18 Best Vacation Destinations in the Pacific
The Pacific is famous for its warm weather and exotic locations. But it also boasts several world-class cities, along with places that cater specifically to nature lovers. Here are 18 of the best for you to choose from:
1. Sydney, Australia
As the bellwether of Australia, Sydney is a seductive metropolis that rivals the best that Europe and North America have to offer. The city features several emblematic landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, both of which are notable for their distinct architecture. You've also got relaxation hotspots like Bondi Beach and Darling Harbour, which offer various facilities for leisure and entertainment. And if that's not enough, the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney is among the best in the world, an oasis-like garden filled with glasshouses and lush vegetation, while the Taronga Zoo offers a glimpse at creatures culled from around the planet.
2. Auckland, New Zealand
The biggest city in New Zealand is a real show-stopper in terms of attractions. Its flagship Sky Tower offers both panoramic views of the city as well as adrenaline-pumping bungee jumps. Meanwhile, the nearby SkyCity Auckland is among the top casinos in the area, whereas the Auckland Art Gallery offers a top-notch selection of works from the 11th century onwards. If you appreciate nature, Sea Life Kelly Tartlon's and the Auckland Zoo are both musts, highlighting local animals as well as more exotic ones. There's also the Auckland Domain - a large city park located in a volcanic crater, where you can rest and catch a breather. And if you're looking for a dash of history, the Auckland War Memorial Museum offers a primer on New Zealand's evolution throughout the ages.
3. Melbourne, Australia
The second Australian city to appear on our list offers a refined experience that cultural travelers and art lovers will definitely appreciate. Melbourne wears its 19th century architecture proudly, with gems like the Queen Victoria Market and the Flinders Street Railway Station being quite easy on the eyes. But it's also got more contemporary attractions such as the National Gallery of Victoria and Eureka Tower, to name just two. The latter is also famous for including the Eureka Skydeck, an enclosed viewing deck that offers unparalleled vistas of the city from high up above. Last but not least, if you'd like to experience Melbourne in a novel fashion, be sure to take a boat trip on the Yarra River, which crosses through the city on its way to reaching Port Phillip bay.
4. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
A truly wondrous underwater landmark, the Great Barrier Reef is a living organism composed of more than 2,900 individual reefs that stretch along the coast of Queensland, Australia. The reef is a fertile palace for all sorts of aquatic creatures, from humpback whales and dolphins to sea turtles and several species of sharks. This pretty much makes the Great Barrier Reef the Mecca of diving, with travelers from around the world donning a diving suit and seeing what they can find down there. Of course, some diving spots are better than others. If you're into wreck diving, be sure to explore the remains of the SS Yongala. Meanwhile, those interested in nature will definitely want to check out Cod Hole and Stanley Reef, which usually offer great visibility so you can admire the wildlife in all its glory.
5. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Who doesn't dream of escaping to an island paradise from time to time? Well, you can turn your dreams into reality if you visit the gorgeous Bora Bora island in French Polynesia. Known for its tranquil beaches and spectacular overwater bungalows, this little slice of heaven aims to please. The island is flanked by the towering Mount Otemanu, an extinct volcano that you can climb in order to enjoy unforgettable views from up top. But its beaches are the true highlights, with Matira Beach in particular being a hotspot for all who come here. In addition, exploring the land with a 4x4 can be a lot of fun, as is diving into the Bora Bora Lagoonarium.
6. Brisbane, Australia
Even by Australian standards, Brisbane is a remarkably sunny city, one whose outdoors-y profile matches its climate. Expect to spend plenty of time perusing places like the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where the titular creatures roam free in an environment that mimics their natural habitat. You should also pay a visit to Sea World, an expansive aquatic-themed amusement park with lots of special shows and exhibits. And nothing quite beats the view from atop Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park, which showcases Brisbane's skyline in all its beauty. The same can be said about Story Bridge, an iconic Brisbane landmark that turns into a veritable art installation when lit up at night.
7. Wellington, New Zealand
A fairly small city by area size, Wellington packs a big punch when it comes to tourist facilities. It's one of the country's main cultural hubs, with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa being located here, which focuses on traditional native cultures such as the Maori. What's more, Wellington is a playground for nature lovers thanks to the presence of places like Zealandia, a protected natural area that's home to many of the nation's endemic bird species, and the Wellington Botanic Garden. The best way to explore the city is by boarding the historic Wellington Cable Car, which connects the main shopping hub of Lambton Quay to the excellent vantage point known as the Kelburn Lookout.
8. Gold Coast, Australia
Stretching across the Southeast Queensland coast, this beautiful area is one of Australia's premier vacation spots, and for good reason too. It features some of the nation's best beaches, including Surfers Paradise Beach and Coolangatta Beach, as well as entertainment options left and right. Be sure not to miss out on the opportunity to visit Sea World for some unforgettable aquatic-centered shows, and Dreamworld, a theme park with an Aussie twist since you get to interact with the likes of crocodiles and dingoes during your trip. And if you'd like a quieter alternative, spend some time in the Lamington National Park or go whale watching at Burleigh Heads Beach during their spring migrating season.
9. Adelaide, Australia
Despite being slightly more understated in its beauty than Sydney or Melbourne, Adelaide is nonetheless an elegant destination that has plenty to offer. Take the historic North Terrace boulevard for instance. Here, the Parliament House and the South Australian Museum can be found, both housed in aesthetically-pleasing buildings that harken back to the colonial days. On the other hand, the state-of-the-art Adelaide Oval is about as contemporary as it gets, a magnificent sports venue that hosts sports ranging from cricket to Australian rules football. And if you're looking to lay down on the grass and have a picnic, Elder Park with its titular Rotunda is a great spot and easily accessible via public transportation to boot.
10. Tahiti, French Polynesia
The Pacific is home to numerous islands that make the most of their exotic setting. But even amidst heavy competition, Tahiti stands out for both its natural beauty and the sheer breadth of its attractions. You need only book one of those scenic overwater bungalows and enjoy the views of Moorea and its surroundings. Or you could witness the Three Waterfalls on the northeastern part of Tahiti Nui or bask in the splendor of Maui's Beach. There are even more urban attractions like the Robert Wan Pearl Museum and Papeete Market to explore, so you definitely won't lack for choices in Tahiti.
11. Canberra, Australia
As the official capital of Australia, Canberra splits the distance between Sydney and Melbourne and offers a valuable alternative to those looking for a deeper dive into the land Down Under. It's a scenic and elegant place thanks to the presence of hotspots like the Lake Burley Griffin and the National Gallery of Australia. If you're a history buff, you'll also enjoy visiting the Australian War Memorial, dedicated to those who lost their lives fighting for their country. And there's nothing better than coming to Canberra during the Floriade, an annual flower festival that sees the whole city covered in colorful blooms.
12. Viti Levu, Fiji
As the largest island in the Fiji group, Viti Levu serves as an introduction to what the archipelago has to offer. You'll find a little bit of something for everyone here, from secluded places like Robinson Crusoe Island where you can kick-back and enjoy life from the comforts of a hammock, to cultural hotspots like the Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple, the largest Hindu place of worship in the Pacific. You can also go lose yourself in the spacious Garden of the Sleeping Giant, or go on an escapade in the Kula WILD Adventure Park. Along the way, don't forget to rest and relax on the island's top beaches, with Natadola and Paradise Beach being your two best options.
13. Perth, Australia
Relatively isolated even by Australian standards, Perth stands out due to its rugged beauty and surprisingly diverse attractions. You could spend a day just perusing the extensive Kings Park and Botanic Garden, with several memorials and lookout points such as Mount Eliza. Or you could just admire and explore the city's skyscrapers, out of which Bell Tower is perhaps most notable due to its unique architecture. Meanwhile, AQWA or the Aquarium of Western Australia, is one of the nation's largest and best-equipped, featuring a large walk-through underwater tunnel. And for a bit of history, why not cap things off with a trip to the former jail known as Fremantle Prison?
14. Christchurch, New Zealand
A small but colorful settlement, Christchurch blends European sophistication with a certain kind of New Zealand charm. You'll definitely want to see what the Canterbury Museum has in store, or take a long walk through Hagley Park North with its well-manicured gardens. You can even tour the city via tram, with numerous colorful tram lines covering many of its touristic areas. But even more unique is the International Antarctic Centre. Despite being quite far from Antarctica per se, this place simulates the landscapes and climate of that area, including simulations of actual snow storms. And if it's nature you crave, head on down to the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and see some of New Zealand's native animals up close.
15. Hobart, Australia
The capital of Tasmania may be Australian in spirit, but it has a slightly more untamed vibe than the land Down Under. The rugged beauty of Mount Wellington attests to this, as do the historic Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, one of the most distinctive parks of its kind. On the other hand, Tasmania's cosmopolitan side is evident in places like MONA, a subterranean art museum with plenty of fascinating exhibits. Add to that popular shopping hubs such as Salamanca Market and places like the Cascade Brewery where you can sample a host of specialty beers and ciders, and you've got all the makings of a must-visit city.
16. Hobbiton, New Zealand
The Pacific region definitely doesn't lack in one-of-a-kind destinations, but by any conceivable standard Hobbiton still feels remarkable. Built in Waikato to serve as a movie set for the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, much of Hobbiton has been preserved so that travelers can immerse themselves in J.R.R. Tolkien's world whenever they feel like it. Among other things, you can look forward to visiting Bilbo's Bag End home or get lost amidst the hobbit holes that are scattered throughout the set. You can even get a drink at the Green Dragon Inn and see the Hobbiton mill. The area can only be explored via guided tours, so make sure you book your tickets ahead of time.
17. Tanna, Vanuatu
If you're the kind of traveler who loves venturing out into the wilderness, Tanna is the place for you. The island is centered around the massive Mount Yasur, the world's most accessible active volcano. In addition, there are numerous hot springs, secluded beaches and authentic villages to explore, with John Frum Village being a particularly interesting one thanks to its colorful history surrounding cargo cults. Other highlights of any trip to the island include the Tanna Coffee Factory, the beautiful Tanna Evergreen Resort and the spectacular Yatana Surf Beach. For the best experience money can buy, be sure to stay in one of the beachside bungalows that dot the island.
Another winner for those who love to have their vacations away from prying eyes, Palau is a tiny archipelago made up of hundreds of islands, many of which have something to offer. Diving is a big part of Palau's appeal, with top spots including the Blue Corner and Jellyfish Lake. There are also several shipwrecks dating back to WWII that are a joy to explore. Also note the gorgeous Ngardmau Waterfalls, which require a bit of hiking to reach but are definitely worth it. And if you're keen to recharge your batteries, head to Koror Island, the most "urbanized" one in the archipelago, where you can visit the Belau National Museum or admire the towering K.B. Bridge.
Whether you're in for the adventure or the exotic beauty, the Pacific has much to offer. The places we've outlined here are just a starter pack - feel free to delve deeper into the region if your time and budget allow for it.