Oceania is made up of thousands of islands, numerous cultures, various languages, and astounding natural beauty. You can explore giant coral reefs, relax on sandy beaches, walk through sophisticated cities for world-class art, sample gourmet food, swim in wilderness pools, hike mountain trails, and learn about indigenous cultures. Oceania has it all! Really.
Cover Photo description: Watsons Bay, New South Wales, Australia
It is a region covering a vast area roughly 13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles) west to east and 9,700 kilometers (6,000 miles) north to south. It includes the regions of Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. There is no agreement, curiously, about which islands and countries comprise Oceania. McGill University developed the list we use, and for your convenience, we included the it at the bottom of the article. If you are dreaming of or considering remote, off-the-beaten-path places, you can find them on the list.
In a special section near the end of this post, we included a few recommendations for avoiding some of Oceania’s natural hazards.
Photo credit: Wikitravel
The Best of Australasia
New Zealand ranks first on our list of best destinations in Australasia. You may recognize some of the spectacular, jagged mountain peaks and lush valleys as the setting for the Lord of the Rings movies. With picturesque sandy beaches, charming towns, and friendly people, who wouldn’t dream of touring New Zealand? Explore Queenstown and its nearby vineyards, trek over mountain passes, learn about the Maori culture, and sail in the Marlborough Sounds. New Zealand is the best.
According to the Global Peace Index (GPI), New Zealand is the most peaceful country in the Asia Pacific region and the fourth most peaceful country globally. It is 16th on the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitive Index (WEF Travel & Tourism Index), indicating that it has good tourism infrastructure and interesting cultural resources.
Photo credit: Mitre Peak, Milford Sound, New Zealand courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
With its sophisticated cities, sandy beaches, diverse wilderness areas, and the Great Barrier Reef, Australia is a fabulous tourism destination. Explore Kakadu National Park to see ancient rock art and enormous saltwater crocodiles, hike the Blue Mountains, photograph the Glass House Mountains, or swim in Litchfield’s fresh water pools. Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne offer gourmet food, theater, music, and art; and are perfect for those who love to meander through charming neighborhoods. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. Although some of the coral is bleaching from global warming, be sure to dive The Reef to see it and the ocean life it supports. Amazing!
According to the WEF Travel & Tourism Index, Australia ranks #7 on the list. This indicates that it has excellent air and ground infrastructure, along with cultural resources. According to the GPI, Australia is the third most peaceful country in the Asia Pacific region and ninth in the entire world. Overall, it is good on safety issues, except for their wide assortment of lethal creatures and strong undercurrents, which can be avoided in most cases.
The Best of Melanesia
New Caledonia is our top pick for Melanesia because of its gorgeous lagoon (a World Heritage Site), coral reefs, inviting beaches, charming tourist accommodations, and friendly hospitality. In addition to hiking, kayaking, scuba diving, and snorkeling, you could just stretch out on the beach breathing in the tropical fragrances while reading a good book.
New Caledonia is too small to be one of the countries measured by the GPI or included in the WEF Travel & Tourism Index. It does not have any travel warnings, other than petty crime, so take your usual precautions while on travel.
Photo description: Amédée Lighthouse, one of the world’s tallest cast iron towers, New Caledonia
Photo credit: Eustaquio Santimano via Wikimedia
The Best of Micronesia
Palau is our pick for the best destination in Micronesia because of its commitment to the well being of its marine life, resulting in world-class diving and snorkeling. Although this small nation is an archipelago of hundreds of islands, it has a population of only 21,000. It developed a marine life initiative that established a marine sanctuary and the world’s first national shark sanctuary. This is not the place for lying on beaches, but if you are into diving with huge manta rays, this is your destination.
Palau is also too small and off the beaten path to be included in the GPI or the WEF Travel & Tourism Index. And like New Caledonia, Palau has no travel warnings.
Photo credit: Palau Dive Adventures
The Best of Polynesia
French Polynesia is comprised of 118 islands and is our top pick for this region. These are often considered some of the most beautiful islands in the world, and they have some of the most beautiful diving spots, as well. Even if you are not into diving, you can find plenty to see and do. The key islands are Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Moorea. You can cruise among islands, and hop off to explore around. You can perhaps learn about Tahitian arts, see black pearls, and check out the local farms. And if you are into palm trees, tropical beaches, clear blue water, and digging your toes into the sand, you can do that, too. This destination would be a wonderful setting for a wedding or romantic getaway, but not for the budget traveler.
French Polynesia is too small to be included in the GPI or the WEF Travel & Tourism Index. And like New Caledonia and Palau, there are no travel warnings for French Polynesia. Be careful, though, to not buy counterfeit and pirated goods.
Photo credit via Wikimedia Commons: Daily News Dig
There are some natural hazards specific to places in Oceania, like riptides and lethal creatures. Need we say, pay attention to signs alerting you to the local hazards? It is always a good idea to check with local experts for advice about current conditions and anything to be aware of. Taking selfies with dangerous or lethal wildlife is not recommended for those who wish to return home with all body parts. We suggest using a good local guide. You will see the best sights and hopefully avoid exciting hazards.
How do we select the best countries for women to travel? We have several criteria:
- Amazing things to see and do. We use many sources in addition to our own travel experiences.
- Easy and safe to travel based on things like roads and infrastructure that work. For this we use the World Economic Forum Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index.
- We determine if this is a peaceful and stable place by using the Global Peace Index data. Why is this important? When a country is stable and peaceful, women tend to thrive. Conversely, when it is unstable and violent, or at war, women tend to suffer.
- We check the statistics for the most recent 16 months of data for the number of dead or badly mangled tourists, particularly women. We do this by reviewing US State Department statistics and Great Britain’s data for how often they have to rescue tourists. The winning countries don’t have any or many such tragedies.
Organized into four areas, Oceania is comprised of 18 countries and dependent states.
- Christmas Island (Australia)
- Cocos (Keeling) Islands (Australia)
- New Zealand
- Norfolk Island (Australia)
- New Caledonia (France)
- Papa New Guinea
- Solomon Islands
- Federated States of Micronesia
- Guam (USA)
- Marshall Islands
- Northern Mariana Islands (USA)
- American Samoa (USA)
- Cook Islands (NZ)
- French Polynesia
- Niue (NZ)
- Pitcairn Islands (UK)
- Tokelau (NZ)
- Wallis and Futuna (France)