Crystal blue sea off the coast of Samoa
Oceania is a vast, arbitrarily defined expanse
of the world where the Pacific Ocean – rather than land borders –
connects the nations. It is home to glistening white beaches,
coconut palms swaying in the breeze, beautiful coral reefs, and
rugged volcanic islands rising out of the blue ocean. Its diverse
nations have some of the world's most international cities, and
some of its most remote villages.
Australia and New Zealand, often grouped as
Australasia, are by far the largest countries in
the continent and the most visited by travellers. Oceania also
incorporates Polynesia to the east,
Melanesia to the west and
Micronesia to the north.
A carving from the Sepik river area of PNG
- Australia - The
largest and most populous country in Oceania.
- New Zealand - A
major destination, second to Australia in size. Well-developed
facilities for travelers. Technically part of Polynesia as the
Maoris are considered Polynesian.
Melanesia consists of the island of New Guinea to the north of
Australia, which is part Indonesia
and part Papua New Guinea (PNG), as
well as the other islands of PNG. Other countries in the southwest
Pacific make up the remainder of the area. Australian aboriginals
are not considered Melanesian.
- Fiji - A major island tourist
destination. Resorts, coral reefs and beaches.
Caledonia - (France) in
the tropics. A short flight from Australia.
- Papua New
Guinea – Tropical rainforest, great scenery and culture. An
adventurous, but risky, travel destination.
Islands – site of major Second World War battles that involved,
among others, JFK. Its main island is Guadalcanal.
- Vanuatu - Well-developed
island destination. As the New Hebrides, was a British-French
Condominium until 1980.
Micronesian islands are on or north of the Equator.
Polynesia is mainly made up of the countries to the east of the
Pacific. The most northerly island of Fiji, Rotuma
, is also Polynesian.
Bora Bora in French Polynesia
Polynesia – (France).
Includes three islands with a strong claim to being the most
beautiful island in the world, Bora Bora, Tahiti and Moorea, but
also Mururoa where the French carried out nuclear tests until
- Hawaii (United States), and
- Niue – just one flight a week,
Islands with descendants of the Bounty
- Samoa – two main volcanic
islands with luxuriant vegetation, traditional culture and
wonderful open-sided houses.
- Tokelau (New Zealand)
- Tonga – the so-called
“Friendly islands” and a Kingdom. But traditional and modern
cultures are now clashing.
- Tuvalu - One of the
smallest countries in the world in terms of population.
and Futuna (France)
Tahitian Women on the Beach, by Paul Gauguin
- Apia - a little shabby and run
down, but useful as an initial stop off point for first time
- Auckland - bustling
multicultural metropolis that scores well in quality-of-life
- Christchurch -
known as the Garden City, it is filled with trees and old-English
- Melbourne -
multicultural and sports-mad, this city includes many cultural
- Nouméa - features
beautiful beaches and colonial mansions and is not (yet) a heavily
- Papeete - not a tropical
paradise, but has shopping, eating, drinking and is nice for
- Port Moresby -
spread out capital of Papua New Guinea, but can be very
- Suva - the major commercial
and political centre of Fiji, Nadi
is the tourist capital
- Sydney - the largest and
most cosmopolitan city of Australia, home to the Harbor Bridge and
More palm-fringed beaches; this time on Aitutaki, Cook
Australia and New Zealand are both former
British colonies. At one time it was envisaged that the two
colonies would become a single country.
Papua New Guinea was, at one time, a United Nations
trusteeship, administered by Australia.
Various islands have been annexed by the Britain, Portugal,
Germany, France, Australia and the United States.
This has had an influence of aspects of culture. Many areas
speak both an indigenous language, and the language of the colonial
power, often mixing in interesting blends. There has also been an
influence on the food and architecture.
See the country articles for detailed information on how to
offer a gateway to many smaller
The smallest islands with less tourism present additional
challenges to get to. Many are entirely deserted, and some have
restictions on access.
A South Pacific cruise.
However, air routes tend to come and go depending on whether the
airlines find them profitable or not. Much of Micronesia, having
been under US Administration, is serviced by Continental Airlines.
Much of English-speaking Polynesia receives regular flights from
Air New Zealand. Melanesia is mainly serviced by national and
Australian airlines. Don't expect daily flights. Patience is
Flying between Micronesia and the other two areas is problematic
and may involve flying all the way to Honolulu or a complicated
route through Manila, Sydney and Auckland.
Some flight options, amongst others, are:
- The Tonga, Samoa and Fiji
triangle is fairly well connected, although there is only one
flight a week each way between Samoa and Tonga at present.
There are some options for boats, cruise ships, private yachts,
adventure cruises, and even cargo ships.
Consult the guide for the destination you are visiting.
All island groups are fascinating and with time and money you
can spend months just travelling around. There are some stunningly
beautiful islands (Samoa
, Cook Islands
), some fascinating cultures and festivals, some
wonderful diving and totally deserted beaches. Check the individual
country sections for details.
- Coral and Tropical Fish. There are locations
for diving throughout Oceania,
for coral and tropical fish, explore the Great Barrier
Reef in Queensland, the Ningaloo Reef in Western
Australia, Fiji has some reef
around Nadi, and specular unspoilt
brightly coloured coral on the more remote islands. Samoa is favoured by scuba divers.
Cook Islands has
accessible reef just off the beach on the main islands. Vanuatu has accessible some
accessible reef too, but the facilities there make it more
challenging to access than Fiji.
- Sail. Vava'u in Tonga is a popular destination for
yachts crossing the Pacific. Yachts can also be chartered
- Sub-tropical diving - Diving and snorkelling
opportunities still exist even without a tropical reef. Tasmania has some diving
Although staple foods from outside the region, such as rice and
flour, now have a firm foothold, the traditional staples of roots
and tubers remain very important. The cheapest is usually cassava,
which also plays a food security role as it can be left in the
ground for a long time. Sweet potato is a very important crop and
is found in most parts of Oceania with the major producing area
being the Higlands of Papua New
. Taro and yam are also widespread. The latter is the
most valuable of the roots and tubers and there are many customs
associated with its cultivation. In the Sepik
area of Papua New Guinea, for example, sex
between married couples is supposed to be forbidden while the yams
are growing. On the other hand, in the Trobriand Islands
the yam harvest is
a period of sexual liberty.
is a drink produced from the roots of a
plant related to the pepper plant and found mainly in Polynesia as
well as Fiji and Vanuatu. It has a mildly narcotic effect. Other
names include 'awa (Hawai'i), 'ava (Samoa), yaqona (Fiji), and
Traditionally it is prepared by chewing, grinding or pounding the
roots of the kava plant. In Tonga, chewing traditionally had to be
done by female virgins. Pounding is done in a large stone with a
small log. The product is then added to cold water and consumed as
quickly as possible, invariably as part of a group of people
sitting around and sharing the cup. Check the rules before taking
any out of the country, however, as importing kava can be can be
The islands may be remote but sexual diseases know no
boundaries. Usual precautions apply.
|This is a usable article. It has
information for getting in as well as some complete entries for
restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this
article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!