Travel

Vanuatu is Reopening to Australians. Here’s Where to Go First

Venture deep into the Pacific’s hidden paradise to discover the beauty of Vanuatu.

things to do vanuatu
Photo: @ulrika.wanderwoman

Set your watch to island time, Vanuatu and all its provinces are reopening to international travellers from July 1. The beautiful nation of Vanuatu is home to over 80 individual islands, each offering a completely different experience. Whether you want a tropical jungle safari, a relaxing, luxurious resort holiday, or a cultural experience, you will find it in Vanuatu.

Before you pack your bags, there are a few things you need to know.

How to get to Vanuatu

Flights to Vanuatu are available to book now, with Air Vanuatu offering five non-stop flights from Sydney, one direct service a week from Melbourne, and three non-stop flights a week from Brisbane to Port Vila. For more information or to book, visit airvanuatu.com.

How to get into Vanuatu

To enter Vanuatu come July, tourists will simply need to provide a certified negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) result within 24 hours of departure or a certificate of infection and recovery within 28 days of departure, if they have recently had Covid-19.

Once in Vanuatu, there is no arrival testing required. However, travellers will be asked to play their part in keeping both locals and visitors safe by practising good hygiene and physical distancing. 

If a traveller tests positive for Covid-19 while in Vanuatu, they will need to isolate for seven days in a managed Government designated and approved facility‚ÄĒthis may include hotels and resorts or other government health centres, subject to availability.

Current restrictions to know

Regarding travel between Vanuatu‚Äôs provinces, both Shefa, the home of Vanuatu‚Äôs capital of Port Vila and Sanma, which boasts the country‚Äôs largest island, Espiritu Santo, have reached Health Recovery Level 1 status and will be ready to reopen to tourists from 1 July, in line with the Vanuatu Government‚Äôs Roadmap to Reopening.

Please visit covid.19.gov.vu to view the most up-to-date information on Vanuatu‚Äôs provinces/islands and their statuses. 

things to do vanuatu where to eat
Photo: @tamanubeachvanuatu

Where to eat in Vanuatu

Vanuatu food markets are a great place to get local cuisine and try fresh produce. Mama’s Market is a hive of activity, with locals and visitors flocking to the market for everything from a healthy snack to berries for a picnic.

Depending on where you’re staying, Tamanu on the Beach is a beachfront air restaurant with panoramic ocean views and is renowned for its superb food and quality service. The chefs create mouth-watering dishes using fresh, locally grown organic produce that Vanuatu has to offer, complemented by an extensive wine list featuring Australian, New Zealand and French wines.

things to do vanuatu water music

Experience Water Music

Water music originates from Gaua Island, but you can also see it at Leweton Cultural Village in Espiritu Santo (which was founded by Ni-Vanuatu Sandy Sur and his extended family who came to Santo from Gaua and Mere Lava islands. The family worked together to create this experience in order to share their culture and customs with others). The women dress in traditional attire and take to the water to create mesmerizing music‚ÄĒevoking the sounds of thunder, boiling water and gushing waterfalls. The tour on Gaua invites female visitors to join in as well. 

things to do vanuatu naghol
Photo: Olivia Magoffin

Naghol on Pentecost Island

Pentecost is a small island, pristine and untouched with unspoiled rainforests, beautiful waterfalls and crystal clear ocean waters. Each year, local men on Pentecost, climb a hand-made, 30-metre tower of native wood and stand above the crowd of nervous spectators. Tree vines wrapped around their ankles, they chant to drum-up excitement in the crowd before diving head-first to the ground. When done right, their shoulders graze the dirt‚ÄĒgranting them a good yam harvest for the year ahead. It‚Äôs an annual cultural experience not seen anywhere else in the world and makes the island of Pentecost famous (April ‚Äď June). 

things to do vanuatu cooking classes
Photo: @papayavillavanuatu

Try a cooking class

Papaya Village cooking class is located on 1.6kms of pristine privately held beachfront, palm trees and coral coves tucked away in an old copra plantation. Join owner Marcus for a cooking class among the scent of saffron and bay leaves, a glass of Papaya Village’s own special tropical sangria and some mambo tunes. The class is a relaxed and fun session where you learn how to make a typical island or Caribbean food and best of all, you get to eat what you make.

things to do vanuatu best blue holes
Photo: @parky.au

Dive into Santos Blue Holes

Vanuatu is home to blue holes, many the product of freshwater springs trickling from the belly of the islands’ mountains, while some oscillate with the tide, filling with fish that dart in their crystal depths like wondrous, native aquariums.

The pools range in accessibility through the islands, some almost feeling like your own private outdoor spa, a world away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. There’s often an entrance fee that helps cover the amenities provided by the local owners.

things to do vanuatu where to stay
Photo: The Havannah Vanuatu

Where to stay in Vanuatu

In terms of where to stay it depends on where you want to go, but here are some great options. The Havannah Vanuatu caters exclusively for adults. This barefoot luxury resort is a short drive from the nation’s capital Port Vila and offers a slower pace, immersed in nature.

Located just off the coast of Vanuatu‚Äôs largest island of Espiritu Santo, Aore Island is a divers‚Äô paradise. Family-owned, this private resort features a collection of modern bungalows situated on a pristine waterfront location, offering world-class scuba diving experiences at the doorstep.

Surrounded by pristine tropical gardens, with a gorgeous outlook over the lagoon on the island of Efate, lies Mangoes Resort. A beautiful, private adults-only property where travellers can unwind in tranquil surroundings.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Travel

Find Volcanoes, Wine Islands, and Thrills in Auckland

One minute you're on a ferry to wine island, the next you could be bungy jumping off of New Zealand's tallest tower.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

The city of Auckland is a free spirit. It is easily the most geographically blessed city in New Zealand. Within an hour, you could be tasting wines on an island, chasing more than 50 volcanoes, or leaving footprints on a black sand beach. Keep in mind, that Auckland is the country’s most populous city but certainly doesn’t feel cramped.

Instead, the city is buzzing with trendy eateries, boutique shops, quiet streets, and expansive green parks. Around every corner, you’re never too far from something beautiful to see.

From world-class wines to kickass thrills, here’s where to find what you’re looking for in Auckland.

things to do auckland

Seek the thrills

If you thought Queenstown was the home of the adrenaline rush, wait until you see Auckland. In the middle of the city, you can jump off a sky tower or a bridge, zip through the jungle, and scream on a high-octane jet boat ride. The Sky Tower, which can be seen from every corner of Auckland is more than just a landmark. Take a ride to the top and sign up for a Skywalk, where you can wander around the platform, which just so happens to be 192 metres above the ground. If that doesn’t get your heart pumping, you can always jump off it. It’s New Zealand’s highest jump, and can only be described as just like being a movie stuntman, or a superhero. 

The other iconic place to jump off of is the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Unlike the Sky Jump, this one will have thrill seekers dipping their hands and head in the ocean. It’s a 40-metre Bungy, and a great experience. Although, if you’d rather still take advantage of the bridge views, book a climb, which takes you right to the top for sweeping views of the city.

Another way to take in the city is via Auckland Adventure Jet, which takes passengers for spins and tricks on the water.

Just a 35-minute boat ride from Auckland is Waiheke Island, where thrill-seekers will find Eco Zip Adventures. Across three separate lines, you will zip high above a working vineyard and lush, ancient forest canopies, soaking up incredible views back to the city and beyond.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Sip wine on Waiheke Island

Whether you want to spend a weekend or a day, Waiheke Island is a must-visit. It’s around a 35-minute ferry ride to the island from Auckland, and once there you can hop from winery to winery. The island is quite large and the terrain is rugged, so trust the experts and book a tour with Ananda Tours. The small, family-run business is owned by Jenny who has been on the island since before the vines were planted and she’s the best person to seek out when getting the Waiheke Island experience. You can book a private tour or group tour, and they can be catered to your preferences and tastes. A few standout stops include Kennedy Point, where they produce fully certified organic Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay wines. You can also state estate-grown olive oils, which the island has plenty of. Enjoy a tasting on the deck with views of Kennedy Bay, or enjoy a picnic under the olive grove.

For the best views on the island, head to Batch Vineyard. As the highest vineyard on Waiheke, you will be treated to panoramic views of the rolling hills, blue waters, and even Auckland city. Their sparkling wine, Blanc de Blancs is a must-try.

When it comes to lunch, there are two spots to choose from. The first is Stonyridge, which is also where you can taste premium award-winning wines, including a Cabernet blend Larose‚ÄĒNew Zealand’s cult wine. The second is Mudbrick, a romantic spot, set amongst beautiful gardens with even more spectacular views, and a bar and bistro serving up some of the best dishes on the island.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Eat your way through the city

Auckland’s dining scene isn’t pretentious, but the food quality is good enough to rival the best restaurants in New York‚ÄĒbut the city doesn’t like to brag. Instead, it celebrates good food in every setting, from waterside restaurants to trendy Mexican eateries in a shopping centre.

Inca, is helmed by critically acclaimed chef, Nic Watt. Inspired by Watt’s travels to Peru, diners can expect to find Nikkei cuisine, including spicy chicken karaage, hand-pressed corn tacos filled with pork cheek and spicy tuna. You wouldn’t expect to find such a good restaurant in a shopping centre, but there it is.

Another great trendy restaurant is Hello Beasty, which is home to the famous, prawn and crab toast. This work of art starts with a slice of crispy deep-fried bread, smothered with prawn and crab mousse. On top, there are slices of wagyu, drizzled with a sweet and sour sauce. Although, there are plenty of other great dishes on the menu, including a Sichuan tuna tartare, Korean fried cauliflower, and potstickers swimming in chilli oil. Try the yuzu mandarin soda if you’re looking for something fizzy to go with dinner or lunch.

Deli De Bossi is a recent opening and already becoming a favourite breakfast spot. Apart from coffee, you can get all kinds of toasted sandwiches, filled with everything from mushrooms to hams and salamis.

Another iconic eat-hit list is Parade in Ponsonby. Here, the burgers are served in a pretzel bun and filled with chicken or beef.

Most of these restaurants are casual, but if you’re looking for something a little fancy, book a table at Kingi. Taking cues from Sydney’s own Josh Niland, the dishes at Kingi focus on sustainable seafood, caught locally by local fishermen. The blue cod wings are a must. They’re covered in burnt lime and served with a ranch sauce for dipping. The stracciatella with feijoa is also a standout dish, that’s light and a great start to a meal. Inside, the dining room is cosy with bench seats, fire heaters, and exploded brick walls.

After dinner, walk down the street and grab dessert from Miann. The flavour of the day is always chocolate, and they serve up seriously good desserts. Try the tasting platter for a piece of each pastry on the menu of the day, or pick one that is most desirable to you. Although, the tasting platter is only $23 and you’d be missing out on tasting a little of everything they offer if you didn’t get it.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Discover art, culture, and movie magic

One of the best ways to learn about a city or country is by visiting its top museums and galleries. The Auckland War Memorial Museum sits atop a hill in Auckland’s Domain, which also happens to be the city’s oldest volcano. This museum is one of the most important as it tells the story of New Zealand’s natural and military history. Take a self-guided walking tour to explore at your own pace. There are plenty of interactive features for the kids and adults. The museum also hosts exhibitions. An ancient Greek exhibition is currently on display and is one of the largest exhibitions the British Museum has ever loaned to Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Art lovers, spend a few hours wandering around the Auckland Art Gallery, Toi O TńĀmaki. You will find artworks from around the world, including a Picasso or two. Although, the exhibitions are a real treat. Yona Lee’s, An Arrangement of Five Rooms is an incredible installation, spanning multiple rooms, which you can sit on and touch‚ÄĒto immerse yourself in the artwork. Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda, is another must-see exhibition exploring the most pressing issues of our times: climate change and resilience, tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty), activism and social justice.

While art and history museums are insightful and a great way to educate a visitor, there are some other museum types that can be a lot of fun and interactive. Weta Workshop Unleashed is a new Auckland attraction and an incredible experience you don’t want to miss. Step into the world of filmmaking, explore how horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films are made and at times feel as if you’re in a movie. Comedic tour guides will introduce you to movies that are in production and explain every aspect, from prop making to effects, and more. There are even mysteries to be solved, making it fun for the whole family. It’s truly an unmissable experience in Auckland, and one of the best, unique tours you might ever experience.

things to do auckland
Photo: @sidwithlens

Walk on a volcano

Erupting over 100,000 years ago, Pukekawa is one of Auckland’s oldest and most popular volcanoes. Today, the Domain parkland is the remains of the explosion crater and most of the surrounding tuff ring of Pukekawa. Most days you will see people running around the park, families picnicking on the weekend, and tourists snapping photos by the pond or under a magnificent tree, grown from an experiment conducted by the Auckland Acclimatisation Society. Enter from one end, enjoy a picturesque walk, and exit through the historic Parnell shopping and restaurant area. On a sunny day, the atmosphere is charged with romance, but even in the rain, it’s a moody, beautiful sight to see. The Auckland War Memorial Museum’s large neo-Greek architecture is also a standout, commanding top-of-the-mountain views.

where to stay in auckland

Where to stay in Auckland

If you’re looking to sleep on top of the world, you can’t beat a room in Cordis Auckland’s new Pinnacle Tower. From the pillowy-cloud-like beds, guests have sweeping views of the city from the Sky Tower to Rangitoto and Mount Eden. Enjoy a breakfast buffet in the Eight restaurant downstairs, and canapes and drinks in the Cordis Club lounge on the 14th floor. There’s also a health club, spa, and swimming pool. The hotel is within walking distance to some of the best eateries in Auckland, making it a prime option.

Although, if you’re looking to stay in the heart of Britomart, Auckland’s hub of shopping, eating, and drinking, then The Hotel Britomart is where you want to be. From its exterior of hand-made bricks to its beautifully timber-lined rooms, The Hotel Britomart does detail like nobody else. Plus, the best of downtown waterfront Auckland is just outside your front door. With 5 Green Star Design and Build ratings from the NZ Green Building Council, The Hotel Britomart is the country‚Äôs ONLY 5 Green Star hotel, and has sustainability built in from the ground up.¬†

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.