Follow the path of migrating whales along the East Coast of Australia!

Hop onto this summer program abroad and go canyoning in the Blue Mountains, hiking on Magnetic Island, boating among the Whitsundays Islands, and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. Along your journey, you'll try to spot humpback whales at numerous headland walks, and experience Australian life during a farmstay. There’s also time to explore vibrant Sydney, Byron Bay and Cairns. The warm climate, friendly people, unusual wildlife, and dramatic natural beauty make it a fantastic place to experience!

You'll also give surfing a go in the dazzling New South Wales National Parks. At the heart of surfing is a connection-to-nature philosophy. You get to experience this in a hands-on way by undertaking volunteer conservation work alongside National Parks staff in two coastal National Parks. Throughout the rest of your time on the east coast, you’ll learn an enormous amount about the environmental and ecological history and how that unique history has shaped Australia’s flora, fauna and people.

For Your Peace of Mind

Australia has reopened its borders to vaccinated tourists, meaning our Australia Summer Students can feel confident that this program is going ahead.


  Community Choice Award Best Program


This Summer Program Is For You if You...

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

✓ Are interested in experiencing life and work during an Australian Farmstay

✓ Love activities like canyoning, surfing and snorkeling

✓ Are enthusiastic about conservation and ecosystem enhancement

✓ Would love to see wildlife like whales, koalas and kangaroos


Thoughts From a Former Australia Student

   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


  • Service-learning and Volunteer Projects
    • • 'Save our Species' project around conservation and the local ecosystem in two coastal National Parks
  • Outdoor Adventures
    • • Canyoning adventure in the Blue Mountains (swimming, jumping, and abseiling through waterfalls)
    • • Learn to ride waves from surfing-guru instructors during a surf camp
    • • Snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef with turtles and experience its immense marine diversity
    • • Go on a 4WD-adventure on Fraser Island through the rainforest and along endless sandy beaches
    • • Hike, swim and spot koalas on Magnetic Island
  • Cultural Immersion
    • • Learn about the local culture through working alongside local communities
    • • Experience life and work with animals during an Australian Farmstay
  • Personal Development
    • • Become a global citizen with a global perspective on environmental issues
    • • Work confidently and collaboratively with others
    • • Step up with confidence to new opportunities and challenges
    • Transfer the applicable learning activities to benefit both school and personal life

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

Week 1. Sydney, The Blue Mountains & Surf Camp

Bold, brash and beautiful, Sydney is arguably the world’s most vibrant city. On arrival you will be met by your program instructor and transferred to our downtown accommodation near Sydney Cove, where the first European settlement in Australia was established, over 200 years ago. A comprehensive program briefing 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 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.

We will also 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!

Week 2. Conservation Volunteering & Beachy Byron Bay

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 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 is supervised by National Parks staff, and aims to secure as many threatened species that can be secured in the wild as possible, for the next 100 years. 

On to a sensational section of coastline, Byron Bay, which has been an alternative hang-out since the 1970s and is the quintessential surfing town today. Tie-dyed hippies mix with bronzed surfers, artists and large numbers of local 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. Fraser Island & Australian Farmstay

From Byron Bay we drive north into Queensland. We stay on the Sunshine Coast near another gorgeous beach and try whale and dolphin spotting as we walk around the national park headland. We also head off on a three-day 4WD trip across Fraser Island - seeing turtles, dingoes, diverse forests and stunning freshwater lakes lapping white sand beaches. Our favorite place in Australia! 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.

Next, we join the Eather family to learn about life on an Australian farm. Myella is a 2600-acre cattle station and has been farmed by the Eather family for 80 years. During our stay, you’ll get to work with animals and experience the family's deep connection to the land. From Myella, we make our way north to the Great Barrier Reef.

Week 4. Island Hopping & Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef

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 a bird sanctuary and national park with a large koala population. We stay on the island for three nights giving us ample time for hiking, swimming and koala spotting.

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. Cairns has a popular waterfront boardwalk and beach to relax at.  You’ll have time for last minute souvenir shopping before reflecting about our adventure on a program wrap.


*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

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

Activity Level


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.

Camping Level


Low Camping Level: You will only be camping for a couple of nights on this gap year program, and you will spend most of your time in comfortable hostels and lodges.

Volunteering Level


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.


Frequently Asked Questions

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: barbeque meats, vegetables, lots of fresh salads, pasta, wraps, chicken schnitzel

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 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.

Summer Dates 29 Jun - 28 Jul, 2023
Duration 30 days
Program Tuition $6,975 USD Estimated Flight Cost $1,800 USD
Availability Open
Group Size 12 students & 2 instructors Ages 17 - 22 ideal Covid-19 Vaccination Requirement Vaccination Required
Optional College Credit Yes Start/Finish Start in Sydney
Finish in Cairns