From Norfolk Island and New Caledonia to the extraordinary Milford Sound in New Zealand, discover the very best of the Pacific.
Discover the exciting history and beauty of Norfolk Island
The experience: Tour convict settlements
The location: Norfolk Island
Why go: A speck of land around 1,600 kilometres northeast of Sydney and 1,000 kilometres northwest of Auckland, Norfolk Island’s dramatic natural assets – surf, impossibly azure lagoons, tracts of national park and dense pine forest – are drawcards for many visitors today.
It’s hard to believe that 200 years ago, people were forced to come here. Historically, Norfolk’s remote location in the Pacific ocean made it the ideal place to house convicts. Previously occupied by seafaring Polynesians, the island was turned into a British convict settlement from 1788 until 1814. The former prison site in Kingston is now one of the most beautiful spots on the island. A scenic pine-lined road weaves downhill to Norfolk’s capital, past a series of handsome heritage-listed Georgian buildings along a strip known as Quality Row. By the shore lie the ruins of the old prison, a lime-making pit (into which convict murder victims were sometimes thrown) and the convict cemetery, set amid manicured fields. The backdrop is postcard-perfect Emily Bay, where locals dive from an offshore pontoon into crystal-clear water that fades into a shallow reef.
The island is also home to a fascinating mix of land, water and seabirds, its isolation meaning a high proportion of them are found nowhere else in the world.
Getting there: The seven-night NRMA Norfolk Island itinerary spends time exploring the island’s convict ruins, but also takes you into the rainforest and to sample Norfolk’s fresh local produce
Enjoy snorkelling in Noumea, New Caledonia
The experience: Snorkel the world’s largest lagoon
The location: Noumea, New Caledonia
Why go: It’s a little-known fact that New Caledonia has the largest lagoon in the world – a UNESCO-listed attraction that rings most of the main island – as well as the second-longest double-barrier coral reef in the world.
The marine biodiversity of the archipelago is jaw-dropping: some 9,000 rare and endemic species thrive here in around 23,000 square kilometres of water. The lagoon hosts major nesting sites for marine turtles and breeding areas for dugongs, humpback whales and seabirds.
The reef is easy to access from Noumea, New Caledonia’s palm-lined capital. Just a short cruise from the coast is Amadee Island, ringed by impossibly clear water and white, powdery shores. Climb the island’s whitewashed lighthouse and you’ll see where the lagoon’s perfectly proportioned surf-white fringe, aquamarine inner band and green centre meet the deep sea. Flipper over the reef to spot green turtles and tropical fish, as well as the odd manta ray.
Getting there: NRMA’s 12-night Fijian Adventure cruise aboard Voyager of the Seas or Explorer of the Seas journeys to some of the South Pacific’s most beguiling islands, including New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu.
Immerse yourself in the pristine wilderness of Milford Sound, New Zealand
The experience: Cruise a fiord
The location: Milford Sound, New Zealand
Why go: In a country with its fair share of spectacular wilderness, Milford Sound stands out for its dramatic setting, rainforest-covered cliffs rising vertically from dark water while waterfalls cascade into the sea, a range of snow-capped mountains in the background.
Deep within the South Island’s Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound was formed over millions of years by glacial formation and erosion.
Many come here for multi-day treks, but one of the best ways to experience the immensity of the landscape is on a cruise across the sound. The fiord’s waters support the world’s biggest population of black coral trees as well as 11-legged sea stars and anemones, plus seals, humpback and southern right whales, and the southernmost population of bottlenose dolphins.
The fiord is an important breeding ground for Fiordland penguins. You’ll cruise to 160-metre-high Bowen Falls, and Stirling Falls, which cascade into the fiord like a giant shower.
Getting there: NRMA’s 19-Day Ultimate Discovery of New Zealand. This grand tour crosses both islands of the country, offering everything from Hobbiton movie set tours to train trips and a Maori concert.