Moving to Port Douglas
Hello again! It's been a little longer than we had hoped since last updating the site. Things have been a bit hectic lately and writing seemed to get placed on the back burner. On March 1st we left Sydney and moved up to Port Douglas, a tiny resort town on the Coral Sea in Far North Queensland, Australia. While it's a small place (population: 3,200), Port, as the locals call it, is a popular winter getaway for Australians and international travelers alike. It also just so happens to be a departure point for the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. Other extremely fun facts include its proximity to Batt Reef where Steve Irwin died in 2006 as well as the place ex-President Bill Clinton was on September 11, 2001 when he learned of the 9/11 attacks. But other than the bad luck that must have been in the air around here in the early-2000s, it's a beautiful tropical paradise.
We decided to move up to Far North Queensland for a number of reasons. First was the timing. The north of Australia is known for its wet and dry seasons. Australian summers are generally beautiful in the South where Melbourne and Sydney are, but fairly miserable in the North. The wet season last from roughly November to April and is characterized by heavy rainfall and high temperatures and humidity levels. In the winter things switch, and the South gets colder while the North sees a drop in temperature to a livable level and the weather gets beautiful. This is the best time to visit Port Douglas and the surrounding area. After spending our first 6 months in Australia in cold, gloomy Melbourne during the dead of winter, we were determined to avoid another cold stretch in Australia at all costs. So we moved to Queensland just as summer came to an end and Sydney's weather started to turn.
The second and most important reason we chose to move here is to extend our visas. It's crazy to think, but we've been in Australia for 9 months now and our year-long Working Holiday visas are almost up. The initial thought when we left home was that we'd be here for a year and split our time between Sydney and Melbourne; however, this has been such an incredible year that we just can't imagine going back to the States so soon. When we first set off, our visas weren't eligible to be extended like those of backpackers from other countries. Fortunately, the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection reversed course in late-2016 and Americans can now earn a second year Working Holiday Visa by jumping through a few small hoops. We're here to do some jumping.
The typical way people on Working Holiday visas earn a second year to extend their time in Australia is through farm work. It's exactly what it sounds like--the government makes backpackers pick fruit and/or vegetables on farms throughout the country for 3 months if they want to stay longer. While I've heard good and bad stories from the experience, it's not exactly on the top of our list of dream jobs. Fortunately, when the government extended this benefit to those on the visa we have (462) they made it so we basically just have to go to a "regional" area of the country, namely northern Australia, and work for 3 months in a number of approved industries. Those industries include agricultural work but also tourism and hospitality. So by the grace of God, Forest and I get to live in tropical paradise while working at restaurants in order to satisfy the requirement.
We'll be in Port Douglas until at least mid-June when our initial visas are up. By then, we should have spent a sufficient amount of time here to qualify for another year. Things are going very well so far though--we've found a place to live right in the center of town, the best area to stay in Port Douglas, and both landed jobs at amazing places, so we'll probably be here a bit longer than that. Life is slow and easy, basically the total opposite of Sydney. While we're here, expect a lot of new content as we explore this part of the country. Far North Queensland is full of natural beauty including the world's oldest rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, and tons of waterfalls and whatever else comes with living in a tropical place. Now that we've settled a bit we're refocusing our attention on building our site and creating useful content from the experiences we've had. We've also got a couple big trips outside Australia in the works, which I'll keep a secret for now. As always, thanks for your love and check back for more soon!
Check out our guide to Australian Working Holiday visas for some clarity on what all the above jargon actually means for you.