The working holidaymakers guide to Port Douglas, Australia
Known for its luxury resorts, high-end restaurants and lavish tours, Port Douglas, Australia may not sound like the ideal backpacker destination.
But someone needs to cook for, serve, guide and clean up after the town’s many visitors. This makes Port Douglas a wonderful choice for twenty-something, working holidaymakers to find a job and much, much more during their year in Australia.
Located in Far North Queensland, most backpackers end up in Port Douglas desperately needing work after a few weeks or months of traveling the country’s east coast, a fun, but expensive trip. The mixture of beautiful beaches, a tent city and hundreds of party-loving travelers make the tropical village a haven for working holidaymakers.
Above all, make sure you have a work holiday visa or proper work permits to work in Australia. The country welcomes foreigners, but can be pretty harsh on people who work illegally in the country.
Those interested in making a home out of Port Douglas during their stay in Oz should arrive at the end of May and stay until about October, this is when the town is busiest and the weather is best. People arriving at this time of year need only to show up and book a room, the rest will fall into place.
To make the transition easier, here are five tips I can offer from my work holiday experience in Port Douglas.
Where to live
Whether you like hostels or not, it’s best to stay at one for the first few weeks of your stay in Port Douglas. Yes, it’s much cheaper than the area’s pricey hotels, but it’s also the best way to make friends and find out about work opportunities in town.
Out of the four or five hostels operating in Port Douglas, Dougies is by far the favorite for for affordability, scenery and community. The large hostel and campground is about a twenty-minute walk away from the town center. Situated across the street from Four Mile Beach, the massive hostel has a pool, bar, kitchen and common area.
What makes this hostel so special?
Tent City. Located behind the dormitories, the camp area is packed with tents amongst jungle scenery. Filled with backpackers, tent city is a sort of travel commune. To top it all off, the resort only charges campers $75 per person, per week and your tent can be as large and lavish as you want. In fact, some of the tents here have refrigerators, televisions, mattresses and decor inside. It’s perfect for people who value their privacy, but enjoy the hostel life.
But camping in the tropics or hostel life in general isn’t for everyone, especially not for long periods of time. If you are planning to stay in Port Douglas for six months or longer, it might be a good idea to lease an apartment. With a few roommates this can be as cheap as $80 a week.
Those that don’t want to be tied down to an apartment can always rent a room somewhere. The best way to find one is by asking the locals at work or in town. They might have space or know a friend that does. Also, check for postings on bulletin boards at hostels or around town, read the town’s weekly newspaper, Port Douglas and Mossman Gazette. Gum Tree isn’t a good source in Port Douglas, but it’s always worth a try.
Where to work
It’s good to arrive in Port Douglas early to get first pick of the job market. That said, the start of the season can be pretty slow, so you might not receive a lot of hours until about a month in.
Most of the jobs offered here are in hospitality and tourism. Chef is probably the most readily-availble position in town. People can also find work as a divemaster/instructor, tour guide, waiter or waitress, housekeeper or bartender. That said, it is possible to find other jobs here. A newspaper, medical center and other businesses operate out the town.
The best way to find work in Port Douglas is to prepare a great CV and walk around town handing it out. People interested in work as a chef or server can pretty much visit all over town, but the bulk of the restaurants are located on Macrossan Street. Those interested in working on a dive boat should visit Marina Mirage.
Hotels lining Port Douglas Road require large staffs for positions in housekeeping, concierge or in their restaurants. For boutique hotels, it would be best to just visit and speak with a manager. This can also be said for larger hotels and resorts, but look out for when they’ll be hosting open interviews or job fairs. Large hotel companies will usually post ads about this in the local paper.
People should also look out for postings at hostels. To be honest, I just wouldn’t bother searching for work online, it’s more effective to search in person here.
Also keep hostel work in mind. A lot of hostels trade free accommodation in return for few hours work there a week. You can also find paid work at hostels. If you are staying at the hostel in which you receive paid work, they might offer you discounted room rates. Living where you work has its ups and downs.
Where to party
After all the basics are covered, money and shelter, it’s time to have a bit of fun. Port Douglas is by no means a party town, but party-loving backpackers always find a way to make this place exciting at night and throughout the day.
While the best place to party changes each year, Iron Bar is always a great place to start. The centrally located bar has karaoke every Tuesday, live bands every week and usually stays open the latest on Macrossan Street.
Other great bars to check out, include Court House Hotel, Rattle n’ Hum, Central Hotel and Paddy’s Irish Pub. The town has heaps more bars and restaurants that will host parties throughout the season, so be on the look out.
Outside of the town center, Dougies hosts themed parties throughout the year. You’ll also hear about house and beach parties if you’re living here for the season.
What to do in town
The area has loads of activities and attractions, but if your making Port Douglas your home, you’ll probably be more likely to try low-key things. Of course Four Mile Beach is a great place to spend your days off swimming and playing in the sun. You might also want to try weekly activities like film nights at Central, $5 fish and chips at Lure and dinner deals at the Tin Shed. Basically, the more time you spend here, the more you’ll hear about things to do.
How to get there
Port Douglas is located just off Captain Cook Highway, about an hour north of Cairns. It’s easy to reach by car. Those traveling around Australia using public transportation must arrive in Cairns first.
The Queensland city has an airport and is easily reached by bus. From Cairns, use Sun Palm to get to Port Douglas. The local transit service charges $35 for a one way trip from Cairns city or airport to wherever your destination is in Port Douglas. They also offer transit around town and its surrounding areas.
Also, if you book your accommodation before arrival, check to see if the hostel or hotel offers free pick ups from Cairns.