Multiple Locations +2
  • New Zealand
    • Auckland
    • Rotorua
    • Wellington
    • Queenstown
  • Australia
    • Sydney
    • Byron Bay
4 - 12 weeks
Program Tags
Adventure Travel After College College Credit Conservation Cultural Immersion Hands-On Learning Post-High School Volunteer Abroad Wilderness
General grants/scholarships, Payment plans, 529 Plan eligibility
Health & Safety

Program Details

Animal Viewing Backpacking Bird Watching Camping City Exploring Hiking Kayaking Mountain Climbing Rafting Remote Exploring Rock Climbing Sightseeing Snorkeling Surfing Swimming Trekking
Fall Spring
Hostel Lodge Tent
Primary Language
Age Min.
Age Max


Starting Price
Price Details
Program Tuition Includes...
- All in-country travel and transport excluding flights
- All accommodation & 3 meals daily excluding snack
- All expeditions, activities, excursions, entry fees & adventure travel
- Individual mentorship from program instructors & local guides
- Lectures from resident experts on conservation & eco-tourism
- 1-3 week optional extensions if you wish to continue traveling independently
- Pre-departure information
- 24/7 emergency contact number for students and parents
- Global medical rescue and political evacuation insurance
- 24/7 access to a physician and psychologist
- Pacific Discovery T-shirt, water bottle stickers and a buff
- Online image library
What's Included
Accommodation Activities Domestic Airfare Airport Transfers Meals Park Fees Tour Guide Transportation
What's Not Included
Airfare Travel Insurance
May 15, 2024
Aug 15, 2023
193 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

This epic gap year program through New Zealand and Australia will reveal the wonders of life Down Under, before you hike, climb and camp your way through Aotearoa.

New Zealand and Australia are two of the most ecologically intact and diverse countries in the world, and this experiential travel gap semester offers an amazing immersion during the temperate southern hemisphere spring and summer months.

It combines week-long conservation volunteer projects in diverse national parks and marine reserves; multi-day outdoor expeditions including backpacking, canoeing, rock climbing and surfing; and educational adventure travel through New Zealand and Australia’s stunning mountain, forest and beach environments!

Video and Photos

Diversity & Inclusion

BIPOC Support

We understand that we have a long way to go in achieving the diversity we strive for among our students, staff, and partners. We are committed to fostering a more diverse and inclusive organization, and we recognize that this requires time, effort, and resources. At Pacific Discovery, we deeply value diversity, equity, and social justice, and we are dedicated to creating educational experiences that reflect and promote these values. Our program curriculum incorporates social justice education and encourages students to explore their own identities. To further support these efforts, we offer a 'Diverse Voices' Scholarship.

LGBTQIA+ Support

All of our Pacific Discovery programs are LGBTQIA+ friendly, and our operations team have attended CIS Abroad's LGBTQ+ Allyship Training, to ensure we’re doing what we can to support this community. We provide an open and non judgemental space for students to explore who they are at this pivotal time of their life, and in our admissions process we seek information not only on a student's gender, but their pronouns and gender identity. We’re aware of the differing cultural perspectives of LQBTQIA in the countries that we visit, and can direct students to a semester location where they’ll feel the most comfortable. Operationally we ensure that our instructors use inclusive language and can facilitate conversations with students around their identity, and discuss the rooming situations with LGBTQIA+ students.

Neurodivergent Support

Our programs are designed to support students with a wide range of neurodiverse conditions while following our essential eligibility criteria. For students needing extra help, we provide personalized wellness plans . These plans include coping strategies, care protocols, and specific requirements to help them engage effectively in the program. Our instructors have access to mental health first aid resources and are well-prepared to offer strong support to students with these needs.

Accessibility Support

Our programs offer a variety of physical activities, including hiking, surfing, rafting, and mountain biking. We make sure to accommodate students with diverse needs such as asthma, diabetes, and chronic medical conditions, while working within the infrastructure of the host country and our program schedules. We're mindful of the varying levels of accessibility in the countries we visit and can help students choose a semester location where they feel most at ease.



Sustainability is one of the 6 core components of each Pacific Discovery program, where we educate students about the local and global environmental issues, how to travel sustainably, and have them think deeply about their impact and what they can do in their daily lives to affect change.

We recently embarked on a Net Positive Benefit project where we are qualifying what impacts our groups have on the local communities, taking into consideration carbon emissions +/- social impacts +/- conservation impacts +/- community impacts. On our programs, students engage with non-profit organisations such as Litter Intelligence, Scholars of Sustenance, Ulu Mau puanui, Llama Pack project where they directly work for a better future - planting trees, eradicating invasive weed species, helping local communities and food banks.

Ethical Impact

We make a conscious decision to partner with host communities and suppliers who are passionate about our students' participation and involvement with them being of a positive benefit to the community. We want our presence to enable positive sustainable growth for our partners and this mantra is ingrained in the fabric of our programs.

Program Highlights

  • Rewarding volunteer conservation projects in National Parks and wildlife reserves
  • 3-day 4WD tour of K'gari Fraser Island with stand up paddle boarding and snorkelling
  • Learn to ride waves during a multi-day surf camp in Australia's East Coast
  • Canyoning adventure in the Blue Mountains (swimming, jumping, and abseiling through waterfalls)
  • White water rafting adventure over rapids and the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world

Popular Programs

New Zealand

This program combines three week-long service-learning conservation projects in diverse national parks and marine reserves; five multi-day outdoor expeditions including backpacking, canoeing, rock climbing and surfing; and educational adventure travel through New Zealand and Australia’s stunning mountain, forest and beach environments.

Program Dates

Application Deadline
Program Dates

Program Reviews

4.87 Rating
based on 39 reviews
  • 5 rating 94.87%
  • 4 rating 2.56%
  • 3 rating 0%
  • 2 rating 0%
  • 1 rating 2.56%
  • Housing 4.85
  • Support 4.85
  • Fun 4.95
  • Value 4.8
  • Safety 4.95
Showing 1 - 8 of 39 reviews
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Semester of a lifetime!

The program was a lot of fun! The instructions were great along with everyone else signed up for the program which made it a blast. The housing was almost all camping and hostels so not always the most comfortable but the group sleeps in the same room which is good fun and some uncomfort while camping is to be expected but makes it feel like a more complete experience. The locations were stunning and the activities were a lot of fun. Overall I would recommend this program to anyone! Also most mornings are pretty early but you’ll be able to turn in most nights, it’s mostly up to you to make the decision to sleep at a decent hour (I however usually did not).

  • Tight knit group
  • Great locations
  • Fun activities
138 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Adventure!

Visiting Australia and New Zealand had always been on my bucket list, and I couldn't be happier that I got the opportunity to experience it with Pacific Discovery. You can tell how much meticulous planning they put into curating each program's itinerary and making sure that you'll see as much of Australia and New Zealand as possible in your 70 days there. On the program, you'll embody the traveler's spirit, always on the move and never staying in any one place for more than a couple of days. Looking back, the breadth and depth of activities you get to partake in on this program are amazing. From surfing on Australia's pristine beaches to taking in New Zealand's most famous glacier, your experience with PD will leave you with memories that last a lifetime.

I am really so grateful to Pacific Discovery for giving me the ideal start to my gap year. I can't think of a better way to have spent the last 3 months. I want everyone to be able to have the same life-changing experience I did, so I highly recommend Pacific Discovery if you are taking a gap year! You'll learn about sustainability, culture, and the unique environment on these islands, but more importantly, you'll learn so much about yourself. If you're like me and haven't made up your mind about what you want your future to look like, this program will help give you clarity on what truly drives you to be who you are.

Once again, thanks to PD for this incredible experience!!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
By the end of the program, you'll have caught the travel bug and be well equipped to set off on your own travels, so make sure to leave some time for a program extension if you can! Planning your own travels and living independently is such a rewarding experience. Plus, you're not going to be ready to say goodbye to New Zealand!
267 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

fairly disappointed

I never took the time to leave a review from my semester in Australia and New Zealand last year. I decided I would share what I wish I had known beforehand, as it may help someone who is on the fence about deciding on this program. Honestly, I know several people who have had amazing experiences with PD. The trip had really amazing moments and lessons, but overall, to me it was absolutely not worth the price and the stress. I had no idea that the program was going to be so strictly structured- from assigned rotating seats/ rooms in the van, not being allowed to spend time with other people in the group without inviting the entire group, extremely little free time and uncomfortably forced 'sessions" (basically group therapy.) The volunteer work was lengthy and impersonal- usually it consisted of fence clipping, weed-poisoning, and cleaning. Most of the time it felt all too much like a children's summer camp plus intense labor. The food was so limited that our group would get into fights about someone getting seconds or eating the last ricecracker. It was ridiculous, such a drama scene.
Aside from the negatives, I ended up growing a lot from the experience. Months after reflecting on the trip, it has made me aware of my faults and I have learned to become a more open-hearted and flexible person. I also saw some of the most beautiful places of my life, and pushed my comfort zones to new levels. After the trip, I travelled independently in Asia and gained SO much more from my experience. If you are the type of person who likes structure and the convenience of a planned-out schedule, this may be for you. If you are a nonconformist, do NOT chose this trip.

259 people found this review helpful.
Response from Pacific Discovery

Dear Eva, we really appreciate you submitting a review, and are sorry to hear that the group-focused and structured elements of the program were not what you were looking for in your semester abroad experience. We applaud you for taking the learning from this semester and subsequently travelling independently in Southeast Asia...it's what we hope for all of our participants...that they will learn and grow from their time with us and carry that over into their own lifelong adventures! Wishing you all the best, Rachel and Scott, Founding Directors

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Experience of a Lifetime

After searching through countless gap year programs, I had finally settled on one - Pacific Discovery Australia & New Zealand. I loved the balance it had between service projects and adventure activities. Going into it, I knew I was about to have a great adventure, but I could have never expected the extent to which the program would impact me. It wasn't just seeing new places and meeting new people - it was being in awe of places you couldn't have imagined, finding connections to different cultures, and becoming more aware of yourself in the process. And there would be no better way to experience all this than with the group of people you come to call your closest friends. Going through all these experiences together, growing together, allows you to become connected on a whole other level. The mission of Pacific Discovery really does come to life as the program fosters awareness for yourself and the world around you.

242 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Inspirational Learning Outside of My Comfort Zone

I had always wanted to go Australia and New Zealand, and this program gave me the amazing opportunity to do so! Going into the program, I wasn't really sure what to expect. The website and pictures I had seen looked amazing, and I expected and wanted to grow as a person from this experience, but how and by how much, I had no idea. From the very start, Pacific Discovery taught us that the greatest learning comes from outside of our comfort zones. This trip was the first time I was continuously pushed out of my comfort zone, whether it was being away from home for 2 months, being with 13 other people from all different backgrounds, abseiling down a 30m waterfall with my heart pounding outrageously in my chest, jumping out of a plane from 13,000 ft and soaring like a flying squirrel, and countless other occasions. I learned that to really make the most of an experience, I have to take what I experienced and internalize it so that I can learn from it and come back to it for future reference. There were ups and downs and ins and outs, but at the end of the day, I'm a physically and mentally stronger person than I was at the beginning of the trip - because I internalized and learned the lessons from experiences outside of my comfort zone, thanks to the way that PD runs the trip.There is so much emphasis on personal growth, learning more about your own identity, and getting the most you as yourself can get out of the trip. Along the way, I met incredibly wise and incredibly eccentric people; I learned about genius designs that revolutionized my view of "eco-friendly," I became aware of so many other lifestyles than mine own, I developed and grew as a photographer, and most of all, I came out of this program with a stronger sense of who I am and how I want to live my life. All of this personal growth in a land that some people only dream of coming to, the beautiful vistas and great cities of Australia and New Zealand. Gazing up at the millions of stars visible in the night skies there, I was reminded of just how large the world is, and how much we all have to learn from different places and from each other, something that this Pacific Discovery program definitely emphasized very well. For that, I am very thankful to PD.

With love,
-Ashley Yu

243 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Experience of a lifetime

I booked PD online from my home in Toronto Canada and it was the first site I looked at. It had everything I wanted out my New Zealand/Australia experience. When I retell my stories people are so jealous - you can't book this type of travel just anywhere and trust me I know - I am now a travel agent.
One of my favorite memories is participating in a 5 night canoe week and staying at local Maori camps or just our own sites. We decided to have a theme day where we dressed up as pirates (pre planned prior to canoe trip) and hung Skull and bones flags from our 'ships'. We didn't encounter anyone else on the river until we stopped at the, bridge to nowhere, when we ran into some people just coming up from the river, when they saw us in our costumes they laughed and said they wondered who the pirates were. We had so much fun as group laughing and pretending to be pirates, it really made me realize what incredible people I was with and it is all because of PD that we were brought together.

What would you improve about this program?
I don't think it can. I love that I was challenged on the hikes and made to carry my own backpack. It was tough and some days tougher than others but you had a true sense of satisfaction and exhaustion when you went to bed. I had never truly canoed before and the 5 day trip was a highlight for me. PD thinks of everything, I can't even imagine trying to do anything like that on my way. They have an insurmountable knowledge and still make it loads of fun.
252 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Pacific Discovery Australia / New Zealand

If you're looking for an exciting yet meaningful semester on your gap year, look no further. I have just returned from Pacific Discovery's trip to Australia and New Zealand, which was by far the highlight of my entire gap year. I originally liked this program for the adventure aspect, and saw the community service projects just as a little something extra but honestly, everything was a highlight looking back.
One thing I will say about this program, though, is that it is fast pace (which I like). This program is for the person who wants to get the most out of their time abroad, who doesn't mind waking up early to catch the sunrise (always worth it) or who doesn't mind leaving their comfort zone (Bungee Jumping, in my case). I am this type of person, and so it turns out that Pacific Discovery was one of the best parts of my life so far.
If you are the adventurous and active type, I couldn't recommend this program to you more.

What would you improve about this program?
I can't really think of anything specifically, to be honest. If I had to say something, though, I would say the logistics of the itinerary. There were days that had some really long car rides that I felt could be avoided with a slight switch around of the days; that would have been helpful.
243 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Best Travel Experience of my Life

Hiking to Tongariro Crossing was epic. Hot in the morning and freezing cold on the top of the volcano in the afternoon! The landscape changed dramatically and our leaders had arranged for their local friends to join us so that we could learn about the history and ecology of where we were. On the way back down, we swam in some natural pools by the trail that were the most refreshing and beautiful experience of the trip. Our leaders were great, always well prepared and their love of life was second to none! This was one of many great moments from the trip. While you can find out about the Tongariro in guide books, our leaders took us on so many other excursions that you can only get my being with locals willing to share their favorite places.

What would you improve about this program?
Potential work opportunities in country to extend the trip!
250 people found this review helpful.

Questions & Answers

My trip was also ranging between 18-22 years old. Most of the people were 18, but I was 22 at the time, done with college, and was the oldest besides the trip leaders. I wasn't bothered by this though because it was still awesome to hang out with such outgoing and motivated people!