Romantic beaches, heritage and culture, world-class snorkelling, amazing natural wonders – the South Pacific has it all.
Need a resort holiday? Your choices will seem endless. Want to cruise? Experience different cultures? Relax on the beach? You name it, you can do it.
Here’s our guide to some of the amazing countries and activities for families in the South Pacific.
Fiji’s has beautiful coral reefs, turquoise lagoons, white-sand beaches, family-friendly resorts and welcoming locals. Expect a relaxed island vibe. Fiji is renowned for its family-friendly nannies. It’s little wonder families flock to Fiji.
“I just love Fiji,” travel agent Sinead Phillips says. “Families can enjoy dinner at their barefoot restaurant where the food melts in your mouth and let the kids be entertained by the wonderful staff in kids’ club.
“The beach bures are stunning and we snorkelled from the front of our room and relaxed in the hammock while our little one collected coconuts. Easy and enjoyable for everyone.”
Outside of the incredible resorts, families will find plenty to keep them entertained. Try horse riding on the beach at Natadola Bay, soaking in the mud pools at Sabeto baths and wandering around the local markets. Or grab a boogie board and launch yourself off the top of the huge sand dunes along the coastline.
Many people often overlook Fiji’s interior. But this is a mistake. Fiji’s have incredible caves and mountain biking tracks. Kids as young as five can soar through the jungle canopy with Zip Fiji, which operates both in Nadi and Pacific Harbour.
No trip to Fiji would be complete without a Lovo, a traditional feast of food cooked in an underground oven accompanied by meke (songs and dancing).
Fiji actually has several islands. You can explore more of them on a cruise.
Captain Cook Cruises offers various multi-day cruises of the Yasawas Islands, with special mealtimes for families as well as kid-friendly daily activities during school holidays.
Take a day trip out to Tivua Island on one of Captain Cook Cruises’ tall ships, for a day full of snorkelling, kayaking and lazing around on the beach.
Awesome Adventures Fiji can take you on a trip to Barefoot Kuata Island in the lower Yasawa Islands, where you can snorkel with reef sharks at a nearby reef.
Further north in the Yasawa Islands, you can swim with manta rays at Barefoot Manta and Manta Ray Island Resort.
Vanuatu has diverse ancient landscapes and welcoming locals.
The resorts here are top notch and have great facilities for kids.
Families will love the heart-stopping warrior’s welcome at Iarofa or Ekasup Cultural Villages in Port Vila. The Ni-Vanuatu people share demonstrations of traditional local customs, hunting and cooking. Expect the kids to squeal in delight.
A Melanesian feast is something no family should miss. These massive meals of traditional dishes, usually made in an ‘earth oven’, also include fiery and fascinating displays of local custom dancing.
The Port Vila Market in Efate is a lively spot where Na i-Vanuatu women from villages around the island gather in brightly coloured, floral smocks to sell fruit and vegetables. The market has jewellery, carvings, shells and fresh local food for sale.
Club Hippique, 10 minutes from Port Vila, offers horse riding adventures for all ages and levels. Ride through the rainforest, over a sandy beach or next to waterfalls.
One of the best things to do in Vanuatu is to chase waterfalls. We recommend the jungle walk to the top of the stunning 3-metre Mele Cascades. It takes you across slow-flowing streams and over smooth boulders to the top of the mountain where you can plunge into one of the natural waterholes.
For thrills and spills in the water head to Wet ‘n’ Wild Vanuatu in Port Vila. It has zorbing, a giant water slide, Segways, go-kart racing and slingshott rides to get the adrenaline pumping.
For something a little slower, cruise Efate’s Havannah Harbour on the Coongoola. This timber sailing ketch will stop to allow the kids to swim and snorkel the reef. Families can enjoy a beach barbecue lunch, and a visit to a turtle conservation rookery on Tranquillity Island Resort.
Take the short flight from Port Vila to Espiritu Santo, the largest of Vanuatu’s 83 islands. Covered in jungle it is surrounded by stunning white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters.
Champagne Bay, on the east coast of Espiritu Santo, is one of the prettiest beaches in the Pacific, with a backdrop of jungle-strewn mountains, startlingly white sand and neon blue water.
Enjoy a close encounter with an active volcano at Tanna Island’s Yasur Volcano, around a 45-minute flight from Port Vila. There is no other place in the world where visitors can stand on the edge of a live volcano and see nature’s pyrotechnics in action.
Take a step back in time in the Solomon Islands, a stunning 92 island archipelago.
“The Solomon Islands are like no place on earth,” Travel writer Laura Waters says.
“There’s nothing like staggering out of your Robinson Crusoe-style wooden bungalow in the morning to dive into a lagoon filled with giant clams, colourful coral and fish especially when that lagoon is encircling a tiny island that is yours and yours alone to enjoy. At Oravae Cottage in Gizo privacy in paradise is an affordable reality.”
If you love history head to the Bao megalithic shrine complex and 14th Century Nusa Roviana fortress.
Though a predominantly Christian country, traditional practices are still performed, especially in the inland Kastam villages.
With a stunning natural landscape of emerald forest, tropical islets, pristine reefs, lagoons, and extinct volcanoes that pop up dramatically from the ocean, the Solomon Islands is a truly unspoiled paradise.
The South Pacific’s only remaining Kingdom, Tonga is jaw-droppingly beautiful.
The main island of Tongatapu is home to the Royal Palace, blow holes, surfing, the ancient Ha’amonga ‘a Maui – the Stonehenge of the Pacific, and the Tongan National Cultural Centre.
In Vava’u, families can experience an authentic Polynesian lifestyle – think village feasts piled with tropical fruit and fresh seafood cooked underground in an umu pit, as well as explorations of the cathedral-like Swallows Cave at Maninita’s to view marine life, stalactites and centuries-old Tongan engravings.
Active families can take on adventurous pursuits such as sea kayaking and diving. There’s also all that incredible warm, clear water for swimming and snorkelling.
Vava’u is one of the few places in the world where you can not only spot migrating humpback whales – but swim with them too. Every year between July and October, about 1000 whales gather in the warm tropical waters of Tonga, so whale encounters are common.
If you’ve ever dreamed of escaping to paradise with the family, The Cook Islands is a remote, yet accessible, archipelago of picture-perfect islands that pepper the Pacific with 100 shades of green and blue so vivid they almost look painted.
“I grew up in the Cook Islands and the vibe of the place has barely changed from three or four decades ago,” Travel writer Craig Tansley says.
“Rarotonga’s tiny – you can drive around it on a scooter in 35 minutes – but there’s so much to do there, yet nothing is ever a long way away.
“There are lagoons to swim at, waterside cafes to lounge around at, and the best bars in the South Pacific. Other islands are nice to visit, but Rarotonga is somewhere you fantasise about living.”
On the main island of Rarotonga, explore Muri Lagoon with Koka Lagoon Cruises. The crew will point out pretty fish and giant clams before taking you to Rock Island to show you their coconut tree climbing skills.
On Aitutaki Lagoon, the Kia Orana Cruise company can take you on a totally different island-hopping adventure, with plenty of stories about each little island’s history, as well as the opportunity to get your passport stamped at tiny One Foot Island.
On Rarotonga, you can take a guided cycling tour with Storytellers Eco-Cycle Tours. On Aitutaki, pushbikes (and scooters) are available to hire at most hotels and guesthouses.
Resorts generally hold at least one cultural performance a week, and if you miss out on the show at your resort, visit the resort next door. If you’re lucky you’ll be given a drumming lesson, and asked to join in a traditional dance.
Koka Lagoon Cruises and Kia Orana Cruise Company can take you on a guided snorkelling tour, or you can simply hire some gear and wade in off the beach. The best place to snorkel in Rarotonga is a little patch of coastline across the road from The Raritongan Resort and the Big Fish Dive Centre.
In Aitutaki, before you go exploring the clam farms in the lagoon, visit the Aitutaki Marine Research Centre to learn all about their conservation programs.
Just two hours from Australia, New Caledonia offers families a taste of the tropics with a French twist.
Surrounded by the world’s second largest reef, the archipelago of islands that form the Loyalty Islands is one of Mother Nature’s most dazzling masterpieces.
There are a huge variety of underwater experiences for every age, from swimming and turtle spotting to snorkelling, shark feeding and diving. There’s even the more unusual sea walking – an activity that requires you wear a diving suit and helmet to walk the sea floor.
The islands are like nowhere else on earth. The tropical setting of bone white sandy beaches, retina-searing blue waters, mountain rainforests and swaying palms are colourfully accessorised with baguettes, Peugeots and the lilting sounds of French accents.
The capital, Noumea, is where this cultural collision is most evident. Set on a hilly peninsula, Noumea is the largest city in the South Pacific and offers a little slice of Europe with its alfresco cafes and luxury boutiques.
In Noumea, you’ll also find indigenous cultural centres where you can explore the nation’s rich and intriguing history, plus an aquarium, gardens and plenty of other attractions the kids will enjoy.
The Isle of Pines, famous for the long and lanky pines that cover it and its brilliantly blue water, is another haven for families in search of paradise, while laidback Lifou and unaffected Mare offer a more authentic experience of island life for intrepid families.
Are you travelling to the Pacific Islands? Before you go – check the Smart Traveller website for the latest information. Register your family details before any overseas trip so that the Australian Government can help you in case of emergency.