Oceania is a vast expanse of the world where the waters of the Pacific Ocean rather than land borders separate nations. This area of the world features glistening white beaches, coconut palms swaying in the breeze, beautiful coral reefs, and rugged volcanic islands rising out of the blue ocean. Its diverse nations have some of the world's most international cities and some of its remotest villages.


Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea are by far the largest countries in this pseudo-continent, and the former two are the most visited by travellers. Oceania includes the vast island nation groupings of Polynesia (extending from New Zealand to the north and east), Melanesia (to the west, and south of the equator), and Micronesia (almost wholly north of the equator).

Easter Island Japan Taiwan China Federated States of Micronesia Northern Mariana Islands Wake Island Marshall Islands Hawaii Midway Islands Johnston Atoll Pitcairn Islands French Polynesia American Samoa Baker Island Howland Island Jarvis Island Kiribati Palmyra Atoll Guam Palau Nauru Tokelau Tuvalu Wallis and Futuna Samoa Cook Islands Niue Tonga Fiji Solomon Islands Vanuatu New Caledonia Philippines Brunei Malaysia Indonesia Papua New Guinea New Zealand Norfolk Island AustraliaOceania regions map.png
Crystal blue sea on the coast of Samoa
The largest and most populous country in Oceania, very often considered a continent by itself. Including the cities of Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and the capital, Canberra. It also has a number of deserts.
New Zealand
Although, like most countries, tiny in size compared to Australia, a major destination and widely regarded as one of the most pristine and beautiful countries on earth. Well-developed facilities for travellers. Geographically — and to a significant degree culturally — New Zealand is part of Polynesia: the indigenous Māori are Polynesian, and more Polynesians live in greater Auckland than in all the other cities of Polynesia put together.
Papua New Guinea
Geographically part of Melanesia, the islands have tropical rainforests, great scenery, and diverse cultures. The main island of New Guinea is shared with Indonesia. An adventurous, rarely visited travel destination where caution is advised.
Polynesia (Cook Islands, Hawaii, Niue, Norfolk Island, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and several territories, such as French Polynesia)
No other name quite conjures up images of paradise like this one. Stunning paradisical islands sprawling for thousands of miles across the remote South Pacific.
Melanesia (Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu)
Closely related to the ethno-cultural make-up of the oft-included Papua New Guinea. Fiji is the most visited country in Melanesia.
Micronesia (Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau)
The tiny Micronesian islands fall on or north of the Equator, and see less tourist and business travel than the rest of the island groupings. Palau is arguably the most interesting destination among these islands.


Tahitian Women on the Beach, by Paul Gauguin

Other destinations


A carving from the Sepik River area of Papua New Guinea

European influence

Colonialism by European powers has had a pervasive influence on the social landscape and culture of most of the region. British colonialism has made cricket part of the Australian and New Zealand summer. The bringing of British indentured labour from India to harvest sugar cane in Fiji has led to long-term political unrest, but also means that Nadi has some of the best kofta balls to be had outside of Mumbai. Francophone New Caledonia sees the modern capital and tourist hub Noumea surrounded by Melanesian villages rarely visited.


Ecologically, Oceania also includes the eastern parts of Indonesia as far as Lombok and Sulawesi.

Get in

By plane

See the country articles for detailed information on how to Get in.

The major countries of Australia and New Zealand offer connections from all continents, although there are few direct flights from South America. There are other gateways offering opportunities to get in and interesting itineraries. Air France connects New Caledonia direct with Tokyo and Paris and also flies to Tahiti. Onward connections to Sydney and Auckland are possible. Fiji Airways connects Fiji with Los Angeles with connections through to Sydney, Auckland and Tahiti. Tahiti is connected to Los Angeles, and you can fly to the Cook Islands direct from there. Air New Zealand provides a service to Tonga and Samoa from Los Angeles and Auckland. The Los Angeles service is subsidized by the New Zealand government as a form of aid to the two countries. Manila, Guam and Honolulu offer a gateway to many countries of Micronesia, mainly on United Airlines.

The smallest islands with less tourism present additional challenges to get to. Many are entirely deserted, and some have restrictions on access.

By boat

Several South Pacific cruises traverse the vast ocean, but a few berths are available for the patient traveller on bulk freighters or container ships plying the trade routes. The distances are enormous, as the Pacific Ocean is larger than the entire land mass of the planet.

Get around

By plane

Plane approaching Nauru

Without a yacht, and a lot of time, the only way for travellers to get around between the main destinations of Oceania is by plane. Auckland, Brisbane, Los Angeles and Sydney have good connectivity to the region. It is usually possible to fly from the west coast of the United States through to Sydney or Auckland via Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji or even the Cook Islands.

However, air routes tend to come and go depending on whether the airlines find them profitable or not. Much of English-speaking Polynesia receives regular flights from Air New Zealand. Melanesia is mainly serviced by national and Australian airlines. Don't expect daily flights. Patience is required.

Flying between Micronesia and the other two areas is problematic and may involve flying all the way to Honolulu or a complicated route through Manila, Sydney and Auckland.

Some flight options within Oceania, amongst others, are:

By ship

There are some options for boats, cruise ships, private yachts, adventure cruises, and even cargo ships.

Consult the guide for the destination you are visiting.


Neiafu harbour, Vava'u, in Tonga

All island groups are fascinating and with time and money you can spend months just travelling around. There are some stunningly beautiful islands (Samoa, Cook Islands, French Polynesia), some fascinating cultures and festivals, some wonderful diving and totally deserted beaches.

Colonial influences and history

Having histories dominated by colonisation, nearly all destinations give travellers opportunities to explore the often grim, but also interesting, stories of the past.


Sulphur-crested cockatoos in Sydney

There is some unique wildlife to be discovered in the region. Australia and Papua New Guinea are the homes of marsupials, the species of mammals that include cute favourites like kangaroos, koalas, wombats and possums, and also the Tasmanian devil. Here you will also find the monotremes, in the species of platypus and echidnas, the only mammals in the world to lay eggs.

In New Zealand you can stumble upon (or more easily, see in human-made facilities) the shy and mostly nocturnal kiwi – a flightless bird that has given the people of the country their nickname. Other flightless birds include the takahe, thought extinct until 1949, and the kakapo (night parrot). Other evolutionary oddities include the ancient tuatara, bats that hunt on the ground, and frogs that don't croak. A quarter of the world's seabirds breed in the New Zealand region.

Marine life is abundant and diverse throughout and one of the main reasons for travellers to explore this part of the world. Tropical fish and colourful reefs are perfect matches for scuba divers and snorkellers, but much can also be seen from the deck of a boat. You have the opportunities to see larger animals such as manta rays, dolphins and even whales.

In southern Australia and in New Zealand, seals, sea lions and penguins can be seen in their natural habitat, with Kangaroo Island, Phillip Island, coastal Otago and Stewart Island being popular sites.

Pacific War remembrance

See also: Pacific War

The Pacific theatre of World War II involved land, sea and air battles between the Axis (mainly Japan) and the Allies (mainly the United States and Australia), from 1941 to 1945.

The remnants of the war can be seen at many places, such as the Kokoda Track on New Guinea.


More palm-fringed beaches; this time on Aitutaki, Cook Islands

Swinging the hammock

The pristine, white sandy beaches found throughout the South Pacific are great for just lying back and enjoying the peace and quiet.

Scuba diving and snorkeling

There are locations for diving throughout Oceania. For coral and tropical fish, explore the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, Fiji has some reef around Nadi, and spectacular unspoilt, brightly coloured coral on the more remote islands. Samoa is favoured by scuba divers. Cook Islands has accessible reef just off the beach on the main islands. Vanuatu has accessible reef too, but the facilities make it more challenging to access than Fiji. There are diving opportunities in the temperate waters of Tasmania and New Zealand too.

There are good opportunities to dive to shipwrecks. The Rainbow Warrior off New Zealand's North Island is one of the more famous ones, and the oceans of Micronesia have many interesting relics from WWII. The Marshall Islands and Bikini atolls are known as quite a ship graveyard, offering some of the most interesting wrecks in the world, including submarines and the only aircraft carrier accessible to divers. Most of the wreck sites are not for beginners though.


Vava'u in Tonga is a popular destination for yachts crossing the Pacific. Yachts can also be chartered there.


Being an oceanic area, there are countless opportunities for great fishing experiences.

Hiking and trekking

Hikers on the Milford Track

Australia and New Zealand are home to some very significant and famous hiking trails, for example the ones of the Flinders Ranges, Abel Tasman and Tongario National Parks. The rugged, volcanic landscapes of many of the Pacific Islands offer good opportunities as well.

Adventure sports

New Zealand has become famous as a place with a well developed infrastructure for almost any kind of adventure and extreme sports. As well as being the birthplace of commercial bungy-jumping, you will also find skydiving, paragliding, river rafting, power boating, rock climbing, cave exploration and a long list of what seems as self-invented combinations. The east coast of Queensland has many opportunities as well. Also, the Blue Mountains near Sydney are great for rock climbing, canyoning and hiking.

The volcanoes and many caves to be found throughout the Pacific islands are fit for some adventurous exploration as well, and the many tropical islands are perhaps even prettier when watched gliding above them.

Skiing and winter sports

Although not the first thing coming to mind, there are snow sports in the southern parts of Oceania. New Zealand has reliable winter snowfalls, and around 10-12 ski areas, mostly in the South Island. These include Treble Cone and Cardrona (Wanaka), The Remarkables and Coronet Peak (Queenstown), Mt Hutt near Christchurch and Whakapapa and Turoa on Mt Ruapehu in the North Island. Many northern hemisphere race and olympic teams train in New Zealand during the northern summer. The Snowy Mountains in New South Wales have the largest ski resorts in the southern hemisphere.


Umu, meat and vegetables roasted in an earth oven on the Easter Island

Although staple foods from outside the region, such as rice and flour, now have a firm foothold, the traditional staples of roots and tubers remain very important. The cheapest is usually cassava, which also plays a food security role as it can be left in the ground for a long time. Sweet potato is a very important crop and is found in most parts of Oceania with the major producing area being the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Taro and yam are also widespread. The latter is the most valuable of the roots and tubers and there are many customs associated with its cultivation. In the Sepik area of Papua New Guinea, for example, sex between married couples is supposed to be forbidden while the yams are growing. On the other hand, in the Trobriand Islands the yam harvest is a period of sexual liberty.

In Australia and New Zealand, the food culture is largely similar to Europe and Northern America. Nevertheless, there are still some unique dishes and ingredients to be found, some known by the native inhabitants before the arrival of the Europeans, and others invented in more recent times. Thanks to recent immigration, Asian dishes and restaurants are also widely available and popular.


Hunter Valley vineyards

Kava is a drink produced from the roots of a plant related to the pepper plant and found mainly in Polynesia as well as Fiji and Vanuatu. It has a mildly narcotic effect. Other names include 'awa (Hawai'i), 'ava (Samoa), yaqona (Fiji), and sakau (Pohnpei). Traditionally it is prepared by chewing, grinding or pounding the roots of the kava plant. In Tonga, chewing traditionally had to be done by female virgins. Pounding is done in a large stone with a small log. The product is then added to cold water and consumed as quickly as possible, invariably as part of a group of people sitting around and sharing the cup. Check the rules before taking any out of the country, however, as importing kava can be illegal.

If interested in wine tourism, head to Australia or New Zealand. The former is one of the largest wine producers in the Southern Hemisphere.

Stay safe

Almost all of Oceania is safe for visitors, with the exception of Papua New Guinea, which remains a travel destination only for the more adventurous. In particular, Port Moresby has one of the highest violent crime rates in the world.

Stay healthy

Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea all have areas where malaria is a risk. Fiji, New Caledonia, the Cook Islands, Samoa and the other islands are malaria free.

Dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika virus is increasingly present in tropical areas. Avoid mosquito bites night and day, especially during an outbreak.

The islands may be remote but sexual diseases know no boundaries. Usual precautions apply.

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