Schoolies. It is a rite of passage for thousands of Australian school-leavers every year; the chance to let off steam and celebrate completing final Year 12 exams with a week of revelry. The official Schoolies festivities usually run over a three-week period, from the end of November until early December. And while any destination can double as a Schoolies setting, there are some around Australia – and overseas – that have been established as pack-leaders over the years.
On that note, if you’re asking, ‘When is Schoolies?’, ‘When does Schoolies start?’, or ‘How long does Schoolies last?’, you’ll find the rundown of 2019 and 2020 dates below. (Because it’s never too early for current Year 11 students to start locking in their own Schoolies plans for next year). Or, if you already have the dates marked in your calendar and are still on the hunt for places to go, we’ve rounded up some of the top Schoolies destinations – both the perenially popular and some new options worth consideration.
When Is Schoolies?
Schoolies Dates 2019
Week 1: 16 to 23 November (Queensland)
Week 2: 23 to 1 December (New South Wales and Victoria)
Week 3: 30 November to 8 December (New South Wales and Victoria)
Schoolies Dates 2020
Week 1: 21 to 28 November, 2020 (Queensland)
Week 2: 28 November to 5 December, 2020 (New South Wales and Victoria)
Week 3: 5 December to 12 December, 2020 (New South Wales and Victoria)
The Most Popular Schoolies Destinations
Gold Coast, Queensland
The Gold Coast is one of the original Schoolies destinations. More than 50,000 Schoolies descend on the Goldie every year, lured in by the white sands, epic beach celebrations and hedonism of its nightclubs and bars. A week on the Gold Coast for Schoolies can cover anything from boat parties and days out at the world-famous theme parks, to paintball show-downs and hanging out by the hotel pool. The most popular hotels for Schoolies Gold Coast are clustered around Surfer’s Paradise, the epicentre of the Schoolies gatherings. Many of the official Schoolies events happen around Surfer’s Paradise too, and volunteer groups from The Red Frogs also have a presence here across the three-week Schoolies period.
It’s about a 30-minute drive to Surfer’s Paradise from Gold Coast Airport, or between 1 hour to 90 minutes by public transport. There are multiple daily flights to the Gold Coast departing from every major city in Australia with airlines including Tigerair, Jetstar and Virgin Australia.
Byron Bay, New South Wales
Flights to the Gold Coast don’t have to be used for just Schoolies in Surfer’s Paradise. Gold Coast Airport is a gateway for school-leavers reaching another of Australia’s most popular Schoolies destinations: Byron Bay. From its beginnings as an off-the-beaten track hamlet frequented only by surfers and children of the Flower Power era, Byron Bay has boomed; transforming into a magnet for sun-seekers, free spirits, night owls and just about everyone in between. The bulk of official Byron Bay Schoolies events happen in seven main venues (pubs, hotels and clubs), but there are ample activities to help fill daylight hours too. Hire a surf board and take to Byron’s world-famous breaks, join a whale-watching cruise or turtle snorkelling tour, jump into a rented kayak to paddle around the cape, or get your fix of smashed avocado, acai bowls and almond milk lattes at any of the new-age eateries in town.
Byron Bay is about a one-hour drive from Gold Coast Airport, or you could book flights into Ballina Airport, located 25 minutes’ away by car.
Located on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, Lorne is one of the top destinations for Victorian Schoolies. This small town is more low-key than some of its Queensland or New South Wales counterparts, but still boasts a strip of beautiful sandy beach, great surfing opportunities, nature walking trails, and the pre-requisite line-up of cafes and bars. Organised parties and events happen throughout Schoolies Weeks in Lorne – many centred around the pretty foreshore area – and other activities to occupy school-leavers by day include rainforest treks, beach barbecues, trampolining and canoe or kayak hire.
Interstate school-leavers travelling to Victoria for Lorne Schoolies can book flights into Melbourne (a two-hour drive) or Avalon Airport near Geelong (about 1 hour 20 minutes’ by car). Another nearby Schoolies destination slightly closer to Melbourne is Torquay, a once-sleepy surf town that marks the official start point of the Great Ocean Road. Torquay was the birthplace of Quik Silver and Rip Curl, and is home to the world-renowned Bells Beach. On the other side of Port Phillip Bay, Rye Schoolies on the Mornington Peninsula is also a popular go-to.
Schoolies goes international. It was never going to be too long before Schoolies started to set their celebratory sights on overseas destinations, and Bali was a natural choice – the Indonesian isle is one of the most popular holiday locales for Australian travellers. Bali’s clout as a Schoolies destination has skyrocketed recently and more than 6000 Schoolies land on flights to Denpasar every year. The lure of Bali for Schoolies Week is clear: the nightlife of Kuta, the beach clubs of Seminyak, the resorts of Canggu, and the hippy vibe of Ubud. School-leavers can also make their dollars stretch further in Bali, especially if they snap up cheap flights to Bali or a money-saving holiday package. A week (or longer) spent in Bali for Schoolies might include trips to a monkey forest, quad bike adventures, tours to local villages, or snorkelling excursions.
Most flights to Bali land at Ngurah Rai International Airport, which is located just south of the Balinese capital of Denpasar. The airport is only a 10-minute drive from Kuta, 20 minutes’ away from Seminyak, and about an hour by car from Ubud.
Fancy spending Schoolies in a bonafide tropical paradise? Book flights to Fiji. This South Pacific nation is an up-and-comer on the Schoolies scene and is set to only gain in popularity as school-leavers say ‘bula’ to overwater bures, untouched coral reefs, white-blonde sands and laid-back locals. Schoolies in Fiji has a different vibe to the atmosphere of Bali, Gold Coast or Byron Bay; the boisterous beach parties and organised events haven’t taken hold yet, so school-leavers are largely left to their own devices. A Fiji Schoolies trip may involve nothing more than establishing domain over a perfectly-positioned poolside sunlounger and only moving for meals, swim breaks and nights out.
The accommodation offering for Fiji holidays is incredibly diverse, covering stays from five-star hotels on the main islands, to budget-friendly guesthouses and tucked-away resorts on some of the more remote isles.
There are no official events or parties in Phuket yet, however Schoolies certainly won’t be left wanting for things to do once the sun sets. Patong is the neon-lit epicentre of Phuket’s nightlife, with most of the action clustered around Bangla Road. This heaving strip is jam-packed with nightclubs, bars, street performances and beach clubs. Throngs of tourists and party-goers flock to Bangla Road every night, and the raucous atmosphere is one of Patong’s most famous calling cards. There are more places to go for Schoolies 2019 in Phuket than just Patong though, and school-leavers can look to some of the other popular resort towns around the island, such as Karon, Kata, Chalong and Kamala. A Phuket holiday package for Schoolies can also be used as a launch pad for those wanting to experience the infamous Full Moon Parties on Ko Pha-ngan.
Direct flights to Phuket are available from Melbourne and Sydney, and Schoolies departing from other Australian cities can find flights with stopovers in Singapore and Bangkok, among others.
Alternative Destinations for Schoolies Week
Airlie Beach, Queensland
Thought the Gold Coast was the only Queensland city to get a look-in at Schoolies? Not so! Head up to the Whitsundays to celebrate finishing high school with a trip to Airlie Beach. The atmosphere of this town is more relaxed than the Goldie, but still delivers with parties, sunshine and other organised events. Make a beeline for the Airlie Beach Lagoon to get a fix of sand, surf and sun, or use a week in Airlie Beach to explore some of the other islands dotted around the Whitsundays. More ideas on where to go for Queensland Schoolies include Mooloolaba, Coolum and the Sunshine Coast.
Often overshadowed by Bali is Lombok, another Indonesian isle that makes up the Lesser Sunda Island chain. And while the lion’s share of party-seeking travellers to Indonesia tend to fixate on Bali, Lombok makes a worthy Schoolies destination in its own right. The beaches are downright heavenly, the surf breaks are world-class, and stays here can be gentler on the hip pocket (especially if you’ve scored some savings with a holiday package). That said, Lombok isn’t without its own party scene and the Gili Islands, especially Gili Trawangan, are where to find oceanfront cocktail bars, beach parties and other like-minded travellers.
Noumea, New Caledonia
Put those high school French lessons to good use with Schoolies in New Caledonia. Flights to this French territory come in at less than three hours when departing from Sydney, so you’ll be landing before you can get through two in-flight movies. Four archipelagos make up New Caledonia, and the easiest island to reach is Grande Terre, the main isle and where Schoolies can book flights into Noumea, the capital city. Noumea has an unfussy and cosmopolitan feel, and is home to amazing beaches, waterfront restaurants and bars, and a stellar brewery pub.