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Australasia and Melanesia


Australia

Sun, sea, sand and adventure are the essence of a backpacker’s experience in Australia. It is superbly geared up for its huge low-budget tourism industry and making the most out of backpacking couldn’t get any easier or more enjoyable.

The most popular backpacker's trail, treks from Sydney up the sun-drenched and beautiful coastline of the Gold Coast and Queensland to the sub-tropical rainforests of Cape Tribulation.

A traveler is never short of adventure and popular activities include sailing, scuba diving, white water rafting, surfing, horse riding, skydiving and 4x4ing on Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island.

The major cities are very friendly, modern and cosmopolitan with vibrant nightlife - or for a taster of wilderness head ‘outback’ for breath taking scenery, bouncing wildlife and, of course, the magnificent Ayers Rock.

Travel on coaches is cheap and simple with large companies such as Greyhound running between all major destinations. Alternatively, more sociable and activity based trips can be taken with Oz-Experience who offer accommodation and activity deals and place a strong emphasis on partying hard with your fellow passengers.

Internal flight prices are getting more and more competitive with major operators such as Quantas and Virgin Blue waging price wars.

Accommodation in hostels is cheap, safe and readily available. There is a spontaneous, upbeat attitude amongst the backpacking community in Australia, and you will be guaranteed to make so many friends you can hardly remember their names.

There are so many backpackers over there that the only danger is missing out on making any Australian friends!

Brisbane

Recommended things to do and places to go

  • Culture @ South Bank
    • Performing Arts Complex
    • Musical Conservatoire
    • Queensland Museum
    • Queensland Art Gallery
    • Contemporary Art @ the Powerhouse
    • Simply Relaxing - South Bank, with its beach, beautifully-landscaped gardens, buskers and boutiques, is the most eclectically aesthetically-pleasing place I've ever whiled away an arvo or five
  • Sport
    • Rugby League: Brisbane Broncos @ Suncorp Stadium
    • Rugby Union: Aussie Internationals @ Suncorp Stadium
    • Cricket: Aussie International tests and one-day matches @ the Gabba
    • Aussie Rules: Brissy Lions @ the Gabba
  • Shopping
    • Designer/Dept Stores
    • Queen Street Mall
    • Markets - for Londoners missing Camden and Borough
    • South Bank
    • Riverside
    • Fortitude Valley
  • Eating-out
    • Upmarket - Park Road (Milton), Racecourse Road (Eagle Farm), Riverside (CBD)
    • Al Fresco - West End, just south of the river
    • Chinatown - Fortitude Valley - with more Japanese, Korean and Malaysian dishes than de facto Chinese
    • Ultra-modern chic - the Story Bridge & the Spark Bar, Restaurant II, Lab Bar
  • Along the Coast
    • Caloundra
    • Fraser Island
    • Novotel Twin Waters Resort - feed the fish and bucket-mouthed pelicans at their lagoon
    • Underwater World - don't waste your money going all the way up to Cairns where you can't control the weather (especially during Aussie winters) up at Sea Level, go here instead! You HAVE to see the breathtaking Seal Show and go on the Virtual Dolphin ride!
    • Australia Zoo - home to Steve and Terri Irwin, crocodile hunter and cool chick respectively Go in the early afternoon so you catch their interactive presentations!
    • Moreton Island National Park
    • Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort
    • Tangalooma Desert
    • Moreton Bay - tennis, sailing and scuba!
    • The Gold Coast

Recommended hostels/places to stay The two times I've been with my family, we've stayed with family friends whilst based in Brissy's suburbia, and then booked the odd night's accommodation when days in the city look to roll on quite late. There's a pretty wide range of places, with the most popular being apartment-style flats, but the main things to make sure you're getting are a/c(!) and a balcony. Virtually every place with a balcony has a stunning view - make the most of them. So here's where to stay in the centre of town:

  • If you've got the money
    • Stamford Plaza - delightfully decadent with amazing panoramic views; even if you don't stay here, you MUST wander into the awe-inspiring foyer, avec camera
    • Conrad Treasury - with in-house casino
    • Brisbane Hilton - typical Hilton, very well located, very posh, very expensive
    • Lennons Hotel - central to everything, like the Hilton, but a 4-star
  • Backpackers' best friends
    • Explorer's Inn
    • George Williams
    • Lots of Brissy City YHA places
    • Palace Backpackers

Fiji

With its palmed-fringed beaches, world famous surfing competitions, colourful nightlife, and wonderful hospitality, many visitors to Fiji often end up staying longer than they had originally planned.

Fiji has a unique history in the Pacific and today it is an interesting mix of Melanesian, Polynesian, Micronesian, Indian, Chinese and European influences. Despite being colonised by the British in 1874, native Fijians have managed to hold onto their vibrant traditions which are still evident in their narrative dances (mekes) and architecture (bura).

For those with a soft spot for sunshine, sea-sports, and partying, Fiji is definitely worth a visit. This jovial population are rarely seen without a smile on their face, except of course when they take to the Rugby field…


New Zealand

If you are looking for some excitement during your travels then New Zealand is the place to go with a vast array of adrenalin activities on offer including bungee jumping, sky diving, skiing, hiking & rafting.

It is situated in the South Pacific ocean, between latitude 34'S and 47'S. The country runs roughly north-south with mountain ranges down much of its length. Its two main islands cover 266,200 sq km (103,735 sq miles), about the size of Japan or California and slightly larger than Great Britain.

Comparable in size and/or shape to Great Britain, Colorado and Japan, New Zealand has a population of only 4 million - making it one of the world's least crowded countries. It is a haven for those seeking peace, rejuvenation and relaxation as well as a playground for thrillseekers and adventurers. A temperate climate with relatively small seasonal variation makes it a year-round holiday destination.

New Zealand's spectacularly beautiful landscape includes vast mountain chains, steaming volcanoes, sweeping coastlines, deeply indented fiords and lush rainforests.

New Zealand's separation from other land masses for more than 100 million years has allowed many ancient plants and animals to survive and evolve in isolation. Complementing our unique flora and fauna is a landscape that contains an unrivalled variety of landforms. In a couple of days' drive it is possible to see everything from mountain ranges to sandy beaches, lush rainforests, glaciers and fiords and active volcanoes.

Auckland is the best place to start exploring the North of the country. It's a great city and offers you everything you want.

Wellington is located on a nice spot on the southern tip of the North Island. There are regular ferry services to the South Island form here. Christchurch is the largest town on the South Island. Many activities can be organized from here. Trekking to Mount Cook is just one of the many things you can do.


Vanuatu

Vanuatu is a group of 83 islands in the South West Pacific, North East of New Caledonia and North West of Fiji, governed as an independent Republic by its indigenous people. The Ni-Vanuatu, as they are known, are a peaceful, gentle race, who enjoy life's simpler pleasures in a country of unique and diverse customs and culture.

Tourism provides experiences not found elsewhere in the world - the Pentecost Land Dive and the Toka Ceremony on the island of Tanna are both highlights that draw people from all around the world, together with scuba diving.

The most important islands are Espiritu Santo, Malekula, Pentecost, {Ambrym}, {Efate} where you find the capital Port Antonio and Tanna.


Micronesia

  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Guam
  • Kiribati
  • Marshall Islands
  • Nauru
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Palau


Polynesia

  • American Samoa
  • Cook Islands
  • French Polynesia
  • Niue
  • Pitcairn Islands
  • Samoa
  • Tokelau
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • Wallis and Futuna


Cook Islands

Surprising fact: the Cook islands cover a surface bigger than India. Most of it is Pacific Ocean of course, but still, the 15 islands in the heart of the South Pacific known as the Cook islands spread over an area the size of India with a total population of just 14,000 souls.

These unique and friendly Polynesians have their own language and government and enjoy a vigorous and diverse culture with significant differences between each island. Despite some 70,000 visitors a year to the capital island – Rarotonga – the Cooks are largely unspoiled by tourism. They offer a rare opportunity for people from the cities of the world to experience a different type of vacation. There are no high-rise hotels, only four beach buggies and very little hype. Ideal for travellers seeking more than the usual clichés associated with the South Seas, each island has its unique qualities and offers the visitor a special experience.


Samoa

The Samoa Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean. Western Samoa is an independent country. {American Samoa} is part of the United States. Both groups of islands were discovered by the same explorer Jacon Roggeveen and share one culture.

The islands of Western Samoa are known for white sand beaches, rugged forested mountains, steep gorges, numerous waterfalls, lava fields, blowholes, dormant volcanoes and coconut plantations. Many many people think of Samoa thanks to the works of the Scottish author Robert L. Stevenson and his book on the "Treasure Island.". Actually Samoa consists of two major islands and seven smaller ones. {Upolu} is the most densely populated of the two main islands of Samoa. The Capital of Samoa is Apia , which is located in the north. Also the international airport is located here. The other island named Savaii is a fascinating island and the local people live life at an easy and gentle pace. Total land area is 2934 square km. There is an exclusive marine economic zone covering some 130,000 sq km. The islands are volcanic and dominated by rugged mountain ranges with a 4-5 km skirt of gently sloping fertile land to which is attached a fringe of coral reefs and lagoons that surround the islands.


Tonga

This small nation nestled in the Western Pacific Ocean, close to Fiji and Samoa and only an hour and a half by plane from New Zealand, is composed of 173 islands stretching over 800 miles from north to south. Its geographical position means that it is one of the first places in the World to see the sunrise every day and it is often referred to as the "land where time begins".

Tonga's main island, Tongatapu (or 'sacred south'), and the first of the islands that you will encounter as you land at Fua'motu international airport, is where Nuku'alofa, the Kingdom's capital is situated. A small but interesting town, you will find most things that you need there: banks, supermarkets, historical buildings and a number of fine drinking spots!

Renowned for its rather large monarchs (Queen Salote was a favourite of the British public's at Queen Elizabeth's coronation and her son, the current King, was entered in the Guiness Book of Records as the largest Monarch in the World) and sizeable people whose physical appearance can, at first, cause some apprehension, the Tongans are some of the most friendly and welcoming people in the world. The cultural heritage is still very strong as is the populace's Christian beliefs and no visit to Tonga would be complete without you spending a Sunday with a Tongan family, going to church and enjoying a feast of sumptuous foods cooked in an 'umu (or underground oven). Indeed Captain Cook, one of the first Europeans to visit the islands was so enraptured by the Tongans that he gave rise to the popular moniker, "the Friendly Islands".


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