Australia is a seriously great place to include in your gap year travel plans, thanks to its awesome combination of multicultural cities, gorgeous beaches and wildlife you just won’t find anywhere else. Of course, since there’s so much to do and see, picking just a few things can be pretty hard.
With gap years, there’s always the temptation to cram in as much as humanly possible in a bid to see all that you can. The only problem is, unless you have a huge amount of time to spare – and an ample supply of cash – this generally just means you get a brief glimpse of new places, rather than really experiencing them.
Gap years are all about discovery and, if you really want to get under the skin of your chosen destination (or destinations), volunteering is a great idea. By getting involved in local projects, you can get to know the locals, meet likeminded travellers and help make a positive difference on the area.
Since Australia is home to such an amazing landscape and wildlife, conservation is the most obvious kind of project to get involved with. If it’s wildlife you’re most interested in, Kangaroo Island is the place to be.
Situated in the south of Australia, it’s a real haven for all kinds of indigenous creatures. You can help look after kangaroos (as you probably guessed!), koalas, echidna and wallabies. Working around five days a week, you’ll have two off and can stay here for between two and four weeks. The added bonus is the chance to live somewhere really unspoilt, which is a pretty unique experience.
Another brilliant option is doing nature conservation work. The good thing about this is that there are projects across Australia, so you can pick virtually anywhere to help out. You’ll need to work for a minimum of two weeks in one destination, but then you can travel between as many as you like. So, this is a particularly good option if you fancy volunteering in different locations.
The type of work you’ll do will vary depending on what needs doing at the time, so be prepared to be a bit flexible. Tasks you might be involved with include habitat regeneration and reforestation, so it’s pretty important stuff.
Hit the cities
Australia is famous for its exciting, cosmopolitan cities, so any itinerary here should really include a trip to at least one of them. Sydney and Melbourne are firm favourites – plus, you can volunteer near both if you decide to get involved in a nature conservation programme.
Head to Sydney and you can see loads of world-famous sights, like the Sydney Opera House, while Melbourne’s home to some amazing cultural attractions and festivals. If you’re into art, don’t miss Melbourne’s City Lights scheme, which has transformed former dark alleyways at Centre Place and Hosier Lane into outdoor galleries showcasing the work of up-and-coming artists.
Each city holds a host of festivals each year, so don’t forget to check out what’s on before you travel – it could make all the difference to your trip. If you’ll be in the country to see in the new year, for instance, you can’t beat watching the fireworks over the Sydney Opera House.
Mix it up!
As I mentioned above, one of the best things about going to Australia is the sheer variety there is of things to see and do. So, try not to confine yourself to one thing. Get involved with some volunteer work and experience the country’s famous wilderness, spend some time in the cities and relax on the coast (if you’ve got time!).