Warm waters, palm-lined beaches, colourful reefs and friendly locals – no wonder it is Australia’s favourite holiday destination. Here’s our pick of 10 South Pacific destinations. Out of the one million Australians who cruised in 2014, about 390,000 visited islands in the South Pacific, making up 39 per cent of the cruising market. It is an affordable and close destination for Australians with many ships departing ports in Sydney and Brisbane, bound for the South Pacific.
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Honiara is the capital of the Solomon Islands and is rich in history – many Allied and Japanese war ships were sunk here during WWII including the Australian cruiser, HMAS Canberra. While the lines don’t offer shore tours, they will tender you to shore where you can book your own private adventure. Visits historical sites on a battlefield tour or take a cultural tour of Honiara. There are also handicraft markets where you can shop for shell items and other souvenirs.
Gizo, Solomon Islands
Gizo boasts some of the regions clearest waters and best coral, making it a prime destination for divers and snorkellers. There are also sunken WWII relics for divers to explore, as well as those on land for for hikers to find.
Isle of Pines, New Caledonia
With beautiful white sandy beaches surrounded by the New Caledonia Barrier Reef, the Isle of Pines is another perfect destination for snorkellers and scuba divers. Its rich marine life ranges from tropical fish to manta rays.The Isle of Pines is one of the most popular destinations in the South Pacific.
Grande Terre, New Caledonia
The big island of New Caledonia is home to the capital, Noumea. Just near the port is the city markets as well as major attractions such as the Coconut Square and Cathedrale St Joseph. It is a French outpost so you’ll also be able to try the local croissants and cheeses. Visit the Bay of Lemons, a beach surrounded by cafes and bars, go for a kayak or take the Tchou Tchou Train around the city.Grande Terre is also home to the world’s biggest lagoon.
Pentecost Island, Vanuatu
This little island is famous for its land-diving ritual, which is believed to have sparked bungy jumping. The N’Gol tradition sees men and boys jump off structures as high as 30 metres with vines tied to their ankles to break their fall right before they hit the ground. Locals see the ritual is a rite of passage to manhood and is believed to help bring a good yam harvest. It is held between April and June.
There are no cars and no electricity on Wala so visitors get around on foot or in a dugout outrigger canoe. The locals are extremely friendly and greet guests with singing and dancing, which gives people an insight into the island’s friendly and warm Manbus culture. (Like a pigeon English way of saying Man-bush…ie. white man lost in the bush”). There is brilliant snorkelling over the coral between the shore and the dark blue waters of the channel separating Wala from Malakula Island.
Maré, Loyalty Islands
At Yejele Beach you can feast on lobsters and traditional Melanesian-style dishes right by the water. Maré also is home to the Bone Hole, a 40-metre deep sink hole where you can visit and have a look. It also has a natural aquarium, a large shallow pool surrounded by lush bushland and full of fish and even a few turtles.
Lifou, Loyalty Islands
Lifou is home to the largest coral atoll in the Loyalty archipelago and is home to six native tribes. The coral reefs surrounding Lifou is home to more than 2,000 fish species and is another hot destination for snorkellers. It has a number of walking tracks, which will lead walkers to a hilltop church with spectacular views.
Dravuni Island, Fiji
This idyllic island has no vehicles, no department stores and nothing from the 21st century. It is an unspoilt destination where you can mix with the locals and even challenge the villagers to a friendly game of volleyball. There are less than 200 inhabitants so it feels like a castaway island. You can also paddle along the Great Astrolabe Reef.
Moorea, French Polynesia
Known to the locals as Fertility Island, Moorea is about 17km from Tahiti. The mountains are lush and the lagoon is turquoise. For scuba divers and snorkellers, it is a paradise. It is home to tropical fish, bright corals as well as eagle rays, turtles and, if you go during the right season, you’ll be able to spot some whales. Shore tours include 4WD trips up the island’s mountains and swimming with dolphins at the Moorea Dolphin Centre. You’ll also be able to find French baguettes and cheeses on the island.