Tully is located in Far North Queensland, about 2.5 hours and $30 on the Greyhound from Cairns. When I first arrived in Tully in September, I noticed the humid and hot weather so be warned if you plan on doing farm work here, it’s hot! It is also the wettest place in Australia with an average rainfall exceeding 4 meters. The warmest time of year to work in Tully would be from November- March and the wet season is January-March so you should try and plan around this if you can’t cope with the heat (or the rain). I came here to do the 88 days regional work to qualify for the second year of the working holiday visa.
I’d describe my time here as bittersweet, I made really good friends and had amazing experiences like doing a skydive, but it was also hard work both on the farm and waiting for a job. When me and my friend arrived we stayed at Hotel Tully, we put $300 bond down and our names on the work list. Rent is $140 each for a four bed room with bathroom or $120 for a room without a bathroom. There are other hostels in Tully, Rafters or Banana Barracks and Greenway Caravan Park. Co-workers from my farm lived in these and you should check availability at all three hostels before deciding where to stay. Rafters is the most expensive starting at around $160 but it is usually quicker to find a job here. Greenway Caravan Park has the option of camping which starts at around $85 but also has caravans and four bed dorms for around $120. Hotel Tully told us it would be around 2-3 weeks wait for us to get a job but this depends on how busy it is in the hostel and what the crops are like. We met people who told us we should go “jumping” to try and find work. Basically, you get ready for work, go the worker’s pickup point and ask if there are any jobs. After a few failed attempts we decided not to do it anymore as the farmers can be rude and you hardly see someone get a job from it. My friend had a job within two weeks which left me stuck at the hostel. Due to boredom, I went jumping and surprisingly got a job for three days, but they let me go as they had no bananas. The only thing I could do was go to the swimming pool, as Tully is just a road with around 20 shops that are no use to a backpacker. I understand that having a pool and the sun is bliss but when you are running out of money it can become stressful not having a job, especially on a 12 month working holiday visa, when time is just as precious as money. I didn’t want to waste my time here, and it was hard hearing people moan about having a job. I felt isolated and depressed but everything changed once I got a job.
Farm Life and Activities
After 4 weeks of waiting, my friend got me a job on the same farm, she hassled the farmer and he gave in. We worked outside (with spiders and the occasional snake) “deleafing” (trimming) banana plant leaves to ensure the bananas would grow but most girls work in the shed sorting/packing bananas. You will see snakes, spiders and other insects but you will become used to them! It can be extremely hard working in the heat but if you can get through it, you will feel extremely proud of yourself. We were lucky to have a boss who would want everyone to get 3 months done and leave. However, I had friends work for 2.5 months and be fired due to lack of fruit so you should give yourself plenty of time to do your regional work. The pay in Tully is $21 hourly which is a good rate and this is the reason why people wait. You can easily save money if you budget and don’t spend all your money on booze, plus there are good spots to go on weekends such as Mission Beach and Murray Falls (my favourite)! I definitely recommend visiting Murray Falls it is a beautiful spot where you can take a picnic, swim and relax on the weekends. If you decide to do the Mission Beach skydive with Jump the Beach, I recommend paying extra for the video but not the pictures as most of the pictures are screenshots from the video and this will save you money. Other activities that I did not get around to doing include climbing Mount Tyson that is in the Tully Gorge National Park and water rafting in the Tully River. Climbing Mount Tyson should be done early in the morning especially in the Summer months and you have to notify the Post Office for safety reasons. Tully is well known for how good the water rafting is and should I end up anywhere near Tully again I will certainly be doing it. The company I have been recommend is Raging Thunder. If you have a bit more money to spend you can always go to Cairns for the weekend, Gilligan’s is the best hostel to stay at it is a hybrid hostel/hotel with a pool and nightclub.
You will become a family in Tully as everyone’s in the same boat and rather than sitting on your phone (the Wi-Fi is really expensive in the hostel) you’ll actually have conversations with people and everyone goes the pub on a Friday night! Please don’t let my experience put you off, you could go and get a job straight away and get the three months done. Just be realistic, go with plenty of time on your visa and with enough money to see you through until you find work and I advise you to save the majority of your money as I’ve seen people stay for longer because they have no savings after three months. Most importantly, enjoy your time working on a farm, you probably won’t ever do it again!
General advice from other backpackers;
- Be careful of work per bucket (no one knows how big these buckets are until they arrive at the farm)
- Do not give anyone your passport or personal belongings to be able to work on a farm
- Do not pay money upfront to start work on a farm- these are usually scams
- Make sure the work you are doing is 100% eligible for the second year working visa
- Note that there are going to be changes to the second year working holiday visa soon that mean unpaid work will not be eligible as payment evidence is required for the visa. For more information click here.
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