Why these 5 Queensland towns are best for working holidays

There are some pretty epic places in the world to base yourself during your gap year or working holiday, but with sun, surf and rugged nature, spanning from World Heritage-listed rainforests to the Great Barrier Reef, Australia’s Sunshine State has to be up there! (I should know. I came, I saw, I’m still here years later!)

Not only is it a beautiful place to explore, but for backpackers looking for part-time work it can be the perfect place to refill your wallet and begin the next leg of your adventure.

To help you get the most fun and reward, we’ve assembled a quick guide to 5 of the best towns in Queensland for working holidays.


Cairns Esplanade

Known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and for being one of Australia’s most iconic beauty spots for both locals and overseas tourists, Cairns has a tropical climate with tourism playing a large part in the economy.

The holiday resorts offer plenty of opportunity for work; cleaning jobs at the many caravan parks and holiday accommodation are a good place to start. 

Or take a walk down the Esplanade with a handful of resumes to drop in at the many bars and pubs. Don’t forget you’ll need an RSA certificate to get bar work in Queensland. You’ll also find the many restaurants and cafes in town are a great place to pick up casual hospitality work.

Barnacle Bills Cairns

Looking for something a bit different? Speak to some of the fishing and charter boat companies for a money-can’t-buy work experience. Got your diver’s cert? Get in with one of the dive operators or dive shops.

If you’re looking for harvest work, head inland to the Atherton Tablelands. The hills are alive with sugar cane, peanuts, avocados, potatoes, mangoes and corn offer plenty of outdoor farm work. And you don’t have to sweat it on in the field, either. Here you’ll also often find indoor work as part of the packing team.

On your days off, have fun and explore the lava tubes, beaches and the Great Barrier Reef.

Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach Marina

Right on the Whitsundays coastline, Airlie Beach is one of Queensland’s most iconic backpacker towns. Retail, travel, fishing, and the food and beverage industries all offer the most work opportunities in this popular hub.

There are also casual jobs to be found in the agricultural industries: tropical fruit farms, coffee plantations and cattle stations are all close by.

So whether you’ve had experience in hospitality or in crewing a boat, it’s very likely you’ll pick up plenty of work here (and have the time of your life every night of the week).

Although it’s known as the gateway to The Whitsundays, Airlie Beach is just as close to the Great Barrier Reef as Cairns is. So on your days off, why not get your scuba on?


Strawberry Picking Bundaberg

Bundaberg is a veritable food bowl, making it a key backpacker destination offering plenty of work on sugar cane and other farms. Many of the hostels in town are happy to place you with farmers and station owners needing seasonal workers.

April through to December are the best months for getting seasonal fruit-picking work, with the best two months being October and November.

Some farms will also have camping facilities, but you should speak to the farmers in advance. The local visitor information centre can be found in Bourbong Street and has plenty more info about jobs for backpackers.

While fruit picking is seasonal, some farm work is available year-round. Bundaberg is also very close to many beautiful beach spots like Bargara and Woodgate Beach, which are well worth a visit on your days off – especially to witness thousands of baby turtles hatching when the season rolls around each year.


Picking grapes in Stanthorpe

For those who don’t like excessive heat, this Southern Queensland Country town is your go-to.

About 223km from Brisbane, and with the added benefit of being loaded with wineries Stanthorpe offers plenty of agricultural gigs. Apples, berries and soft fruits such as peaches and nectarines are also all grown here.

Speak to the team at the hostels in town. They will be able to point you in the way of seasonal work such as picking and packing in the area.

Stanthorpe is 1000 metres above sea-level so during the night it can get very cool. Come prepared and pack a sweater (it even snowed here in 2015. Well, for one day, but still. SNOW!).

Grape picking season is from January to April with many other related jobs available throughout the year. Vine and tree pruning, fruit thinning and vegetable harvesting are all part of the job description here for the working holidaymaker.

Sunshine Coast

Now, time for my favourite! Just an hour north of Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast‘s many beautiful beach towns stretch from Caloundra in the south to Noosa in the north.

There are plenty of shops, bars, coffee shops and restaurants, who all recruit casual staff. Take the time to introduce yourself at the local sports clubs too, whether it’s the nearby footy team, Surf Life Saving club or local cricket club. They are all busy at the weekends and will have casual work either on the field or in the clubhouse.

You may also want to consider au pair work. Being a nanny is a great way to combine work and accommodation. You’ll also get to meet a local family who will be more than happy to show you the sights!

Suss out more about the ins and outs of working holidays and the jobs available here.

Are you planning a working holiday in Queensland? Share with us in the comments below.