Kangaroo Island Seals, Australia

Unique Islands of the South Pacific

The South Pacific is a region brimming with natural wonders, fascinating cultures, and captivating wildlife. Whether you’re taking a short trip to Australia or doing an extensive tour of this part of the world, you should find a spot in your itinerary for at least a couple of the unique islands.

Here is a look at several of your options.


Stewart Island
The Māori name for this island, Te Punga o Te Waka a Maui, literally means “the land of glowing skies”, and you’ll see why if you’re fortunate enough to visit Stewart Island when the Aurora Australis is visible. Of course, even if you don’t catch a glimpse of the Aurora Australis, you’re still in for a treat. More than 85 percent of the island is a nature reserve, where you can enjoy some exhilarating hikes — in fact, the island has almost 300 km of walking trails.

Keep your eyes open for kiwi birds, which are the smallest ratite birds. These little creatures have hair-like feathers and unusual narrow, long beaks, and they lay huge eggs relative to their body size.

Suggested Itinerary:
4-Day Stewart Island

Stewart Island
Stewart Island

Mokoia Island
Mokoia Island is less than two square kilometers, but it offers a lot within that small space. Go birdwatching and look for weka, pukeko, and tui. Take a bushwalk to discover the wonders of the island’s plant life. Learn about the famous love story that took place on the island between Hinemoa and Tutanekai.

Entirely a nature reserve, Mokoia Island, sits in the middle of Lake Rotorua.

If you want a visit to Mokoia to be part of your South Pacific tour, make sure you plan ahead for your visit here, as only small groups of tourists are allowed to visit.

Suggested Itinerary:
14-Classic South Pacific

Mokoia Island in the middle of Lake Rotorua
Shag cormorant in front of Mokoia Island, situated in the middle of Lake Rotorua


Kangaroo Island
Yes, you can see an endemic species of kangaroos on Kangaroo Island, but this predator-free sanctuary has much more to offer. It is one of the best places in Australia to see wildlife. Here, you can spot such species as:

  • tammar wallabies
  • echidnas
  • bottle-nosed dolphins
  • Australian sea lions
  • New Zealand fur seals

If you visit in summer, you could even catch a glimpse of a Rosenberg goanna, the world’s largest terrestrial predator. In winter, you might see some southern right whales offshore. A visit to Kangaroo Island will be one of the highlights of your trip to Australia since about half of the original wildlife habitat remains intact.

Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island

Bruny Island
Bruny Island, off the coast of Tasmania, is home to the South Bruny National Park, which offers unforgettable coastal scenery that features lush greenery and powerful rock formations. Bring your binoculars because all 11 of the endemic Tasmanian bird species have been spotted in the park.

Other highlights of the island include Australia’s southernmost winery, as well as some spectacular opportunities for tasting local fares such as truffles, chocolates, and cheese.

Take a Bruny Island day cruise for a short but educational trip to this worthy destination.

Scenic lookout over The Neck beach on Tasmania's Bruny Island
Scenic lookout over The Neck beach on Tasmania’s Bruny Island

Heron Island
Heron Island offers a true way to escape. This small cay rests at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, and there are 20 dive sites around the island. Two endangered species of turtles come to Heron Island, year after year to lay their eggs. Visit between November and March for the best chances of seeing them arrive. Between January and early June, you might see the hatchlings heading out to sea.

Turtle Season Escape at Heron Island

Keep in mind that no cell phone reception exists on the island, and the rooms at the resort don’t have televisions — wouldn’t this be the perfect place to unplug when you visit Australia?

Suggested Itinerary:
4-Day Heron Island

Heron Island
Heron Island


If your Australia travel has room for flexibility, you should plan to also visit Papua New Guinea. Better yet, have an entire vacation centered on this island. This last frontier destination boasts a colourful, unique culture that you’ll never forget. More than 800 languages are spoken on the island among the hundreds of tribes, though most people there speak pidgin.

When you aren’t exploring the local culture, you can marvel at the thousands of species of flowering plants that live on the island. Or, you can get your thrills when you go kayaking, canoeing, or diving.

Are you ready for the exotic sites, rare wildlife, and amazing culture of the South Pacific? This region is unlike anywhere else in the world, and the sights and people you meet here will captivate your imagination for years after your visit.

Aerial view of a village on Sepik River
Aerial view of a village on Sepik River
Papua New Guinea - Tribe in Yellow Paint
Papua New Guinea tribe
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Meg Boyd
Meg Boyd

Downunder Product and Marketing Manager - Melbourne-born Meg arrived in Canada in January with no winter coat, one suitcase, a one week booking at a youth hostel, and a sight-unseen job offer at Goway Travel. She thought she’d stay for a year – that was 12 years ago! Never one to shy away from adventure, Meg has been in the industry for 23 years and has journeyed extensively through Europe, Asia and North America. Meg’s heart however belongs to the South Pacific, including New Zealand, Fiji, and her native Australia.

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