Welcome aboard adventure lovers! We are going on an epic road trip spanning the length of the East Coast of Australia this summer! As we (literally) follow migrating humpback whales north, we will experience a wild land that is magic in its most pure form. We will go canyoning in the ancient chasms of the Blue Mountains, hold a koala on Magnetic Island, boat through the 99% silica islands of the Whitsundays, snorkel on the world’s largest Barrier Reef, learn to surf in pristine National Parks, and see how farming is done in the iconic Aussie outback.
Our journey here is two-fold: to immerse in the unbelievable natural beauty of the country in order to appreciate its intrinsic worth, and to explore local creative solutions to climate change. National Park Rangers will teach us about environmental conservation movements in two coastal National Parks and show us how they are protecting native species and strengthening sand dunes from sea level rise.
✓ Are enthusiastic about conservation and strengthening ecosystems
✓ See yourself surfing on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches
✓ Want to visit all of the iconic locations of Australia’s East Coast
✓ Would love to get up close and personal with koalas and kangaroos
✓ Love adventures like canyoning, hiking and snorkeling
✓ Want to add a Certificate of Completed Service Hours to your resume
Traveling to Australia with Pacific Discovery was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I got the opportunity to rappel down cliffs, catch some amazing waves, and explore the culture of Australia. However, the most valuable experience for me was traveling with the 13 amazing people in my group. Traveling with such a small group meant that we got to know each other really well, and by the end, they were like family. The family atmosphere allowed me to become more confident in myself, whether I was trekking through canyons or just hanging out with the group. I really enjoyed my time traveling with Pacific Discovery, and I would recommend the program to every person my age.”
- Saul Cohen
Get the full Summer 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!
Welcome to the blissful Land Down Under, where the time zone is wacky and the water flushes the other way. Our first stop is the cultural capital of Australia. Bold, brash and beautiful, Sydney is arguably the world’s most vibrant city. On arrival at the airport, we will be met by our program instructors and transferred to our downtown accommodation near Sydney Cove, where the first European settlement in Australia was established. We will get to know our group mates while we explore Sydney Harbor by ferry, play frisbee on Manly Beach and walk around the Opera House.
We’ll leave Sydney for the stunning Blue Mountains, named after of the unique blue haze coming out of all the native eucalyptus trees. We will take some Insta-worthy snaps of the famous Three Sisters and walk in the spectacular scenery of the Grand Canyon Track, followed by an adrenaline-filled day canyoning and rappelling through ancient chasms.
We then roadtrip north to the trendy little surf town Crescent Head for a surf camp. It’s time to unpack our bags here and settle into our coastal base camp for a few days of environmental service work and surfing. The waves are suitable for all abilities. You’ll see pros out there as well as learners - it just depends on which part of the beach you go to. The instructors will teach you about ocean currents and wind direction so you can take these newfound skills and feel comfortable in other surf locations across the globe. It’s such a special moment when one of us gets to our feet for the first time and everyone cheers! By the end of surf camp, we will be catching waves. Spend evenings relaxing at camp, playing games, debriefing, and hearing the instructor’s wild stories before more sunrise surfs! Surf camp is all about having a laugh together, learning about muscles you never knew existed, and making memories that last a lifetime.
We spend a few days giving back to the area that’s given us such a good time. We will undertake volunteer conservation, pulling out invasive plants alongside National Park staff in a joint collaboration between Pacific Discovery, Surfaris Surf Camp, and the New South Wales National Parks & Wildlife Service. The conservation 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. The project aims to secure as many threatened species as possible, for the next 100 years.
Up next, we head to Byron Bay. We will go snorkeling and spot humpback whales 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-dyed hippies, bronzed surfers, artists, and lots of local and international tourists head there to enjoy its beaches, boutiques, and cafes. There has been a recent major threat here, with unprecedented floods the past few years. We will speak with Flood Resilience community groups and visit a nearby wildlife rehabilitation hospital at Australia Zoo.
In the second half of the trip, we will cross the border into the state of Queensland. We stay on the Sunshine Coast near Noosa. It’s pure bliss walking the headlands here, and the weather is really starting to heat up as we get into the tropics. By now you’ll be a connoisseur of beaches, and deciding your favorite is a hard task! This is our launch point for a three-day 4WD trip through Fraser Island spotting native dingoes and immersing in luscious forests and iconic freshwater lakes like Mackenzie. Every backpacker's dream is to take to the sandy beaches in 4WD, and we get to do it with our group - in style! We will be glamping in our home base camp and having a say in the places we want to visit whilst on the largest sand island on earth!
We get back into our van and continue the journey north with our program instructors. It’s time to hit the outback. We join the Eather family to learn about life on an Australian farm. Sunsets out here are the dream - sometimes it feels more like the African savannah than the Australian outback! Myella is a 2600-acre cattle station and has been farmed by the Eather family for 80 years. We will hear from them about how the climate has changed since and the new farming practices they are adopting. During our stay, we get to round up the cows, tend the animals, and experience the family's deep connection to the land. Many travelers stay on the coast when visiting Australia, and this farmstay is a unique insight into the red outback of Australia.
Now we are getting into the islands of the Great Barrier Reef. 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 ‘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!
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 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 stay on the island for three nights with lots of time for hiking, swimming, and koala spotting.
Our final stop in Australia is tropical Cairns. This is the part of the trip we’ve all been waiting for - a charter boat out to the 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 give us a chat on what needs to be done to save the reef.
Cairns is a trendy holiday destination, and we will get to know the waterfront and restaurants while we spend a few days winding down. It’s always hard to say goodbye. The Australia Summer Gap Program is one of the most jam-packed adventure months one could ask for and the memories we’ve made together will last a lifetime.
*Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, do 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.
✓ 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
✓ Core Activities that encourage shared group reflection
✓ Certificate of Environmental Conservation with 20 hours service
Medium Activity Level: Anyone with an average fitness level and an enthusiasm for the outdoors and new experiences will have a great time on this summer program! You will need to be prepared for some physical work during the volunteer projects on the program, like trail building or the removal of invasive plants.
Low Camping Level: You will only be camping for a couple of nights on this summer program. You will spend most of your time in comfortable hostels and lodges.
Medium Service 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.
Our accommodation will be a mixture of comfortable and clean hostels and lodges. 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:
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!
Check out the information on our COVID-19 page to find out more about our Covid-19 policies, procedures and updates.