Canada, Australia and New Zealand are some of the most popular destinations for a WHV. So, how do you choose which one is best for you? I’ve done WHVs in all three countries, so I’ll help talk you through the benefits of each, based on my experience. Or who knows, maybe you’ll be like me and decide you want to visit all three!

Best for hiking: New Zealand

WHV hiking new zealand
If you’re into hiking and the great outdoors, you’ll want to consider a WHV in New Zealand, a paradise for nature lovers. You might have already heard of some of New Zealand’s most famous hikes, such as the Tongariro Crossing, the Hooker Valley track and Roy’s Peak.

The tramping scene (hiking is called “tramping” in NZ!) is huge, with options for all abilities, from short walks to multi-day treks. The North and South Islands offer drastically different scenery and the best way to explore the diverse landscapes is on foot.

If you’re interested in a memorable multi-day tramp, why not book into one of the Department of Conservation’s huts as an alternative to camping?

Best for snowsports: Canada

Skiing Whistler Blackcomb
It’s probably not surprising that Canada should be your top pick if you want to experience a proper winter. There is no better place to ski or snowboard than in the heart of the Rockies or the famous Whistler Blackcomb mountains.

Make the most of the country’s long winters—you don’t even have to head to the ski resorts, as the cities come alive with ice skating rinks and snowshoeing in the local parks. You could even treat yourself to dog sledding for a true Canadian experience.

Best for beaches: Australia

If the snow isn’t for you, you’re bound to love relaxing on the beach. Global rankings of the world’s best beaches always include several from Australia, so you’ll be spoilt for choice on a WHV down under.

If you want a party vibe, Bondi in Sydney is the place to be. For pure white sands and blue waters, head to the Whitsundays in Queensland or to Western Australia. You can’t really go wrong in WA, but some of my personal favourites include Lucky Bay (Esperance), where you might see kangaroos on the sand, and Elephant Rocks (Denmark), named because of the unique rock formations that resemble—you guessed it—elephants.

Best for road trips: Canada

Really, all three countries are amazing for road trips. Whether you’ve rented a car or you’re trying out campervan life, the best way to explore the entire country, including remote or off-the-beaten-track locations, is by road tripping.

However, Canada is the one place I think you’d be doing a disservice by not road tripping. In Australia, many backpackers have a great time travelling the East Coast via public transport. In New Zealand, there are not necessarily famous drives; moreso beautiful locations connected by not-very-beautiful roads (sorry!).

From the Sea to Sky Highway to the Icefields Parkway, the best parts of Canada are only really accessible by driving (or an expensive tour!). Plus, you can easily cross the border into the US and open up a whole other world of road tripping—think Route 66 or the Pacific Coast!

Best for wildlife: Australia

I want to preface this by saying Australia is also the worst for wildlife, in the sense that it has poisonous snakes and spiders, deadly crocs and jellyfish, and all manner of other critters that could kill you… But it’s the best place I’ve been for cool wildlife, too!

Of course, all three countries have unique wildlife—think kiwis and tuataras in NZ or bears and moose in Canada. But Australia has the widest range of exotic creatures that you can’t meet organically anywhere else in the world.

The quokkas on Rottnest Island and snorkelling with manta rays in Ningaloo are two of my life highlights. I also volunteered with dingos and met some amazing wildlife rescuers who work with precious animals like koalas, wombats and Tasmanian devils.

If you’re an animal lover (and you can be brave…), you’ll enjoy Australia.

Best for budget: New Zealand

If you’re travelling on a tight budget, you can run into difficulties in Australia and Canada. They’re big countries that are pricey to cross from coast to coast. Major hubs like Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto and Vancouver consistently rank as some of the most expensive cities in the world.

In New Zealand, many of the main attractions are focused on getting outdoors and away from (expensive) city life. Importantly, you rarely have to pay entry to national parks here!

Experiences like volunteering for bed and board, couchsurfing, van life or living in a backpackers (another name for hostels in NZ) are commonplace, which can help your money stretch further, as long as you avoid settling in tourist traps like Queenstown!

If you do choose to work on your WHV, wages can be high, so you stand a good chance of breaking even or even generating some savings.

Best for mini-breaks: Canada

PVT / WHV Canada
The most important part of a working holiday is the “holiday” and, for multiple reasons, I think Canada has the best options for mini-breaks in between your periods of work. First, I love the diverse range of travelling you can do within Canada itself—the city break you’ll have in Montreal will be completely different to a hiking adventure in the Rockies or an escape to nature on Vancouver Island. Second, I love its proximity to the US, making weekends away in New York, Chicago or Seattle a real possibility. Third, I love how it’s geographically closer to the rest of the world than Australia or New Zealand.

One of the big reasons I didn’t want to settle in Oz or NZ was because I am obsessed with travel. Travel becomes a real chore when flights take up to 24 hours to get from A to B (not to mention the costs…). Living in Toronto, I am only a seven-hour flight away from Europe, and closer to other major backpacking spots like South and Central America.

Best for making friends: Australia or New Zealand

programme vacances travail pvt
I couldn’t really separate these two, as I think the countries are on par with each other; both have friendly locals and a vibrant backpacker/expat scene.

Obviously, it depends where you go—in rural areas, sometimes the locals will distrust you or keep you as an outsider. But, especially on the main tourist routes, the hostels, bars and events are full of other travellers, so it’s easier to meet like-minded people. It’s also common for people to post on Facebook looking for road trip buddies or to create meet-up groups.

Don’t despair; even if you end up in a rural area, there are plenty of resources to help with making friends.

Best for big cities: Australia or Canada

I’m a city girl who normally lives near London in England, and I found that even New Zealand’s biggest cities—I stayed in both Auckland and Christchurch for a month, and Wellington for six months—weren’t big or loud enough for me. So, if you’re craving skyscrapers and hustle and bustle, you’re better off picking Australia or Canada. I loved Sydney but found that Melbourne had the most going on in terms of socialising, food and nightlife. Similarly, I love Vancouver but picked busier Toronto to settle in.

Best for food: Canada

Thanks to its multiculturalism, Canada’s big cities have some of the best food out there. One of the reasons I chose Toronto for my WHV was because of the diverse range of cuisines, not too dissimilar to what I’m used to in London.

Whilst you can’t beat an Aussie chicken parma, it’s nice to be able to have Ethiopian food one day, Mexican the next, then Japanese, Italian and so on—and for it to all taste reasonably authentic. Of course, if you settle in a city in Australia or New Zealand, you can still access a lot of good food, but if you’re going rural, be prepared to eat a lot of meat, veg and potatoes, and not much else!

Best for coffee: Australia or New Zealand

shutterstock_532174543 - coffee
If I had to choose based on city alone, my winner would be Melbourne, Australia. I almost wish I’d never tried a Melbourne coffee because now I’ve turned into a coffee snob, and I know how bad coffee everywhere else really tastes!

However, if I was basing my vote on an overall country, New Zealand would win. Even in tiny village stores, the coffee was of such high quality, you didn’t have to worry where you were ordering from; it was probably going to be good. The same can’t be said for Australia, where even in big cities like Sydney, it was very hit-and-miss…

Also, whoever invented the iced coffee (mixing coffee with ice cream and cream) deserves a knighthood!

Best for immigration paths: Canada

canada immigration PR
Not everyone wants to use a WHV to fuel wanderlust or backpack around on a gap year. Some want to use it as a way to start a new life; a stepping stone to permanent residency and citizenship. Since most WHV countries want the visa they grant you to be primarily about the “holiday” and not about settling down, you can run into restrictions. If PR is a goal, I would avoid Australia, for example, because you can only work for six months with the same employer there, making it hard to find someone to sponsor you.

In Canada, I have met more people applying for PR. The fact you can work for the same employer for the entirety of your IEC permit allows more people to gain enough points for Express Entry. This makes Canada a popular choice with people looking for more than a simple 12-month WHV.

Best overall…

If I had to choose just one country, it would be Australia… which might be controversial, given I am currently in Canada! But I think Australia is an all-rounder destination that anyone can enjoy. You can experience every climate and pace of life possible in just one country. Whether you’re an aspiring surfer, beach bum, wildlife warrior, van lifer or city dweller, you will find something to like about Australia.

The real answer, however, is that nobody except yourself is going to be able to answer this one. It will come down to what kind of lifestyle you enjoy and what you want to get out of your WHV. Looking to escape the busy rat race and invest in some R&R? New Zealand is waiting for you. Interested in the grandeur of North America or working a ski season? Canada is the country for you!


I'm originally from Buckinghamshire, UK and love to travel. I've previously completed WHVs in New Zealand and Australia. In 2024, I am embarking on a new adventure to start my Canadian WHV!

Je suis originaire de Buckinghamshire, Royaume-Uni, et j’adore voyager. J’ai déjà complété un PVT en Nouvelle-Zélande et en Australie. En 2024, je pars pour une nouvelle aventure au Canada en PVT!

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Jackson I |

Reread this article and it’s still a banger. Thanks for sharing!