka. This turned out to be not only the easiest, but the most social and entertaining format of travel I have experienced.
Over the past couple of years, I have travelled every possible way, from jam packed trains in Sri Lanka, Tuk-tuks in Thailand to hitchhiking through the United States to name a few. Some more comfortable and enjoyable than others but none of which compared to the unique experience I had with Loka.
I am a big believer that the journey is just as important, sometimes even more memorable and exciting than the actual destination itself. Some people like to put themselves in a position where they know there are going to be challenges and guaranteed hiccups along the way, just to make it more interesting. I personally have been one of those people in the past, just winging it as I go.
Traveling the East coast of Australia on a guided Hop on Hop off pass however, has been a completely new experience for me. I usually like to go with the flow and run my own itinerary which I can chop and change. But after speaking to countless people who have travelled up the Australian East Coast there are a couple of options. Three of the most popular being;
- Buy/rent a vehicle and drive yourself or
- Buy an intercity bus pass (like Grey Hound) or
- Jump on a tour bus and do it that way.
As I mentioned above I love having freedom in my travels. If I like a place, I want to stay there for a long period of time and move on when I am ready not when someone tells me I am ready. Loka’s guided Hop on and Hop off flexible tour which I travelled on from Sydney to Cairns, gave me the best of both worlds for my adventure. I got invaluable recommendations, meet great people who were on a similar agenda, visited some epic destinations (only locals would know about) yet still had the flexibility to do my own thing.
What is a Hop-on Hop-off?
Hop-on Hop-off travel with Loka offers a pretty unique way to travel that blends the best of guided touring with the best of independent travel. Let me break it down for you so you really get it. I got a ‘Mick Pass’ which covers the entire East Coast from Sydney all the way up to Cairns. But as opposed to a conventional ‘tour’ where you are locked into 20-day fixed itinerary which has every day planned out for you, Loka provides a different kind of service.
With Loka you still travel with a knowledgeable local guide and you get access to some really unique destinations (the average tourist wouldn’t visit) however unlike conventional tours you have total flexibility to jump off at any place along the way and simply hop back on another Loka bus when you are ready to continue your journey.
For example, I hopped on the Loka tour in Sydney and for the next 3 days, myself and a group of enthusiastic travellers spent our time exploring locations 100% unique to Loka. This included Barrington Tops (a rural lodge set next to a National Park) and River Retreat (a repurposed whitewater rafting campground). Along the way some people jumped off the bus in locations like the Gold Coast and Noosa to do their own thing (whether it was work, woof and just hang out), while the rest of us decided to carry on.
I choose to hop off in Rainbow Beach which is located just above the Sunshine Coast. Here I spent 4 nights splitting my time between Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island, a beautiful island off the coast.
Why is it so easy and so fun?
All of the routes are mapped out and the transportation is sorted. You don’t need to drive nor; do you need to spend hours of your trip researching and organising yourself or dragging you backpacks to far away from bus stations in the searing heat. You simply jump on the Loka bus (or high speed train) and enjoy a road trip type experience as you make your way to the next destination. Along the way, you can expect to stop at beaches for a swim and supermarkets to stock up on supplies.
Yet if you arrive somewhere and decide you really like it, you have total flexibility to hop-off and stay as long as you like. Your pass is valid for 12 months so you have a lot of freedom to change your plans.
And why is it fun? Well, you’ll find everyone on who hops on or off Loka has the same agenda, which is ‘to have the best time possible!’ That means you’re instantly hanging out with a group of like-minded people who are up for anything.
Freedom and Flexibility
Like I mentioned, Loka passes are valid for a year giving you a crazy amount of flexibility. Travel can be unpredictable, you can fall in love with a particular location or even a person, meaning all your future plans come to a halt. With a year up your sleeve you have the freedom to pull away to work, woof, study, go bush or enjoy a flaming romance and then get back on the road when you’re ready.
This also means that your travel is somewhat prepaid which is good so you know where you stand and what you have left to play with. When you buy a pass you get access to Loka travel app where you can book accommodation and activities at great rates.
In a nutshell
As mentioned at the beginning the alternatives include self-drive which gives you full independence but also brings a lot more admin, stress and you’re probably going to meet fewer people too. You can book an intercity bus passes (Grey Hound) but they will only take you from one city centre to another with no adventures along the way. You won’t get access to any truly amazing off the beaten track destinations, there is no guide offering local recommendations and everyone on board will have a different agenda.
Then there is this hop-on-hop-off flexible adventure network operated by Loka, which gives you the best of both worlds. For me personally, it was an eye-opening experience and proved to be a very carefree and interesting way to travel. This was not only from my point of view but something I heard a lot from other travellers as well, who felt this was the ideal way to travel the East Coast of Australia.
To get some travel inspiration on what you might see or do when travelling along the East Coast check out their Instagram account: @Loka.Travel