Students choose adventure over alcohol for schoolies

HSC students are ditching alcohol at end-of-year schoolies celebrations, picking overseas jaunts over booze-soaked local destinations.

When Unleashed Travel, which specialises in overseas packages for school-leavers, offered an alcohol-free option this year, it sold out faster than any other trip.

Queenslander Jade Stehr, 17, is among the 130 students who signed up for a dry Schoolies Week at Hideaway Island in Vanuatu.

"It makes for a better time and more memories than on the Gold Coast [where people say], 'Yeah, I was hungover, can't remember much,"' Stehr said.

Sarah Apps, 18, from Bonnet Bay, will travel with friends to Fiji's Plantation Island after the HSC.

Having heard about interlopers on the Gold Coast - "toolies and 50-year-old men trying to relive their youth" - she liked that the trip was for schoolies only and supervised by Unleashed staff. "You know you're in safe hands."

About 40,000 schoolies from NSW, Queensland and Victoria go to the Gold Coast for schoolies each year and about 5000 go to Byron. Many students are underage when they finish high school.

Unleashed chief executive Jot Lynas said the demand for an alcohol-free schoolies was driven by students, not their parents.

"The perception that all kids want to finish school and go and get drunk is outdated," he said. They are "looking for more of an experience … wanting to get more out of life".

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Phil Hancox, the national marketing manager for Student Flights, said research showed drinking was not a priority for most school-leavers.

"You can choose whatever you want now for schoolies," he said. "You can actually do something … meaningful that might influence your path in life."

Students can volunteer at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand or an orphanage in Cambodia, go kayaking in Queenstown or trekking in Nepal.

Cutting Edge Adventures has been running Queenstown Schoolies for three years, taking students white-water rafting, paragliding and jet boating in New Zealand's adventure tourism capital. "We've had students from past trips move to Queenstown and do a couple of ski seasons," director Tim Jones said.

Schoolies culture was changing, he said, and students wanted different options.

"Rather than going to the Gold Coast and drinking, having … a debaucherous sort of week, these kids [want to] go away and have an action-packed holiday.

"It [offers] peace of mind for the parents, knowing they're away having a positive trip."

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