Guide: How to pick a Pacific Island

Last updated 05:00 04/07/2014

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Don't let the pictures on travel brochures have you fooled into thinking all Pacific Islands are the same.

Sure, they all look postcard-perfect, with palm trees, beaches, and clear blue water.

But the islands, numbering as many as 30,000 in the world's biggest ocean, are a diverse bunch - each with their own identity, culture and history.

What's more, each offers a unique holiday experience.

Here's our guide on how to pick a Pacific Island, based on what kind of holiday you are going on.


History buffs will delight in Norfolk Island - visitors can explore its rich and fascinating past in one of the island's many museums. Many people living on Norfolk Island are descendants of the mutineers on board the Bounty in 1789.

The hidden paradise also has a captivating settler history, World Heritage-listed architecture, and significant artefacts from one of Australia's most important shipwrecks can be viewed at the HMS Sirius Museum.

Norfolk Island is also a great place to recharge your batteries and breathe in clean island air tinged with the scent of Norfolk pines.


The adventure capital of the Pacific, Vanuatu has some of the best dive sites in the world, fabulous fishing and a myriad of pulsating activities such as zip-lining, off-road adventures and parasailing.

A haven for travellers looking to do more than just lie on the beach, the country offers hundreds of different adventure options from waterfall abseiling, buggy tours to jungle zip-lining throughout 83 islands. It also features some of the best cuisine in the Pacific region.


Retail therapy fans, rejoice - New Caledonia has the best shopping in the South Pacific, whether you are looking for fashionable French clothes or Parisian luxuries including perfume, jewellery and footwear.

While not the cheapest for shopping - the government taxes goods and services as locals pay little or no income tax, visitors can also pick up interesting tribal artefacts and locally made arts and crafts at one of many markets.

Some stores on the island are tax-exempt, so shoppers can revel in duty-free purchases of alcohol, bags, cosmetics, and other products. At the end of a hard day shopping, relax in the world's largest lagoon.


The warm Pacific waters of Tonga and Niue are two of the few places in the world where tourists can swim with whales.

Relatively new in Tonga, where whales used to be hunted, whale watching is raising awareness of conservation. The best time to see the South Pacific humpback whales that migrate to the waters around Vava'u is between July and October.

Whales can be viewed from anywhere on Niue's southwest coast between June and November, when they arrive in the warm waters to breed.

Whales shelter in the crystal-clear waters of the bays around Avatele and Tamakautoga. Close-up views can be arranged through boat tours, and even closer encounters experienced by diving with the whales or dolphins.

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Samoa is known as the last bastion of Polynesian culture. People of the country's 10 islands are proud of their strong Fa'a Samoa - the Samoan way - which dictates how Samoans should behave and their obligations to their elders, family, community, church, and the environment. The Samoan way has a strong focus on hospitality, so the people are welcoming to visitors.

Similarly, Tongans still proudly retain their authentic culture and traditions. The only Pacific Island never colonised by a foreign power, a trip to Tonga is like stepping back in time. Life takes place in the slow lane, and many Tongans still live in village communities following traditional customs, especially on the outer islands. Traditional dress of woven waist mats are commonly worn, food is cooked in earth ovens, and kava drinking is still part of Tongan life.


The overwater bungalows on Bora Bora in the Society Islands are the dream destination for honeymooners. The uncrowded secluded beaches provide an idyllic backdrop for a romantic trip in paradise.


It would be hard to find a traveller who would not be enticed by Fiji - couples, backpackers, honeymooners, and families all equally enjoy the sun, sea and relaxation on offer. From staying in a hostel to booking an island to yourself, the "heart of the South Pacific" has 333 tropical islands to choose from.

Described as the jewel in the crown of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga's classically gorgeous tropical beaches similarly entice families, couples, and honeymooners alike.

Water-based activities are plentiful, as the island is almost completely encircled by a lagoon. Some of the best snorkelling is accessible directly from the beach, and the balmy water temperature provides a comfortable experience all year round.

Do you have a favourite Pacific Island? Leave a comment below.

- Stuff


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