Backpackers in Australia are required to work 88 days on a rural farm to obtain a second-year working holiday visa. Many travellers have done it, but we have the inside story from Lainey Quinn, aka Little Miss Sunray, who is on Day 20 of her rural work in Tully, Queensland. Lainey is loving it (so far!) and lists her top ten attractions in Queensland.
What rural work are you doing?
I am a banana peeler in Mackays Warehouse in Tully, Queeensland. My working day starts at 2pm when I am picked up by my supervisor outside my working hostel, Banana Barracks. The first thing I do when I get to the warehouse is make a cup of tea and after that I get ready to work. Each worker has to be fully protected, so hairnets, plastic gloves and sleeves and an apron have to be worn, then into the ‘cold room’ we go. We peel on average 3,200kg of bananas each day, which are then sealed into boxes and frozen, ready to be used for smoothies.
Where are you staying and was it easy to find accommodation?
I was chatting to another backpacker on my Whitsundays tour about farm work and she recommended I go to the Banana Barracks. I contacted the Barracks and was told to come out as soon as possible as there was work available straight away. It turned out that there actually wasn’t work for another two weeks, so I used that time to work on my travel blog and get settled in properly.
The accommodation here is very basic. You have a choice of staying in the dorms (eight people per room) or in a bungalow with three other people. I chose the bungalow because there is air conditioning and a TV in the room (the dorms have neither), but I quickly realised that the air conditioning doesn’t work in mine. The temperature reached 46 degrees last week and it has been three weeks since I asked for it to be fixed. As you can imagine, this heat is very different to Ireland, so it’s hard to get used to!
How did you get your peeling job?
The office manager of Banana Barracks contacts all the nearby banana farmers and finds everyone work. It’s luck of the draw and you take whatever you are given.
What are the most popular farm jobs backpackers get?
Banana farming is huge in Queensland and especially Tully. Most women work in sheds packing and sorting bananas and the men will ‘hump’ bananas (carry banana bunches from the trees on to a moving trailer). The men who can’t hump will either string banana bunches up in trees or inject the fruit with pesticides. I was very lucky to get a peeling job as it is the most well-paid banana job and is relatively easy compared to the shed jobs.
Other rural jobs that backpackers get in different areas of Australia include picking strawberries, melons, papayas, and cotton, while some manage to find work in mining towns or charcoal factories.
Do you enjoy doing your farm work?
It was hard to get used to, especially after the madness of travelling up the East Coast prior to this, but I love it now. You meet a lot of backpackers and make lifelong friends in small towns like this and the locals are also great craic.
A lot of Irish people seem to just settle down in Bondi Beach as soon as they arrive in Australia and find jobs with the hope of getting sponsored (and skipping their farm work). Aside from Tully being the wettest area of Australia, and it currently being cyclone season, I am really enjoying being away from everything commercial and ‘touristy’ and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
How do you spend your free time in Tully?
There are a few creeks nearby that are great for hikes, but you have to keep your wits about you because the waters are infested with crocodiles. There is also white-water rafting and sky-diving nearby, both of which I have yet to do. Alternatively, you can catch the Greyhound bus to Cairns for the weekend and party it up!
What are your plans after your farm work?
I am quite spontaneous with my travel plans. I recently decided that I am going to pop over to Asia as soon as I finish my farm work and do some travelling there.
I also want to visit a Muay Thai training camp in North Thailand and spend a good bit of time travelling around Vietnam. After that, I’ll return to Australia to save up more money and then travel around South America afterwards.
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Top 10 Attractions in Queensland
There is a multitude of incredible things to do in Queensland, otherwise known as Australia’s ‘Sunshine State’, and when you travel this far in the world, you have to experience life to the fullest. Here, Lainey Quinn shares her top 10 attractions in Queensland.
- Great Barrier Reef
Put your flippers and life jacket on and get ready to immerse yourself in a tranquil marine world where fish, turtles and plants of all sizes and colours will excite and delight you. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the few places in the world where this kind of underworld view can be enjoyed so freely and easily. It is the world’s largest living structure (2,300km long) and can even be seen from space.
- Fraser Island
Tap into your adventurous side and go wild with four-wheel driving, dunes and dingoes on the World Heritage Site-listed Fraser Island. Camp at night in the wilderness, visit sacred aboriginal sites, and bathe in Lake McKensie.
- Daintree National Park
Hike through the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, swim in hidden creeks and get up close and personal with cassowaries, crocodiles, koalas and rat-kangaroos. This park harbours the most rare and endangered species of animals and flora of any area in the world, so it is definitely a must-see.
- Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail
Chug past multi-hued rock formations, cute waterfalls and lush forests on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Explore the charming village of Kuranda on the Atherton Tableland and hop on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Take incredible photos of the Barron Gorge and tropical rainforests from heights at least 545 metres above sea level.
- Josephine Falls
Put on your swimming gear, grab a few friends and a picnic and head to the tiered cascade waterfall at Josephine Falls, Cairns. It makes for the perfect day out and is also child friendly. Plunge down the natural waterslide and relax in the crystal-clear waters with the tranquil rainforest backdrop setting.
- Whitsunday Islands
Prepare for your mind to be blown when you see the natural wonders of the Whitsunday Islands. Take a day trip to Whitehaven Beach, one of the most incredible coastal sights in Australia and try your hand at diving, surfing and snorkelling.
- Bundaberg Distillery
Visit the home of Australia’s most popular rum and take a tour around the Bundaberg Rum Distillery. Afterwards, go for a relaxing walk in the nearby Mon Repos Regional Park, home to the most sea turtles in one place.
- Magnetic Island
Spend a few days on the ‘Koh Pha Ngan’ island of Australia and prepare to be dazzled by the tropical beauty, unspoilt coastlines and tranquil surroundings. If you’re a party animal, head to the island for New Year’s Eve and experience Australia’s only Full Moon Party.
Known as the birthplace of Queensland and a town with a very strange name, 1770 is a popular stop for travellers for its Scooteroo tour. Hop on a Harley Davidson and go for a spin around the town at 80mph – but eep an eye out for kangaroos, of which there are plenty.
- Glass House Mountains
Experience the jaw-dropping landscapes of the Glass House Mountains at Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Climb the craggy peaks of Mount Beerwah, the highest of the 10 volcanic plugs in the mountains, and abseil down the cliff face. Don’t forget to get a panoramic shot of the view from the Wild Horse Mountain lookout.