Backpacker island life

Backpacker island life

For the past six weeks, Emma and I have been living and working on a tropical island just off the coast from Cairns, called Fitzroy Island. It’s a national park, and the only buildings on the island are part of the Fitzroy resort, with the rest of the land being unspoilt rainforest full of plenty of natural vegetation and wildlife.

We got the job after a few weeks working in Palm Cove, as it was a full time position it suited our needs more, so we made the switch. We got the 45 minute fast-cat boat over on a Tuesday afternoon and I went straight into my first shift at 8am the next morning. I was working in the restaurant as a waitress, while Emma on the island bar, meaning our shifts were very different. I would do split shifts every day, working from around 7/8am until 11:30i-sh, then returning to work at 6pm for the evening dinner shift until around 10/11pm. Emma on the other hand would start between 10 and 12, and would work through until as late as 11pm on a regular day.

When I first arrived I really enjoyed my shifts as I had the whole afternoon off to explore the island; being able to snorkel, paddle board and go on the boat tours free of charge. I made the most of this time, ensuring I ticked off all the island activities you could do (and also having plenty of naps on my breaks too). However, as the weeks went on, it got very tiring having two shifts in a day, and never having the same time off as Emma meant we never got to spend any time hanging out together. This started to ruin it for us, and having grown up in a city I stopped enjoying living on an isolated island.

Russell, one of the many animals that lived with us.

We’d work five days on and two days off, living on the island while we worked, so on your days off you could go over to the mainland for the night and hang out in Cairns. This was a really good working system, and your days off were generally the same so it was reasonably easy to plan activities and nights out for your days off in advance. Accommodation was deducted directly from your wages, and all meals were provided making it a great place to save as a backpacker, and for that I’d thoroughly recommend island work if you’re travelling and running low on funds. Just be careful not to do what Emma did and spend an extortionate amount of money in the island bar.

In terms of a social life, in the evenings after work there was always a crowd drinking in the bar, on the beach or in one of the rooms. We had some great nights here, and definitely made some good friends we’d like to meet up with again. Ultimately though, as Adam was arriving and we weren’t completely happy with our working environment, we chose to leave at the end of November, enjoy some time off over Christmas and hopefully get our farm work started in the new year.

How cute is this guy! 🐢 #islandlife #australia

A video posted by Rachael Johnston (@rachael_93) on

Heather’s last few days on the island 🌴☀️ #islandlife #australia

A video posted by Rachael Johnston (@rachael_93) on