Travellers Recommend Heading to the Oceania Continent This year
It is that time of the year where the biggest stars in Hollywood are honoured with ultimate achievement in their field of expertise – film. They are praised and decorated for demonstrating top-notch talent in an industry that is more competitive than a sports league. With this yearly culmination comes opinions, controversy (just read the gossip columns the next day), and incidents that will remain forever and a day for us to remember. (Poor Warren Beatty…). Academy Awards can happen in other industries too. Some of the most remote destinations in the world are those that capture the traveller’s soul. Exclusivity remains a glowing appeal no matter how difficult it is to get there. So I asked my travel writer friends to nominate their favourite destinations in the South Pacific for a sort of “Travel Oscar Party” if you will. In honour of the 90th Annual Academy Awards, we bring you the Travel Oscars, celebrating worldwide tourism, one destination at a time. And with that notion, here are the nominees for the gorgeous and exclusive Oceania continent.
Traveller Academy Award Nominations: Oceania Continent
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Nominated by Fill My Passport
What is there not to like about a gorgeous and vibrant city located on an ocean harbour? What I love about Sydney is that you have a little bit of everything – scenery, culture, animals, beaches, and much more. The art scene is clear as you take in a must-see opera in the iconic Sydney Opera House before doing the Twilight climb of the Harbour Bridge. Take a ferry to Taronga zoo and marvel at the most mysterious and most adorable animals on the planet. (Did I mention that koalas are the sweetest things in the entire world!?) Hungry? Check out the delightful cafes at Circular Quay, Darling Harbour or in various other areas.
Want to do a little shopping? The Queen Victoria Building has your back with its beautiful facility of exclusive and designer shops mixed with a selection of coffee and dessert stops for a much-needed break between boutiques. In particular, check out the Dr. Seuss Gallery on the top floor! One of the original galleries of its kind, here you can buy exclusive works of Dr Seuss himself. If it fit in my luggage, I would have bought the full-size Grinch canvas…just sayin’!
Moorea is a tropical island located in popular French Polynesia, but it is actually much lesser known than it’s sister island, Bora Bora. Though Bora Bora tends to be at the top of everyone’s bucket lists these days, the beautiful Moorea Island is arguably the better of the two, and here’s why. Moorea Island is very easily accessible from Tahiti. The short 40-minute ferry ride only costs about $15 each way and there are many boats scheduled daily. To get to Bora Bora you’ll spend around $400 for a round-trip flight since there is no ferry service available. Moorea, which is preferred by the locals as well, is much larger than Bora Bora and has many more activities at a fraction of the price. If an over-water bungalow is on your bucket list you can get one here for about half the price and stay twice as long. Touring Moorea Island by ATV is a fun half-day experience I highly recommend. You’ll enjoy the island in its natural beauty with a guide who’ll take you to a pineapple farm and after you’ll stop at a local juice shop to relax and take in the view from above. Swimming with baby sharks in the Lagoonarium is also a must for brave travelers. Moorea is green and lush so you may have a sprinkle of rain during your stay but it won’t last long. When it’s time for dinner, remember that many restaurants will pick you up from your hotel by shuttle for free, so be sure to ask.
Albany, Western Australia
Albany lies in the remote and pristine coastal region of South Western Australia about 440 km south of Perth. It is often overlooked by Australian as well as international visitors. The whole area should enter the World Heritage site, in my opinion, as it’s one of the most ancient region on earth really worth visiting when touring Western Australia. Embraced by the King George Sound, Albany unfolds its natural beauty with myriad of inlets of the spectacular Princess Royal Harbour which stretches over 30 km from East to West. The Gap and the Natural Bridge are the two iconic natural attractions of the Torrndirrup National Park on the west end of Albany. Dozens of walking trails, pristine beaches, lookouts, cliffs, breathtaking news coupled with historic landmarks and a rich whaling history makes of Albany not only a top natural attraction but also an iconic European settlements during WW II. Today it boasts the largest Anzac Centre of Australia. The Stirling Ranges and the Porongurup Range National Park surrounds Albany and offers granite rock formations with the giant Karri Forest, some rare and most ancient of this kind on earth. If you plan to visit this truly unique place of Western Australia check out this post about Albany WA.
Queenstown, New Zealand
No conversation about global Best Destinations is complete without mentioning Queenstown, New Zealand. Sure it’s the adventure capital of the world, but it’s so much more than that. Queenstown has delicious food, beautiful scenery, and an uncanny small town feel. So no matter if you want to sip wine, stroll the waterfront, or skydive, there are so many Queenstown activities to choose from. They will definitely have what you’re looking for.
Not only is Queenstown is the originator of bungy jumping, but since it’s tucked away in the mountains, it is a stunning place for skydiving, hiking, zip-lining, speed boat racing, and just about any other extreme sport you can think of.
The scenic life is exactly like what you’d expect from the movies. The Queenstown area has glaciers, fjords, mountains, plains, snow, and luscious forests. It’s an outdoor adventurer’s dream come true. And when you’re done roaming the hills and fishing, you can visit downtown for a smorgasbord of food.
Ferg Burger is a cult favorite, but the CBD offers fine dining, sandwiches, tacos, steaks, seafood, fast food, ice cream and loads of treats. Luxurious hotels for high rollers and hostels for those who prefer to rough it. And 5 minutes out of the CBD you’ll be in normal residential areas – proving Queenstown is more than a tourist destination.
Rather take it easy? The hills surrounding Queenstown are home to quaint villages, vineyards, and ranches. Plenty of shopping opportunities and chances to unwind with a nice view and a bottle of Pinot Gris. So no matter which way you want to cut it, Queenstown offers a high standard of living and endless opportunities for fun and adventure. If it isn’t on your “Must See” list, go ahead and write it down now.
Wine Glass Bay – Tasmania, Australia
Nominated by Lucy of A Travellers Footsteps, Facebook
For all the nature lovers out there, Wine Glass Bay should be at the top of your hit list. Located within Freycinet National Park in Tasmania, Wine Glass Bay offers some of the best views in Australia. The hike to Wine Glass Bay Lookout itself exposes you to the diverse Australian landscapes and wildlife, leading you to a lookout of the famous Wine Glass Bay.
Most tourists go to Wine Glass Bay Lookout then leave. For those willing to hike a little further, you will make it to one of the World’s Best Beaches, Wine Glass Bay Beach. If you like untouched, uncrowded beaches, make sure you hike the extra 45 minutes each way to enjoy this beautiful beach. The turquoise water and red rocks on the cliff’s edge make for a truly unique Australian beach experience.
Wine Glass Bay is just one of the attractions within Freycinet National Park. Some other favorites include Honey Moon Bay, Friendly Beaches and Cape Tourville Lighthouse.
If you leave early you can see a lot within one day in Freycinet National Park, but I suggest staying overnight to see as much of this unique part of Australia as you can. You can find more information about Freycinet National Park and the Wine Glass Bay Lookout hike here.
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Rarotonga, the largest island in the Cook Islands is a slice of Pacific island paradise. The stunning aqua-blue lagoon will make your eyes pop, hugged by the white sandy beach fringed with swaying palms; it’s like walking around in a postcard.
The water is crystal clear, perfect for snorkelling, and the lush rainforest in the centre of the island is ideal for picturesque hikes.
The locals are some of the friendliest you will ever meet and will always greet you with a great big smile and a booming “Kia Orana” (hello). Their Polynesian culture is amazing and they have the freshest and tastiest seafood I’ve ever had in my life.
I got married here and it far exceeded my expectations of the perfect day and it was a week of absolute tropical bliss. It is the ultimate relaxing getaway, from the second you get off the plane, you are now on island time. The warm breeze will dance on your face, the traffic is minimal, the sparkling sea is calling your name. The locals have a relaxed approach to life which makes the perfect and most relaxing Cook Islands vacation.
It is the perfect destination for all, from romantic getaways, groups of friends to families with young children. Rarotonga is incredibly easy-going and enjoyable, with plenty to do if you want or to just chill and soak up the island vibes.
I cannot wait for the day when I go back and hope to for longer, as a one-week Cook Islands vacation was not long enough!
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
The gateway to Australia’s outback, Darwin is nominated for its amazing natural scenery, chilled vibe and colour spectacular.
Darwin is one of Australia’s most overlooked capital cities. Sitting in the tropics of far north of Australia it gets nowhere near the attention it deserves compared to its south-eastern cousins, but it’s one of our favourite places to visit when we head back home – because it feels like the true Australia. The city itself is small, more like a country town by Australian standards but there are loads of beaches, parks and a happening arts scene. There are strong Asian influences which can be seen (and tasted!) in the growing foodie and market culture.
Most people come to Darwin as a stepping stone to the outback – think Crocodile Dundee and you won’t be too far wrong! You don’t have to head too far out of town for some amazing animal encounters. Croc spotting is a favourite with many companies offering ‘jumping croc” boat tours on the Adelaide River, or take on the more serene Mary River in a house boat to see these magnificent creatures at their best and enjoy natures show. The brave might want to take in an up close encounter at Crocosaurus in town.
Our favourite spot is Litchfield National Park only 1.5 hours out of town you will find the most stunning waterfalls and rock pools, in amongst the giant termite mounds that unique mark the landscape. Waterholes are cleared of crocs in the dry season so there’s no chance of an untimely encounter, but the same can’t be said for swimming in the harbour!!!
A trip to Darwin of course isn’t complete without spending an evening at the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets to catch the food vans, crafts and lively street performances before catching a glimpse of one of the most truly spectacular sunsets in the world. Darwin is a tropical city so best visited during the dry season April to October.
Christchurch, New Zealand
I nominate Christchurch for its vibrant street art, creating a city-spread immersive experience of creativity. With a leisurely, contemporary style, you can’t help but fall in love with the charm of Christchurch Alongside being right in the heart of an incredible part of the South Island, what more could you want?
Christchurch’s relaxed atmosphere and love of culture oozes that laid back Kiwi attitude that we all know and love. Bursting with character thanks to unique art pieces and the winding Avon River through the city, walking through Christchurch is like exploring a modern twist on a country village.
The city’s prime location means that you’re smack in the middle between twisting coastal views and the powerful mountains in the countryside, making it the perfect base for day trips, weekend getaways, and exploring the open road.
And if the great outdoors isn’t enough, Christchurch is the home of some fabulous eateries and drinking holes. A casual stroll down New Regent Street and you’ll be transported back to the Art Deco era to sip your cocktails while the tram trundles by. As you wander the streets of juxtaposed new-builds and rubbled lots both strikingly decorated with innovative art, you’re reminded of the aesthetic that no other city can match. It’s safe to say that Christchurch is a city for foodies, culture fans, and adventurers alike!
Brisbane Queensland, Australia
The Sydney to Cairns road trip is almost a default itinerary for many travellers and for good reason. Yet, while Byron Bay, Fraser Island and the Whitsundays are well-trodden stops, Brisbane tends to slip under visitors’ radars.
Yet those that overlook Australia’s third largest city will miss out on a place ideal for outdoor activities and enjoying the plentiful Queensland sunshine and laid-back way of life. The compact city centre allows for easy exploration by foot or CityCycle bikes that are dotted around for hire.
The Brisbane River is the lifeblood of the state capital and cycling or jogging along its banks allows for some great views of the city. The South Bank Parklands are one of the most popular sights with a human-made Streets Beach perfect for whiling away a lazy afternoon. It’s home to lush green spaces, top bars and restaurants as well as regular markets and outdoor events including free yoga classes.
Nearby Kangaroo Point offers rock climbing and abseiling opportunities or you can a unique perspective from the river itself by kayaking or SUPing its waters.
Hop on the CityCat ferry and zoom along the river to the University of Queensland where you can explore a huge picturesque campus, cool off in an Olympic-sized swimming pool or have a hit at one of the 21 tennis courts.
A little further afield, Moreton Island is ideal for snorkeling, quad-biking or sand tobogganing while North Stradbroke Island is great for nature walks, wildlife spotting and whale watching (June-November).
Christmas Island – an external Australian Territory
Nominated by Vicki of Make Time to See the World, Instagram
Christmas Island is an absolute dream destination and an animal and nature lovers paradise.
Known mostly for the annual migration of 50 million red crabs (which Sir David Attenborough labeled as one the the “most spectacular in nature”), this island offers visitors 20 more species of crab, several endemic bird species and so much more.
With 70 km of coastline, a deserted beach is practically a given; the snorkeling and scuba opportunities are endless and with the water home to whale sharks, spinner dolphins and manta rays – along with a few small sharks(!), you’re sure to make a few new fishy friends!
Add in waterfalls, caves, nature walks and the heritage and cultures of Malay, Chinese and Australian migrants preserved by only 2000 residents and the island has a real community feel – and highly deserving of a place in the Travellers Academy Awards!
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
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Fill My Passport collaborated with other travel writers on this post. All opinions are our own and none was influenced by Fill My Passport.
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