Everything you actually have to do on your year out in Australia
From the grads that packed up and moved down under
Australia – a land of long, sandy beaches, sprawling deserts, and tall people with golden tans.
If you’re one of the apparent few who hasn't been, you're probably feeling left out, due to the growing number of smug photos your friends post on Facebook. We get it, there’s a massive opera house.
But there's so much more to Australia than that. Where else can you live your best foodie life in Melbourne, get up and close to wildlife on South Australia's Kangaroo Island, see the incredible landscape and iconic Uluru in the heart of the Northern Territory and then have the best drive of your life cruising down the Great Ocean Road?
We're here to tell you that Australia is the best place to go for a working holiday – heading to the beach after work and spending weekends camping in the Outback or trekking the Blue Mountains all in the glorious sunshine sounds pretty idyllic.
We've spoken to students and grads who've worked, lived and breathed the Aussie lifestyle and they've shared their inside knowledge about the best places you absolutely cannot miss. You won't feel like a gap year tourist.
Meet the students and grads
Mike lived in Australia for a year, worked as a waiter in Sydney and on a cattle ranch in New South Wales.
Lived in Australia for nine months. She worked as an au pair and in a frozen yoghurt store in Perth.
Lived in Australia for ten months. Iona was a waitress in Sydney.
The East Coast
On both you sail for about three days, sleep, eat and drink on the boat and then just dive, snorkel and explore for the rest of the time.
Iona: All of the beaches, especially Whitehaven Beach, are phenomenal and the little spots you discover make it a really unforgettable experience.
Things to do
Mike: There's a population of dolphins who come and nurse their young in one of the bays there, so if you hire a kayak and paddle out there you'll be surrounded by them.
The main beach is also incredible, you could easily spend all of your time there.
Lucy: The lighthouse walk – you can go up the lighthouse for free and it looks directly on the bay where all the dolphins like to hang out.
Iona: There are loads of great vintage stores to check out around the area.
Where to eat and drink
Bay Leaf Cafe: Has really good veggie options and the best coffee in town.
The Farm and The Three Blue Ducks: By far the best brunch spot in all of Byron Bay.
The Rails: An amazing live music venue with good food and great craft beer.
Cheeky Monkey's: Seriously good fun with seriously cheap drinks. It's a dance on the tables kind of establishment.
Woody's Surf Shack: A bit classier than Cheeky Monkey's, but similar vibes – cheap, fun and open till late – what more could you want?
Where to stay
Iona:_ The Arts Factory Backpackers Lodge – there's a huge social area, a really lovely cafe, nice rooms and clean shared bathrooms.
Lucy: Nomads Byron Bay is a fun flashpacker hostel. It's on the main strip and is only ten minutes walk from the beach.
Mike: Byron Bay YHA is great value considering it's right near the beach and next to the best bars in Byron Bay.
Lucy: The things you have to see:
Lake McKenzie: A crystal clear blue lake with an incredible beach attached.
Lake Boomanjin: An amazing lake with a reddy brown tinge due to the tea tree oil from the surrounding trees - does wonders for your skin.
Champagne Pools: Giant rock pools you can swim in as the waves crash over. Because of the texture of the rock, the waves bubble like champagne as they trickle off the rocks into the pools.
Eli Creek: A stream that runs down to the beach. Take some rubber rings and float down - you won’t regret it.
Things to do
Bondi to Coogee coastal walk: It’s a really nice, well maintained boardwalk and you go past seven different beaches.
Glebe Markets: On every Saturday – really big, lots of vintage clothes mixed with independent artists and designers selling their own stuff. A fun, interesting thing to do on the weekend.
Bondi Beach: A special occasion beach. They’ve got designer shops right near the beach with pricey but nice restaurants. The Bondi Baths are well worth a visit.
Manly Beach: Really cool beach, excellent for surfing.
Coogee Beach: Quite touristy but they allow BBQs on the beach.
Darling Harbour: Very touristy, but lovely. You have to get a water taxi - go at night because you speed past the city all lit up.
Museum of Contemporary Arts Australia: A lot of the time they specifically just have Australian artists which is really cool to learn about. And it’s free entry so why not go.
Where to eat and drink
Strawberry Hills Hotel: It was one of those places that everyone ended up at because they do cheap drinks, have fun music and a pool table. Whenever you'd leave a pub or bar at 1am or 2am, this would be the place you came.
Chat Thai: It's about $15 for a meal, but everything on the menu is delicious.
Bourke St. Bakery: Great bakery and cafe in Surry Hills. Excellent brunch after a BNO.
The Beresford: A bar in Surry Hills. You go for a really good lunch and will end up staying all day and night – it's huge, plus there's a club upstairs.
The Glenmore: The rooftop of the pub gives you a great view of the opera house and over the harbours, without the price tag of harbour-side bars.
The Baxter Inn: A hidden speakeasy in the Central Business District. It’s a whisky bar and they play jazz music - it’s a bit pricey but really cool.
Soda Factory: In Surry Hills, this is where you can get dollar hot dogs every Tuesday, alongside a movie being projected. It’s an old pin-up style bar, we watched 80s films. On a Saturday it turns into a nightclub.
Kafeine: A nice cafe in Balmain - great coffee and amazing Asian vegan food. The tempeh salad was delicious. Everything in there was super affordable.
Hotel Steyne: A pub at Manly beach – upstairs is a bar called Moonshine where they do reggae every Sunday.
Just outside of Sydney
Mike: Go to the Blue Mountains. It’s really just the perfect weekend out of the city.
Everywhere you look is just a stunning views of massive cliff edges, green forests. The eucalyptus trees release an oil into the air which gives off a kind of blue cloud, which is why they’re called the Blue Mountains.
Iona: There are great campsites just outside of Sydney. They are so cheap and pretty much secluded – at one, we had the whole beach to ourselves. We had drinks, sunbathed, saw whales and dolphins – the perfect weekend.
Things to do
King's Park: Beautiful park in the centre of Perth – there are botanical gardens and an amazing view of the city.
Scarborough Beach: Huge waves so it's really fun. There are a lot of really cool bars and restaurants in the area.
Kayaking and paddle boarding on Swan River: PSA – If you don't like jellyfish, this really isn't for you – Swan River is full of jellyfish. Aside from that, it's a ridiculously fun day. Apart from the jellyfish.
Rottnest Island: There are animals on the island called quokkas which you can take selfies with! If you go on a hot day, you can go snorkelling and the beach is beautiful. It's a bit expensive to get there, but it's definitely something you have to do.
Serpentine Falls: It's about an hour outside of Perth so you'd need a car – it's really nice to go swimming in.
Southbound Music Festival: It's a big festival at the bottom of Perth with all types of music – a bit of electronic, indie and pop. It's not a huge festival – Drake isn't turning up – but it's big enough and genuinely fun.
Where to eat and drink
The Quarie: Really fun, cheap pub in Success. They do a great quiz night every Monday.
Jack Rabbit Slim's: It's a really fun place in Northbridge – it's set-up like Pulp Fiction! They play really good music (indie-ish) as well, honestly you'll have a great night.
Lucky Shag: A really nice bar in Elizabeth Quay – a bit on the expensive side, but it's worth it.
Guzman y Gomez: Cheap, delicious burritos – the kid's pulled pork burrito is only $6 and it's really big.
San Churros: They have a few locations around the city and do the most amazing ice cream and churros.
Working down under
Australia's Working Holiday Visa lets you work in the country for up to 12 months. If the thought of a year of sunshine and beaches sounds like it might be for you, here are the guys top tips for finding a job down under.
Mike: If you're looking to do farm work to get your second visa, I'd advise applying for jobs way before you think you need to. Even when you first get to Australia, start looking for jobs, because it can take months.
Iona: The best way to find a job is signing up to an agency – they'll constantly send work your way.
Lucy: Just going and handing out physical CVs does the trick. Honestly, small businesses are really responsive.
Mike: Oh one last thing – when you eventually leave the country, you can claim back your Supperanuation (retirement fund essentially) which you'll be paying into with every payslip. It's a nice bit of cash to see you through when you get home if you haven't got a job lined up immediately.
Working down under is definitely everything it's cracked up to be. The pay is better, the sun is shining and there are kangaroos and koalas everywhere. Work & Travel in Australia for 12 months and apply for a Working Holiday Visa with STA Travel right now
Image credit to: Mike Pidgeon, Lucy Warren, Iona-Saffron Duffy