Oceania Travel Guides
For many, the very word, 'Oceania' conjurs up images of a tropical paradise of palm trees and beaches. While this is true, there is also much more. Travelling here will surprise even the most avid traveller and satisfy all who possess a sense of adventure. If you like travelling off the beaten track, then this is the place to explore. And for those who like their comforts, Oceania also has some of the world's most livable modern cities. While the region is isolated there are unique cultures, friendly people, beautiful beaches, pristine landscapes, and rich flora and fauna.
The people that make up Oceania include Polynesian, Melanesian, Micronesian, Aboriginal Australians, and new European cultures that exist in Australia and New Zealand. There are large populations of English, French, Germans, Irish, Italians, and Greeks living in Australian or New Zealand cities with Asians also increasing their presense in the region.
Settlements come in all shapes and sizes, from small rural villages in Fiji to metropolises like the internationally recognised city of Sydney. Both Australia and New Zealand are first world nations and their cities regularly rank in the world's top 10 most livable cities.
Many travellers to Austalia and New Zealand are surprised to find sophisticated modern cities on the opposite side of the globe to Europe and North America. Cities here are organised, safe, with well-developed facilities, and offering a vast array of shops and services. In contrast, you could travel to any one of a thousand nearby islands in the South Pacific and enter a world where people live off the land or in a remote jungle where electricity doesn't exist. Even in Australia, you could travel inland from a major city and within a day enter the outback, a huge desert area second only to the Sahara in size. There are also large expanses of savanna grassland where wild animals still roam. Oceania is where western civilsation meets the last frontier.
Comprised of more than 10,000 islands from the largest island land mass of Australia to thousands of islands dotted around the South Pacific, one of the biggest atractions in the region are the numerous tropical to temperate beaches, which exist on nearly every island in Oceania. From thousands of coral cays with crystal white sand to thousands of beaches in Australia, this region offers travellers a chance to relax at the waters edge and soak up the sun.
While Australia has most of the beaches due to the size of its coastline, many other islands are packed with sandy beaches too with the addition of swaying palm trees and coral gardens. Even New Zealand which is realitvely cooler has stunning beaches.
Stand out areas of beaches in Australia include the Whitsunday Islands in the Barrier Reef including Whitehaven Beach; the city of Sydney with trendy Manly and Bondi; Byron Bay a famous surf spot that is also the easterly most point of the mainland; Cape Tribulation a world heritage rainforest fringing tropical beaches; Jervis Bay with its pure white sand and crystal clear water; Esperance with its dazzling white sand; and gorgeous Wineglass Bay in Tasmania set within a stunning natural setting.
New Zealand's coastal gems include Abel Tasman with dozens of beaches set among pristine temperate rainforest and looking out to the Tasman Sea; The Coromandel with Cathedral Cove and the thermally heated water in Hot Water Beach; Northland with the huge Ninety Mile Beach and dozens of nearby coves; and Eastland with its many fine pacific beaches and good surf.
Within the South Pacific Islands, the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia is absolutely outstanding. Captain Cook the early explorer of the region called it the "Jewel of the South Pacific"; Vava'u in Tonga is yachting destination with great diving and stunning beaches; Fiji which has hundreds of beautiful white sandy beaches and coral gardens; and Tahiti which needs no introduction with beaches like Bora Bora which is often voted the best beach in the world.
The other big coastal feature in Oceania are the coral reefs. Within the aptly named Coral Sea are two of the world's biggest reef systems, Australia's Great Barrier Reef which needs no introduction and the lesser known New Caledonia Barrier Reef. The former is the biggest on Earth while the latter is the second-longest double-barrier reef after the Great Barrier Reef. Most islands in tropical Oceania have coral reefs making this region a mecca for diving. Australia even has a second reef system located on its western coastline. While not as big as the Barrier Reef, the Ningaloo Reef is just as spectacular and easier to get to as it is very close to the coastline. Another outstanding feature coral feature is the world's largest lagoon in New Caledonia.
Oceania is not all about the water though. There are also some spectacular mountain ranges. Australia's Great Dividing Range is the fourth longest range in the world, with an area bigger than Switzerland receiving winter snow each year. Scenic areas in this mountain range include Kosciuszko to the famous Blue Mountains near Sydney, and the rugged Grampians in Victoria.
New Zealand of course is renown for its spectacular mountains. The mighty Southern Alps are comparable in size to the European Alps with Mount Cook being the highest mountain in Australasia; Fiordland where steep fiords meet lush rainforest; and Queenstown a scenic tourist town surrounded by mountains and ski fields. There is also a second main mountain chain located in the North Island where most of this islands wilderness areas are located. Mountain areas within this range include, the Ruahines, Tararuas and Rimutakas. The North Island also contains active volcanoes, even the world's most destructive super volcano, at least in the last 70,000 years. So big is this volcano that the crater is covered with the biggest lake in the country. However for volcanic features and attractions Rotorua takes the crown. As one of the most unique volcanic areas in the world it easily rivals other world sites like Yellowstone.
North of New Zealand there are many South Pacific islands that are actually volcanoes that rise above the ocean while other islands are flat coral cays.
There are even deserts in Oceania. The Outback of Australia contains the world's second largest desert area on Earth after the Sahara. This sparsly populated area offers some amazing adventures into some of the word's most hostile terrain.
Oceania is rich in flora with big areas of tropical to temperate rainforests. The oldest tropical rainforest on earth is the Daintree in Queensland Australia. This area has been designated a World Heritage site, and it exists right next to another heritage site, the Great Barrier Reef. The world's largest tract of sub-tropical rainforest, the Gondwana Rainforest is located in the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales. Large areas of temperate rainforest exist in New Zealand in southern Victoria in Australia such as Otway National Park and in most places in the Australian state of Tasmania including places like Mount Field National Park. Notable giants of the forest in Oceania include: many species of Araucaria which exist Australia and Pacific islands close to Australia, Eucalpyt found mainly in Australia, Kauri of New Zealand which contains the most volume of wood of any tree in the world, and the giant Karri of Western Australia where some of the tallest trees on earth can be found.
Oceania is rich in wildlife. Australia is famous for colourful birds and for unusual animals like kangaroos and koalas. New Zealand is home to some of the rarest birds on earth with almost a third of them flightless. New Guinea is perhaps the most bio-diverse of all with new species being discovered on a regular basis. Most islands in Oceania lack mammals due to their isolation and favour animals that can fly or survived perilous long sea journeys.