Heading off to college can be a really exciting time, but for those who can’t decide what they want, a gap year is a perfect way to fill your time while gaining life experience. Australia is a great place for a gap year because there are an incredible amount of activities to take part in that are fun and will help you grow. It is a popular country among recent graduates because of its safe cities and the ease of getting around. No matter when you take your gap year, Australia is a good destination.
I decided to take a gap year after my high school experience and head to Australia because it’s a place that has always seemed so out of reach for me. Once I heard about the work and holiday visa and learned that I could make money while enjoying my time in Australia, I decided to jump at the opportunity. I moved to Melbourne for a year, met a lot of amazing people, and worked at cool jobs. Those, in turn, helped me build my resume and show college admissions that I wasn’t just throwing a year away to live in one of the sunniest countries in the world.
Here are a few ways to make the most out of your gap year in the land down under.
1. Try a New Job
One of the best ways to experience a new country, especially an expensive one like Australia, is to immerse yourself. And what better way to get to know a new country than by picking up and moving there. Australia offers a work and holiday visa, for people ages 18 to 31, which allows you to live and work in the country for up to one year.
There are a number of opportunities for work ranging from fun to professional. Many work-and-holidayers choose to work on a farm for 90 days, allowing them to extend their visa for an extra year (this option is available to many European nations) and get hands-on experience working with harvests such as mangos, avocados, zucchini, and more.
Your gap year is also a great opportunity to take a job that you normally wouldn’t back home. Learn to be a barista in Melbourne, dubbed as the world’s coffee capital, hang out with kangaroos in the outback, or become a manager on a taco truck (like I did). If you’d like something that focuses more on your career goals, there are plenty of professional jobs in bigger cities like Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne to keep your resume glowing nicely. This is an opportunity to discover yourself and what you like while also making money which will give you more freedom to explore this incredibly beautiful country.
2. Learn to Surf
Everyone knows that Australia is one of the best places to surf in the world. So why not try your hand at surfing during a gap year?
There is no lack of surf schools along the coast where you can spend the mornings in the water and the rest of the day working or exploring. Most people think to head straight to Sydney or Surfers Paradise, but there are a number of smaller towns that are great for beginners. Byron Bay is a quaint little hippie town that has the ultimate beach and surf vibes.
If you want something closer to a big city, Bells Beach and Wonthaggi in Victoria are great surf spots and only an hour and a half from Melbourne. For those who want to chill and get back to nature, Tasmania has an entire surf coast that runs from Bicheno to St. Helen’s Point, a great area to unplug and focus on surfing.
3. Take the Road Trip of a Lifetime
One of the most popular adventures in Australia is taking a road trip around the country. Many young travelers buy used campervans from other travelers so finding a car is not as hard or expensive as you think (prices start from about AUD$3000 depending on the age and mileage of the car).
Hit the open road and drive up the east coast for the classic Sydney to Cairns tour or take a ride on the wild side and explore Western Australia. You can even take your car on a ferry from Melbourne to explore the beautiful island of Tasmania. The possibilities are endless when you can explore the country at your own pace with your own vehicle. This is a great opportunity to meet locals and fellow travelers and learn about the unique country of Australia.
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4. Take a Bus Tour from Cairns to Sydney
If you can’t afford to buy a campervan or would prefer an easier way of traveling, you can still take the popular east coast Australia trip by bus. Companies such as Greyhound, Premier, and Loka all provide hop-on-hop-off bus packages which allow you to get off at many cities along the coast for one flat fee.
Spend a month (or more) exploring popular Australian destinations such as Sydney, Byron Bay, Brisbane, Cairns, and many other cities. Many young travelers and people taking gap years choose this option because it’s convenient and easy. This is also the best way to meet other people on your journey as many of them are hitting up the same spots along the way.
5. Sail Around the Whitsundays
If you’re looking for that quintessential island feel in Australia then look no further to the Whitsundays Islands in Queensland. This popular destination features a number of islands which border the Great Barrier Reef.
Sail around the crystal blue waters and relax on the white sandy beaches with a number of sailing excursions that leave from Airlie Beach. Visit one of the top beaches in the world, Whitehaven Beach, and relax on the bright white silica sands as you enjoy the tropical atmosphere.
For those who just can’t get away, you can get a job on a sailboat and spend your days sailing the pristine waters and soaking up the sun.
6. Get Certified and Scuba the Great Barrier Reef
For the ultimate bucket-list experience, head to the Great Barrier Reef and get your scuba certification. This is a dream for many people around the world and is a great way to take on an exciting new hobby during your gap year.
There are multitudes of scuba-diving courses and certifications that you can do in Queensland, many with hands-on experiences in the GBR. Just like the Whitsundays, if you love the experience and want to stay longer, there are many opportunities in and around the Great Barrier Reef to live and work.
Australia is one of the best places to take a gap year. It’s filled with fun activities, great weather, and a lot of opportunities. You can meet young people from all over the world who are also taking a gap year before deciding what to do with their lives. This is a great time to discover what you want and will help make your college applications shine with real-life experience that is so important to thriving in college and in life.