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Summer holiday in Vanuatu

Vanuatu is a picture-perfect string of 83 islands in the South Pacific – less than four hours by plane from Australia’s east coast – and offers so much more than a lazy island escape. It is a destination with spunk, one that offers a little something for everyone, from food-lovers and sun-seekers to adrenaline-junkies and beyond.

It’s all here, Mother Nature at her finest: lush rainforests, majestic volcanoes, jungle waterfalls, soothing hot springs, clear tropical seas, vibrant coral reefs, deserted beaches and quiet lagoons where dugongs wallow.

The recent completion of repair work to Vanuatu’s Port Vila Bauerfield Airport, following 2015’s Cyclone Pam, marks a new era of tourism for Vanuatu with more flights running to the island paradise from Brisbane, Sydney and Auckland, and a multitude of hotel openings and reopenings over the coming year.

vanuatu with kids

The warm people of Vanuatu

One of the most family-friendly destinations in the Pacific, Vanuatu’s warm people – the Ni-Vanuatu – are ready and waiting to welkam you and your pikinini to their pristine shores.

In fact, the nation’s happy-hearted people are one of the key ingredients in making Vanuatu such a perfect place; their sense of community and culture offers a sense of friendliness and familiarity that extends to visitors and, in particular, to children.

The capital, Port Vila, which is set on the beautiful deep harbour of the main island of Efate, offers an abundance of family-friendly resorts with a range of kid-centric activities, kids’ clubs, great restaurants, water sports and spa facilities for mum and dad.

So good are the resort offerings, especially following the extensive renovations and refurbishments many have undergone since Cyclone Pam, you could be forgiven for not wanting to venture too far from your not-so-humble abode. But it’s well worth getting your troops mobilised, because there is so much to see and do.

Vanuatu with kids

Family activities in Vanuatu

Efate is easy to explore with a choice of kid-friendly tours visiting the island’s most exciting highlights, or if you want to go it alone, public transport is convenient and hassle-free. Taxis operate day and night and a local minibus service covers the main routes from sunrise to sunset.

Stop at one of the dozens of incredible snorkelling and swimming spots, including Eton Beach, a long white stretch of beach and startlingly blue water, and the jaw-dropping Mele Cascades, where the kids can paddle in the natural pools at the top of the majestic waterfall.

A visit to a cultural village is always a huge hit with kids – and not only for the heart-attack-inducing greeting from the spear-wielding tribesman who will undoubtedly spring noisily out from the undergrowth. They are sure to be equally intrigued by the extraordinary tales of the island’s pre-colonial history and culture, demonstrations of local customs, including cooking up some traditional fare, and eye-watering fire walking performances.

A cruise on Havannah Harbour is another must for the family bucket list, with all ages sure to be delighted with the castaway vibe of the Coongoola, a timber sailing ketch. The day trip includes turtle time at Tranquillity Island Resort’s Turtle Sanctuary, as well as plenty of stops for watery fun at pretty Hapi Tok Beach and the glorious ‘Sun & Moon Bay’ before you raise the sails for the return trip home.

More adventurous families can take on the six ziplines, two suspension bridges and an adrenaline-pumping 200-metre-long zipline that soars 80 metres above a canyon at Vanuatu Jungle Zipline. If you prefer your action on ground level or in the water, head to Wet ’n’ Wild Adventure Park, where you’ll find activities for all ages including Zorbing, giant water slides, segways and go karts.

Vanuatu with kids

Eating in Vanuatu

With its blend of French and island influences, foodie families will enjoy Port Vila’s restaurants, which cater for every taste. The Nambawan Café is the spot for harbour views, pizzas and all-day breakfast, and the kids will adore the Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday outdoor moonlit movie nights.

If you fancy something a little offbeat, the iconic L’Houstalet is famous for flying fox and wild pigeon. However a Melanesian feast is the not-to-be-missed experience as spectacular displays of traditional dancing, along with tables laden with local cuisine, will prove a feast for both the eyes and the stomach.


Beyond Efate

Vanuatu's 82 other islands are often overlooked by families, which is a big mistake, as it is on these – all just short flights from Efate – that you’ll find the real adventure.

Vanuatu’s largest island, Espiritu Santo, is all coconut-fringed beaches lined with powdery white sand and majestic mountains overlooking startlingly blue swimming holes. It is also renowned for its snorkelling and world-class diving – among the corals you will find there’s nobody but you, your snorkelling gear and the fishies.

Tanna Island is home to Mount Yasur, one of the world’s most accessible active volcanoes; you can stand on the very edge of the live volcano and watch nature’s dazzling pyrotechnics in action. Bring your postcards to drop in the world’s only ‘volcano post’ or, if your family are fans of extreme sports, grab a board to ‘surf’ the volcano from the crater rim to the moon-like terrain of the ash plain.

Pentecost Island is an adrenaline-junkie’s dream. Renowned as the birthplace of bungee jumping, between April and June every year local men and boys as young as seven jump from 20-metre-high wooden towers in a perilous age-old ritual called the naghol, with only a vine attached to their legs. While fascinating to watch, the ritual, believed to ensure a good yam harvest and fertility for men, is definitely not one to try at home.

This article featured in volume 48 of Holidays with kids. Enjoyed it? Subscribe to see more!

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