The South Pacific stretches from the top of Australia all the way to the Hawaiian Islands, covering over 165 million square kilometres. Yet despite the vastness of the space, Australians still only seem to have eyes for one island nation only: Fiji.
But if you can’t afford to visit Fiji — a holiday here can quickly add up — or simply want to escape the nation’s tourist crowds, what are the other islands in the South Pacific you can go to instead? Ahead, we share a few of our favourites.
A three-hour flight from Australia, Vanuatu is a republic with a population of roughly 221,000 and about 83 islands. It’s known for its diving, with underwater tunnels and caves, as well as sharks and rays. It’s also home to one of the world’s most accessible active volcanos, Mount Yasur. Explore the capital Port Vila, visit Mystery Island, and take a village tour.
The Solomon Islands is a nation of hundreds of islands, many of them home to World War II-era shipwreck and plane sites. The nation has a population of over 724,000 with most of them living on only six of the islands. Visit Skull Island (with permission of the local chief and accompaniment of a guide), explore WWII history, and immerse yourself in the village life adopted by Melanesian, Polynesian, and Micronesian cultural groups in the area.
New Caledonia lies about halfway between Brisbane and Fiji, a three-hour flight from Sydney. A French territory, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site made up of dozens of islands. Start your visit here in Noumea, the capital, (don’t miss the Noumea Cathedral) before heading to an island in the East Coast, West Coast, or Great South. In each area, you can snorkel and dive, sail or hike.
Samoa comprises two large islands, Upolu and Savaii, both of which are packed with sites on-land and underwater to explore. To enjoy the Samoan culture, book into a Fia Fia show, which usually includes dancing, singing, and a fire show. Also worth checking out is the Saleaula Lava Fields, formed when one of the island’s volcanos erupted and destroyed five villages. Note that Sunday here is a church and family day, with most shops closed and buses not operating.
The Cook Islands is a self-governing country in the South Pacific in free association with New Zealand. It’s made up of 15 islands, but most of the country’s population is on the island of Rartonga, which has an international airport. Take a day tour of Aitutaki island, hop on a sea scooter or book onto a lagoon cruise. The country has a strong Maori culture still present.