With ease-of-travel now back as a welcome reality around the country, one of Australia’s most desirable tourist destinations is experiencing a renaissance period, with travellers flocking in numbers now exceeding its pre-COVID highs.
The South West of Western Australia is globally renowned for its pristine beaches, wine country adventures, beautiful off-the-beaten-track getaways and the laidback lifestyle that goes hand-in-hand with those experiences.
Lonely Planet recently rated WA as one of the 30 best places in the world to visit in 2023, citing Perth to Margaret River as one of its Top 5 journeys.
Visitors are returning in droves and there’s a high demand for workers – both skilled and willing to learn – in the hospitality and tourism industries, notably chefs, cooks, baristas, bar staff, managers, event coordinators, front office, guest services, reservations staff and more.
“It’s commonly the golden period this time of year with the holiday crowd and seasonal nature of the South West, but trade is good,” says Clancy’s Fish Pub’s Tom Fisher.
“In the last few years anyone capable and experienced would’ve appealed to most venues,”, “but now training for newcomers would be favoured more so than previous years. The lifestyle is obviously great in the South West.”
The region has for a long time attracted young people from all over Australia and around the world who have enjoyed their working experiences and revelled in all the South West can deliver.
Dutch traveller Julia Weller had loved visiting Margaret River on her backpacking travels around Australia. When she revisited Margaret River a year later while touring with a band, she decided to stay in town and work at the CBCo Brewing.
“Life was always very up in the air,” she says of her backpacking travels. “I never owned more than a backpack-ful and a guitar. It was that kind of lifestyle. After arriving in WA I was happy to stay down there and be away from the hustle and bustle of Perth. It’s obviously really beautiful and it was nice that they were providing accommodation as well. So all the work you did was income, basically.
“I think there’s a lot of like-minded people that go after a lifestyle like that, a bit more remote and in nature. Exploring the beaches and the forests and going for hikes and swims was a big part of the day to day.”
Julia also enjoyed the international community of tourism and hospitality workers that are in the South West, sharing not only a common experience as travellers, but the rare delights of the region itself.
“There were definitely a lot of international people working in one place,” she says. “If you work down south as a hospitality worker, you’ll get to meet all the other crew that are in town that are doing the same kind of thing. So you’ll get to visit the other establishments and wineries and experience all the other ‘touristy’ things that you can do in the area.”
Julia says that if you want to move away from city life and work more remotely, the South West of WA is the best way to live that experience.
“It’s such a great way to see new things,” she states. “It’s my favourite way to travel, to live somewhere for a couple of months, work there, meet the locals and be part of the community. I think that is one of my favourite things about working and living remotely, and the South West is such a beautiful place. It’s got so much to offer.”
Johnny Lee worked as a chef in his native Taiwan for 12 years before deciding that he needed a change. “When I was 29 years old, I was thinking about working holiday in Australia or Canada,” he recalls. “I had a friend who had been to Margaret River who’d had a good period of time there and he recommended it to me.”
In his first year Johnny worked for the Down To Earth agribusiness and labour hire company in Margaret River. “While I was working on the farm, I met a lot of friends from different countries,” he says. “After the farm job I worked at a Thai restaurant in town called Chang Thai Kitchen. I worked in that restaurant for one year.”
During his time in the region Johnny especially enjoyed being near the coastline, making his way to Hamelin Bay, Eagle Bay and Kilcarnup Beach as often as he could.
Now in Perth furthering his English Studies, Johnny looks back on his time in the South West as a valuable learning experience.
“I learned some wine knowledge and gained new kitchen knowledge, but most of time I enjoyed it because my life felt so peaceful,” he says. “I recommended some friends to move to the South West to work and they’re now living in Augusta.”
Danny Piccolo grew up working in his father’s pub in Rome. At age 21 he travelled and worked in hospitality in Italy and Spain, then decided to make a bigger move.
“I decided to specialise more in front-of-house and that’s when I embarked on my career to become a duty manager here in Australia,” he says. “I decided to come to Australia with a friend and we chose WA because it seems to be the place with the nicest lifestyle. I then chose Margaret River because of my two other passions – surfing and wine.”
He found an abundance of both, and Danny has now been working as a chef at Pizzica Charcoal Grill for over two years.
“All in all, my work experience at Margaret River has been and is still very positive,” he says. “The people are very polite, and the locals are very hospitable and nice.
“I think the time spent working in this region has made me grow a lot at a professional level, especially thanks to the high level of ability that I have found in the many people who have been and are part of my Australian career.”
Danny has also made the most of the beautiful habitat and rugged coastline that characterises the region.
“I love the lifestyle in the South West,” he enthuses, “it’s very wild and natural! On my time off I love surfing. I love to drive around discovering new 4-wheel-drive tracks and fly my drone and take amazing pictures of the beautiful landscape.”
Although he is soon to finish working at Pizzica, Danny is staying to work in the South West and has a very good reason as to why he has chosen to remain.
“It is thanks to the locals who during the Covid period showed empathy and a generosity towards us travellers that literally shocked me,” he says fondly. “They opened their doors to all those who were in difficulty and it was one of the most beautiful gestures I have ever seen.”
Kate Nickels was a Perth hospitality worker when she went on to study viticulture and winemaking at Charles Sturt University. Upon gaining her qualification she moved to the Yarra Valley to work at Oakridge Wines as a Vineyard Operator. Four years later she yearned for a return to WA.
“I wanted to return home and I’d missed being by the beach and the warm sunny weather,” she says. “I wanted to see my friends and my family… it’s a beautiful lifestyle down here.”
Kate now works as a Vineyard Operator at Xanadu Wines, renowned for its Cabernet and Chardonnay. And while she’s only been there for six months, already feels that her knowledge and skills are being enhanced by the diversity of the winery’s staff.
“There are very skilled people down here and lots of people to learn from,” Kate notes. “It’s a great area to be in and you get to work with a whole range of different people. We’ve got a couple of French people working as well as a German guy. There’s a guy from Central America and his partner, who’s from Portugal. They’re doing seasonal work and staying on longer than they need to. We need them and they’re nice to work with and the work’s there. The casual pay rate is very good here, also.”
Although it’s considered to be remote workplace, there are now several direct flights a week from Melbourne to the South West, with international flights expected in the next few years.
For Kate, the three-hour proximity to Perth means she can head to the city if and when she needs and can also see her family. The family, too, can visit her in Margaret River and enjoy the beautiful climes and quality lifestyle of the South West.
“In my line of work, we finish at about three o’clock and we have another five hours of sunshine to go and enjoy our day,” Kate says.
“It’s a nice excuse for my family to come down and visit and spend time at the beach and wineries. You can do so much in an afternoon here – you can go from the beach to fine dining to catching something for dinner and cooking it. You can swim with stingrays!
“It’s beautiful. You could spend the entire summer going to a different beach every weekend.”
For more information, head to www.westernaustralia.jobs