Switch to island time: Escape to the South Pacific

Balmy nights, glo-bright beaches, lush greenery, and welcoming people: the reasons for a South Pacific island holiday are as clear as its aquamarine waters. Just follow our South Pacific island travel guide for travelling like a pro.

The hotspots

While Fiji and Vanuatu are permanent favourites for Australian holidaymakers, we’re now starting to discover upcoming stars, such as the secretive Solomon Islands and PNG, while the Cook Islands and French influences of New Caledonia are enjoying a renaissance. No matter if you’re a diver, beachcomber or dedicated lounge lizard, it all boils down to the beach. Kick start your island dreams at South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

Flying there

The main airlines linking the South Pacific include Fiji Airways (formerly Air Pacific,) Qantas, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia. Smaller national carriers such as PNG’s Air Niugini, Air Vanuatu , New Caledonia’s Air Calin and Solomon Airlines hook Australia up to its nearest neighbours. Keep an eye out for sales and you might snap up a flight from east-coast Australia to Nadi, Fiji for around $650 return, and $250 return for kids under 12. During the low season (November to May), $600 will get you to Noumea in New Caledonia. Put skyscanner on your must-visit list, to compare flight prices and dates.

Cruising there

The South Pacific is our most popular cruise destination, with New Caledonia’s Isle of Pines and Vanuatu’s Champagne Beach providing the classic postcard backdrop to a South Pacific cruise. Choose your style: from champagne luxury to party ships or the range of exploratory small ships that are now discovering the hidden corners of thousands of islands. P&O Cruises offers wallet-friendly seven-night cruises departing Australia for New Caledonia from $899, quad share in an interior room, which is always cheapest, compared with $1999 a person for a suite. A good jumping-off point for cruise comparisons is cruiseabout.

Getting around

What’s your tribe? The fly-and-flop brigade, who are content to be spoilt poolside, or do you get out amongst the locals? The Pacific islands each have their own special mode of transport: from PNG’s banana boats that skip between its islands to Vanuatu’s little island-hopping planes to the many live aboard boats that let you sleep on board, stopping to visit a local village, get the snorkel on or take a dive. A three-night cruise through Fiji’s Yasawa islands aboard Captain Cook Cruises’ live aboard MV Reef Endeavour costs from $980 a person, twin share. Island-hopping plane transfers are usually priced into packages. If you’re booking them yourself, get in early as the small planes fill quickly.

Staying there

Nothing kicks off romance like a glowing sunset over calm waters. South Pacific island holidays have more than their fair share of super-luxe hideaways. Fiji’s top resorts can command over $1000 a night for a slice of private paradise. For some spectacular beach island eye-candy, check out the all-inclusive, complete island hire at Dolphin Island and Wadigi Island, or the luxe resorts at Likuliku Lagoon and Matagi Island.

For flight-hotel packages from glam to fam, check out Creative Holidays’ Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Cook Islands packages: you can pay around $2000 a person for a week’s stay in the glam Raratonga Beach Resort & Spa, with international flights, kids’ crèche and clubs, daily cocktail parties and activities. Sleepy Samoa, as yet undeveloped by the big international chains, offers good value, while going local in a PNG village stay costs from $60 a night. Bookings.com and skyscanner.com yield unusual finds for those who prefer to wing it.

Hip pocket talk

As a rule of thumb, flight-and-hotel packages in the South Pacific offer the best value, thanks to the big travel companies’ muscular buying power. Check the fine print for meal packages, pay-seven, stay-five deals and other bonuses. Kids under 12 can usually stay and eat free when sharing with their parents, and many of the airlines offer very reasonable kids’ air fares. Bargain hunters can slip into the fringe of the wet, windy season to score a deal. Traditionally, the South Pacific’s hot, rainy season runs from November to April, while May to October is peak season, thanks to clear skies and lower humidity, however climate change does throw a few curve balls.

Prices correct at time of publishing.

This article by Belinda Jackson was published on Art of Money blog by GE Money.

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