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Take an exceptional opportunity to volunteer at Steve Irwin’s famous Australia Zoo! Go behind the scenes and perform zoo tasks in various animal departments as a team. Learn from the zookeepers as you assist them with their duties and participate in conservation workshops. Get up close and personal with wombats, wallabies, echidnas, and kangaroos! Then, enjoy fun in the sun on a sand island, explore the magnificent east coast of Australia, and use your new skills at a grassroots wildlife rehabilitation center.

Dates listed reflect travel time departing from and returning to the USA. International clients click here.

You must enroll in a program at least 8 days prior to the scheduled departure date. For help choosing an alternate date or location, please contact us to speak with a program expert.

With our No-Stress Travel Policy, you cancel for any reason up until the day of travel, and escrow 100% of the program fees for up to two years from the cancellation date.

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Program Profile

Community Service Component
Next Level
Community Service Focus
Get to Know
Settle in at the Base
Travel Component
Stationary Program

  • Day 1

    Australia Here We Come!

    If you are traveling from North America, today you’ll depart Los Angeles for Brisbane in the evening on our escorted group flight. The flight will take about 14 hours – plenty of time to get to know the rest of your group before arriving Down Under.

  • Day 2

    In Transit

    Today is lost as you cross the international dateline, but don’t worry too much… you will get it back on your way home!

  • Day 3

    Welcome to Australia

    Your Rustic Pathways Australian staff will greet you at the airport in Brisbane. You will then drive about an hour north to one of Rustic Pathways’ Base Houses. You will either stay at our Base in the Glass House Mountains – nestled amongst the bushland and rainforest – or our Base on The Sunshine Coast.

    Today you will settle into the house and get to know your group through orientation activities before heading out to explore the surrounding area in the afternoon.

  • Day 4

    Training, Induction, and Workshops

    This morning, there will be an induction session with Carol, Australia Zoo Volunteer Coordinator, to prepare you for your five days at Australia Zoo, officially making you a part of the team! Learn about caring for animals, captive breeding programs, and the enrichment activities they provide for animals. Watch the famous Wildlife Warriors show in the Crocoseum, make enrichment items for echidnas, then finish the day with a group task to help the zoo keepers.

  • Day 5

    Visit to the Wildlife Hospital

    This morning, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Wildlife Hospital. The Wildlife Hospital is truly a special place, and although it runs solely on donations, it has never refused a patient. Then, help clean the rhino enclosure and enjoy encounters with rhinos and giraffes. After lunch, perform group tasks in a variety of animal departments and numerous animal enclosures, where your volunteer efforts are most needed.

  • Day 6

    Shadow a Zoo Keeper

    Spend today shadowing a Zoo Keeper and volunteering at the zoo. Arrive at 8:00 am to help prepare the enclosures before the zoo opens to the public at 9:00am. The morning involve cleaning the enclosures, scooping poop, preparing food, and feeding the animals. In the afternoons, the daily tasks will vary and may include helping with maintenance projects, assisting with public relations at the Wildlife Warriors show, or more unusual activities like taking a wombat for a walk with its keeper! You will receive two half-hour breaks during the day, and your shift at the zoo typically ends at 4:00pm.

  • Day 7

    Noosa Beach

    Have a day off from the zoo today and visit the beach town of Noosa. Located on the northern end of the Sunshine Coast, this tropical beach town is picture perfect. Take a walk in the national park to spot koalas, relax on the beach, or browse the shops in Hastings Street. This evening you’ll have dinner at the surf club before returning to our base.

  • Day 8

    Zoo Keeping Tasks

    Back at Australia Zoo this morning, you’ll spend the day helping zoo keepers with tasks in their departments. Your hands-on experience continues across a range of Australia Zoo keeping departments, with interaction and guidance from experienced animal keepers, and behind the scenes access. Additionally, your group will attend educational presentations on a range of key environmental, ecological and husbandry related topics, including ground breaking crocodile research, the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve, and animal behavior and training.

  • Day 9

    Add-On Encounters & Free Day in Zoo

    Today is your final day at Australia Zoo and we allocate time for you to add-on any additional animal encounters that you would like to experience (additional cost). Take the cheetah for a walk, play with the tiger cubs, or get close to the red pandas. There’s also time for you to see other wildlife shows at the zoo, such as the tigers and birds. Our time at Australia Zoo concludes this afternoon as we transition into the next phase of the journey. Your experiences as an Australia Zoo Volunteer will leave you speechless and give you lifelong memories. After a celebration of your time here and many fond farewells with your new friends at the zoo, you will leave knowing that you made a difference and contributed to keeping Steve Irwin’s dream alive.

  • Day 10 - 11

    Moreton Island: Sandboard, Snorkeling and Wild Dolphin Feed

    Spend these two days on the world’s third largest sand island, Moreton Island. Make your way via ferry to Tangalooma Island Resort. Snorkel above a shipwreck, play a friendly game of beach volleyball and enjoy a picnic lunch on the beach.  Take a 4×4 bus into the sand dunes and sandboard down the golden slopes.

    You’ll also learn about Tangalooma’s world-renowned dolphin research through their education center. At dusk, watch in awe as a family of wild dolphins swims into the shallows. Then – you will feed a wild dolphin! This is one of the few places in the world where you can do this through a carefully managed tourism operation. This is sure to be an amazing two days!

  • Day 12

    Byron Bay

    Byron Bay is one of the most well-known beach towns on Australia’s East Coast and is the most easterly point of Australia. Spend today hiking the headland and spot humpback whales as they migrate along the coast. Explore the markets of this charming town and soak up the laid-back coastal lifestyle while camping in tents near the beach.

  • Day 13 - 14

    Wildlife Rehabilitation

    For the next two days, use the skills you learnt at Australia Zoo by helping out a grassroots wildlife carer in northern New South Wales. Many wildlife carers have limited time and resources, so your contribution in cleaning enclosures and caring for animals will be greatly appreciated!

  • Day 15


    Drive to Brisbane this morning, check into apartments in the city, and tour the city on bicycle. Then celebrate your final night in Australia along a river promenade under the bright city lights!

  • Day 16

    Returning Home or Transition Day

    Today will be full of fond farewells as you say goodbye to new friends and prepare for your next adventure. If you are continuing on to another Rustic Pathways adventure in Australia, today is a transition day between programs. You will spend the day on Australia’s famous Gold Coast with other students and leaders transitioning between programs.

    If you are returning home to the USA or traveling on to Fiji or New Zealand, your flight will depart Brisbane this morning. If you are traveling on to another Rustic Pathways destination, your staff will help you with your flight arrangements. Wherever you are headed, we wish you happy travels and hope you return to the Land Down Under soon!

An Important Note About Schedule Changes

Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity.

The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.

“Optional Activities” are fully included in the cost of your program, but you can choose to not do these activities.

“Add-On Activities” are not included in the cost of your program and must be paid for separately. Add-on activities are rare, but include things like skydiving, bungee jumping, or weekend side-trips. Not every program has add-on activities.

For more information, email australia@rusticpathways.com

Program-Specific FAQs

  • This program easily connects to any program in Australia or Fiji that is scheduled to depart 7 days after its start date. Students connect between Australia programs at Brisbane airport on a Thursday morning. This program can also connect to our trips in Southeast Asia, however students may need to depart Australia one night early in order to arrive in Asia on time. Please contact australia@rusticpathways.com for further information on program connections.

  • Yes. Nearly all nationalities will require a visa to enter Australia. Residents of the USA should apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which is an online visa found at eta.immi.gov.au and costs US$25. Residents of Europe may be eligible for a free eVisitor visa. Other nationalities may require a Visitor Visa (e600), which costs approximately AU$130. Visa costs are not included in our program prices.

  • Rustic Pathways provides a flight leader to accompany students travelling on our group flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Brisbane (BNE) and return. Students joining this program from outside of the USA may need to travel unaccompanied to meet the group in Brisbane.

  • The flight from Los Angeles to Brisbane is approximately 14 hours one-way.

  • Yes, the advertised dates for this program includes travel time from the USA. Students from the USA will depart LAX on a Tuesday evening and return on a Wednesday morning. The program within Australia runs from Thursday to Wednesday. Please refer to the itinerary for further details.

  • This program is primarily based around the Glass House Mountains, approximately 1.5 hours north of Brisbane. The trip also visits the Gold Coast, which is an hour south of Brisbane.

  • Each program will have leaders who are certified in First Aid and CPR. Some of our program leaders are also certified as Wilderness First Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Wilderness EMTs, or Life Guards.

  • Rustic Pathways maintains a minimum of 1 Program Leader for every 7 students. Additionally, each program maintains at least 2 primary program leaders, one male and one female.

  • Clean drinking water is provided throughout the program in Australia. We ask students to bring reusable water bottles in order to reduce plastic usage.

  • Students are allowed to bring phones on their Rustic Pathways program, but must abide by our cell phone policy. Students will not be allowed to use their phones during group activities, nor at any other time where it is disruptive to the group dynamic. If students are unable to abide by this policy, disciplinary action may be taken.

  • Australia uses 240V with a three-prong plug. Residents of USA and Europe will require an adaptor for their electronic items. You can see an example of the required adapter at this link.

  • It is Australia’s winter time, but the weather is generally warm in this part of the country. June/July/August in Queensland is the drier time of year, and normally the days have clear blue skies and sunshine. Temperatures will range from 65 – 75 degrees through the day, but it does get quite cool at night. The water temperature at the beach will generally be around 66 – 69 degrees.

  • Students stay at Rustic’s Base House in the Glasshouse Mountains, just inland from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. The house is situated on more than 50 acres of eucalyptus trees and overlooks stunning mountain peaks. Students will sleep 4-6 in a room on bunk beds, with males and females in separate rooms. Each room has an en-suite bathroom. Students will also spend a night at the Brisbane City YHA Hostel in Brisbane, sleeping in private quad-share rooms.

  • Food in Australia is quite similar to American cuisine, with options such as pasta, sandwiches, salads, grilled meats, and pizza. We focus on providing fresh, healthy home-cooked meals. The group will prepare meals together and will eat at local restaurants once a week. Vegetarians and other dietary restrictions can easily be accommodated.

  • There are private American-style bathrooms and showers in the Base House, and public bathroom facilities at the campgrounds. There is hot water and flushing toilets throughout the program.

  • Generally students have access to email once per week. Public phones are available several times during the program.

  • Generally there is the opportunity for self-service laundry once per week.

  • Generally the maximum group size is 10 students. It varies every trip, but typically there will be 7 girls and 3 boys in a group. If you contact us we can tell you the ages and genders of students on your program.

  • Students will be traveling for approximately 1-2 hours per day during the program to get between activity and service locations.

  • Rustic Pathways’ program leaders will drive students in a 12-seater van throughout the program.

  • Australia is a safe, low-risk country to travel to. There are no specific safety concerns on this program.

  • Please consult with a travel doctor or your family physician for immunization and other medical recommendations, based on the area(s) where you will be traveling and on your own medical history. In addition to consulting with a medical professional, please visit the International SOS and Centers for Disease Control websites for country specific information around immunizations and traveler’s health. Please let us know if you have specific questions.

  • International SOS is one of the world’s leading providers of medical evacuation and travel services. All participants traveling with Rustic Pathways will have access to International SOS benefits through Rustic Pathways’ membership.

    As a member you will have access to International SOS’ extensive travel information database to help you make informed decisions prior to travel. Additionally, all travelers who travel outside their country of residence will have access to medical evacuation support during their program. For more information please visit our International SOS.

  • There are generally medical clinics within 30 minutes drive from program locations, and hospitals within 1 hour’s drive.

  • Yes, we can cater for nearly all dietary requests in Australia. Please let us know in advance so we can ensure that you are catered for.

  • No. Mosquitoes and bugs are generally not a problem on this trip.

  • Personal gifts, internet, phone calls, and snacks are not included. All other costs (accommodation, meals, in-country transportation, and activities) are included in the program price.

  • Add-on activities available on this program may include animal encounters at Australia Zoo (approx. $40 – $100), cinema ($20), and ten-pin bowling ($10).

  • We generally suggest $200 – $300 for spending money, plus additional for any optional activities that you would like to do.

  • Yes, you will receive an official certificate for the hours you completed (up to 30) in the end of the summer.

  • Rustic Pathways works with local community leaders and organizations to identify and prioritize the needs of each community. Please refer to the itinerary for a description of the various service projects in this program. Please note that while we try our best to ensure we provide our advertised projects, some changes may occur due to the communities and project partners we work with.

  • You will need to bring a light sleeping bag for your stay at the base house.

    Australia Zoo requires you to bring some beige-coloured pants, a blue/black/green sweater with no logos, and clean, presentable closed-toe shoes for outdoor service work.

  • Students are required to be able to swim, as this program includes a number of aquatic activities.

  • The minimum age for this program is 16. Students can apply if they are 15 as long as they turn 16 before the start of their trip. This is a requirement of Australia Zoo. There is also a special application process for this program, which will involve completing an Australia Zoo Volunteer Application form, then an interview with Rustic Pathways and Australia Zoo. This is nothing to be worried about and is a great opportunity to make sure that this program is the right one for you!

  • No. But we will teach you some Aussie slang along the way.

Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Below is your packing list, and for those of you looking for some extra guidance on what to bring, check out the packing guide for this program.

Rustic Gear. Want to get all your shopping done for your program in one place? We’ve got you covered. Check out Rustic Gear and get all the essentials sent right to your door.

Carry-On Luggage

A small backpack is ideal as it will be used for day trips.

  • Passport
  • Photocopy of passport
  • Wallet and money (USD or AUD)
  • Book and/or journal
  • Pen
  • Phone
  • Camera
  • iPod or MP3 player
  • Change of clothes
  • Water bottle
  • Medication
  • Visa documentation (if applicable)
  • Camera
  • Chargers
  • Travel power adaptor
  • Consent to Travel form
  • Rustic Pathways emergency contacts
  • Arrival instructions for Brisbane

Checked Luggage

One medium-size duffle bag or wheeled bag is ideal for this program.


  • Socks (8)
  • Underwear (10)
  • Pants/capris (2)
  • Jeans (2)
  • Long shorts (2)
  • Shorts (3)
  • Tank Tops (4)
  • T-shirts (6)
  • Sweater/fleece (2)
  • Pajamas
  • Swimsuit
  • Bath towel
  • Beach towel/sarong
  • Rain jacket
  • Fleece jacket
  • Sandals or flip-flops
  • Sneakers/running shoes (1)
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Work gloves


(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Face wash
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Contacts and solution
  • Foam ear plugs
  • Personal med kit
  • Deodorant (no aerosols)
  • Wet wipes
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Razor/shaving cream


  • Travel Pillow
  • Headlamp with spare batteries


  • Portable games (Bananagrams, cards, etc.)
  • Musical instrument (guitar etc)

Items Provided By Rustic Pathways in Australia

  • Linen at base house
  • Other activity-specific equipment

Australia Zoo Dress Code Requirements

During your time at Australia Zoo you will get to be primarily outdoors and on the days you are involved with keeper related activities, you will be involved in a variety of different hands on and physical activities.

Due to the working conditions & operational requirements, it will be important that you wear appropriate clothing and shoes for the 2 days that you are gaining experience with our keeping crew!

The following is an overview of clothing required:

Pants/Shorts – Either shorts or pants will be suitable for these days (skirts and dresses are not). Denim, jeans and legging styles are not suitable. It is recommended that you wear more durable and comfortable fabrics in a looser fit, such as cargos, chinos or standard cuts. All items of clothes worn during these two days should also be neutral tones, such as beige, grey, brown or black.

Closed-toed shoes – Make sure you bring comfortable, neutral colored shoes, as you will be walking and traveling through the zoo on a constant basis. It is not recommended that you wear your favorite or valuable shoes either, after all we are a zoo and there is a possibility they may come in contact with dirt, mud and yes – poo!

Jewelry /Accessories – Due to workplace health and safety we ask you keep jewelry to a minimum during your days assisting keeping departments. A watch, one pair of earring (small stud or sleeper style) and medical bracelets are permitted. Necklaces, facial piercings, rings, dress bracelets and large earrings are not suitable. We also recommend not wearing anything of significant value, as there is always a chance it may get dirty, broken or lost.

Mobile Phones – While mobile phones are now integral to our daily lives, they will not be permitted on the days you are assisting the keeping departments.

Important Reminders

  • While working in the zoo, you are required to bring black or khaki pants/long shorts. You should also pack either a black, blue, or green sweater/fleece that has no logos on it.
  1. a

    Welcome to Australia! You will arrive in Brisbane and begin your journey.

  2. b

    Nestled in the Glasshouse Mountains and home to our Aussie Base House.

  3. c

    Home of the world famous Australia Zoo and where you will complete your service work.

  4. d
    Moreton Island

    The third largest sand island in the world.

  5. e
    Noosa Beach

    Located on the northern end of the Sunshine Coast, this tropical beach town is picture perfect. 

  6. f
    Byron Bay

    Byron Bay is one of the most well-known beach towns on Australia’s East Coast and is the most easterly point of Australia