What family could resist the promise of blue lagoons, spectacular marine life, lush green jungles and palm trees fringing sandy white beaches, just a few hours by plane from Australia? The thousands of tiny islands scattered across the South Pacific offer all that, along with a tropical climate all year round, a safe environment, relative affordability and famously friendly locals who adore visiting kids.
Geographically divided into Polynesia and Melanesia, the countries that make up the South Pacific may all be ringed by shimmering seas, but they’re not all alike. Each destination has its own unique identity, heritage, customs and landscapes. Whichever island you choose, you’ll be immersed into fascinating local culture, see spectacular marine life, swim in beautifully landscaped pools in one of the many family-friendly resorts, and create amazing family memories.
The South Pacific’s only remaining Kingdom, Tonga offers plenty of unforgettable adventures, jaw-dropping natural beauty, laid-back resorts, and unique cultural experiences for visitors of every age. Each of its 170 unspoilt islands offers something truly unique, but two of the best for families are the main island of Tongatapu and the tropical paradise of Vava’u.
Tongatapu is the home of the capital Nuku’alofa and to the Royal Palace, spurting blow holes, world-class surfing, the Tongan National Cultural Centre and the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui trilithon, an ancient structure which is considered to be the Stonehenge of the Pacific. Great diving and snorkelling await in the reefs and coral islets just north of the main island. Active families should head to Vava’u to tackle adventurous pursuits including sea kayaking, surfing, snorkelling, diving and, between July to November, the opportunity to spot migrating Humpback whales.
Whether its lounging by the pool or a more active adventure your family seeks, Samoa, where a wave and the flash of a smile are as commonplace as the sunshine, provides the ideal setting. Boasting some of the most stunning landscapes in the South Pacific, Samoa’s beaches are so pristine your footprints may be the only marks on them. Families can explore its ancient sites, extinct craters and clamber through the peculiar natural lava tubes. For a fascinating insight into Samoa’s culture and traditions, the fun and interactive Samoa Cultural Village is a must.
Water babies may prefer to take the plunge into one of Samoa’s stunning swimming holes or into the sea to get up close and personal with the vivid marine life of its lovely lagoons. A special treat for the kids is a visit to Savaii’s Satoalepai Village, an amazing wetlands sanctuary where they can swim with half a dozen or more protected rare green turtles.
An archipelago of islands that paint the Pacific in dazzling shades of green and blue, the Cook Islands offer a tropical retreat of chilled-out charm and beauty that’s completely untouched, where hospitable locals dote on visiting children. Offering all the South Pacific holiday necessities of lush rainforest, volcanic peaks, white sand beaches and swaying coconut palms, the Cook Islands is also home to some of its prettiest beaches and lagoons. In Rarotonga, enjoy a fun morning of music, mayhem and swimming amongst the coral, fish and giant clams of Muri Lagoon with Koka Lagoon Cruises. And, whatever your religious persuasion, make time on Sunday for a visit to the pretty Avarua Cook Island Christian Church (CICC) to be swept away by the soulful singing.
It’s also worth taking the short flight to Aitutaki to see water in so many surreal shades of blue it almost looks painted. The atoll’s low-lying coral islets encircle a glorious lagoon, ideal for safe snorkelling and swimming with kids.
Encircled by Tonga, Western Samoa and the Cook Islands, Niue is the largest raised coral atoll and one of the smallest countries on earth. It’s also the eco-tourism and soft adventure playground of the South Pacific. Boasting the balmy climate that the South Pacific is renowned for, adventurous families will also find world-class diving, fishing, walking and caving, and awe-inspiring dolphin and whale encounters. You’re also likely to find the ubiquitous Uga, giant crabs, sauntering casually along Niue’s coastal roads.
The enchanting crystal clear waters of Limu Pools, protected from the Pacific Ocean by an arch of rock, provides an idyllic spot for families to safely swim and snorkel with a huge variety of marine life. From July to October each year, Humpback whales arrive in Niue’s waters to calve and it is one of only a handful of places in the world where, dependent on conditions, people are allowed to swim with the giants of the sea, an experience the kids will never forget.
With over 115 islands spanning five archipelagos, French Polynesia is better known by the name of its main island, Tahiti. The paradise of reef-fringed islands boasts jungle-covered mountain peaks, vibrant blue lagoons and mesmerising coral reefs along with a surplus of luxurious kid-friendly resorts. While the islands are all startlingly beautiful, each offers something unique. Bora Bora, said to be the most beautiful island in the world, is an explosion of green and blue. Moorea, only 30 minutes from the island of Tahiti by high-speed catamaran, is a wonderfully laid-back place of dramatic volcanic scenery, blue water, pastel-hued homes and gardens filled with blazing hibiscus. For those wishing to venture to French Polynesia’s outer islands, the isolated Marquesas are an untamed wonderland where towering waterfalls cascade down volcanic cliffs and giant stone tiki burst from the lush jungles.
Kid-friendly accommodation aside, the islands offer a variety of water and land activities ideal for every age such as swimming, surfing and snorkelling, hiking, horseback riding and hip shaking cultural performances.
The smiles of the lovely locals are as bright as the blue of the water in Vanuatu. The dusty but endearing capital of Port Vila, set on the harbour of Efate, is an ideal base for exploring. A round island tour could see you and the kids swimming at secret beaches, riding outrigger canoes up river, paddling in waterfalls, exploring World War II relics, or watching firewalkers in a local village. Vanuatu’s relaxing beachside resorts, warm and genuine island culture, world-class diving and snorkelling along with outdoor adventure, make it an idyllic location for a family holiday.
Kids will love the heart-thumping warrior’s welcome at Iarofa or Ekasup Cultural Villages where the Ni-Vanuatu people give demonstrations of local customs, hunting and cooking. Head further afield to Santo for some of the world’s best diving; to Pentecost Island, the spiritual birthplace of bungy jumping, where between April and June young men jump from tall towers tethered only by vines; or for a close encounter with an active volcano on Tanna Island, 45-minutes by plane from Vila.
While Cyclone Winston damaged several resorts, most were open within days and are waiting with open arms and those beaming Fijian smiles. Ever popular Fiji receives almost as many visitors annually as the rest of the South Pacific combined and with its startling coral reefs, blue lagoons, palm-shaded beaches, laid-back island vibe and lovely locals, it’s no wonder. Nadi and Denarau are a convenient base for families with dozens of resorts that cater for children with excellent facilities, activity-packed kids clubs and nanny services.
But there’s more to a Fiji family holiday than great resorts. Adventurous families can head out exploring on river safaris, cave adventures and abseiling tours. Surf the dunes on a sand-board at Sigatoka, visit a remote village to witness dancing and traditional cultural ceremonies, take to the trees with a zip line canopy tour, or indulge in some of the best surfing, diving and snorkelling in the Pacific.
Just two hours from Australia, New Caledonia is an idyllic location for a family holiday. Encircled by the world’s second largest reef and lulled year round by gentle trade winds, the archipelago of islands that form the Loyalty Islands offers visitors a truly dazzling display of nature at her very best. The islands offer a huge variety of underwater experiences from snorkelling and turtle spotting to shark feeding and even sea walking – where you don a diving suit and helmet to walk under water. The spectacular Isle of Pines, famous for its skinny pines, turquoise water and white sand is a haven for families in search of unspoilt paradise, boasting some of the South Pacific’s prettiest beaches and loads of delicious seafood. But New Caledonia has more to offer families than just beaches and blue skies. The capital, Noumea, offers a slice of France with alfresco cafés and luxury boutiques, the fascinating Tjibaou Cultural Centre and Le Petit Train, a fun way to chug around Noumea’s other key attractions, including the Aquarium, Botanical Gardens and Bird Park.
South Pacific Fun Afloat
Can’t choose just one Pacific Island? Cruising has to be the ultimate multi-generational holiday experience and the Pacific Islands are the ideal destination for family fun afloat.
Not only can you explore multiple islands, today’s cruise ships are floating all-inclusive resorts with incredible facilities for families. There are age-appropriate kids clubs to keep the young ones entertained in transit along with swimming pools, mini-golf and character meet and greets.
While there are cruise ships to suit every budget, and every family, some ships take the fun one step further. Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend offer heart-pounding waterslides and splash parks, Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas have surf simulators, rock climbing walls and ice-skating at sea, and P&O’s Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden boast the South Pacific’s largest adventure park at sea, complete with top deck zip line.
If you’d prefer something a little more intimate one of the best ways for families to explore Fiji’s outer island is with Blue Lagoon Cruises. They may not offer some of the adrenalin-packed attractions of the bigger cruise ships, but their itineraries include plenty of organised, kid-friendly activities.
Not only does a cruise make getting there as much fun as the destination, most of the costs are included in the base price of your cruise so budgeting for a family is easier.
Radisson Blu Resort, Fiji
The luxurious Radisson Blu Resort Fiji, is all about family fun with a great programme of activities for kids plus four lagoon swimming pools (including a family lagoon, shaded children’s pool, and private adults-only relaxation zone) and a white water tunnel slide. The resort was just voted number 1 family resort in Fiji by Trip Advisor.
Malolo Island Resort, Fiji
Malolo is an intimate, rustic resort. It’s about a bure near the beach, surrounded by the world’s friendliest people with a living and authentic culture. You will be served by the descendants of villagers who have lived there for thousands of years, offering true Fijian hospitality. Perfect for families, Malolo has a free kids club for 4-12 year olds, family-friendly accommodation and dining options.
Intercontinental Fiji Resort & Spa, Fiji
Nestled in tropical gardens, InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa is located on picturesque Natadola Bay on the main island of Viti Levu. The five-star resort is situated by a sandy beach on an aqua-blue bay, and offers family-friendly accommodation, four swimming pools, an 18-hole championship golf course and kids’ club. •
Photography by various establishments.
• Fiji Tourism: fiji.travel
• Cook Islands: cookislands.travel
• Tonga: thekingdomoftonga.com
• Samoa: samoa.travel
• Niue: niueisland.com
• Vanuatu: vanuatutravel.info
• Tahiti Tourisme: tahitinow.com.au
• New Caledonia: visitnewcaledonia.com