Oceania Travel Guide
As the name suggests, Oceania is a vast region encompassing hundreds of tiny Pacific Ocean islands as well as Australia and New Zealand. This remote but beautiful corner of the globe offers a wide range of cultural and outdoor attractions for travelers willing to make the journey.
When one conjures up images of idyllic tropical islands, the verdant shores of Tahiti’s Bora Bora come to mind. The French influence of Tahiti adds a pleasant element to the unique Polynesian culture which permeates most of the Pacific islands, and there are plenty to choose from.
Many visitors simply lounge on the powdery white sands and try to absorb the surreal beauty of the islands. But if you want to venture underwater you’ll discover some of the planet’s finest coral reefs in Fiji, the Solomons and Vanuatu.
At the other end of the spectrum is the enormous open space of Australia. With the rugged outback and mysterious Uluru Rock at its heart, Australia blends natural beauty with the best urban scene in Oceania. Cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Perth offer sophistication with an Aussie vibe of relaxation.
Everyone hangs out outside in Australia, surfing the waves or tanning along the beaches. The Gold Coast is home to the largest living organism on earth, the Great Barrier Reef, with its countless dive sites and colorful marine life.
New Zealand’s two islands are so beautiful that words fail to capture their majesty. The Southern Alps are one of the world’s greatest trekking and adventure sports sites, littered with glaciers and impossibly perfect scenery. Queenstown is the center for adrenaline, but don’t overlook Auckland, Christchurch and Nelson for some chilled out city time.
If you are seeking cultural exposure, the tattooed Maori of New Zealand are impressive. But the remote and tourist-free jungles of Papua New Guinea are where the real adventure lies. Trekking through virgin rainforest to visit indigenous tribes untouched by the outside world is a rare opportunity.
No matter where you go in Oceania you’ll find friendly people, a relaxed atmosphere and enough variation to keep you entertained for years. The hard part is choosing the first destination.
The Australasia and South Pacific region is blessed with a plethora of stunning landscapes which allow for many activities to be enjoyed, coupled with beautiful sights to take in. From World Heritage listed national parks to breathtaking marine parks, the region has it all.
Lord Howe Island
The picturesque island located between Australia and New Zealand offers an amazing display of natural wildlife, serene beaches and breathtaking waterways.
Great Barrier Reef
Being the largest coral atoll in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is host to thousands of visitors each year. The amazing marine life is colorful and plentiful, and with a plethora of great resorts and restaurants the area is a perfect holiday destination.
Situated in Polynesia, the magnificent Cook Islands are a fine display of South Pacific beauty. From secluded escapes to adventure and activities, there is so much to see and enjoy.
One of the highest mountains in New Zealand, Mount Ruapehu is located in a World Heritage listed national park and home to the best ski fields in the country.
The turquoise waters and white sand beaches that make up Fiji are some of the best in the world. With a plethora of activities to enjoy from water sports to nightlife activities, Fiji, has something for everyone.
Situated high in the New Zealand mountains, Wanaka is an adventurer’s paradise, with a beautiful lake and great climbing opportunities on offer.
The world-renowned Kakadu National Park is a World Heritage listed site. With spectacular wildlife and fauna coupled with interesting aboriginal history, the area is truly special.
The famous Ayers Rock in the heart of Australia offers travelers breathtaking scenery amidst a sacred Aboriginal heritage. With great climbing, trekking and camping, the area is great for adventurous travelers.
Along the southwestern tip of New Zealand, the rocky mountaintops, dramatic cliffs, dense forests, large lakes and high waterfalls are scenic and spectacular.
On the far northwest coast of Australia, Shark Bay has fantastic marine life including animals unique to the region such as loggerhead turtles and dugongs.
Things to See & Do
With such a varied amount of terrain spread over the massive Oceania region, there are many fantastic spots for activities including trekking, diving, snorkeling, surfing, white-water rafting, kayaking, skiing, mountain and rock climbing, all set amongst some amazing wildlife and fauna.
The region is blessed with spectacular beauty, from the scenic rolling hills and dramatic mountains of New Zealand to the World Heritage listed Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, in the heart of Australia. Tens of thousands of picturesque islands, many untouched by man, lie in the crystal blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.
With world-class surfing spots scattered throughout the region, challenging and picturesque mountains to climb and snow-ski in New Zealand, coupled with arguably some of the world’s best diving and most amazing natural reefs of Australia and surrounding islands, the Oceania region is full of great holiday destinations for everyone to enjoy.
When to Go
The weather in Australia and the South Pacific region varies greatly due to the size of the area, but generally the climate can be separated into two patterns, tropical and temperate. Basically, the top half of Australia and most of the South Pacific Islands experience tropical weather while the southern states of Australia and New Zealand have a temperate climate.
For the tropical weather areas of northern Australia and the islands in the South Pacific, the year can be broken into two seasons. November to April is considered summer with hotter temperatures and higher humidity but this is also the wettest time of year coupled with a higher possibility of cyclones. The ‘winter’ period of the year is between May and October, where temperatures are cooler yet still mild with generally less rain and humidity.
Throughout the southern states of Australia and New Zealand, the temperate climate has four distinct seasons comparable to North America or Europe, only with the time of year opposite to that of the northern hemisphere.
December to February Summertime starts in December and is particularly hot with temperatures frequently above 40°C. The temperate areas are generally dry while the tropical areas experience rain and storms.
March to May Fall is from March to May, and while March typically sees a few warm days, temperatures generally start to drop along with the leaves. The tropical areas still see much rain and storm activity.
June to August From June to August is wintertime, which is usually cold and wet although it is uncommon to see the temperature drop below 0°C, apart from in the high mountains of Australia or New Zealand. The weather in tropical areas is generally dry and mild, which is perfect for sailing.
September to November Springtime starts in September, which traditionally sees a slight rise in temperature and the flowers and fauna burst into color. In the tropical areas, mild and dry weather continues into November before the cyclone season begins.
Temperate region of Australia and South Pacific With the reasonably mild climate, traveling through this temperate climate region at any time of year is enjoyable. If traveling to the snowfields of Australia or New Zealand, then it is best to arrive in the middle of winter for good ski conditions. The summer heat in Australia and New Zealand can be extremely hot. The hole in the ozone layer is above and results in high UV rays which can burn your skin in no time. Summertime is popular with tourists and locals alike who wish to enjoy the many beaches and waterways.
Tropical Australia and South Pacific The tropical area of Australia and the South Pacific region is best visited in the winter season, which is between May and October. This time is also known as the ‘sailing season’ because of the usually perfect conditions for the sport. During the summer season, the temperatures can be stifling although with plenty of water around to cool off in it is bearable.
Getting to Australia and the surrounding South Pacific islands is relatively easy with many international flights arriving from most major cities around the globe. Australia and New Zealand are the main air hubs for the region, which have connecting flights to the nearby smaller island countries.
Tourism throughout the year is constant, but generally the region’s summer months of December, January and February are the busiest, with the exception of wintertime in New Zealand, when many travel to enjoy the great snow conditions. Some great deals on flights can be obtained if booking out of season and well in advance.
Australia’s main international airports are located in Sydney, Melbourne in the south, Brisbane in the north and Perth in the far west of the country. Depending on where you are flying from, the choice of flights may be limited. Onward flights to the South Pacific islands are well serviced from all these major airports.
From the US: flights to Australia from the US involve a long 20-hour journey departing from the west coast of America. If leaving from the east coast or mid US, then connections are usually required. Long flight times coupled with possible connections and delays, it should be noted that two days of travel will be added to your vacation.
From Canada: from Canada’s Toronto or Vancouver international airports, flights usually stop in either San Francisco or Los Angeles before traveling onward to Australia. It is also possible to fly to Honolulu, Hawaii and then take a direct flight to Australia or New Zealand. Flight times with connections can take upwards of 20 hours.
From the UK: flights between Australia and the United Kingdom frequently leave on a daily basis. From most of the UK’s major airports, flights leave to a Middle Eastern destination, commonly Dubai, from where a connecting flight to Australia or New Zealand is made. With delays and connections, travel time can take over one day.
From Australia and New Zealand: from Australia or New Zealand many flights are available connecting to South Pacific islands. Air New Zealand has several flights per week leaving from Auckland to Fiji, Cook islands, Samoa, Tonga and Tahiti. From Australia’s northern airports, daily flights leave for the Solomon’s, Fiji, Vanuatu and other neighboring islands.
From South Africa: from Johannesburg and Cape Town international airports, daily flights leave for Australia. South African Airlines flies into Perth on Australia’s west coast, and from there connections to other Australian cities as well as New Zealand can be made.
The Australia and South Pacific region, also referred to as ‘Oceania,’ is a large geographical and often geopolitical area which consists of many lands but mostly islands positioned in the Pacific Ocean. Oceania is traditionally broken down into four main areas of Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia and Australasia. There are 14 separate countries, 15 dependencies and over 25 different languages spoken.
Air: With so many islands and such long distances between destinations, traveling to and through much of the region can only be achieved by plane or ferry. The remote islands with low populations are usually equipped with a basic runway capable of serving only smaller aircraft. Some of the more developed tourist destinations have international airports with flights arriving from many major cities.
International flights from all over the globe arrive at most of Australia and New Zealand’s major cities. From there, connections by boat or small plane to many of the islands and countries such as Tonga, Samoa, Christmas and Norfolk islands are readily available.
Train: Traveling by rail through Australia is more than just a mode of transit; it is more of an experience. The Ghan is a newly completed rail line that travels directly through the heart of Australia’s red desert from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north. Also worth mentioning is the ‘Indian Pacific,’ which has the world’s longest straight track, traveling across from Sydney to Perth. Many other services are also available between all the major cities and smaller towns.
Train travel in New Zealand is something special with some beautiful scenic routes through stunning landscapes. Three rail lines are available including the ‘Overlander,’ which travels from Wellington to Auckland on the North Island. The ‘TranzCoastal,’ makes the journey between Christchurch and Picton and finally the ‘TranzAlpine’ connects Christchurch with Greymouth. With friendly staff, tasty food, drinks and a lively atmosphere, the journey is an enjoyable experience.
Bus: Although not as enjoyable and comfortable as traveling by train, both Australia and New Zealand have an extensive network of buses connecting their cities and towns. All coaches have air conditioning and high safety standards, with seat belts for all passengers. Travel passes which allow for unlimited travel in either country for a certain period of time are available. Traveling by bus is an inexpensive alternative that allows easy access to a wider range of destinations.
Boat: Throughout the region many of the islands have boat tours offering sightseeing and diving activities. Along the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, specialized glass-bottomed boats make trips over the waters filled with marine life. Also close by, ferries connect the mainland to Magnetic and Fraser islands.
Sydney Harbor, the Brisbane River and the Yarra River in Melbourne all have local ferry services that are very convenient for traveling between tourist attractions. In French Polynesia there are frequent high-speed catamarans which operate between Tahiti and many of the Society Islands.
Car: One of the best and most relaxed ways to explore the region, whether in Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia or Samoa, is by self-drive. Car rental companies are available throughout the region and are inexpensive. Driving in Australia or New Zealand is particularly rewarding with many places you could otherwise not visit by alternative transport. With safe and well sign-posted roads, driving is a great option.
Where to Stay
The South Pacific and Australasia region has a massive range of accommodation options. In the major cities, there many five-star luxury hotels, mid-range rooms and also budget hostel beds available. Some of the more luxurious suites can be expensive.
On the South Pacific islands and also in the quieter costal towns of Australia, accommodation options vary from modern resorts to smaller motels and beachside bungalows. Particularly on the islands, small bungalows made from local wood and palm leaves are commonplace and popular.
Generally, finding accommodation without a reservation even during the high season is not a problem. However, it is advised to pre-book, particularly for a certain beach or destination to avoid disappointment.
Hostels: all over Australia and New Zealand, hostels can be found, which are generally aimed at backpackers and travelers on a budget. Rooms can vary greatly in price and level of comfort depending on the location and price. In the main cities, hostels are relatively expensive but offer a central location close to all the action.
Hotels: a plethora of hotels are located in Australia and the South Pacific region. The main cities in Australia, New Zealand and on many of the developed islands have five-star luxury suites to moderately priced rooms available.
Camping: camping is very popular throughout the many national parks and World Heritage sites in Australia and New Zealand. There are strict camping sites so be sure ask where is suitable to pitch a tent; sites are usually well sign posted, however. Some larger campsites have tents and cabins available for rent.
Bungalows: beach bungalows throughout the South Pacific islands are very popular. Bungalows can range from extravagant five-star luxury resorts to inexpensive and less comfortable cabins, which are more than adequate for travelers on a budget.
Health and safety
Health and safety for tourists while traveling in Australia and the South Pacific is not a concern, with only a few things to watch out for. Generally the region is considered one of the safest in the world.
Throughout Australia and New Zealand, all capital cities have world-class health facilities, with great emergency services available. When traveling in more remote areas of both countries, hospitals and rescue services can be harder to reach. On the South Pacific islands, only the major tourist spots will have adequate services available. If participating in any adventure activities, be sure to use a reputable company with appropriate safety procedures in place.
With many beaches and waterways throughout the countries of the region, water safety is paramount. In Australia, beaches in the summertime can become crowded with tourists wanting to cool off; unfortunately, many are not versed in the dangers of rip currents and strong waves. When at beaches always look for the safety flags to swim between and be careful not to go out beyond your depth.
Australia is home to some of the nastiest creatures on earth, including deadly snakes, spiders, crocodiles, sharks and jellyfish. If participating in certain activities in certain areas, then coming in contact with these animals is inevitable. Care should be taken and attention to any warning signs not underestimated.
Crime throughout the region is well controlled with only isolated incidents against tourists. Care and commonsense should be used and of course an appropriate travel insurance policy for you and your family should be in place.
Crime: the Australia and South Pacific region is considered to be a tourist friendly area with only isolated incidents of crime against visitors. Australia and New Zealand are fine to travel through but like anywhere in the world, common sense should be exercised to avoid any unnecessary problems.
Regional conflicts and terrorism: the Australia and South Pacific region is mostly free from any serious conflicts or terrorist activity. The only area that has experienced any problems in recent times is the Solomon Islands, which has had some minor civil unrest. The Australian armed forces are present on the islands and they are generally safe to visit. Tourists are advised to avoid any public protests and large gatherings.
Diseases: in the region are reasonably under control with strict rules in place and ever increasing immunization programmes. In the tropical areas, however, it is advised to take precautions against yellow fever and malaria by having the appropriate vaccinations before your holiday.
Adverse weather: in the tropical areas of Australia and the South Pacific region, cyclones and torrential rain can occur during the summer from November to April. The summer heat of the entire region can be extremely hot with temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius not uncommon. Also with the ozone hole above the area, the sun’s rays burn with much more intensity than in the northern hemisphere.
Work and Study
Working and studying in the Australasia and the South Pacific region is generally limited to Australia and New Zealand. It is very difficult for non-natives to find work in the South Pacific islands, and studying here is not a feasible option either.
If you are planning to stay and work in Australia or New Zealand while on holiday, it is recommended you apply for a working holiday visa. This will allow you to be employed for a limited period during your visit.
With both countries spoken language being English, there is an endless amount of employment opportunities for the majority of travelers.
Available jobs throughout Australia or New Zealand include specialized trades, bar and restaurant work, and general unskilled labor jobs such as building or fruit picking. With a variety of employment opportunities advertised in hostels, newspapers and online backpacker sites, finding short-term employment is not difficult.
After the assigned working visa is finished, travelers wishing to stay on and work permanently are required to apply through immigration once again. For some specialized jobs this process can be quite easy, but for general unskilled labor, permanent visas are not easy to get.
Australia and New Zealand both have strong international education programs, with a variety of schools, universities and private colleges. To be eligible for an educational visa, you must show you have enough money to support your living expenses and educational costs for the duration of the study period. The money required can be offset with income sourced whilst studying in the country.
Once the all the required documentation has been submitted to immigration and has been approved, it is a straight forward process of enrolling in the chosen course, possibly working part-time and enjoying the great standard of living both Australia and New Zealand have to offer.
The major universities in Australia and New Zealand offer great educational opportunities with internationally accepted degrees, which are similar to those of European and North American counterparts. Studying in Australia or New Zealand is a popular choice for the lifestyle and general low living expenses.