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Australia Gap Year

Australia is one of the most popular gap year destinations.

So why do so many students visit? To watch the decline of their cricket team?! – maybe. To rub in the successes we had in the London 2012 Olympics?!.

The main reasons given tend to be: the climate, relaxed life style, and that they speak an intelligible version of English.

Country? Continent? – actually both. Certainly huge, in a way that is hard to convey.

Try; Australia is the sixth largest country in the world which can fit the seventh and eighth largest countries (India and Argentina) within its confines and still have over a million square kilometres to spare.

Having a working holiday is a method of seeing more of the country for, although there is much to see and do in the main population areas in the south east, there are many more isolated attractions.

See the outline on working visas in the general information section below.

What to see and do on your Australia Gap year

Coober Pedy, South Australia – famous for its opal mines, where prospectors continue to fossick for these precious stones, in particular the black opal which is unique to Australia.

A second claim to fame are the underground houses, shops, churches and so forth built in to the sandstone rock, primarily to combat the fierce summer heat.

On the obscure fact front, Coober has a golf course where the only piece of turf is the bit you tee off from, and play is often at night using an illuminated ball.

Coober has an airport (I suppose it would add colour to say airstrip) which is an important access point for this remote town, though it is served by the Stuart Highway.

The famous Ghan, the Adelaide to Darwin Train, passes 'close' to the town, the station being Manguri.

Arrangements need to be made in advance for the transport from Manguri to Coober a distance of about forty kilometres; Manguri being a very isolated siding.

Tasmania, the Apple Isle seems rather neglected in times of tourist hype, but there are things to do.

For example visit Doo Town, where the names of the shacks (local term – more cottages) have names with Doo in their title. I sure that we could have fun with making up a few; I’m sure they have!

If you are interested in the early colonial history of Australia then the village of Port Arthur has a series of well preserved buildings relating to its use as a penal settlement in the 1830s.

Hobart, the island’s capital is situated on the Derwent River, and on that river, a short boat or catamaran trip away is the MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art.

Opening in 2011 this architecturally interesting building covers Egyptian to contemporary art in a different way from other museums.

Hobart also has the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery [TMAG] within which you can find the Ninginneh Tunapry where you can see some of Tasmania’s indigenous history and culture, and gain some awareness of the contemporary issues facing Tasmanian Aboriginals.

Darwin, in Northern Australia is the least populated of the constituent capitals and, again to emphasise the size of the country, is closer to the capital of Indonesia than it is to Canberra.

Darwin has had more than its share of destruction; bombed by the Japanese in World War Two and losing seventy percent of its buildings to Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

Kakadu National Park which is located 170 kilometres south east of Darwin is well known for its scenery, fauna and Aboriginal Rock Art.

Approximately the size of Slovenia, the park boasts a wide range of stunning scenery. Two of the best known waterfalls are Maguk and Jim Jim Falls.

Warning – the term waterfall should not be taken imply that water is present! Seriously, in the dry season water may not be there; though Maguk should be wet all year.

Rivers include the East, West and South Alligator Rivers. Guess what you might find there? That’s right - Crocodiles!

Some scenes from Crocodile Dundee were filmed in the park.

There are some monumental termite cathedral mounds [those termite church mounds are so small!!] and examples of Australia’s indigenous wild life are there too: dingo, kangaroo, wallaby, quoll, and bandicoot and so forth.

Two of the main sites for Aboriginal Rock Art are Ubirr and Nanguluwar.

Displayed are pictures of animals, including the now extinct Tasmanian Tiger [Thylacine] and illustrations from the Aboriginal creation story and figures from their mythology, including the Rainbow Serpent and  a female figure identified as Alkajko.

(If interested, 'Some Myths and Legends of the Australian Aborigines', by W. J Thomas is, currently, on the internet. It was published in 1923 so you have to accept that it is of that time).

Western Australia’s capital Perth is a potential place from which to explore the state, bearing in mind that it is state nearly twice the size of South Africa! Popular places to visit (we are talking excursions including overnights) are  Monkey Mia, and Kalgoorlie.

Monkey Mia is famous for its friendly bottlenose dolphins (are there any unfriendly dolphins?) who love to interact with humans – more details on www.sharkbayvisit.com.

In the Shark Bay area is Shell Beach, a beach not of sand but entirely composed of shells. Also on the natural wonder front are the Zuytdorf Cliffs, named after the ship that foundered on the rocks beneath in the eighteenth century.

Kalgoorlie developed after one, Paddy Hannan discovered gold in 1873, and continues today as a centre of mining including gold and nickel.

It’s hardly a frontier town now but there are vestiges of the wild west – of Australia, including mining experiences and turn of the century architecture – more details www.kalgoorlietourism.com

Before you go

Working Holiday Visas are available for eighteen to thirty year olds for a maximum stay of twelve months (if this includes working in certain rural areas a twelve month extension is possible).

You cannot work for one employer for more than sixth months. General information is available from the Australian High Commission (www.uk.embassy.gov.au) who currently quote a cost of $270.

Australia has quite a few exotic creatures and I’m not taking about Dame Edna; sharks, crocodiles, snakes, spiders – incidents are rare, and there are plenty of warnings and advice on offer – so take it.

The distances are vast, so if you are driving you need to take sensible precautions like carrying more than sufficient amounts of water and filing a ‘flight plan’ with friends or relatives so that people know where you are going and when you expect to arrive; and let them know when you do!

Check with your mobile phone provider on coverage; you may not get a signal in remote areas.

I’ll mention this as it happened to a friend of mine. When on holiday people tend to be tempted in to take part in sporting or similar activities; do make sure that your travel insurance covers you for these activities.

I note that on the Australian Tourism website under sporting activities and insurance it states ‘even bushwalking’, so do check.

If you are bushwalking make sure you have a flight plan, water, etc and don’t stroke the wild life, it might bite and help may be some way away. Having a local guide is a good idea.

Further information

For more advice on taking a gap year in Australia, please see: