Our closest neighbour Papua New Guinea is a surprising cruise destination but a sure gem on any seafaring itinerary. Home to an abundance of tropical islands beautiful enough to rival the usual South Pacific suspects, there’s no better way to experience it all than on a cruise. Sail through the azure waters from Australian shores, disembark to explore the lush interiors and sandy shores, and enjoy rich cultural experiences unique to this corner of the world. With cruises departing from as close as Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney, there’s no excuse not to cruise the real PNG. Here's a rundown of some of the nation's most spectacular destinations.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Rabaul is the imposing smoking volcano that dominates the harbour skyline, making it a sight to behold as you cruise into the harbour. With a unique history that involves repeated destruction and renewal – the city was destroyed twice at the hands of that very same volcano and once during WWII – there are some fascinating remnants to explore here. Glimpse WWII Japanese war plane wrecks and the abandoned network of tunnels and bunkers that the Japanese left behind. Discover hot springs at the foot of Mount Tavurvur and catch the unique fire dance performance of the Baining tribe.
White sandy shores, whooshing waterfalls and ancient volcanic mountains lure travellers to this gem on the mainland. The capital of Milne Bay Province, Alotau is a beautiful, sleepy little town nestled against a backdrop of lush mountains in an area rich in WWII history. Not only is this where the Battle of Milne Bay took place, but Alotau’s harbour was also once a naval base for Australian troops. Wander the laidback town streets, explore the tropical rainforest and discover the local war memorials and relics around the area. While Alotau is perfect for a peaceful retreat most of the year, during the Alotau Festival everything springs to life in colourful celebrations, music and dance.
Kiriwina Island is the largest of the Trobriand Islands, an archipelago of coral atolls with strong cultural links. Considered one of the most culturally-intact islands on the planet, most of the population here live in traditional settlements operating as subsistence horticulturalists and using yams as currency. It’s a fascinating place to explore the small local villages, relax on the spectacular beaches and admire a few local sights, including war relics and incredible megaliths made of coral composite. From the lush tropical interior to the islands that await just a short boat ride away, Kiriwina oozes both culture and beauty.
A long, narrow and mountainous province home to a ribbon of gorgeous beaches and a laidback way of life, New Ireland is hard to resist. Dive and snorkel to discover war wrecks, coral and marine life, or take to the water on a kayak, surf board or canoe. On land you can play golf, cycle or hike through the untouched forest to discover crystal clear rivers. In the provincial capital Kavieng, don’t miss the Kavieng Harbour Drive which trails the large and beautiful harbour, passing historical points of interest. But you can also witness traditional Malangan carvings in the museum at the local high school in Utu village, or take a trip across the Nusa Island to browse the local markets.
Madang is paradise for avid divers and snorkellers and while Papua New Guinea has no shortage of incredible underwater adventures, this is home to quite possibly some of the country’s best. Explore nearby islands laced with colourful hard and soft corals and a myriad of marine life, from hammerhead sharks to schools of barracudas. Dive a little deeper to discover shipwrecks, some fascinating wall dives and even a WWII B25 Mitchell bomber. On land, the centre of Madang oozes a certain charm. While the city itself was rebuilt after WWII, the original casuarina trees still hang over the streets, and parks, ponds and waterways scattered with water lilies make it a pretty place to explore.
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