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What To Do In Australia While On A Gap Year

Here's what to do in Australia to make your gap year completely unforgettable...

What to do in Australia on a gap year: diving in the great barrier reef
Diving in the Great Barrier Reef is a right of passage for any travellers down under… Photo: iStock

Wondering what to do in Australia? You may have booked your gap year, got your job sorted and be counting down the days, but if you don’t have a plan for what to do in Australia when you get there, you could find your first few months are a bit of a mess!

Well, worry no longer. There’s a reason so much student travel and so many career breaks lead down under. From the famous beaches to the rainforests and obscurity of the outback, a gap year in Australia is probably the most diverse offered by any one country, and when you’ve got a good plan behind you, it’s hard to go wrong.

We’ve put together the ultimate list of must-see, must-do experiences for your adventure in Australia…

Of course, there’s an endless list of what to do in Australia while there on a gap year. That’s why we thought we’d put together a concise, easily digestible must-see, must-do list of experiences and ideas, from the legendary to the lesser known, that will help you plan your trip to perfection.

Planning out what to do in Australia needs not be more complicated than following the 10 points below. A gap year adventure that involves all of these ideas is a gap year adventure that’s been properly done!

1) Get Involved in Water Sports in Australia

What to do in Australia on a gap year: surfing
Surfing is the thing to do in Australia… You’ve got to give it a try! Photo: iStock

When you’re planning out what to do in Australia, our first piece of advice is to be open to trying new things – and by taking up a new sport you might just turn a gap year adventure into a new passion for life.

If you’re heading to the golden beaches of Australia, it’s almost imperative that you give surfing a go. It’s difficult at first, yes, but when you catch that first wave we guarantee you’ll be hooked. And the land down under is the perfect place to be hooked on surfing.

What to do in Australia on a gap year: surfing 2
What better way to make new friends down under? Photo: iStock

Another essential Australian gap year experience is diving in the Great Barrier Reef. The famous reef is longer than the Great Wall of China and there are stunning colours and amazing animals down there. There’s a genuine chance if you give it a go that you’ll end up face to face with a turtle, and let’s be honest, that’s not something you want to miss out on while you’re working abroad.

If you’re looking to avoid tourist hot spots though, head a little further from the reef to Cole Hole on Lizard Island, one of the most famous diving spots on the planet. Waterskiing, kite surfing or wakeboarding could also be a great shout for anyone whose working holiday is spent along the coast line.

2) Snap The Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road

What to do in Australia on a gap year: Twelve apostles, the great ocean road
The twelve apostles… reduced to seven these days but still gap year gold! Photo: iStock

At 240 kilometres long, the Great Ocean Road isn’t the longest road trip in the world, but its one Australian adventure you can’t afford to miss out on your gap year.

The journey takes place along the coast of Victoria, starting in Torquay and travelling west towards Allansford. The recommended time to complete the drive is anything from a few days to a week, to fully breathe in the amazing scenery, the vineyards in the hills, the beachside cafes and the stunning Twelve Apostles, formed from the erosion of coastal limestone cliffs many years ago.

These amazing rocks stand tall in the sea, but are slowly crumbling away now. So, with only seven of the 12 remaining, we may be one of the last generations who gets to see them in the flesh. Make sure it makes your list of what to do in Australia!

3) Bounce With Kangaroos and Swim With Seals

What to do in Australia on a gap year: kangaroo wildlife
Kangaroos are only the tip of the Australian wildlife iceberg! Photo: iStock

Get yourself along to Kangaroo Island, where you’ll find six-foot bouncers who pack a hell of a punch – kangaroos that is, not the security at your local nightclub – as well as outrageously cute koala bears and even dolphins and whales in the shores nearby. You can even stay in one of the lighthouses on the island if you’re up for a super special gap year experience!

The animal antics certainly don’t end there either. Why not journey to Tasmania to see the endangered Tasmanian devil or swim with the seals in the stunning shallow waters of Baird Bay?

What to do in Australia on a gap year: koala wildlife
Is there anything cuter than a koala? No. The answer is no. Photo: iStock

Head to Norfolk Island or Lord Howe Island if you want to see the rare Providence Petrel birds, take a dive in a shark cage around the coastline of the country, drive to Adelaide for the wallabies or enter the Cutta Cutta Caves and snap some amazing blind shrimp if you want a super original travel adventure!

The country is filled with opportunities for wildlife-lovers on student travels or otherwise, and there’s no shortage of new places to go or amazing wild animals to see.

4) Go Skiing or Mountain Biking near Victoria

What to do in Australia on a gap year: go skiing or mountain biking!
Mt Hotham ski resort in the Victorian Alps… Didn’t expect that, did you? Photo: iStock

When you’re wondering what to do in Australia we’re doubting that you pictured yourself surrounded by snow. Believe it or not though, there’s actually a solid ski scene in the country. It’s based in Victoria, namely on Mt Buller or Mt Hotham, so why not get yourself up there and hit the slopes in winter or get on a mountain bike if it’s still the summer time.

This is one for anyone familiar with either of these sports, interesting in hiking or simply looking to head to some of the less common tourist spots commonly associated with Australia. It’d definitely be a talking point of your gap year on your eventual arrival home.

5) Have An Epic Gap Year Adventure in Karijini National Park

What to do in Australia on a gap year: Karijini National Park
One of the beautiful gorges at the Karijini National Park… Photo: iStock

The mountains and gorges of Australia are truly stunning, and none moreso than those that can be found in Karijini National Park.

The park is on the list of protected areas in Western Australia and is just 15km from Solomon Airport. You might even spot a few kangaroos, wallaroos, echidnas, geckos or some other Aussie wildlife while you’re there, so this one can be slotted into the Aussie animal gap year experience folder as well.

Some of the most beautiful gorges in all of the country can be found here, with numorous places to jump in for a swim surrounded by iconic red rocks, perfect water, waterfalls and even plant-life. This is the place where you’re going to take that Facebook cover photo that will do you for the next ten years.

6) Take a Hike Through the Beautiful Rainforests

What to do in Australia on a gap year: rainforests
Looking for things to do in Australia? Look no further… Photo:iStock

A big part of your plan for what to do in Australia should be based around experiencing all the different terrain that the country has to offer. Head to the north east coast of Queensland for example and you’ll find that you’ve traded the red-rock and golden beaches found in other parts of the country for brilliant, dense rainforest.

The Daintree Rainforest is around 1,200 square kilometres, and is the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest on the Australian continent. The setting is part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you’ll find animals in there ranging from endangered Body’s Rainforest Dragons to Spectacled Flying Foxes and Southern Cassowarys. It’s a must-do day out on any working holiday down under.

If you’d like to follow in the footsteps of the Flying Foxes, you can even abandon the grounded path in favour of a zip line path above it, where five trees have been linked 19 metres up from the forest floor.

7) Get the Spiritual Experience at Uluru

What to do in Australia on a gap year: ayers rock
Ayers Rock is a tourist attraction worth the hype… Photo: iStock

You may have seen the photographs of the amazing Uluru/Ayers Rock, but most don’t do the setting justice. This one should be on your list of what to do in Australia before you’ve even picked up the pen. The giant rock appears from nowhere, and actually changes colour depending on the time of day and weather conditions. It also has vast spiritual significance for the Anangu landowners, and a tour can prove insightful.

If you would rather take on a little less known mountain though, head for Mount Augustus in Western Australia. It’s said to be an amazing 1,750 million years old and is even higher than Uluru itself.

Another alternative could be taking on the Devil’s Marble in the North Territory, though we’d only recommend this if you’re a serious rock climber. Either way, make sure you work some climbing time into your gap year in Australia. You want regret it.

8) Get Involved in a Conservation Project

What to do in Australia on a gap year: conservation project
Conservation projects can offer a great deal for those keen on volunteering… Photo: iStock

If you’re looking to get the wonderful inner happiness that comes from volunteering abroad while still seeing some of the most beautiful settings in the world, joining a conservation project could be just the thing for you.

Volunteer jobs in Australia can range from working with kangaroos to exploring the Outback to helping out around the rainforests or even Uluru/Ayers Rock.

The good thing about this is that if you volunteer, your host will more often than not provide accommodation and food and drink, so it could even save you a bit of money as well!

9) Make the Most of the Cities

What to do in Australia on a gap year: sydney
Beautiful shot of Sydney harbor from the air… Tell us this doesn’t look sick! Photo: iStock

Australia is one of the most naturally impressive countries in the world. From perfect sand and water to rainforests, ski slopes and epic rocks, it’s hard to rival. But that doesn’t mean you can’t boost your gap year plan by including a bit more time in the cities as well.

Syndey Harbour is famously beautiful, as is Melbourne City, and in both you’ll find amazing beaches as well. It’s also worth remembering that a gap year in Australia is nowhere near complete without spending a hell of a lot of time with locals in the bars!

10) Find the Best Beach For You

What to do in Australia on a gap year: beach
Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island… Not too shabby, eh? Photo:iStock

Don’t follow the hype and head to a busy beach if you know for a fact you’d prefer something quiet. This is your gap year, so when you’re planning out what to do in Australia, make sure you put together a gap year plan person to you.

If you do love a bit of atmosphere and soaking in the sun next to a crowd of locals and fellow travellers, you can’t get better than the famous Bondi Beach, filled with surfers, crowds, posers and that famously chilled-out Aussie atmosphere. It’s another Australian gap year essential.

What to do in Australia on a gap year: beach 2
Anyone who loves atmosphere should make Bondi Beach an essential on your list of things to do… Photo: iStock

There are an array of brilliant but lesser-known beaches out there too though, one of the best of which is Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island, which while popular, is completely secluded.

On Bruny Island meanwhile, off the southeast coast of Tasmania, you’ll find more golden sand, perfect water and palm-trees galore, with very few tourists, and you’ll get a similarly heavenly vibe at Little Beach in Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, Albany.

Our best piece of advice for organising what to do in Australia on a gap year though? Make the most of it, try and fit in as many epic experiences as you can, and in the end, just tailor it to your own personal preferences and do whatever makes you happy. That’s what it’s all about!

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