The Pacific Ocean was once the last great frontier for seafaring explorers — a vast, watery plain whose scale perplexed Western seamen. After decades of discovery and speculation, Captain James Cook mapped the ocean in greater detail than had previously been achieved — revealing a huge oceanic expanse complete with no-end of exotic islands and far-flung beauty spots.
Jump forward a quarter of a millennium, and the Southern Pacific still retains the same utopian beauty that so enchanted Cook and his crew. This cluster of islands north of New Zealand are now collectively referred to as the South Pacific, and they remain some of the most beautiful, peaceful and unspoilt destinations on Earth.
Despite its perfection as a holiday destination, however, the South Pacific is often misunderstood — with very few people able to list every island that makes up the region. With this in mind, we thought we’d shine a light on the South Pacific in order to showcase some of its best-loved islands and ports.
Of all the islands in the South Pacific, Fiji is by far the most popular, and is often listed among the world’s must-visit destinations. Despite its current status as a tourist destination, the island has a long and at-times turbulent past, but this only serves to add colour to the country’s culture and heritage. With warm weather throughout the year and average lows of just 22°C, Fiji just about promises wall-to-wall sunshine for those looking to top up the tan.
Ports in Fiji Include: Suva, Lautoka, Levuka, Malau, Wairiki
Celebrated for its lush tropical flora and beautiful sandy beaches, Vanuatu is a volcanic archipelago, first inhabited by Melanesian tribesmen and later claimed as part of the Spanish East Indies. Owing to its tropical climate and plentiful rainfall, much of Vanuatu is covered in tropical rainforest — something which gives the country its exotic good looks. We’d recommend travelling to Vanuatu during its dry season, which typically falls between June and November. The wettest and most turbulent time to visit is from December through to April.
Ports in Vanuatu Include: Port Vila, Santo
After becoming independent from New Zealand in 1962, the Polynesian island of Samoa has steadily become one of the best-loved destinations in the South Pacific — thanks in part to its impeccable beaches and ludicrously friendly locals. Often referred to as the ‘Navigator Islands’, the Samoans were traditionally renowned for their seafaring skills, and the local people remain intrinsically in touch with the turquoise swells that lap the island’s shoreline. During a visit, be sure to visit the idyllic Lalomanu Beach — which is arguably the best place to sunbathe on the planet.
Ports in Samoa Include: Apia
If you asked a Westerner to name five exotic paradise destinations, we bet any money they’d say Tahiti. As the largest island in French Polynesia, Tahiti is an incredibly popular holiday destination — offering round-the-clock sunshine and wonderfully warm weather from spring to winter. Like Vanuatu, Tahiti is a volcanic archipelago, meaning that many of its beaches feature black sand. Don’t let that put you off however — if you want to sample the exquisite beauty and serene pace of life of the South Pacific, there’s really no place better.
Ports in Tahiti Include: Papeete
One of the most popular destinations in the South Pacific for Australian cruise-goers; New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France that is home to several islands, including the main island of Grand Terre, the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Loyalty Islands, the Isle of Pines and several other smaller, remote islets. The capital of the territory, Noumea, is home to some 180,000 residents, and is famous for its charming mix of French and Polynesian architecture. With its stunning white beaches — the majority of which are completely secluded — the Isle of Pines is one of New Caledonia’s most popular destinations with visitors.
Ports in New Caledonia Include: Babouillat, Kouaoua, Nepoui, Noumea, Poro and Thio
If you’re interested in browsing a complete range of South Pacific cruises, click here to be taken to our dedicated page. Should you require any further help finding the perfect cruise for you, don’t hesitate to call us on 1300 857 345.
All images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Kyle Post, Christian Haugen, Phillip Capper, John Abel, Demonzeed, Sekundo