On our six-week Australia Mini Semester, we road trip all the way from Sydney to Cairns in this quintessential journey Down Under.

Our program instructors drive us up the east coast, taking in diverse landscapes and experiences along the way. We will go canyoning in the ancient chasms of the Blue Mountains, hold a koala on Magnetic Island, boat to the Whitsundays, snorkel on the world’s largest barrier reef, and learn to surf in pristine National Parks.

Canyoning in the Blue Mountains 

We will spend a day canyoning with the best in the business: The Australian School of Mountaineering. We spend the morning practicing canyoning - which is kind of like rock climbing backwards down cliffs (we’ll get the hang of it quickly, don’t worry). We take a break for some delicious lunch and then relocate to the canyon. We will wriggle into our wetsuits and harness up to go down one of the most famous canyons in the Blue Mountains Range, Empress Falls. We navigate a narrow canyon, 10ft at the widest point. There’s lots of laughing and shimmying and camaraderie as we make our way down the chasm. We have the option to do a matrix run and launch into the water, and our final jump is a 90ft drop where the harness does the work and we just glide through the air! At some point, we stop in the chasm that’s millions of years old to soak up the knowledge from our experienced guides. Sharing incredible stories like how the cycad plants next to us were here when the dinosaurs roamed the planet, and try to give us some perspective of how old the warm-smooth rocks beneath our feet are. It’s an epic day out!

Environmental Conservation in Crescent Head 

Bob is a local environmental warrior. Bob discovered a spider, a tiny blue jumping spider. And now his environmental company is named after it. We will be working alongside this naturalist in a multi-stakeholder project at Crescent Head. We will be planting a corridor of native trees along the banks of the river. This area is in a floodplain, and this project helps mitigate contemporary climate challenges. Our involvement and interest in the project help secure further project funding. Other times we will be working on removing invasive species like bitou bush and lantana. You can see the difference between the areas that have been revegetated and the area we will be working on. Our help makes a huge difference, and everyone involved in the project is just so thrilled to have our support. This week is all about meeting locals in the gorgeous Crescent Head area, learning and giving back. 

Surf Camp 

Surfing is a huge part of the culture on the east coast of Australia. We settle into Waves campground and stay at the ultra-laid back Crescent Head surfing area. Our surf instructor Dundee is an authentic individual who lives off the grid and embodies good vibes. You can’t count the number of times in a day that he says ‘isn’t this the life.' He keeps everyone safe and well, all the while maintaining a chilled-out demeanor. There are so many beaches to choose from. We head out for two lessons a day, using wetsuits and foam boards. The surf camp is all about having lots of belly laughs and learning about muscles you never knew existed. The rest of the day is spent relaxing at the Waves campground and cafe. As Dundee would say, we all cherish the chill time. 

Surfers at sunset on our Australia program

Canoeing Journey 

On our canoeing trip in the Noosa Everglades, we head out on an expedition. Bugs, bush, type 2 fun and shooting stars. It involves lots of swimming, camping and camaraderie. How many shooting stars have you seen? Out here, it’s hard to miss them. Lay on rocks by trickling pools of water and look up at the dark skies and bright stars.

Lighthouse Walk at Byron Bay 

We will go snorkeling and try to spot dolphins from the iconic Byron lighthouse. If you haven’t heard of it already, Byron Bay has been an alternative hang-out since the 1970s and is the quintessential surfing town. Tie-dye clad hippies, bronzed surfers, eccentric artists, and lots of local and international tourists head there to enjoy its beaches, boutiques, and cafes. 

Jaw-dropping island view in the Whitsundays

We spend an action-packed day island hopping among the jaw-dropping Whitsunday Islands aboard a high-speed ocean raft. We’ve been known to have a whale breach right next to the boat! Whitehaven beach has often been voted the ‘best beach in the world’. It might be because the sand is made of 99% silica - you literally need your sunglasses on to look at it (it’s also a $10,000 fine if you steal it)!  

Koalas on Magnetic Island 

One of the special places we visit is Magnetic Island, where the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area meets the rainforests of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Over half of the island is a bird sanctuary and national park with a large koala population. And yes, we are guaranteed to see a koala! We will stay on the island for three nights with lots of time for hiking, swimming, and koala spotting in a super fun home base location.

Great Barrier Reef Exploration 

Our most northerly destination in Australia is tropical Cairns. This is the part of the trip we’ve all been waiting for - a charter boat out to the Great Barrier Reef! We will spend a whole day sailing and snorkeling on the outer Great Barrier Reef. We will see the most incredible coral diversity, fish, and (hopefully) turtles and dolphins! We will see the bleaching that’s happening on the reef, and experts will educate us on what needs to be done to save the reef. 

The Australia Mini Semester is the ideal length of time to travel up the east coast of Australia and truly immerse ourselves in each destination. As we travel north, it gets hot, so by the time we finish in Cairns we will be living in our swimmers! The program has been crafted over many years of connection and relationships with on-the-ground operators, and we couldn’t be happier with the experience it provides.

Join us on the Australia Mini Semester program for beautiful landscapes, diverse adventures, the road-tripping life, and island hopping.

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Author Orla O'Muiri Posted

Category Australia Departure Spring 2023