New Zealand & Australia Semester - Cultural Immersion, Service Learning, Adventure
96% Rating
(37 Reviews)

New Zealand & Australia Semester - Cultural Immersion, Service Learning, Adventure

Pacific Discovery takes a Gap Year!

Pacific Discovery will not be offering any programs in Summer 2018, Fall 2018, or Spring 2019. After 18 years of running programs, we will be taking a gap year ourselves to focus on time with family and our own adventures. We will continue to offer our custom faculty-led high school and university trips.

Thank you for supporting Pacific Discovery and we wish you all the best for the year ahead.

Engage your passions! Join us for a life-changing, overland journey through the heart of New Zealand and Australia.

10-week program for ages 18-24. Fall and Spring departures. Scholarships and academic credit available.

Develop a global perspective, independence, leadership and communication skills through outdoor expeditions, service learning projects, and authentic cultural immersion. Pacific Discovery programs foster empathy for other cultures, ethical and sustainable travel practices, and awareness of international issues. Students leave with a deepened sense of their identity, passion, and purpose.

Pacific Discovery is a global leader in experiential education, offering inspiring summer, semester, and gap year programs abroad since 2001, and is an inaugural member of the American Gap Association.

- Visit our website to request a detailed information booklet for this program –

  • - Develop skills in independent travel, leadership, communication, rock climbing, surfing, canoeing, canyoning, mountain biking, trekking, snorkeling.
  • -Get to know the real culture and people of New Zealand and Australia.
  • - Volunteer in service learning projects with National Parks in New Zealand and Australia.
  • - Explore New Zealand and Australia’s highlights – The Noosa Everglades, Sydney, The Blue Mountains, Brisbane, Auckland, Kahurangi National Park, Queenstown, Rotorua, Frans Josef Glacier, islands, beaches, national parks
  • - Experience transformative personal growth that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves, working towards a deeper understanding of their values, identity, passions and purpose.
Byron Bay
Program Tags
Adventure Travel
Cultural Exploration
Hands-On Learning
Post-High School
Study Abroad
Volunteer Abroad
1-3 Months
Airport Transfers
Domestic Airfare
Park Fees
Tour Guide
Travel Insurance
Primary Language
Age Min.
Age Max
Application Fee
Starting Price
Price Details
Program Tuition Includes...
- All in-country travel and transport including a mid-program international flight between New Zealand and Australia
- All accommodation
- All meals
- All expeditions, activities, excursions, entry fees and adventure travel as described in the itinerary
- Environmental education and service learning projects
- Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves - working towards a deeper understanding of their values, identity, passions and purpose
- Individual mentorship from program instructors, supporting you in your personal goals for the program
- Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism
- Experienced international Program Instructors and local guides
- 1-3-week optional extensions if you wish to continue travelling independently after the program
- Pre-departure web-page with all information you need in one place to prepare for the program
- 24/7 emergency contact number for students and parents
- Global medical rescue and political evacuation insurance
- Instructors have 24/7 access to a physician and a psychologist, for advice and support
- Pacific Discovery T-shirt, water bottle stickers and a buff
- Online image library for your program
Other Locations
North and South Islands of New Zealand, and the East Coast of Australia

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!

Program Reviews

based on 37 reviews
  • Housing 9.3
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.7
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 15 of 37
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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.

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'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

No, I don't recommend
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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.

Yes, I recommend
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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

Yes, I recommend
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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.

How can this program be improved?

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.

Yes, I recommend
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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.

How can this program be improved?

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.

Yes, I recommend
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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.

How can this program be improved?

Potential work opportunities in country to extend the trip!

Yes, I recommend
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An organization I can't recommend highly enough!

We began our ascent up Mt. Cook early on a cloud-covered day. The steep incline progressed and our view was limited due to the conditions, but the environment around us was beautiful and our spirits were high. Suddenly, the leaders in our group stopped in their tracks and called down to us. We soon caught up to them, breaking through the cloud cover and to see an incredibly clear view of Mt. Cook. It was breathtaking. We continued our climb until we had reached the upper campsights where we would stay for the night. We spent the evening listening to the rumblings of snow falling far off in the distance and admiring the beauty that surrounded us. This was one of many breathtaking moments that we experienced as a tight-knit group.

I feel so lucky that I came across this program and took the chance in setting out into the unknown. I experienced so much personal growth and discovered a new inspiration for adventure in life.

The organizers of these programs are incredibly warm and passionate people. They have a strong desire to learn, grow, engage, connect with others, and make a difference in their worlds. Their thirst for adventure is contagious.

These trips are so well planned and organized in order to maximize the experience for all of the participants, and constantly evolving to incorporate new experiences.

There are few organizations I hold in such high regard.

How can this program be improved?

I am racking my brain to come up with something here, but I'm drawing a blank.

Yes, I recommend
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The Trip of A Lifetime

My gap year semester with Pacific Discovery was without a doubt one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. This was my very first time leaving the US on my own, and immediately I felt comfortable with both my group our incredible leader, Holly. In two months I was able to canoe, kayak, learn to surf, hike incredible areas, hang with the kangas, learn the ins and outs of NZ/AUS towns and SO much more. The trip consisted of unforgettable memories and even better friends with whom I have stayed very close to throughout these past five (!!) years. Out of four different trips I took throughout my gap year, my trip to Australia/New Zealand with Pacific Discovery was without a doubt the most rewarding. After two months, I felt that I had immersed myself fully in the Kiwi and Aussie culture. I would full heartedly recommend this program to anyone looking for a life-changing adventure with incredible people.

Yes, I recommend
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Aussies, Kiwi's and Adventure

Pacific Discovery New Zealand and Australia Gap Year Semester Program changed my life! I don't want to sound cliche when I say this, but I came back a totally different person. I came back a person who refused to say no to anything (just like the bunny jumping and skydiving that I did), as a person who would look straight up at a mountain and say "I am going to hike that!", a person who found comfort and solitude by sleeping on the ground, pitching a tent, making meals over tiny stovetops and carrying her life around on her back. I was not only challenged mentally, emotionally and physically, I was also able to give back to the country that I was enjoying by volunteering at National Parks. I learned the amazing culture and history of the people of New Zealand and Australia and learned how to be a better leader. For all these reasons and more, I would highly recommend this trip, or any of the Pacific Discovery trips!

How can this program be improved?

Honestly, everything was phenomenal about this trip. I would say that the one thing that could be improved is making it longer. It is a "semester" gap program so having it be the length of an actual college semester (4 months) would have been great!

Yes, I recommend
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My semester with Pacific Discovery was truly incredible. In just one semester, I got to go surfing, canoeing, canyoning, rock climbing, bungee jumping, hiking, camping, and so much more. Not to mention the friends I made and the invaluable life skills I picked up from my program leaders as well as my peers. Pacific Discovery makes you feel safe and comfortable from the second you arrive, through providing you with a detailed itinerary to fostering an atmosphere of open communication and respect. I would highly recommend any Pacific Discovery program to anyone who is looking to travel and make close connections, and I will truly never forget my time doing the Australia and New Zealand program. You really can't go wrong with this company, everyone involved is truly amazing.

Yes, I recommend
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I wanted a trip where I can immerse myself in the culture and see parts of New Zealand and Australia that no one usually sees, especially those who normally just study abroad. I saw that and more and I relive my experience every day. From multi day expeditions though the Whanganui River and Kahurangi National Park, volunteering at Miniwhangata- hands down the coolest place I've ever been, making life long friends. It was worth the money and more I speant. My leaders were greats at their jobs and were even better friends.

How can this program be improved?

Our van in Australia was cramped and the AC barely worked. It was tough to deal with on multiple 5+ hours drives for a month. The list of what to bring on the trip could be updated as well.

Yes, I recommend
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Pacific Discovery Adventure to Australia & New Zealand

Pacific Discovery is truly great at what they do. If you are looking for a program that creates a personal relationship with their participants, provides a true cultural immersion, while also implementing environmental consciousness, you have found the program for you!
There is no way if I traveled to Australia and New Zealand on my own, that I would have been able to see what we saw and experienced what we did in my two month period with PD. It is insane how well organized they are, and what they are able to accomplish within 9 weeks.
My two months away from home were jam packed. Trying to reflect on my experience with a minimum of 200 words is overwhelming.
1) Bring a journal and write in it. 2) Go into every moment with an open mind. 3) Before you leave really try to establish your intentions of the trip and why you're going. 4) Go on every morning swim!!

How can this program be improved?

It might be worthwhile booking your own flight. PD does offer a travel agent that you can go through, but my family and I found a cheaper flight on our own.
Another thing to consider is how we traveled..which was 95% by van. The good ol van became a really close friend, but I felt for the people who experience car sickness.

Yes, I recommend
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Best 2 months of my life!

A new adventure everyday- whether it was jumping off a bridge into a river, eating kangaroo meat, bungee jumping, attempting to surf, or watching a wild sheep being sheered right in front of you; there was always something new and exciting! I learned so much about myself, as well as being more appreciative of the simple things in life (hot shower, hot meals, shelter from the rain. It is also so important to fill your life with happy company and adventure. Coming from a small family, having 12 people surrounding me at the dinner table every night, for every meal, and every new and sometimes crazy experience, was so special. Our group quickly became family and were so comfortable with each other. Pacific Discovery was always so organized and quick to respond to any questions we had since I signed up for the trip. I definitely felt every penny I spent on the trip came back to support me while I was in Australia and New Zealand. So much was included and the program leaders were so prepared with knowing where to go and knowing the little hide-a-way spots for a hot springs swim or coffee stop. I was hesitant about the camping expeditions of the trip initially, but being open-minded and having positive encouragement from the group made it a fun and easy transition. I wish I could do this trip again tomorrow!

How can this program be improved?

It was hard to constantly be "on the go". We only stayed in towns for 1-3 nights so always needing to repack got tiring. But we had the perfect balance of free time within the major towns to catch up on laundry and sleep, so it always felt worth it. And of course we were always excited to see new places!

Yes, I recommend
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pac disco=incredible memories

This trip has been more than I ever hoped for. The volunteer projects, expeditions, cities we visited and the spontaneous moments of pure adventure made this experience completely unforgettable. I’ve really learned how to challenge myself and how to conquer many things, not just including heights and physical activities, but also mentally. Everything we did was just a reminder that you are so lucky to be able to have this type of opportunity where you can fully diverse and immerse yourself into something that is completely bigger than you or any problems that tend to consume your mind. It helps you realize to live in the moment! Not only that, but I was challenged to do and see things differently than what I normally would do. New concepts and ideas were put into my head which not only allowed me to be a better consumer of the earth in a ecco-friendly way, but it also gave me the strength to be strong in any given situation and that self worth is very, very important. And to top it all off, I have met some incredible individuals that I am honored to call my AussieKiwi family. I know that the amazing friends I’ve made here will be friends of mine for a very, very long time. It’s an understatement to say that these two months have been one of the best times of my life. I am eternally grateful for this experience.

How can this program be improved?

I would love to have more time in the cities we stopped at because there was so much to do and so little time.

Yes, I recommend
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From Baltimore to Down Under

Pacific Discovery is totally a one of a kind experience! The equal balance between volunteer, site seeing and adventure is exactly what I was looking for in a program. No day was complete without a swim, which usually happened either as the sun was rising or jumping off a bridge while driving to a new city. Besides all the insane things we did on this trip, the spontaneity each day brought also kept things exciting. One of my favorite parts was after returning home all my family and friends saying "I saw your pictures! I can't believe you did that!"

How can this program be improved?

Its hard not to drive so much in Australia but maybe spread out the driving and throw more adventuring stuff in.

Yes, I recommend

About Pacific Discovery

Pacific Discovery gap year, semester and summer programs are experiential education programs, suitable for high school graduates, university students and recent graduates, developed with a focus on six core components: educational travel, service...