One of the most asked questions from backpackers on a working holiday is: Where should I start my Australian Working Holiday? Which city should I choose for my arrival in Australia? Of course, every big city has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s not always the easiest choice to make. This article will provide you with the most important criteria and facts you need to know in order to make the right decision based on you and your personality!!
Main cities in Australia
Australia has 5 cities with more than a million people, here is all you need to know to pick one to land Down Under.
Sydney is a multi-cultural city, known for the iconic Opera House, its beaches and its beautiful harbour.
Cost of living
Popular attractions (Opera House, Harbour Bridge, famous beaches..)
Dynamic city with convenient public transports
Parks and beaches
Economic centre of Australia
Lots of work opportunities
Housing: one of the most expensive cities in Australia
Public Transport : Expensive, Get a Opal Card
The weather in Sydney is temperate with mild winters and warm summers :
During Summer (Dec – Feb) average temperatures range from 18° to 26°. Average humidity spikes to 65%. Water temperature ranges from 21° and 24°.
In Autumn (March – May) average temperatures range from 14° and 22°.
During winter (June – August) average temperatures drop between 8° and 17°. Sydney’s rainfall is generally highest in June.
In Spring (Sept – Nov) Average daily temperatures range from 11° to 23°
Melbourne is the second city in Australia. It is is consistently ranked at the top of the most liveable cities in the world. Melbourne is well known for its amazing street art and food scene.
Cost of living
Second city in the country
European culture vibes
Active cultural scene
Beautiful city with architectural diversity
Amazing street art
Lots of work opportunities
Lots of work in hospitality and tourism (especially in summer)
A bit cheaper than Sydney
Housing is quite expensive but you can find shared accommodation easily
Melbourne is well known for its changeable weather conditions.:
During Summer (Dec – Feb) Temperatures range between 14° & 25°. Tops temperatures are in January and Feb.
In autumn (March – May) The weather is cooler with average temperatures ranging from 10°-20°.
In winter (June – August) Temperatures range between6°-14°. Heavy rain is rare at this time of year but the weather is cold and cloudy.
In Spring (Sept – Nov) Average temperatures range from 10° et 19°. This season is known as the most variable of the year, it can be sunny for an hour and cold and windy in no time.
Perth is the most isolated city in the country. Isolated on the west coast, the city keeps growing. It is perfect for those who wish to disconnect and discover the west coast. It is also a good choice if you want to work in construction, mining etc.
Cost of living
Nice CBD with shops and restaurants
Nice beaches close to the centre
Nice weather all year round
Perfect starting point to visit the West Coast
More opportunities than other cities
Growing city with lots of opportunities in building industry
Surrounding areas eligible to renew your WHV
Cost of living more affordable
Housing: Cost approx $180/week for a shared accommodation
During Summer (Dec – Feb) The weather is hot and dry with very little rainfall. Average temperatures range from 17°-30°.
In Autumn (March – May) Average temperatures range between 13° and 26°
In Winter (June – August) temperatures are ranging from 8°-19°. The weather is cold and wet.
During Spring (Sept – Nov) days are warm and sunny.
The city of churches has a lot to offer. It is a small city but a great opportunity to find a job in the city of the Hills.
Cost of living
Small and welcoming city
Wineries and lors of farms in the area
Lots of opportunities
Salaries are lower than in other cities
Work available in the city and surroundings
Cost of life is cheaper than other big cities
Housing is also more affordable
Adelaide has mild winters and a warm summers.:
In summer (Dec – Feb) average temperatures range from 16°- 29° The city enjoys the lowest humidity of any Australian city.
In Autumn (March – May) the weather is nice with average temperatures between 12°- 23°.
In Winter (June – August) average temperatures drop to between 8°-16°. June is the wettest month.
In Spring (Sept – Nov) average temperatures range between 12°-22°
Cairns, tropical city is the best gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Laid-back city, with a swimming lagoon, it is the perfect place to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle.
Cost of living
Perfect gateway to the Great Barrier Reef
Excursions and national parks to discover
High demand for manpower for high season
Lots of opportunities in tourism and hospitality
Housing : Affordable compare to other cities.
Cairns knows hot summer and nice winters :
In Summer (Dec – Feb) temperatures range between 24°-31°. The wet season begins building up in December.
In Autumn (March – May) it is still warm and temperatures ranges between 21°- 29°.
In Winter (June – August) brings cooler temperatures and lower humidity, it is the best season to visit the area
In Springs (Sept – Nov) average temperatures range from 20°-29°. This is the end of the dry season and humidity starts to build with the onset of the wet season from December.
Brisbane is known for its warm or hot weather for most of the year. With an average of 283 days of sunshine every year, Brisbane is a vibrant city, full of surprises.
Cost of living
Average of 283 days of sunshine per year
Plenty of parks
More relaxed than Melbourne and Sydney
Southbank artificial beach
Close to Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast
Less competition than Sydney and Melbourne
Housing: $160 for a shared accommodation
Brisbane enjoys a subtropical climate
During Summer (Dec – Feb) Average temperatures range from 21°-30°. In summer important rainfalls can bring thunderstorms and occasional floods.
In Autumn (March – May) average temperatures drop between 15°-25°.
During Winter (June – August)is dry and mild with temperatures between 11°- 21°
In Spring (Sept – Nov) is quite similar to the autumn with average temperature between 15°-25°
Select your city depending on Seasons in Australia
The first aspect you will want to consider is the season of your arrival. Note that the seasons in Australia are reversed in comparison to the northern hemisphere, so keep in mind that while it might be summer in your home country, it’s winter in Australia.
December to February: Summer
Summer in Australia is the time to visit the southern states of the country (NSW, VIC, SA, TAS and the south of WA). Generally speaking, it gets very hot, temperatures ranging from 25 to 40 degrees (celsius), sometimes even higher than that! In Sydney, the weather can vary a lot, as the intense heat waves can cause rain and thunderstorms. But, as you might have guessed, the weather is normally very nice and warm.
March to May: Autumn
During autumn, you can move around more or less the entire country. Most of the southern areas of Australia will be facing between 20 and 25 degrees. It is also when the wet season in the northern part ends, though it will still be very hot and humid. The risk of floods will nevertheless continue to exist, so be careful!
June to August: Winter
During winter, the ideal region is the Top End, so the northern part of Australia (Northern Territory and the north of Queensland). That’s when the dry season starts, and it doesn’t get as hot (still 30 to 35 degrees though).
The southern part of the country can get pretty cold, resulting in snow in Victoria’s alps!! In Sydney or Melbourne, winter knows reasonable temperatures, ranging from 10 degrees in the morning t0 18 degrees during the day. Generally, winter is pretty sunny and temperatures feel hotter than they are.
September to November: Spring
Spring in Australia brings a bit of everything. It can be very dangerous in the north, as wet season officially starts in October. Thus, it starts to get very hot and humid in that part of the country. This season is ideal for discovering the south without having to suffer extremely hot temperatures and the vast number of tourists.
Good to know: The big holidays in Australia start in mid-December and finish at the end of January, so that is when there are enormous amounts of tourists accompanied by higher hotel and camping prices.
Your trip – What places do you want to see?
You can also pick your city of arrival based on your itinerary in Australia. Thus, it is important to create a travel plan while taking the climate and fruit picking seasons into account. Even if you don’t end up following it exactly, it will allow you to evaluate your progress compared to your initial plans, which will eventually help you with readjusting your route or travel. You wouldn’t want to miss out on anything, would you?
Also, don’t underestimate the distances within the country!! Don’t count with 100km=1 hour of driving. You are here to enjoy the landscape and the culture, not to hurry through it as fast as possible!! It’s not a race 😉 . Sometimes it’s better to sacrifice seeing one part of the country to really enjoy the rest. If you don’t have time to stop at interesting & beautiful locations, it’s not worth your time…
If you are here for a year and you plan to tour around the entire country, divide Australia into four parts. Give yourself three months per quarter, that will be sufficient time to discover it. Don’t forget the working part of the experience; consider when (maybe even where) you want to earn a couple more dollars to fill up your travel piggy bank and consider that you will be staying at the same place for at least one or two months. Thus, it is difficult to find a really good and trustworthy route.
Your working holiday budget
Prices for flight tickets to Australia vary from season to season and depend on which city you’re landing in. In the north, for example, high season (= more expensive flights) is during Australian winter. In the south the main season is around and during the Christmas holidays. Your departure date can thus help you make decision on where exactly you want to fly to. If you find a great deal for a flight to Melbourne, for example, that might also help you with your choice.
Covid info : You wont have to undergo a compulsory quarantine if you land in NSW, VIC or ACT.
Check Australia to open borders for more information.
Buying a vehicle in Australia: The best time and the best place
The next choice you will have to make is the following: Do you want to buy or rent a car/campervan for your travel? If you choose to buy one, know that vans will be more expensive if you land in Sydney during the high season (October to January). And yes, the famous rule about supply and demand really does apply!! That’s when there are a lot of potential buyers, so the prices go up!! On the other hand, if you arrive in June, you can make very good deals, some vans are sold from as little as $1000 onward s because the sellers can’t find any buyers. But if you arrive in a smaller city or mid-season, you might have troubles finding a vehicle at all.
For more information on the budget: Budget for your working holiday in Australia
Your wishes & desires
The choice of your arrival city in Australia very much depends on your taste. Some people dream about Sydney, others want to discover Melbourne… It also depends on what you are expecting on arrival!
Sydney seems like the logical city to start in. It’s the best known and most touristy city in Australia.
Melbourne comes in second place, it attracts a lot of Europeans thanks to its small streets and laneways and its Victorian charm.
Brisbane is often chosen by backpackers because it is very, very sunny (300 sunny days per year!!) and only two steps away from the Gold Coast.
Perth is very isolated due to its location on the west coast, but it is growing!! Perfect for those who wish to get away as fast as possible and discover the wildest part of Australia.
Adelaide, the city of churches, is a small city that let’s you escape the crazy backpackers.
Cairns, on the north-eastern coast, is a small, tropical city and the main point of departure for the Great Barrier Reef.
Darwin, in the Northern Territory, could also be an option if you intend to arrive in Australia during winter months (June to August).
Good to know: If you want to discover more abandoned and less packed places, aim for Australia’s north and west coast. On the other hand, those who are not comfortable camping should probably start on the east coast. It is more civilised, you will have access to more services (like showers, toilets, supermarkets…) and it is less isolated.
Finding a job in Australia
If you want to work in fruit picking, it is inevitable to have a look at the fruit picking calendar to arrive at the right place at the right time for seasonal picking. It is also recommended arriving two weeks before planning on starting work, so you can sort out all the paper work, maybe find a car and, most importantly, find a farm before they are full!!
If you want to work in the city, you don’t have to be as cautious. Generally, we would advise you to avoid Sydney and Brisbane during high season, as you will encounter a lot of competition (without taking all the students on their summer break into consideration). But those big cities are also the places that offer the most opportunities and jobs. Nevertheless, cities like Adelaide and Perth can also be good to relax and work at the same time with less backpackers looking for work.
I think you now understand that there are numerous criteria that can be taken into account when picking your city of landing. It’s an important aspect of your travel in Australia, but our last advice is the following:
“Don’t worry too much!! Above all, good luck, lovely encounters with people from all over the world and the unexpected adventures are what is going to make your journey a success.”