The best thing about the Papua New Guinea Islands is that they are so diverse. Each of them has its own unique selling point, so depending on what you’re looking for one of them will be your perfect destination.
Manus should be your first choice if you are trying to go truly off the beaten path. You are unlikely to come across any other travellers here, amenities are basic and there’s not much in the way of conventional tourist attractions, but exactly that is the island’s charm: people are friendly and curious about visitors and you have your pick of deserted beaches, many of them riddled with WW2 relics.
New Ireland has recently made a splash as a surf destination and if surfing is your thing then this is the highlight. The recently introduced New Ireland Surf Management Plan ensures that in return for a small fee only a limited number of surfers are allowed on the waves at any time. It’s also a wonderfully relaxed place for cycling and has some of the islands’ best retreats.
For those looking for an adventure Rabaul is hard to beat.
Sitting on the edge of a caldera the region offers spectacular volcano hikes, and one of the Pacific’s most beautiful harbours, also formed by a volcanic crater. Several volcanic eruptions have left much of the city in ruins, but the wasteland has an eerie and captivating beauty that will remain with you long after your visit. Don’t forget to dig for a megapode egg in the volcanic ash and boil it in a nearby hot spring.
Last but not least make sure you participate in at least one cultural event. Papua New Guinea is famous for its sing sings. There are few regions in the world where you’ll see people perform with such passion and with such impressive and outer worldly costumes.
- Must See's and Do's
- Festivals and Events
- Practical Info
- Eat & Drink
- Useful Websites
- Globe Trekker Itinerary
Must See's and Do's
1. Mount Tarvuvur, Rabaul
2. Dig for a megapode egg in volcanic ash, Rabaul
3. Dive for World War II remnants
4. Baining Fire Dance, East New Britain
5. Malagan Ceremony, New Ireland
6. Fish for lobster
7. Cycle down the Boluminski Highway
8. Take a ride in a banana boat
9. Drink a coconut fresh from the tree
10. Chew betelnut with the locals
Festivals and Events
1. February: Kavieng Provincial Celebrations, New Ireland
2. May/ June: Frangipani Queen Show, Rabaul
3. June/ July: Luka Barok Festyival, New Ireland
4. July: National Mask Festival, East New Britain
5. Mid- August: Malangan Festival, New Ireland
6. August: Manus Provincial Show
- Getting there: Flights to PNG depart from Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila or Fiji to the capital Port Moresby. From there 2 national airlines connect to the islands: Airlines PNG and Air Niugini. The only alternatives are a private yacht or one of the supply boats that run to the islands periodically from Lae or Madang.
- Getting around: Inter-island travel is time consuming at best. Planes are often delayed or even cancelled and supply boats are infrequent. For short journeys a passage on a banana boat is the best option and short land journeys are easily covered in a PMV (public motor vehicle), minibuses that service the most popular routes.
- When to go: The Papua New Guinea Islands are hot and humid all year round and rain is hard to avoid whenever you go. There is a wet season roughly from November to April, but it just means that it is slightly wetter than at other times of the year and this also varies according to the islands. Temperatures range from 25- 30 degrees Celsius.
- What to wear: It’s hot, it’s wet and mosquitoes are rampant: everything speaks for long sleeved, light natural fibres. Dress styles in PNG are conservative and women should veer away from skirts or shorts that stop much above the knee. Men might have to wear long trousers or long socks in some establishments, but generally wear is casual.
– approximately 6.6 million in Papua New Guinea
– PGK – Papua New Guinea Kina, divides into 100 tol
– 800 official languages are spoken, but Melanesian Pidgin is shared by all and English is widely spoken
Book hostels & hotels:
Named for its proximity to the airport this is anything but a typical airport hotel. A haven away from the hustle and bustle of Port Moresby the Gateway makes for a very pleasant stay. Comfortably designed rooms, a swish pool and outside terrace dining and ever so friendly staff make this an excellent choice for an overnight in Port Moresby. An expensive, but welcome oasis at the beginning or end of any trip to/ from PNG.
Nusa Island Retreat
Kavieng, New Ireland Province
An understated eco-lodge located on its own island that exceeds expectation. Tasteful bungalows look straight over crystal clear waters. There are kayaks and surfboards and dive and exploration tours are on offer. The evening buffet is amongst the best food you’ll have in the PNG islands.
Rubio Plantation Retreat
A must stay for surfers. There’s a private beach to surf on and the owner Shane knows every break in the region. It’s a small comfortable place with a very high eco rating and extremely friendly service.
Rabaul, East New Britain
The buildings are straight out of the 70s and the rooms have probably seen better days, but you have to congratulate owner Susie for holding on to this little piece of history through the volcanic eruption. It’s only minutes from the harbour and the volcano and thus the best place to stay in order to explore the region. Susie is a bubbly font of information, who will give you a great insight into life in this once buzzing town.
Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort
Kokopo, East New Britain
Tasteful bungalows located right on the beach of East New Britain’s business centre this is the preferred choice fro business travellers. It’s got a lovely restaurant in a large open space with a thatched roof and views over the sea. The staff is very friendly and helpful as are the owner Evelyn and manager Donna.
Dalom Guesthouse, New Ireland
Simple thatched huts on a sweeping sandy bay next to a fresh river. Book through Nusa Island Retreat.
Hawaii Island, Manus
The people of Hawaii Island have built one thatched hut that is available for rent. No need to book, just turn up and spend your days fishing with the villagers.
Eat & Drink
It’s not easy to find clean food away from expensive touristy establishments in town centres, but once you hit the outer islands you are more than likely to find a local who’ll invite you to a meal.
Most PNG dishes are based on taro or sago, starchy foods that aren’t necessarily to Western tastes, but on the islands they are accompanied by some of the freshest seafood you will have ever eaten in your life.
Indulge in fresh lobster, trevally and coconut crab. Flying Fox (bat) is a local staple that tastes better than it sounds, and roasted pig is a favourite for feats. Fruit is less abundant than you’d think, but particularly delicious.
Try fresh coconut juice and mal-yawa banana, a variety home grown in people’s gardens that is particularly sweet. Manus seems to have unusually sweet pineapples and the red papaya on offer is a real treat.
- Papua New Guinea Tourism
- New Ireland Tourism
- East New Britain Tourism
- Papua New Guinea Association
- Jaive Smare’s blog
- Surf Management Plan
- Rabaul Historical Society
- World War II History
- Ecotourism Melanesia
Globe Trekker Itinerary
From Port Moresby the Globetrekker crew flew straight to Manus Province.
A day trip on a local banana boat took them to Hawaii Island, only 20 minutes away from the main island.
From Manus they flew to Kavieng on a direct connection that only flies once a week. The airport had only recently reopened after an unhappy landowner had declared it closed fro several months.
The crew then stayed on Nusa Island for several days before travelling south on the Boluminski Highway.
In Namatanai, approximately 250kms to the south they boarded a banana boat for the crossing to Kokopo in East New Britain, a spectacular journey, during which they were joined by a pod of about 50 dolphins.
Finally they arrived in the town of Rabaul, much of which has been destroyed by a volcanic eruption nearly 2 decades ago. After exploring the local WW2 sites and diving in Simpson Harbour, one of the finest in the South Pacific, the crew ended its journey on the top of Mount Kimbiu, overlooking the smoking Mount Tarvuvur volcano.
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