World's 'best job' winner hooked on Australia

By Leah McLennan

Since winning the 'best job in the world' as Hamilton Island's caretaker in 2009, Briton Ben Southall has fallen in love with an Australian woman and settled in Brisbane.  Photo / Supplied
Since winning the 'best job in the world' as Hamilton Island's caretaker in 2009, Briton Ben Southall has fallen in love with an Australian woman and settled in Brisbane. Photo / Supplied

What do you do after you've had the "best job in the world"?

In British adventurer Ben Southall's case - you fall in love with a local girl and decide to settle in the area.

In 2009, Southall won the "best job in the world", beating 35,000 contestants from around the globe for the Tourism Queensland position as official caretaker of Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

After flying out from Petersfield in the UK, accompanied by his then girlfriend, he set up base in a luxury villa on Hamilton Island.

The main task of Southall's $150,000 job involved blogging to promote the region. He wrote and uploaded photos daily about his time spent jet-skiing, scuba diving and on one occasion being stung by an Irukandji jellyfish, whose venom can be lethal.

To the delight of Tourism Queensland the "best job in the world" campaign went viral and Southall found himself being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey.

But Southall insists that his job wasn't all about sunbaking and sports - it was actually hard work.

"Some people think that their best job would be lying on a beach doing nothing all day, but realistically that's not a job at all," he told AAP.

"I worked hard, yes.

"The position had a great deal of responsibility associated with it.

"Around 115,000 businesses rely on tourism in Queensland and the position represented all of these enterprises."

Southall's favourite experiences during his six-month job were the times when he interacted with wildlife.

"I can clearly remember one day out on a small sailing dinghy with just one other person, when a pod of whales decided to check us out.

"They swam right up to the edge of the boat, blew through their blowholes and dived below us.

"It was truly one of my most memorable episodes of the entire six months."

After finishing the "best job" experience, Southall headed off on a tour of the Tourism Queensland offices and continued to work with various television, radio and media networks to promote the state.

He now works as a Queensland "tourism ambassador" based in Brisbane.

"Today I continue to write for my website, host media from around the world - taking them on adventures through the state, and help raise the profile of the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland internationally."

In 2011, he completed the "best expedition in the world" challenge - a 1600km, four-month kayaking adventure from the town of 1770 to Cooktown along the Great Barrier Reef to raise awareness about the area.

Southall says his most of his future adventures will now likely include his new partner - an Australian woman whom he met at a Whitsunday Tourism Awards event in 2010.

"I noticed this hot girl walking into the room and thought I have to talk to her.

"After a few drinks I'd plucked up the courage and we started chatting, since that day we've been pretty much inseparable.

"On New Year's Eve at the fireworks in Sydney I got down on bended knee and proposed to Sophee."

The couple have since bought a house together and plan to wed in November on Hamilton Island.

Southall is unsure if they'll settle permanently in Brisbane and expects his wanderlust to take the couple to many new places.

"Home keeps changing for me, it was Petersfield in the UK, then it became South Africa and for now it's right here in Brisbane, Queensland.

"We have talked about the next part of the world we'd like to explore ... so who knows in five years' time."

- AAP

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