Explore the wonders of life Down Under, before you hike and climb your way through New Zealand on this epic gap year program!

New Zealand and Australia are two of the most ecologically intact and diverse countries in the world, and you'll be able to see it all. From the Great Barrier Reef and the Blue Mountains to the sheep-dotted green hills and dramatic mountains of Aotearoa (New Zealand). While traveling around both countries, you'll try your hand at white water rafting, rock climbing, snorkeling, surfing and canyoning, while also immersing yourself in the Maori indigenous culture by attending cultural performances. So if you’re looking to get stuck into a myriad of different activities, both on land and at sea – this program is most certainly for you! 

But that's only half of the adventure! You will also give back to the local communities by doing hands-on volunteer work at several coastal national parks. You will work alongside park rangers, help plant native trees, and learn all about native New Zealand and Australian ecology and wildlife, while also getting he chance to spot endangered birds, camp under the starry night sky, and relax on beautiful white sandy beaches at the end of a rewarding day of volunteering.


    Voted Best Gap Year Program


This Gap Year Program Is For You if You...

✓ Want to relax on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world

✓ Are interested in immersing yourself in Maori and Aboriginal culture

✓ Love activities like rock climbing, hiking, canoeing, rafting and snorkeling

✓ Are enthusiastic about conservation and ecosystem enhancement

✓ Want to enjoy the ultimate combination of beach time, culture and nature


Thoughts From a Former New Zealand & Australia Student

   Visiting Australia and New Zealand had always been on my bucket list, and I couldn't be happier that I got the opportunity to experience it with Pacific Discovery. You can tell how much meticulous planning they put into curating each program's itinerary and making sure that you'll see as much of Australia and New Zealand as possible in your 70 days there. ” On the program, you'll embody the traveler's spirit, always on the move and never staying in any one place for more than a couple of days. Looking back, the breadth and depth of activities you get to partake in on this program are amazing. From surfing on Australia's pristine beaches to taking in New Zealand's most famous glacier, your experience with PD will leave you with memories that last a lifetime." 

- Emily Simons


Not sure where you want to go yet?

Our Program Quiz can help you find your perfect Program match! Or get the full Program run-down in our catalogue. This catalogue provides information about Pacific Discovery's values and program design, as well as program descriptions and testimonials!

Request Online Catalogue

  • Service-learning and Volunteer Projects
    • • Volunteer project around bush regeneration and sand dune conservation on Australia’s East Coast
    • • Work with the Tasman Environmental Trust to help protect native wildlife in the Nelson Tasman Region
    • • Environmental immersion at a permaculture, outdoor and environmental education center
    • • Conservation project alongside park rangers at coastal Tawharanui Regional Park
  • Outdoor Adventures
    • • 3-day 4WD tour of K'gari Fraser Island with stand up paddle boarding and snorkelling
    • • Snorkel with turtles and tropical fish in Byron Bay and Stradbroke Island
    • • Learn to ride waves during a multi-day surf camp in Australia's East Coast 
    • • Canyoning adventure in the Blue Mountains (swimming, jumping, and abseiling through waterfalls)
    • • White water rafting adventure over rapids and the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world
    • • Tramping (backpacking) expedition and rock climbing in one of the South Island National Parks
  • Cultural Immersion
    • • Learn about the local culture through working alongside local communities
    • • Gain insight into Maori (indigenous) culture through an intimate Maori educational experience
    • • Attend a Maori cultural performance with a powerful display of haka song and dance
    • • Learn about the rich Aboriginal history of Stradbroke Island while walking along the historical Goompi trail
  • Personal Development
    • • Become a global citizen with a global perspective on environmental issues
    • • Take control of the itinerary and learn to work as a team with a self-led section!
    • • Apply innovative leadership that encourages and empowers others
    • Transfer the applicable learning activities to benefit both school and personal life

Week 1. Aboriginal History & 4WD Expedition

Welcome to Brisbane, Australia! We will spend a few nights in Brisbane, getting to know one another and exploring the city and attending a cultural tour . Here we will have an in-depth program orientation, get accustomed to life down under, and play ice-breaking games to bond with our new program friends. 

We then head North up to Noosa, and embark on our three day 4WD expedition on K’gari Fraser Island. We will traverse the golden sand by 4WD, taking in the crystal clear waters. Kgari Fraser Island is home to an abundance of wildlife with over 350 different species of bird. It is an amazing place to observe dingoes and echidnas in the wild, along with all the marine life! During the day we will explore the nature and diversity of the island, snorkeling and paddle boarding, and venturing to the island hotspots with the experienced guides! In the evenings we will learn to throw a boomerang, eat marshmallows by the campfire,  taking in the stars and sleeping in beach cabins.

Week 2. Snorkel with Turtles & Surf Camp!

We make our way south towards Byron Bay. On a sensational section of coastline, Byron Bay has been a hippy hang-out since the 1970s and is today, the quintessential surfing town. Tie-dyed hippies mix with bronzed surfers, artists and large numbers of local and international tourists, there to enjoy its beaches, boutiques and cafes. It’s a great place to relax. While here, we’ll take a boat trip out to the Julian Rocks to snorkel with turtles and tropical fish – dolphins and whales are also regularly seen in the waters around the headland. This is the place to try an optional scuba dive if you really want to immerse yourself in this amazing underwater world.

Heading south to an isolated section of coast, we stay at a surf camp and learn to surf from our surfing-guru instructors on the myriad breaks in the area. Spend evenings relaxing at camp, debriefing each day and hearing the instructor’s wild stories before a great sleep in preparation for another day on the surf!

Week 3. Conservation Project & Canyoning in the Blue Mountains

At the heart of surfing is a connection-to-nature philosophy. We get to experience this in a hands-on way by undertaking volunteer conservation work alongside National Parks staff in a coastal National Park. The project revolves around bush regeneration and dune conservation near Crescent Head on the East Coast of Australia. This program aims to secure as much of the native plants and species that can be secured in the wild as possible for the next 100 years.

Continuing our southward migration, we skirt Sydney and head inland to experience the wonder of the Blue Mountains National Park. Based from the main township, Katoomba, we'll get outdoors to discover for ourselves what makes the ‘Blueys’ so special. We will spend a day canyoning – a unique adventure involving hiking, scrambling and rappels through sculptured rock canyons.

Week 4. Environmental Volunteering & Sydney Exploration

This week, we will help out at an outdoor education center, which involves young people in positive environmental projects, inspiring them to protect the planet. We learn about permaculture and sustainable living. Project activities include site landscape work for sustainability education, tree planting to regenerate a key wildlife river corridor, and habitat survey expedition days to identify forest vegetation communities and koala territories.

Next, we settle into our downtown accommodation in Sydney. Bold, brash and beautiful, Sydney is arguably the world’s most vibrant city. Explore Sydney’s famous harbor and beaches by ferry, visit the Opera House and Australian Museum, check out the local beaches and shopping areas. In our last couple of days in Australia, we will reflect and discuss our time in Australia before getting ready to head to New Zealand!


Week 5. Litter Intelligence Training, Paihia and Volunteering in a Coastal Regional Park

Having arrived in New Zealand we will settle into our accommodation in Auckland before heading out to our Litter Intelligence Training to become Lead Citizen Scientists! We will meet up with the Litter Intelligence Crew at St. Marys Bay where they will teach us everything we need to know about carrying out beach cleans and surveys.

Traveling northwards, we head to Paihia where we will visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and Waka Taua Canoe in the Bay of Islands. Waitangi is one of the most important places in New Zealand's history. Often called the ‘Birthplace of our Nation’, Waitangi weaves together the strands and stories of many people, events and places to reveal the rich cultural history of Aotearoa New Zealand. Waitangi Treaty Grounds is a place for all New Zealanders and the place where much of New Zealand’s history was shaped through the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi. But you will learn so much more when you visit!

We will then make our way to the stunning Tawharanui Regional Park for our first conservation volunteer project in New Zealand. Tawharanui boasts some of New Zealand’s most beautiful white sandy beaches, rolling pastures, shingled bays, native coastal forests and regenerating wetlands. The sanctuary is a unique blend of conservation, recreation and sustainable farming within Tawharanui Regional Park. Our days here are spent participating in volunteer conservation initiatives working alongside park rangers and a local group of community volunteers, and our nights are spent under the starry night sky as we camp in this beautiful location.

Week 6. Beach Clean, Rafting, Hot Springs & Mountain Biking

On our final day in Tawharanui we will put our new roles as Lead Citizen Scientists into practice! We will take on our first independent Beach Survey at Anchor Bay, planning the day, carrying out the beach clean and then surveying what we have collected. 

Heading south, we travel to the geothermal and cultural heartland of the country. Spouting geysers, bubbling mud pools, steaming vents, boiling lakes and colorful sinter terraces are just about everywhere in and around Rotorua. Besides taking advantage of the glorious hot pools, we will visit the spectacular geothermal parks – each one so different from the others – in and around the city.

Our days here are full of adventure and energy as we go mountain biking in the Redwoods, and spend an afternoon rafting down the Kaituna River. The Kaituna River is Rotorua rafting’s playground, and home to not just one, but three impressive waterfalls, including the highest rafted waterfall in the world – Tutea Falls at 7m! We will also be introduced to Maori culture while visiting Rotorua. Māori are tangata whenua, the indigenous people of New Zealand. They came here from Polynesia in the 13th century.

Week 7. Wellington, ETHOS Eco Farm & Conservation Project in Nelson Lakes

Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, is vibrant and home to some of the country’s best cafés and nightlife. We’ll explore the city at our leisure with options to visit Parliament to learn about New Zealand’s political system, taking the famous Wellington Cable Car or jumping from the Wellington Harbour diving platform. We will gain insight into Māori culture through an intimate Māori educational experience at the National Museum, before giving you free time to explore independently and observe the beautiful sites and sounds of the Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary.

From Wellington, we board a ferry bound for the South Island, cruise through the twisting arms of the glacial carved Marlborough Sounds, and come ashore in Picton. We will then jump on our second ferry for the day (a much smaller one!) and head out to the ETHOS Eco Farm in the Marlborough Sounds. Here we will spend two days exploring the remote wilderness, learning about conservation, the native flora and fauna, swimming in the crystal clear waters and hiking to a stunning waterfall.

We will then head down to Nelson to do conservation work with the Tasman Environmental Trust. In the mornings we will learn about their conservation projects and help with the management of wilding pines and the protection of the native plants and animals. The afternoons will be spent relaxing in the quaint mountain hut and exploring the wonderful Nelson Coastline.

Week 8. Rock Climbing and Backpacking Expedition in National Park

It’s time to head down the wild west coast of the South Island! Voted one of the top ten road trips in the world, we travel the length of the South Island’s West Coast from Nelson to Wanaka. Enjoy rugged coastlines, beautiful rainforest and spectacular glaciers. We will spend a night at Punakaiki to view the impressive blow holes, carrying out another beach clean at Punakaiki Beach, then two nights at the tiny settlement of Franz Josef to explore and learn about the mighty glaciers that are located nearby.

From a simple lodge at Glendhu Bay on the shores of Lake Wanaka, we learn how to rock climb on the cliffs of Wanaka's Hospital Flats. Our fantastic instructors introduce us to climbing technique, belaying, rappelling, and take us safely through two days of climbing instruction, tailored to all levels of climbing ability and fitness. We will continue our exploration of Wanaka with a three day trek in the beautiful Aspiring National Park. Take in the gorgeous views and learn about the local flora and fauna from a local guide!

Week 9. Adventures in Queenstown

Queenstown is the world’s adventure capital. We have some free time here to try some of the options on offer – bungy jumping is a popular choice. In the evenings you’re sure to enjoy the magical sunsets over the lake, a bit of frisbee golf or swimming in the lake that surrounds the town.

During the last few days of this week, you will take the reins as a group and decide what to do with Pacific Discovery's unique self-led section, which has long been ingrained in our DNA. As a group, you will take the time to look at the budget, and timings to see how you spend your days. This means the power is in the group's hands!

Week 10. Farm Stay and Program Reflection

After wrapping up the final days of our student-led portion, we then make our way to a beautiful and remote farm in the Snowdon Region, where we will take time to reflect on our time in New Zealand. What a journey it has been! In our last couple of days, we will reflect and discuss our time on the program as a whole during program wrap. What a journey it has been! We will have traveled through two countries in the South Pacific and learned a lot along the way. 

*Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, laundry, rest, and explore independently with others in the group.
**Pacific Discovery reserves the right to alter and/or change the order of the itinerary, the focus of the projects or the activities themselves due to dates, availability, and safety precautions.

What's included?

✓ All in-program travel and transport, excluding flights

✓ All accommodation

✓ All meals

✓ All expeditions, activities, excursions, volunteer projects and entry fees as described in the itinerary

✓ Experienced Program Instructors and local guides

✓ Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism

✓ Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves

✓ Certificate of Program Completion

Activity Level


High Activity Level: Anyone with an moderate to advanced fitness level and an enthusiasm for the outdoors and new experiences will have a great time on this gap semester! You will need to be prepared for a multi-day hike in Kahurangi National Park and for some physical work during the volunteer projects on the program, like trail building or the removal of invasive plants.

Camping Level


High Camping Level: Be prepared to spend some time out in nature. You'll love the experience of camping, staring at the camp fire, breathing in fresh air and stargazing the night away. 

Volunteering Level


Medium Learning Level: You will be able to make a difference to the local community during your stay. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and do some hands-on learning about local issues.


Frequently Asked Questions

Our accommodation will be a mix of camping (tents supplied) and comfortable, clean hostels and lodges. Laundry and Wi-Fi facilities will be available some days, except during the weeks in the field on the volunteer projects and on expeditions. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.

Meals are fresh, tasty, healthy and varied. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are included in the program cost. Any snacks are at an additional cost, which we recommend budgeting around $10 per day for.

Food preparation responsibilities are shared by all students. It’s fun, social and often a highlight. An average day on program would consist of the following:

  • Breakfast: cereals, porridge (oatmeal), toast, spreads, eggs, yoghurt, fruit, tea and coffee
  • Lunch: wraps, sandwiches, salads, dinner leftovers
  • Dinner: BBQ meat, vegetables and salads, potato salad, pasta, chili, wraps, fish and chips, burgers

Camping meals will be adjusted to the cooking equipment at hand

To make things easy for you, we partner with a full service travel agency that can arrange flights, appropriate travel insurance and post program arrangements for our students.

They have access to a "Cancel For Any Reason" or CFAR travel insurance for US citizens in participating states. This optional travel insurance product allows travelers to cancel for any reason whatsoever up to two days prior to departure and still receive a significant refund. This allows you to keep planning for the future while avoiding the stress and the financial worry of canceling a program if you need to.

Our program locations and itineraries have been carefully selected and modified to minimize risk of exposure to anyone outside the group with most being located in rural areas. This allows for a more focused learning environment, as well as a safe haven from the stress of our modern world.

We've been working hard and watching closely to any CDC recommendations about group sizes and testing requirements to come up with options that will allow you to have a safe, healthy, and stress-free Gap Year experience. We do the hard work so you can come and enjoy the fresh air, adventures, and new friends!

We have been running successful gap year programs in Spring, Summer and Fall 2021. The students shared their experiences in testimonials and wrote their stories down in blog posts - feel free to have a look. 

Check out the information on our COVID-19 page to find out more about our Covid-19 policies, procedures and updates.

We have answered the most frequently asked questions in the FAQ SectionIf you still have any other questions, feel free to schedule a call with our admissions team for more information.

Fall Dates 12 Sep - 20 Nov, 2024
Spring Dates 6 Feb - 16 Apr, 2025
Duration 70 days
Program Tuition $16,495 USD Estimated Flight Cost $2,500 USD
Availability Open
Group Size 12 Students & 2 Instructors Ages 17 - 22 ideal Covid-19 Vaccination Requirement Vaccination Strongly Recommended
Optional College Credit Yes Start/Finish Start in Brisbane, Australia
Finish in Christchurch, New Zealand