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Top 10 Gap Year Ideas in Australia for Backpackers

You’ll never be short of something new to discover in Australia. You could spend years here and still never see it all!

I’ve compiled top ten things to do in Australia for your gap year!

You will not want to miss these. Don’t forget to get your work visa before you arrive and you will probably want a second work visa to stay an extra year.

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1. Dive or Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef

snorkling at Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most, if not the most, famous Australian tourist attraction. It’s a huge underwater playground for fish, turtles, dolphins, and home to all different types of colourful coral. You can dive or snorkel around the reef, whichever you prefer (although, diving will cost more) – it will feel like you’re entering another world!

You can even simply take a day trip out to the reef if you don’t fancy swimming or even fly over it and see some amazing reef formations, like Heart Reef.

Getting there

Cairns, Airlie Beach and Port Douglas are some of the most popular destinations to visit the reef from.

When to go

It's best to visit the reef during the dry season (May to September), visibility will be a lot clearer and there will be less jellyfish, so need to wear that stinger suit!

2. Visit Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Uluru is probably the most out-of-the-way attraction for most backpackers, but that doesn’t make it any less spectacular, and it is a must-do for most backpackers bucket lists. This amazing geological formation has been attracting visitors for years and it’s little wonder. It isn’t just a big rock in the middle of the desert either, you can also visit the equally impressive Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) while you’re here, as well as learn about how important this huge rock is in the aboriginal culture at the visitors centre.

Important tip: it is now forbidden to climb Uluru due to its cultural importance and degredation but you can walk around the base for all those that feel the need to have “done it”.

Getting there

Tours depart from Alice Springs and usually last for 3 days, some tours also include a trip to nearby Kings Canyon.

When to go

Any time of year is good to visit Uluru, though you may be better visiting during winter months when it's not as hot.

3. See the Blue Mountains

Just under two hours from Sydney are the spectacular Blue Mountains. It’s magnificent gorges and towering eucalyptus trees (which give the mountains their blue hue), not to mention it’s proximity to Sydney, makes the Blue Mountains one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations.

Getting there

From Sydney, you can take a day tour out to the Blue Mountains. You could also easily rent a car a drive there within a day or even take the train.

When to go

You can visit the Blue Mountains any time of the year, but during summer months you will get much better weather.

4. Drive the Great Ocean Road

the Great Ocean Road

One of the best road trips you can take in Australia is along the Great Ocean Road. Starting quite close to Melbourne, the Great Ocean road begins at Torquay and ends at Warrnambool, winding its way along Victoria’s coastline, giving you one of the best driving experiences you’ll have in Australia!

Highlights along the Great Ocean Road include: Bells Beach (a famous surf spot), The Twelve Apostles, and Teddy’s Lookout in Lorne (for amazing views of the coast as it winds along the coast.)

Getting there

The Great Ocean Road can be easily accessed from Melbourne. One of the best ways to see it is to drive from either Melbourne to Adelaide or vice verse. You can also take day tours to see the Twelve Apostles from Melbourne.

When to go

Any time of year is good to see the Great Ocean Road, though southern Antarctic winds do make it a little chilly in winter.

5. Sail Around the Whitsunday Islands

Whitsunday Islands

One of the most popular backpacker activities in Australia, no trip down under is complete without a sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands. You can snorkel or dive into the Great Barrier Reef, admire the gorgeous beaches, like Whitehaven Beach, and lounge around on a sailing boat while topping up your tan!

There are plenty of different options when it comes to sailing the Whitsundays; you can take trips that last a day or a trip that lasts a whole week. You can take trips that are more relaxing, ones that are concentrated on diving and being active or you can take a full-on party cruise – the choice is yours!

Getting there

Airlie Beach is the most popular choice for backpackers to sail from, so you will probably find the best deals here.

When to go

During the dry season is the best time to visit the Whitsundays. The weather will be a lot better and visibility in the reef will be a lot clearer.

6. Visit K'gari (formerly Fraser Island) – the World’s Largest Sand Island

Fraser Island

Competing with sailing the Whitsunday’s for the best trip to take on Australia’s East Coast, is visiting Queensland’s beautiful K’gari.

K’gari is unique in that it is the world’s largest sand island. It’s also famous for its dingos, so if you really want to see a dingo in the wild, K’gari is the best place to do just that.

That said, precautions need to be made as the dingos can be aggressive to humans.

You can take a tour of the island (one, two, or three day tours are available) or you could be a bit more adventurous and take a self-drive tour, where you learn to drive on the sand and camp out under the stars

Getting there

Ferries to K'gari operate from Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach.

When to go

During the dry season (in winter) is probably the best time to visit Fraser Island, as they weather will be a lot clearer. Many a backpacker has visited Fraser Island during summer months and been disappointed with just how much it rains there during summer.

7. Go Wine Tasting in the Barossa Valley

Home to Jacobs Creek, South Australia’s Barossa Valley is probably Australia’s most famous wine region. It’s also really beautiful with lush green valleys and cute little towns. There are plenty of cellar doors where you can taster wine for free and then buy your favourite wine at a discounted price.

Getting there

You could rent a car and drive from Adelaide, but if you plan on doing a lot of wine tasting, a day tour would be the better option.

When to go

The best time of year to visit the Barossa Valley is from late January until April when the vineyards are much greener and grapes are coming into harvest. During winter months the vines are bare, which does make the Barossa a bit less photogenic.

8. Visit Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island lies on the coast of South Australia and is Australia’s third-largest island. It’s home to spectacular rock formations such as the Remarkable Rocks, sand dunes (where you can try sand boarding!), Cape Willoughby Lighthouse and, you guessed it, plenty of kangaroos!

But, it’s not just home to kangaroos either, Kangaroo Island has some awesome wildlife conservation parks, such as Seal Bay, and some great wildlife sanctuaries, like Paul’s Place where you can see all sorts of Australian wildlife.

Getting there

You can get to Kangaroo Island by passenger ferry (you can also bring your car over) from Cape Jervis, which is just over an hour and a half from South Australia.

When to go

Kangaroo Island is bets visited during summer months as it can get a little cold in winter.

9. Visit Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks

Litchfield National Park

Get back to nature and visit the Northern Territories’ stunning Kakadu National Park and the equally beautiful Litchfield National Park.

Kakadu is huge, in fact, it’s about the same size as Slovenia! It is also one of Australia’s best-known national parks – made famous by the Crocodile Dundee movies. In Kakadu, you can watch exotic wildlife like crocodiles, and wallabies, and unusual bird life, like the Jabiru, in their natural environment. You can also check out waterfalls like Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls. The unusual landscapes of Kakadu also make it a great place to hike.

Litchfield National Park is the perfect place if you dream of swimming in paradise. In Litchfield, there are enclosed waterfalls and cascading pools surrounded by rainforest where you can take a dip. It is also one of the few places in Australia’s top-end where you can go for a swim without the fear of getting eaten by a croc!

Getting there

Tours to both national parks operate from Darwin. With Litchfield being only an hour away, it makes the perfect place to take a day trip from Darwin. Kakadu is 3 hours from Darwin, so most tours to Kakadu are 2 or 3 days. You also rent a car from Darwin and drive to either National Parks.

When to go

You can only really visit Kakadu and Litchfield during the dry season (from April until September) as roads to both national parks can sometimes be closed due to flooding.

10. Ride a Camel Along Cable Beach in Broome

Cable beach is easily up there as one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches, and riding a camel along this long stretch of flat white sandy beach at sunset, is one of the best ways to experience it!

Getting there

Once you're in Broome just head to the beach, you'll be able to book your place from where the tours take start.

When to go

Because Broome is in the northern tip of Western Australia, it is has a wet season and dry season just like other parts of northern Australia, so during the dry season (winter) is the ideal time to visit.

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