Together they comprise the Oceania region, and they offer holidays amidst some of the world’s most stunning scenery. Just the names alone are enough to conjure up mental images of paradise – Fiji, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon and Cook Islands, among other island nations in the South Pacific. At the heart of the region are Australia and New Zealand, two unique destinations guaranteed to set the pulse racing with their amazing range of places to see and things to do.
These wonders Down Under are ready to welcome you. So what are you waiting for?
Australia is a country of contrasts, from arid Outback wilderness to sophisticated cities, beautiful beaches, lush rainforests and the world’s longest coral reef.
Sydney is the largest city and main gateway, its Opera House and Harbour Bridge iconic landmarks along with surfing mecca Bondi Beach. Melbourne has a European feel and is often said to be friendlier and more laid back. Their respective states, New South Wales and Victoria, both have extensive wineries so you can combine a city stay with winery visits, as you can in South Australia and its green capital, Adelaide.
Queensland encompasses everything from Brisbane and the glamorous Gold Coast to mountainous rainforests in the far north, with the Great Barrier Reef and a string of tropical islands off the coast and a desolate Outback interior.
Also known as Ayers Rock, the rock monolith of Uluru, in Northern Territory’s Outback, is a bucket list tick for most visitors to Australia. The crocodile-filled swamps of Kakadu National Park lie on the state’s northern coast, near Darwin.
Covering one-third of Australia, Western Australia is its biggest state and dwarfs Western Europe. It is mostly Outback but has its own wine region near capital Perth. Island state Tasmania is noted for its pristine nature.
Slightly larger than the UK but possessing a population almost seven times less (sheep outnumber humans, at 26 million compared to less than 4.5 million people), there is an overwhelming sense of space and unsullied environment wherever you go in New Zealand.
Its North and South islands have landscapes that take your breath away: towering glacier-cloaked mountains, volcanic regions with geysers and thermal springs, caves full of glow-worms, mirror-like lakes, fast-flowing rivers, forested fjords, sub-tropical islands and so much more.
Auckland and its other cities are friendly and uncrowded. And if excitement is your thing, New Zealand has it in spades. Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world, offering bungy jumping, jetboating, winter skiing, mountain biking, white-water rafting, ziplining and paragliding to name just a few adrenalin-fuelled activities.
Add in New Zealand’s enduring Maori heritage and customs as well as its world-famous wines and you get a destination you just won’t want to leave.
FIJI & PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Fiji’s 300 idyllic islands have been used as the setting for a host of movies including blockbusters Cast Away and The Blue Lagoon. The main island of Viti Levu has rugged mountains where you can kayak on rivers through dense forests to lofty waterfalls. You will treasure memories of traditional songs sung by hotel staff to welcome you and send you on your way.
Taking up the eastern half of the world’s second-largest island and numerous offshore islands, Papua New Guinea captivates visitors with its incredible biodiversity and topography and a cultural melting pot that encompasses hundreds of indigenous groups and tribes.
Palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze, sculpted peaks draped in rainforest, waves gently lapping deserted beaches, archetypal desert islands complete with over-water villa resorts and local performers clad in grass skirts telling stories handed down for generations through traditional song and dance. They may be the stuff of dreams but you will find all of that in the island nations of Polynesia.
From French-influenced Tahiti and Bora Bora to the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga and others, each country has its own individual identity and appeal but all lay on a South Pacific welcome and stay you will never forget.