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 16 - 30 of 37

An Adventure Worth Sharing

I think when most people are young, adventure is all they dream about. I remember sitting at the top of a grassy hilltop. Surrounding us where beautiful, blue bays of clear water. The wind swept over the hills and made the long grasses ripple like waves. An intense sense of peace came over me as we watched the sun slowly dip towards the horizon. Another day in Mimiwhangata has come to an end. Tonight, we will play a few games, eat dinner in our wool shed home, and we will fall asleep beneath the Southern Cross.

How can this program be improved?

We spent the last week at a farm in Australia, it would've been nice to spend less time there and more time in Sydney. By the end of the trip all we wanted to do was explore, relax, and spend time together. It was difficult to do that at the farm since we were working all day.

Yes, I recommend
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Such a great experience

I am so happy that my son had the opportunity to travel with Pac Disco! What a wonderful healthy experience. The community is conscious of what I want for family - eco-living, economical use of money and travel, community service, organic farming, working together as peers/mentors/leaders, integration into other cultures. Exactly what my son needed to help him mature into the wonderful young man he is today.

How can this program be improved?

My only complaint is that the information leading up to the program launch was delivered in different emails. Very hard to keep track of the details.

Yes, I recommend
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I had a blast!

It was so great! I had a blast! Met some great friends that I will be friends with forever. Learned so much more about myself and how to live within a budget. I really enjoyed it! I would love to do it again!!

How can this program be improved?

It really was amazing!

Yes, I recommend
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Best Trip Ever!

Going on this program was definitely the best decision I ever made! It allowed me to travel abroad with a group of amazing people while doing amazing adventures I would never have done otherwise such as skydiving, rock climbing, abseiling and scuba diving. I have always loved camping so the canoe and hiking trips were incredibly fun, but physically and mentally challenging. So many experiences on this trip pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me grow as a person. The scenery in New Zealand and Australia is breathtaking and the places we went on this trip such as the Whanganui River, Kahurangi National Park and the Blue Mountains are examples of some of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I would recommend going on this trip, I would go again if I could!

How can this program be improved?

The only thing I would change would be to make the program even longer.

Yes, I recommend
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Pac Disco is the way to go!

At the beginning of my Pacific Discovery trip, I was a little nervous. Of course, I didn't know any of the people I would spend the next 2 months with. This made for a difficult first could of days. After this passed, Pacific Discovery became one of the funnest and most rewarding things I have every done in my life. A challenge for me in particular was The Crossing, an organic farm we volunteered at on our second week in Australia. It was hard because ALL of the food we ate was extremely healthy. Now, I had never eaten like that before (especially not for a whole week) but after the first couple of days I started to really enjoy the food. The taste and the energy it gave me. This set me up for a great 2 months of healthy eating--which I enjoyed very much. The leader of my trip, Kim, was outstanding. She had so much life experience and knew how to handle any situation, we all learned a lot of valuable travel skills from her. My plans for life are to travel the world and live how we did on Pacific Discovery--happy, healthy, and in the moment.

How can this program be improved?

The biggest problem for me on the trip was some of the kids had to be babied a little more than I thought was necessary. I know there isn't much to do to fix this but it is what stood out to me most. I always thought to myself, "we're adults, she is our guide, not our mother."

Yes, I recommend
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Best 9 Weeks of My Life

I am so glad I decided to fill part of my gap year with a Pacific Discovery program. I learned more about myself than I have from any other experience. The level of leadership, responsibility, and freedom made me much more independent and confident in the skills that I have. I got pushed out of my comfort zone multiple times and always got a huge thrill from the adventures that I had. The trip as a whole gave me a personal revolution and made my feel more alive than I have in a while. As a person who relished everyday, this was quiet an accomplishment. Also, the people on the trip far exceeded my expectations. Every person was able to teach my something, whether or not they realized it. I know that I have made thirteen life long friends. If you are on the edge, go for it! If you are not on the edge, choose Pacific Discovery! I can't praise this company enough. It is amazing, and it will change your life.

How can this program be improved?

If I had to change one thing I would make sure that kids come prepared to work and help out. They know hat they are going on a service learning program. They need to realize that they are signing up to help with community service projects. Kids knew they would have to do work but sometimes acted as if simple work was hard, or boring. Everyone should come prepared to pull their weight and help, try to keep an open mind because something that seems like it won't be fun can be a blast. Most of the time everyone was fine, I just noticed that every once and a while people got a bit down from having to do work.

Yes, I recommend
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From a backpacking/camping newbie to an avid adventurer!!

I had a few months in between graduating college and starting graduate school, and I knew I wanted to travel abroad. I could have chosen to go abroad with my college program, but I decided to take a risk and go with a group of 13 people from all over the world that I did not know. I am so glad that I chose Pacific Discovery instead! Thanks to this program, I have made friends all over the world that are now a family to me, and the experiences that we were able to have together were unforgettable.

I did so many things on this trip that I never thought I could do, and I feel like a stronger person because of it. I had little camping experience and no backpacking experience, so I was worried about the backpacking and canoe trip expeditions. Turns out, those were some of my favorite and most memorable parts of the trip! That backpacking trip was both physically and mentally challenging for me (I'm scared of heights and a little unsteady on my feet at times to name a few things) but everyday I pushed through and surprised myself. My group leader and the other participants always encouraged me and cheered me on, and that was so refreshing especially on longs days of hiking. Those expeditions made me realize that the scenic views are so much more beautiful (how could that even be possible, right?), but they really are even more beautiful when you work for them.

Pacific Discovery inspired me to keep on exploring and to seek out adventure, whether it may be across the world or just around the corner in my own town. And since I'm not new to backpacking and camping anymore, I feel confident in my knowledge and background from this trip to go on some more adventures and can't wait to plan my next excursion!!

If I were to do it all over, I would choose Pacific Discovery over any other program because their main goal is to help you develop as a person by immersing you in different cultures, pushing you out of your comfort zone a little bit, and surrounding you with awesome people through it all. Couldn't be more grateful for this experience of a lifetime.

How can this program be improved?

I wish more people could experience what Pacific Discovery has to offer. That's why I am writing this review, so hopefully more people will be encouraged to choose this program!!

Yes, I recommend
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The Best Study Abroad Program

During my sophomore year of college, I began researching study abroad programs. I came across Pacific Discovery and knew the New Zealand and Australia program was the perfect program for me.

I am so happy I made that decision. Scott & Rachel were wonderful throughout the whole process. The coursework provided by Seattle Central Community College was all independent study with syllables and instructions provided prior to the trip. I loved that there were no formal classes and that I learned and grew so much by living those incredible experiences.

The trip was unforgettable. The itinerary was the perfect mix of outdoor adventure, worthwhile volunteer/conservation projects, and free time. I crossed more things off my bucket list in 9 weeks than most people get to in their lifetime.

The friends I made came from all different backgrounds and locations. We became like family and I can't imagine not ever getting to meet those incredible people.

This program changed my life. There isn't a week that goes by when I don't think about a memory from that time and I would definitely recommend it to everyone!

How can this program be improved?

I would want to know to plan some to save up for additional spending money to extend my trip before or after.

Yes, I recommend
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Pacific Discovery delivers an extremely enlightening, culturally educational, life changing experience to each and every one of its participants! This trip was the best two months of my life, and I am forever in debt to Rachel and Scott for making my life into something meaningful! Everyday was an adventure on this trip, now, months later, the trip feels like it was simply a beautiful dream because I still can't contemplate all the amazing things I got to do! I faced fears while sky diving and jumping off of rocks and had the time of my life. There wasn't a minute where I felt uncomfortable or unsafe. The friends I made are life-long and family to me. My leader, Kim, was unbelievably inspiring and fun! There was never a dull moment. Even on long road trips the group stayed laughing in high spirits. This trip is the epitome of happiness! I'll never regret a minute, or a swim, or a laugh, or a game of psychiatrist! Even the volunteer work was spectacular! Giving back to the world while traveling through it is an amazing experience that you wont get like this anywhere else! The leaders constantly work towards keeping everyone healthy and happy ensuring that their personal trip experience is everything we could hope for and more! I learned more about myself and the world in these two glorious months than I did in all my eighteen years before it! Get ready to cross everything off of your bucket list and prepare for a brand new thirst for adventure and swim every chance that you get!

How can this program be improved?

If I could change one thing I would make the program longer! I wanted it to last for the rest of my life!!

Yes, I recommend
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Somehow, I stumbled into the perfect program

I started researching gap year programs at the end of my senior year and had no idea what I was doing, but somehow I found Pacific Discovery, and I'm so glad that I did. It was honestly the perfect program for me in so many ways. If I had to describe it in one word, I would say "balanced". First of all, the leaders were so supportive and fun; I really trusted them and it felt like they really trusted all of us. It has the perfect amount of service/learning and exploring/fun. I gained so much independence and confidence in myself and my ability to travel.
I remember during our first week of service, we were camping on this beautiful farm on the coast. Every night, we'd cook dinner in this little wool shed and afterward, we'd sit in a circle and drink hot chocolate and play games like charades and mafia. Honestly, some of my best memories from the trip are just of hanging out and getting to know the rest of the group.
Halloween was also very memorable. It was during another service week, this time we were camping by a lake. During the day, we planted trees and that night we played "Ghost in the Graveyard", which is kind of like Hide 'n Seek, and ate candy. I remember screaming so loudly when someone jumped out at me from the dark trees. It was honestly one of my favorite Halloweens I've had.
I think my favorite memory, though, was of the week we spent backpacking. It rained the entire time, but it was still so much fun. I remember hiking on this windy ridge on our last day; we were all freezing and soaking wet, dreaming about the warm van that was waiting for us at the other end. A particularly strong gust of wind blew the rain cover off of the backpack of the boy in front of me and we both stopped and watched it fly away and he looked at me and said, "It was slowing me down anyway.." and I laughed and we kept walking.
I have so many good memories from my semester with Pacific Discovery and met so many amazing people. I think it gave me the break I needed after school ended. I learned so much about myself and about the world and what I want out of life, which sounds cheesy, but it's completley true. It made me excited about life again and I am so thankful for that.

How can this program be improved?

Honestly, I'm not sure how the program could be improved. I think I would change the packing list a little bit, maybe to include more warm clothes and casual clothes to wear in the city.

Yes, I recommend
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Absolutely amazing.

I give this program a 10/10 in all categories...and I mean it. Whether we were canoeing the Whanganui River, backpacking in Kahurangi National Park, celebrating the Sevens Rubgy Tournament in Wellington, or doing trail maintenance on North Keppel Island in Australia, we were always challenging ourselves, trying new things, growing closer, and having a blast. I went skydiving for the first time (amazing!), I saw a massive Maori cliff carving accessible only by water (we swam for ten minutes to get there), I fell asleep many nights under the starriest skies I've ever seen, and I frequently wondered if the world could really be so beautiful.

I know that there are an overwhelming number of abroad programs to choose from, but I urge everyone to consider this one. You will love it!

How can this program be improved?

Partly due to weather, the Australia portion of the trip wasn't as amazing as the New Zealand part. Again, this was mostly due to our bad luck with the weather, but maybe Frazer Island could be swapped out for a different outdoorsy trip.

Yes, I recommend
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Trip of a lifetime

Pacific Discovery made the best two months of my life amazing and inspire me to travel. This trip had so much to offer like volunteering, learning about the countries and environment, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and making friends for a lifetime! Seeing Australia and New Zealand from my leaders and seeing how much they both love their country and care for it so much, made me love the countries even more. Trekking through the Kahurangi National Park made of seemed like the worse week of our life with the constant raining but it turned out to be the best and brought us closer as a group and seeing the van at the end of the trail was like hitting the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. During the volunteer weeks it was great talking to the locals and seeing their side of everything. They opened up to us and showed how passionate they are with the work they have done to keep the countries beautiful and green. I love the bonds that I made with my trip mates and happy with the lifelong memories we shared together on this trip. I want to thank Pacific Discovery for showing me how to be a confident traveller and showing me the true beauty of Australia and New Zealand.

Yes, I recommend
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Eye Opening Adventure

Having never flown over an ocean, my flight from LAX to Wellington was very nerve racking, but once I got there, saw the city and the people I'd be spending the next 2 1/2 months with, the nerves died down and I knew my adventure was just beginning. The New Zealand and Australia Semester took us around all of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia, taking in the gorgeous serenity and the bustling cities. We climbed mountains, canoed rivers, helped make the national parks cleaner and better for hikers, we jumped off bridges and out of planes and had an amazing time. It was great being able to give back to the national parks by helping tidy up the paths, because we would've never made it if our trails were cleared and well marked (who knows, we could still be out there...I wouldn't mind!)

The leadership days were really helpful and beneficial to growing leadership skills. Each week or weekend, a new person would be our leader, would assign tasks or "get to know each other" experiences, would have to organize all the housing or gathering of people...I feel like I can now lead a group of individuals who are close to my age but still be looked at as a friend and a leader.

I was pushed on several occasions both physically, mentally and emotionally. I think the biggest example was when we were in the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park hiking up a mountain. No one saw the first stair, but me, and it said something like 3,000 stairs to go. I thought it was a joke. One of the girls, Nikki, myself and our leader Dan, were going full speed up these stairs build into the side of the mountain. About an hour later, we weren't there yet and my legs were on fire. I told them to go ahead without me and I would continue my journey up the mountain. Every 15 steps I would stop and take a breath, turn around and take a photo. I ran into really nice couples along the way and chatted about their experiences, which helped take my mind off the pain of my legs. Dan, our leader, had told us awhile back that all the negatives can easily be turned into positives, just by flipping a brain switch. So although I was in so many physical pain, I turned that negative into a positive, and thought that I was going to have a great butt and legs after this hike! I kept pushing through and was so happy when I saw Nikki and Dan standing at the top...however that was false Summit #1. The next section of the hike was bouldering over massive rocks and boulders (duh!). I lost them once again and it was back to my mental climb. I thought so many times, "I can just turn around and go back to the hostel," but I couldn't let myself do that. I needed to finish this hike by myself to prove that I could. I made it to false summit #2, took a deep breath and looked at the mountain next to me. I was sweating bullets and the mountain one over was covered in snow and there were occasional avalanches that you could hear. All I wanted was to roll in that snow! I continued following the path and stumbling over boulders and came around a corner and saw, maybe half a mile away, this red hut in the distance, and I knew I had made it. I was so proud of myself, being an athlete I thought this hike would be definitely proved me wrong. Nikki, Dan and I ate lunch at the top and took some breathtaking pictures, then went back down. We even ran back to the hostel, even though our knees were killer and our legs jell-o. We took a nice rewarding break in the hostels sauna. I know that this hike in particular will always be with me and when I think something is too hard for me to complete or push through, I can look back and say "I pushed through then, what's holding me back now?"

Overall, I walked away from the experience being a better person, an adventurer who wants to now travel the world and will always be grateful for this trip, the leader and the people that were involved, as well. I thank Pacific Discovery for the opportunity and I wish others like me will have similar discoveries and adventures!

Yes, I recommend
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Best Experience of My Life

I had always wanted to travel to New Zealand. As I got older, I decided that I would find a way to make it there while doing some sort of volunteering or community service. After hours of searching, I stumbled upon Pacific Discovery. The program was exactly what I was looking for. It was a environmental conservation program with lots of team building and adventures. I was looking for a program that would help me move out of my comfort zone and experience new things, and that's exactly what I got from Pacific Discovery.

During my trip, I made amazing bonds with my fellow group members and we all became as close as family. We all encouraged and supported each other when times were tough, such as our four day hike in the mountains or during our rock climbing camp.

To be completely honest, words cannot truly describe how amazing I felt this program was. All I can tell you is that not a day goes by where I don't think of my experiences from this trip. The things I've learned and overcome from this trip have helped me see things with a more open mind, and I'm truly happy for that.

If you are looking for a program which lets you experience the true culture of a country while expanding your horizons to many new and amazing experiences, then Pacific Discovery is the program for you!

How can this program be improved?

To be honest, there is not much I would recommend be changed from this program except to maybe be a few days or so longer to allow the group to rest more in between locations during the trip.

Yes, I recommend
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This was honestly one of the best experiences I have had in my life. I was really unsure at first but after a few days I could not believe how incredible the program was. I actually enjoy gardening now from all the conservation work I did. I was so surprised about that and so was my family! The work actually turned out to be so much fun. I loved getting up and helping out anyway I could.

I still have a huge grin on my face every time I think for my adventure with Pacific Discovery. I have so many amazing memories and experiences I will never forget. One of my favourite experiences was getting to try a circus class in Byron Bay. I had always had an interest but I've never had the opportunity. My group leader Kim was so awesome she told me about some circus classes and made sure that I got to go to the class by helping me research places and driving me there as well. Another favourite memory of mine is when my group was at Pelorus in New Zealand and we all walked to a waterfall to look at glow worms. It was just so beautiful and so amazing to share that experience with everyone.

Scott and Rachel have created an amazing program. I was so scared about what my group was going to be like and my group leader. I found out I had nothing to worry about. Everyone was in the same position I was. We all wanted to be friends and get along which was so nice. I could not have asked for a better group of people. My group leader Kim was also just so special. She was always there to talk and was so willing to make this trip special for everyone there. It was so nice to be on a program where you could tell everyone involved wanted the trip to be the best for every participant. At times, yes, it was tough but it was worth every minute. I still can't believe how much I have grown. I know now how strong I actually am which I am so grateful for.

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...