Backpacking in Australia on a Gap Year

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A Gap Year in Australia

Australia on a gap year is a must! It’s always been hugely popular with backpackers and for very good reason. The Land Down Under has some of the best beaches, cities and national parks in the world, and offers unlimited opportunities for backpacking adventure. The culture is one of the most laidback and friendly on the planet, and it’s an easy place to find really well-paid employment. Australia is in the heart of Australasia, a region which also includes New Zealand and Fiji, making it easy to extend your gap year.

The Australian outback is huge and beautiful

The cities

Given its size you're unlikely to see all of Australia's amazing cities in one visit (unless you're SUPER dedicated), so it's worth planning ahead to make sure you pitch up in the right places.

Most travellers start in Sydney, home to the famous opera house (selfie sticks at the ready), Bondi Beach, and world class nightlife. From there you might backpack your way to Melbourne, no slouch in the partying department but also packed with culture, Brisbane on the east coast, which is just a stone's throw from the surfer's paradise of the Gold Coast, Adelaide in the south or waaaaaay across the country to Perth in the west. How you get between them is up to you. That's the beauty of a gap year in Australia.

Sydney Opera House and harbour, Australia

The scenery

Crikey, where to start. There is truly no other country in the world like Australia when it comes to wildlife and geography. The middle of the country, known as the outback, is famously barren and scorching hot, stretching what might feel like forever. Driving across it is an epic experience you'll never forget, especially when you visit Uluru (Ayer's Rock), an ancient, eerie monolith almost in the centre of the country.

If you can't take the heat you can head to the temperate south to drive the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, one of the finest roadtrips in the world, go trekking in lush mountain ranges, or go exploring on the island of Tasmania. If you're heading north, be prepared for sweltering tropical vistas. Basically wherever you go in Australia you're guaranteed a backpacking travel adventure that'll stay with you the rest of your life.

Click the 'Best Experiences' tab above for more things to do in Australia.

Australia is the ultimate backpacking destination, and throughout these pages you'll find all the inspiration you need for your epic gap year. What are you waiting for?!

Best experiences

Top Experiences in Australia

Australia is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in the world, both for first-timers and seasoned travellers. It can feature as part of a round the world trip, or you might spend an entire gap year there. Needless to say there's plenty of things to do in Australia, and hopefully this list will give you some inspiration!

Drive the Great Ocean Road

The sheer size and variety of Australia makes it perfectly suited for road trips, and this is undoubtedly the best. There's no chance of getting bored as you skirt the stunning coast, stopping at any beach you fancy.

The Great Ocean Road in Australia is an iconic gap year road trip

See sunset at Uluru

Uluru is one of the top sights in Australia, and unlike anything you'll ever see. It's at its most spectacular as the sun slips down behind it and the sky becomes a blanket of stars. You can even stay the night.

Uluru (Ayer's Rock) in Australia's outback

Take a selfie with the Sydney Opera House

Okay, this is an obvious one, but it has to be done! There's loads to do in Sydney, but this photo is a must so you can spread it all over Facebook and Instagram and makes your friends sick with jealousy. Selfie sticks are optional.

Sydney Opera House, Australia

Lounge on the Whitsundays

You're hardly short of beaches in Australia, but what makes the Whitsundays special is the pure white silica sand and the water kept placid by the Great Barrier Reef. This really might be paradise.

The beautiful Whitsundays, Australia

Soak up the culture in Melbourne

Although most gappers head straight to Sydney, many end up preferring Melbourne. It's a little less shiny (and with famously unpredictable weather), but it's also packed with a variety of arts and culture to keep you entertained.

Street art in Melbourne, Australia

Explore the Kimberley

There's plenty of untamed frontier in Australia's outback, but the Kimberley is arguably the wildest, with barely anybody living there and some landscapes that could have been plucked straight from Mars.

The Kimberley, Australia

Dive the Great Barrier Reef

Another obvious one, but any visit to Australia should include a dive into the teeming depths of the Great Barrier Reef. Just be sure to book with a reputable guide, and treat the place with the care and respect it needs.

Diving at the Great Barrier Reef

Take a 4WD safari on Fraser Island

Fraser Island has ludicrously long stretches of beach, not to mention rolling dunes and freshwater lakes, making it a great destination for mucking about in a 4x4 or, if you're really brave. a quadbike. 

4WD safari on Fraser Island

Climb the Blue Mountains

Did we mention Australia has some incredible scenery? Well, we need to add the Blue Mountains. They're a cornucopia of huge, ancient forests and stomach-lurching views over valleys and sheer drops.

The Blue Mountains, Australia

Surf on the Gold Coast

The Aussies love to surf, and the Gold Coast is one of their favourite places to do it. If you're already adept on a board you'll find great waves waiting, and if you're looking to learn you'll find plenty of pros happy to teach you.

Surfing on the Gold Coast

Kakadu National Park

Although there's plenty of wildlife to see here, the main draw of Kakadu is the Aboriginal rock art that tells a story of the long history of Australia.

Kakadu National Park

Try some Australian wine

You probably don't need too much encouragement to drink, but in recent years Australian wine has become increasingly respected around the world. Where better to sample its delights for yourself?

Australian wine

See an Aussie Rules Football game

You might not understand the rules (you might not even know it exists), but Aussies love their own take on football, packing into stadiums in their tens of thousands. The atmosphere is never short of electric.

An Aussie rules football match


Get Out and Down Under

Whatever kind of gap year you're after, Australia has you covered. There's epic adventures, extreme sports, and incredible road trips, and it's also packed full of jobs. You might work in a bar in Sydney, pick fruit on a farm, or tend animals in the Outback. There's also plenty of volunteer opportunities. So you can bolster your life experience, wallet, and CV all at the same time.

Experience Australia

Includes return flights, Sydney beach and city tour, bank accounts and tax set up, and 12 months' job assistance

Travel and Work in Australia

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Complete Aussie East Coast

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Complete Work & Play Gap Year

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Advice & Tips on Backpacking in Australia

We have HEAPS of amazing information and advice on travelling and working in Australia. If you’d like some quick overviews take a glance up there to the left: you’ll find info on everything from costs to getting around to the best things to do in Australia.

Alternatively you can check out some of these fantastic articles written by and its wider community. If you need direct answers, just hop onto the boards and fire a question out there – you’ll have a response in no time from someone who’s been there and done it.

Australia travel articles

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Tips for Finding a Job in Australia

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Guide to Australia

A Backpacker's Guide to Australia

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The Best of Australia's West

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Adventure on the Gold Coast

Buying a Car in Australia

Buying a Car in Australia

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