On this 6-week summer abroad program you’ll go canyoning in the Blue Mountains, learning to surf in coastal National Parks, hiking on beautiful Fraser Island and Magnetic Island, boating among the Whitsunday Islands, and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. 

Throughout your time in Australia, you’ll learn an enormous amount about Australia’s environmental and ecological history and how that unique history has shaped Australia’s flora, fauna, and people. Australia’s warm climate, friendly people, unusual wildlife, and dramatic natural beauty make it a fantastic place to experience. With a landmass comparable to the United States, but a population of only 20 million people, Australia is sparsely populated, yet home to some of the world’s most vibrant cities.

Australia’s natural diversity is staggering - the world’s largest coral reef, lush rainforests, and the most beautiful beaches. Wildlife is abundant, colorful and visible - kangaroos, koalas, flocks of raucous parrots, sea turtles, whales, dolphins and colorful reef fish.

This summer abroad program is suitable for high school graduates, gap year students, university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 22 years. Optional transferable academic credit is available on this program.


  • Rewarding service-learning conservation project in National Parks on the New South Wales Central Coast
  • Exploring Sydney - harbor, beaches, museums
  • Try boomerang throwing and didgeridoo at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Center
  • Canyoning daytrip - rappelling, scrambling and hiking in the Blue Mountains
  • 3-day learn to surf safari at secluded coastal national parks
  • Soaking up the ambiance of Byron Bay, Noosa and Cairns
  • Visit amazing Australia Zoo and learn about wildlife and the conservation initiatives of the late founder, Steve Irwin, the 'Crocodile Hunter'
  • 3-day 4wd and hiking safari exploring Fraser Island National Park
  • Experience life on an outback station (farm)
  • 3 nights on Magnetic Island – koalas, day hikes, beautiful beaches
  • Island-hopping daytrip and snorkeling in the spectacular Whitsunday Islands National Park
  • Outer-reef day trip, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef and experiencing its immense marine diversity
  • Informal lectures and discussions on history, culture, society and environment
  • Very personalized and supportive small group experience – maximum of 12 students
  • Experienced and inspiring Pacific Discovery Program Instructors supported by local guides

**This is a guide to what you can expect to do on Program. The order in which the activities occur might vary**

Week 1: Orientation in Sydney and work with National Parks and Wildlife Service

Bold, brash and beautiful, Sydney is arguably the world’s most vibrant city. On arrival, you will be met by your Pacific Discovery Program leader. A comprehensive program orientation takes place before we explore Sydney’s famous harbor and beaches, visit the Opera House and Australian Museum. Just two hours from Sydney but a world away, are the rugged sandstone escarpments 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 spend a day canyoning - a unique adventure involving hiking, scrambling, and rappels through sculptured rock canyons.
Before we learn to surf next week we take part in a service learning project. 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 two coastal National Parks. The project is a three-
way collaboration between Pacific Discovery, Surfaris, and the New South Wales National Parks & Wildlife Service.
The project revolves around ecosystem enhancement in Arakoon National Park. And is connected to a state-wide program called ‘Saving our Species’ which aims to halt and reverse the growing numbers of Australian animals and
plants facing extinction. This program aims to secure as many threatened species that can be secured in the wild as possible, for the next 100 years. Project work is supervised by National Parks staff.

Week 2: Learning to Surf and Snorkeling

After finishing off our service project in the National Park, we journey north to an isolated section of the coast where 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, playing games, debriefing each day, and hearing the instructor’s wild stories, before a great sleep in preparation for a sunrise surf! While surfing might have taken it out of you the past couple of days we will take some time to snorkel in Byron Bay. On a sensational section of coastline, Byron Bay has been an alternative 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. While here, we’ll do a half-day walk around Cape Byron to try and spot humpback whales on their
migratory route.

Week 3: Exploring ‘Straddie’ and Fraser Island

Straddie (Stradbroke Island) is a sub-tropical island, located 30 km southeast of Brisbane, Queensland and it is the world’s second-largest sand island: about 38 km long and 11 km wide! From cultural and historical experiences to bayside dreaming in Dunwich (Goompi); from great fishing and dolphin encounters to sensational Straddie sunsets at Amity Point (Pulan); from amazing bush walks to visiting stunning fresh-water lakes in our National Parks, and from beautiful gorges, beaches and up-close wild-life experiences to uncrowded surf at Point Lookout (Mooloomba); Straddie offers diversity to satisfy a variety of tastes. Your only problem will be choosing where to go and what to do .... Oh that... and wishing you never had to leave!

After spending a few days exploring ‘Straddie’, we head off on a three- day 4WD trip across Fraser Island - seeing turtles, dingoes, diverse forests and stunning freshwater lakes lapping white sand beaches. Fraser Island is the largest sand island on earth. We’ll take hikes through beautiful forests and stay in cabins near the coast each night.

Week 4: Noosa Everglades Canoe Expedition

Hidden within the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park, the Noosa Everglades are a tropical wetland and one of only two everglades systems in the world. ... It’s also one of Australia’s most diverse ecosystems, boasting over 40% of the country’s bird species. Immerse yourself in the wilderness of the Upper Noosa River; kayak the river of mirrors, experience the serenity, walk to the ancient Cooloola Sandpatch and camp in the bush beside the cool waters of the Noosa Everglades. This canoe trip will see us really explore the wilderness and beauty that Australia has to offer.

Week 5: The Adventure Farm, Rafting and a Koala Sanctuary

A true Aussie Farm experience, here we have the chance to live and participate in the real day-to-day adventures encountered on an Aussie Farm.

Next up, from the township of Airlie Beach we spend an action- packed day island hopping among the Whitsunday Islands aboard an ocean raft. Enjoy snorkeling and visiting spectacular Whitehaven beach, often voted ‘best beach in the world’. A travel day brings us to Magnetic Island, where the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area meets the rainforests of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Over half the island is bird sanctuaries and national park with a large koala population. We stay 3 nights on the island giving us ample time for hiking, swimming and koala spotting.

Week 6: The Great Barrier Reef and Cairns

Our final stop in Australia is tropical Cairns. The highlight of our time here is a day trip to the outer Great Barrier Reef to snorkel over coral reefs and be astounded at the diversity of this World Heritage area – spot sea turtles, myriad tropical fish and marine creatures. We also spend a day taking part in some marine conservation with our partners in this area We also visit Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Center and have a go throwing a boomerang, playing a didgeridoo, and learning about the richness and diversity of Aboriginal culture. Cairns has a popular waterfront boardwalk and beach to relax at. You’ll have time for last minute souvenir shopping before a program wrap on our final days. Depart Australia with an immense sense of satisfaction from the conservation work you’ve completed, challenges you’ve risen to, adventures you’ve undertaken, and an awareness and understanding of Australia’s complex biodiversity and cultural heritage.

*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.

For full program details, please request the information booklet


Open to high school graduates, university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 22 years. This program is suitable for anyone of average fitness with an enthusiasm for conservation and new experiences. You need to be committed to, and prepared for, some physical work whilst on the volunteer component of the program i.e. trail building, tree planting or painting. You don’t need to have had previous experience with travel or any of the activities offered.

The program is a shared group experience. We expect you to join the program with an open mind and a willingness to work together with your group mates to make the program an amazing experience for the whole group. Additionally, the program will be as much about the inner journey of personal growth and learning about yourself as it is about what you will experience in the outer physical journey. We expect you to be open to learning and challenging your ideas and assumptions.


Our accommodation will be a mixture of comfortable and clean hostels and lodges. Laundry, postal, telephone and email facilities will be available most days. 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, toast, eggs, fresh fruits, yoghurt, tea and coffee
  • Lunch: wraps, sandwiches, salads, dinner leftovers
  • Dinner: barbeque meats, vegetables, lots of fresh salads, pasta, wraps, chicken schnitzel

Camping meals will be adjusted to the cooking equipment at hand

Program Tuition Includes

  • All in-country travel and transport excluding flights
  • All accommodation
  • All meals
  • All expeditions, activities, excursions, entry fees and adventure travel as described in the itinerary
  • Experienced Program Instructors and local guides
  • Environmental education and volunteering projects
  • Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves - working towards a deeper understanding of their values, identity, passions and purpose
  • Individual mentorship from program instructors, supporting you in your personal goals for the program
  • Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism
  • 1- to 3-week optional extensions if you wish to continue traveling independently after the program
  • Pre-departure booklet with all information you need in one place to prepare for the program
  • 24/7 emergency contact number for students and parents
  • Global medical rescue and political evacuation insurance
  • Instructors have 24/7 access to a physician and a psychologist for advice and support
  • Pacific Discovery T-shirt

Duration 42 days
Program Tuition $9,750 USD Estimated Flight Cost $1,000 USD
Availability Closed
Group Size 12 students & 2 instructors Ages 18 - 22 ideal
Optional College Credit Yes Start/Finish Sydney / Cairns, Australia