Having a car to get around Australia for a working holiday is highly recommended if you want a choice of jobs.
Australia is big – very big.
Many backpackers from Europe or Asia are very surprised at the large size of the Australian continent. While Australia is well known as an island, it is also the sixth largest country in the world, roughly the same area as continental Europe or mainland USA. The distance from Sydney to Perth is similar to the distance from Madrid to Moscow.
However we have only a small population – around 25 million compared to well over 300 million in the United States and more than double that for Europe. To exaggerate the situation, around 80% of the Australian population lives near the east coast so the rest of the country is sparsely populated.
No public transport where the farms are.
This means that where nearly all the farms are located, away from the cities on the east coast, there is very little public transport. It is possible to get a train or plane to some major regional towns, and some smaller towns on main highways may be supplied by a regular bus service, but not much more than that.
Most accommodation will be in the towns which means you will need to be independent travelling out to the farm each day for work. Although some farms offer somewhere to live while you are working there, it is not common.
Buy your own car.
Buying a second-hand car is the easiest way to ensure you can travel where and when you need. Sharing with one or more fellow travellers will not only provide you with company, it can make it quite inexpensive.
There are companies that specialise in long term hires, especially for the backpacker market. Some even provide camping gear to ensure you have at least a nylon roof over your head. Hiring is usually fine for a few months, but a buy and sell-back option will be more viable if you want a vehicle for longer.
Many travelling workers invest in a mini-van that can double as accommodation. Some are set up to sleep in while others have cooking facilities. These are particularly good for travelling couples, but friends sharing can also use them. Whatever the set-up, the vehicle is at least a means of travelling independently, somewhere to sleep, and security for your possessions.
For a single traveller, hiring or owning a vehicle may be too expensive. In that situation the vehicle owner might consider asking others to share the cost of running a vehicle.
Many farms when they list jobs with the Harvest Trail website insist they only want people who have their own transport. This is to ensure that whoever is employed can reliably get to work each day – and reliability is the single most desired attribute of any farm worker. So without a car, work simply may not be available.
No car? Find a working hostel.
Where vehicle ownership is out of the question, the next best option is to travel to a region that has a working hostel where you can stay. These are hostels that specialise in guests working in the area, most often on farms. Most hostels in regional areas are working hostels. The advantage these hostels offer is they usually provide some form of transport for their guests to travel to work each day. Some operate buses while others lend cars to be shared by guests. Sometimes transport to the farms is included in the cost of staying at the hostel, while others will charge a fee.
Be aware that not every region that has farm work will have a working hostel. Areas that have short harvest seasons for fruit, like cherries and apples, may not have enough months of work for hostels to be viable. Regions that have a lot of fruit or vegetable work, particularly those that last for at least half the year, are likely to have this type of accommodation. The Harvest Guide on the Harvest Trail website provides information on most harvest towns across Australia and includes the types of accommodation available there.
Being able to travel from your accommodation to the farm to work each day is essential. If you have your own car you have many more choices than someone who does not.