“Where should I begin my Oz Working Holiday adventure?” This is a common dilemma for working holiday makers—some have a city in mind but others find it hard to choose where to begin. We have a few tips to help you make your decision! Read on for a complete overview of Australia’s major cities and their pros and cons.

Congrats, you got your Working Holiday Visa (WHV)! The next step is booking your ticket to Australia. But where should you fly to? Darwin, Brisbane, Cairns, Perth, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Melbourne or Sydney? Australia is a big country and there are dozens of tempting options!

This article offers an overview of all of Australia’s major cities and highlights their advantages and disadvantages for starting a WHV adventure.


Let’s start with Australia’s most popular city, home of the iconic and worldwide famous Sydney Opera House. Sydney is a favourite among working holiday makers and it’s easy to see why—it has a lot going for it.

For working holiday makers, Sydney offers…

Lovely weather
With 300 days of sunshine and an average of 15 °C in winter and 26 °C in summer, you will be able to make the most of the city’s beaches and water sports.

A dynamic living environment
Sydney is a great place to live. If you’re not used to big cities, it’s the perfect compromise between nature and your typical urban jungle. With tons of restaurants, bars, activities, museums and more, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy during your WHV adventure. Several popular beaches are relatively close to the city centre, including Bondi Beach and Manly Beach.

An attractive job market
You’re probably going to find a job easily in the service, hospitality or food industries in Sydney. Companies have been desperately looking for workers since the end of the pandemic.

A great place to meet other backpackers
Sydney is a backpacker hotspot. It’s a great place to meet travellers from all over the world, from foreign students to working holiday makers.

However, keep these drawbacks in mind…

Hard-to-find accommodation
It’s not easy to find accommodation in Sydney—hostels, rooms for rent and Airbnbs are all quite expensive, especially if you want a clean, comfortable place.

One of Australia’s most expensive cities
The cost of living in Australia is high, and this is especially true in Sydney. It costs a lot to rent and going out, among other things, is expensive. If you choose Sydney as your destination, you’ll need to budget well for the start of your trip.


You’ll find Brisbane nearly 1,000 kilometres north of Sydney. This destination is becoming very popular with backpackers. Here’s what you need to know about Queensland’s largest city.

For working holiday makers, Brisbane offers…

Outdoor activities and a lot of fun
If you like sports and outdoor activities, Brisbane is the right place for you. No beaches here, but there is a fun artificial lagoon waiting for you.

A cosy urban environment
If you don’t want to live in a city as big as Sydney, Brisbane is a much more “reasonable” size. You’ll quickly get used to the different neighbourhoods and transportation options to get from one place to another.

An attractive job market
As in Sydney, there’s no shortage of work! You can quickly find opportunities in catering, hospitality and cooking. You can add fruit-picking jobs to this list with farms close enough to the city. If you want to gain the required experience to renew your visa and sign up for a second or third WHV, this is the ideal place to start your adventure.

However, keep in mind this drawback…

A humid climate
Brisbane’s humid climate can sometimes be tiring, especially if you’re not used to tropical weather. The city is also prone to flooding in summer (November to February).


Cairns, Queensland’s fifth most populous city is in the north-east of Australia. Located close to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns has plenty to offer over other Australian cities.

For working holiday makers, Cairns offers…

Easy access to must-see environments
Cairns is close to many of Australia’s must-see natural wonders, including the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest. A visit to Cairns is a guaranteed change of scenery!

A peaceful place to live
Cairns is one of Australia’s major cities, but it’s still relatively small compared to Sydney and Melbourne, for example. If you like peace, quiet and nature, living in Cairns is the perfect compromise.

However, keep in mind this drawback…

A stop rather than a destination
Cairns may not be a great place if you’re planning to settle down for most of your WHV. Indeed, the job search can be more difficult than in other cities. Backpackers typically start their WHV adventure in Cairns then embark on a road trip along Australia’s east coast and eventually settle in another city to find work. Cairns is relatively small so travellers tend to move on quickly.


Darwin, the largest city in northern Australia, is in the Northern Territory. It’s (relatively!) close to Southeast Asia—like many Australians, you could easily take a side trip to Bali, for example.

For working holiday makers, Darwin offers…

A festive atmosphere
Despite its small size, Darwin is a party town. The city’s main street is lined with hostels and bars. If you like partying, meeting new people, and living in a small town, go for it!

A solid job market
It’s relatively easy to find a job in Darwin.

Easy access to Indonesia
Darwin is a short two-hour flight to Bali so this is a great opportunity to discover another country and continent during your WHV.

However, keep these drawbacks in mind…

A typical tropical climate
Darwin’s climate is tropical with a dry season from May to September and a wet/rainy season in summer. This is something to keep in mind when making your final decision, depending on your departure date. During the Southern Hemisphere summer months, the weather can be warm and sunny, as well as rainy and flood-prone. This time of year is known as the “wet season.”

A concentration of predators
Before booking a one-way ticket to Darwin, you should know that the area is famous for its marine crocodiles and other reptiles. Of course, these animals can be found all over Australia, but there are many of them in this region. Fortunately, you shouldn’t come across many during your trip. We tell you more about some of the dangerous wildlife you could encounter in Australia here.

A tiny town
Like with Cairns, few working holiday makers will spend their entire year in Darwin. The city, though festive, is small and you quickly get the hang of it. It’s more of a stop on the way for many backpackers.

Alice Springs

Alice Springs lies in the middle of the desert, close to one of Australia’s most famous landmarks—Uluru. It’s probably one of the most remote places in Australia. Looking for a unique adventure during your WHV? Remote, spiritual and fascinating Alice Springs may be just what you’re looking for.

For working holiday makers, Alice Springs offers…

A unique experience
Being in the middle of the desert, right in the centre of Australia, can be a dream come true. If you’re looking for remoteness, unique landscapes and a back-to-basics experience, Alice Springs is the place for you.

A great job market
With its unique geographical location, Alice Springs is not usually backpackers’ favourite destination. As a result, competition is low, so it’s relatively easy to find work in this part of Australia. This can be interesting if you’re looking to make a quick buck at the start of your WHV.

However, keep these drawbacks in mind…

An extreme climate
Temperatures are extreme in Alice Springs—let’s not forget it’s a city right in the middle of the desert. On average, temperatures range from 36 °C to 45 °C in January and can drop as low as 19 °C in July.

Rising crime rates
Backpackers settling in Alice Springs should be aware of, and follow, the state guidance regarding public safety. These include basics like not walking alone at night and not leaving valuables exposed, due to reports of theft and mugging. There have also been instances of temporary curfews after dark issued to try and cut down on the rise in crime. Remember, however, that any major city will have issues with crime and it should not put you off travelling as long as you are careful and sensible.

Total isolation
Alice Springs may be a difficult place to stay in the long term. It’s an interesting destination but it’s not necessarily everybody’s kind of lifestyle. In addition to its remoteness, it’s important to bear in mind that life in Alice Springs is more expensive. It’s not a great place to find a good deal on a van, for example.


Perth is the capital of Western Australia and one of Australia’s most isolated cities. It’s a great starting point if you’re planning a road trip on the West Coast, and the city has a lot to offer.

For working holiday makers, Perth offers…

Great weather
Perth’s temperatures are simply perfect. In fact, it’s the sunniest city in Australia. With its Mediterranean climate, Perth is a pleasant city to live in all year round. During the summer (December to March), the weather is always the same—clear skies and temperatures above 30 °C and, during the winter, the climate is rather mild, around 15 °C.

Sightseeing in and around the city
Living in Perth means being able to enjoy all the beauty of Australia’s often overlooked west coast, which is among the most beautiful places in the country. There are many places, neighbourhoods, national parks and nature reserves to discover in this region (including Rottnest Island, where you can meet quokkas). If you love nature, hiking and beaches, this is the perfect destination for you!

Work opportunities
Perth is a great place to work in a wide range of industries, including catering, hospitality, service and construction. Located close to the Outback mines, you can also find work on solar farms, although competition can be tough.

However, keep in mind this drawback…

Perth remains a relatively remote city. Everything is far away, including all the other major Australian cities!


Adelaide is a pleasant city that is often overlooked by working holiday makers. The capital of the state of South Australia is the country’s fifth largest city and according to The Economist’s Global Liveability Index, Adelaide is one of the most liveable cities in the world.

For working holiday makers, Adelaide offers…

A pleasant city
Adelaide is renowned for being a very welcoming, friendly and safe city. If you’re looking for a peaceful city with nature and direct access to the ocean, Adelaide is for you!

A great geographical location
Adelaide can be an ideal starting point for the Outback and Uluru, or for visiting other cities like Melbourne.

However, keep these drawbacks in mind…

A challenging climate
Summers can be very hot in Adelaide, with temperatures above 40 °C. If you’re not a fan of heat and a dry climate, this is a destination to avoid in the hottest months.

A quiet town
Few working holiday makers decide to settle in Adelaide, a city nicknamed the “20-minute-city” because it takes about 20 minutes to walk across it. It’s probably too quiet for some and not many working holiday makers praise it, unlike other Australian cities.


Our tour of Australia ends in Melbourne, the capital of the state of Victoria and among many working holiday makers’ top choices (the Sydney/Melbourne dilemma never ends when it comes to deciding which is the best city!). Melbourne is a city of around 5 million, with cultural influences from all over the world—Chinese, Italian, English, etc.

For working holiday makers, Melbourne offers…

A vibrant city life
If you love big-city dynamics, lively neighbourhoods and cultural diversity, Melbourne is the destination for you! In some ways, it’s similar to Sydney, with built-up areas but a more bohemian atmosphere and an ever-present natural environment.

An employment-friendly region
Melbourne is located in a large agricultural and gastronomic region, which can be an interesting place to find work. There are also many factories close to the city. If you want to find work quickly, Melbourne could be a good option.

However, keep these drawbacks in mind…

Unpredictable and cooler weather
It’s pretty cold in Melbourne and the weather changes quickly. The day can start with very low temperatures, then warm up in the early afternoon, with showers in between. If you love sunny cities, you may be disappointed.

An expensive city where housing is in short supply
It’s not easy to find housing in Melbourne, especially if you don’t want to spend too much money at the start of your WHV. Living in Melbourne is relatively expensive. Once again, the cost of living is very similar to Sydney.

Other determining factors

Still undecided? You can also make your final decision based on these three important factors.

Airfare prices
You can choose where you will start your WHV in Australia based on plane ticket prices. And if you’re planning to travel around the country, your arrival city won’t matter much—you can go wherever it’s cheaper to fly onto.

Surrounding areas
Backpackers who are more attracted to the wild and quiet West Coast tend to arrive in Perth, the only major city on this side of Australia (Darwin can also be a good starting point for a trip down to Perth). On the other hand, there are plenty of options to choose from for the East Coast!

Job market
A growing number of working holiday makers are choosing to land in Perth, on the west, because there’s less competition with other backpackers. That’s not to say that you will find your dream job right away, but there are fewer foreign travellers in Perth and all along the West Coast compared to the East Coast.

Has this article helped you make your choice? Tell us in the comments where you will start your WHV in Australia.


Je suis partie en PVT Australie en avril 2022. Je suis restée 1 année sur place entre road trip à bord de mon van aménagé et travail (dans la restauration, en ferme, en cleaning en vente, en Freelance, etc). Aujourd'hui, j'ai retrouvé ma vie en France, mais je continue d'animer des ateliers pour parler de mon aventure et pour aider ceux qui souhaitent partir en Australie. Et peut-être un prochain PVT, qui sait ?

I went on a Working Holiday Visa to Australia in April 2022. I stayed for one year, combining road trips in my beautiful van and various jobs in areas like hospitality, farming, cleaning, sales, and freelancing. Today, I've returned to my life in France, but I still conduct workshops to share my adventure and assist those who wish to go to Australia. And perhaps another Working Holiday Visa, who knows ?

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