Oceania Travel Guide
Oceania... a vast region of azure waters, uncharted islands, and ancient cultures, all stitched together with tales of exploration, mysticism, and natural wonders.
Stretching from the sprawling deserts of Australia to the soaring peaks of New Zealand, and onward to the scattered, paradisiacal islands of the Pacific, Oceania is a region of endless adventure and discovery, rewarding travelers with its promise of untouched beauty and vibrant traditions.
Where do you want to go? Click on the region you want to explore.
Australia & New Zealand
Two countries where ancient indigenous cultures meet modern urban vitality. Experience the rugged Outback, the architectural marvel of the Sydney Opera House, the pristine beaches of the Gold Coast, and the majestic fjords of New Zealand’s South Island.
Dive into a world of contrasts, where kangaroos roam freely and the haka reverberates.
Home to sprawling rainforests, active volcanoes, and intricate coral reefs. The islands of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands are treasure troves of biodiversity, where age-old traditions remain intact amidst azure lagoons and emerald mountains.
A shimmering necklace of coral islands and atolls, Micronesia spans the vastness of the Pacific with nations like Palau, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands. Discover underwater sanctuaries teeming with marine life and above-ground panoramas that seem straight out of a dream.
Encompassing over 1,000 islands across the central and southern Pacific Ocean, Polynesia is the land of legends, where tales of Maui are whispered with the rustling palms and dances tell stories of the cosmos. From the iconic overwater bungalows of Bora Bora to the sacred summits of Hawaii, Polynesia invites you to embrace its enchanting spirit.
Quick Facts About Oceania
- Oceania is composed of 22 countries and territories, if we exclude Hawaii which belongs to the US, and Easter Island which belongs to Chile.
- The largest country is by far Australia.
- The smallest country is Nauru, with only 21 sq. km or 8 sq. miles.
- Oceania’s subregions:
- Australia and New Zealand
- Melanesia: Including countries such as Fiji, New Caledonia, and Vanuatu.
- Micronesia: North of Melanesia, home to island nations like Palau, Kiribati, or the Marshall Islands.
- Polynesia: This includes French Polynesia, and countries like Samoa and Tonga.
- The Oceanic region showcases a remarkable linguistic diversity, with over 1,200 individual languages spoken. Major languages include English, Maori in New Zealand, and Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea.
- Many islands, especially in Melanesia and Polynesia, have their indigenous languages, often specific to individual islands or groups of islands, showcasing the region’s rich cultural heritage.
- Christianity is the predominant religion in Oceania, introduced by European settlers and missionaries during colonization.
- Indigenous beliefs and practices are still prevalent, especially in more remote areas. These spiritual traditions often intermingle with introduced religions, resulting in unique syncretic faiths.
Oceania, A Continent of Many Records
Largest Coral Reef System: The Great Barrier Reef in Australia spans over 2,300 kilometers, making it the world’s largest coral reef system, with a biodiversity that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world.
Oldest Rainforest: Daintree Rainforest in Australia is considered the oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest in the world, dating back 180 million years.
Highest Oceanic Peak: Mount Wilhelm in Papua New Guinea stands as Oceania’s tallest mountain when measured from the base in the ocean, reaching an elevation of 4,509 meters.
Deepest Oceanic Trench: The Tonga Trench is among the deepest parts of the world’s oceans, plunging down to depths of over 10,882 meters.
Oldest Living Culture: Indigenous Australians represent the world’s oldest living culture, with histories spanning over 65,000 years.
Most Remote Inhabited Island: Pitcairn Island, a British Overseas Territory, is one of the world’s most remote inhabited places with only around 50 inhabitants.
10 Handpicked Oceania Highlights
10 fantastic places and experiences in Oceania, in no particular order.
- The Great Ocean Road (Australia): A scenic coastal drive offering panoramic views of the Southern Ocean, it passes through varying terrains from rainforests to dramatic cliff edges, providing sightings of native Australian wildlife along the way.
- Waitomo Glowworm Caves (New Zealand): Experience a magical boat ride under thousands of twinkling glowworms in the darkness of these ancient limestone caves, a phenomenon unique to New Zealand.
- Bora Bora (French Polynesia): Often dubbed the “Pearl of the Pacific,” this island’s turquoise lagoon, lush mountains, and luxury overwater bungalows make it a dreamlike paradise for visitors.
- Yasawa Islands (Fiji): A group of sun-kissed, pristine islands renowned for crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and an authentic Fijian cultural experience.
- Sepik River (Papua New Guinea): One of the world’s great river systems, its winding path reveals ancient tribes, intricate carvings, and rituals that have remained unchanged for centuries.
- Aitutaki Lagoon (Cook Islands): A tranquil haven of coral-rich waters and small islets, perfect for snorkeling, paddleboarding, and immersing in the Polynesian way of life.
- Île des Pins (New Caledonia): Often referred to as the “Jewel of the Pacific,” the Île des Pins is famed for its stunning azure lagoons and powdery white sand beaches. The island’s unique natural pools, surrounded by tall pine trees and limestone caves, offer a sanctuary for those seeking tranquility. Rich in both Melanesian culture and French influence, visitors can explore the ancient ruins and remnants from the island’s history as a penal colony while basking in the serenity of this South Pacific paradise.
- Palau’s Jellyfish Lake: A marine lake where visitors can swim with millions of stingless jellyfish, an evolutionary wonder and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- Te Matua Ngahere (New Zealand): Located in the Waipoua Forest, this ancient kauri tree, also known as the “Father of the Forest,” is estimated to be over 2,500 years old, making it one of the oldest and largest known trees in the world.
- Uluru (Australia): Also known as Ayers Rock, this iconic red sandstone monolith stands as a testament to Australia’s Aboriginal heritage, with its changing hues at dawn and dusk offering a mesmerizing sight.
When to Go to Oceania
Oceania, encompassing a vast expanse of islands and nations, experiences a variety of climates ranging from tropical in the Pacific islands to temperate in parts of Australia and New Zealand. Generally, the region has two main seasons: wet and dry.
Australia & New Zealand: These nations experience opposite seasons to the Northern Hemisphere. December to February is summer, which is perfect for beaches but can get quite hot in inland Australia. June to August is winter, ideal for snow sports in certain parts of New Zealand and Australia.
Pacific Islands: The best time to visit places like Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga is during the dry season, from May to October, when you can expect less rainfall and humidity. The wet season, from November to April, is hotter, more humid, and has a higher risk of cyclones.
Traveling to Oceania
- Stay Sun Safe: The sun in Oceania, especially in Australia and New Zealand, can be particularly harsh. Always apply sunscreen, wear a hat, and hydrate regularly.
- Beware of Marine Hazards: When swimming, be cautious of jellyfish, sharks, and strong currents.
- Respect Local Customs: This is particularly true in the Pacific islands where traditions and customs are strong.
- Stay Informed about Cyclones: If traveling during the wet season, keep updated about potential cyclones.
- Wildlife Awareness: In Australia, be aware of wildlife like snakes and spiders. While encounters are rare, it’s good to be informed.
- Drink Bottled Water: In some Pacific islands, it’s safer to drink bottled water.
- Road Safety: If renting a car, remember many places drive on the left side, and always wear a seatbelt.
- Respect Marine Protected Areas: Refrain from touching coral or marine life when snorkeling or diving.
- Secure Valuables: Petty theft can occur, particularly in tourist areas.
- Health Precautions: Vaccinations might be required for certain islands. Consult with a travel clinic before departure.
Getting to and Around Oceania
- Air Travel: Major international airports include Sydney (SYD), Melbourne (MEL), and Brisbane (BNE) in Australia, Auckland (AKL) in New Zealand, and Nadi (NAN) in Fiji. Qantas, Air New Zealand, and Virgin Australia are major airlines servicing the region.
- Ferries: In many islands, ferries are a primary mode of transportation, such as the Interislander in New Zealand.
- Buses & Trains: Australia and New Zealand have extensive bus and train networks. For the Pacific islands, buses are the main mode of land transport.
- Car Rentals: Renting a car is a great way to explore Australia and New Zealand’s vast landscapes at your own pace.
Accommodations in Oceania cater to all budgets, ranging from luxury resorts in the Pacific islands to backpacker hostels in Australia and New Zealand. Mid-range hotels and vacation rentals are also popular. In the islands, traditional bungalows or “fales” offer a unique experience.
Prices can vary greatly, with Australia and New Zealand being more expensive than some Pacific islands, but remember that peak tourist seasons might see a spike in accommodation costs. Always research and book in advance, especially if traveling during local holidays or festivals.