Image © Bruno Kataoka courtesy Vanuatu Tourism
Lisa Schofield and family kick back a gear in Vanuatu, where they discover that action and relaxation can mix.
AAfter a busy year and an even busier one looming, we needed a holiday with a focus on relaxation, quality time and just the right amount of adventure and action – if we wanted it. So Vanuatu – just a 3.5-hour non-stop flight from Sydney – and its balmy weather, fantastic accommodation options and wide range of things to do (or not do), had us at hello (or rather, halo).
Image © Aleney de Winter
For my water-loving sons, aquatic fun is always high on our agenda, so after a quick detour to The Reef Vanuatu Zoological to visit rescued wildlife, we head around the island to the crystal-clear waters of Eton Beach. Kicking ourselves that we’d left the snorkelling gear behind, we take turns spotting schools of fish circling us as we share a lone pair of goggles I find in my bag. Still wet, we head further up the road to the deep turquoise of the Blue Lagoon, a picturesque swimming hole that’s a favourite with locals and visitors, where, with rope swings dotted around the water, an adrenaline hit is guaranteed. I watch my sons and husband scale the tree to jump off the highest rope swing, wondering how my biggest ‘kid’ would go, only to watch my husband belly-flop loudly to the laughter of swimmers watching with me.
Snorkelling becomes a new-found passion, and there is a wide range of snorkelling choices, even for newbies like us. We enjoy a lazy potter among the starfish and sea cucumbers in the waters off Erakor Island Resort; we dive down to the underwater Post Box on Hideaway Island; and we treat ourselves to a day on the water with Sailaway Cruises, jumping from a trimaran to explore beautiful untouched coral gardens and deep blue ocean trenches.
For those looking to get the heart pumping a little faster, there are loads of options in Vanuatu and while I am happily settled by the pool with my book, my husband claims some “boys’ time”, taking our sons on an off-road beach buggy tour with the experienced Off Road Adventures team. Enjoying a heady mix of bush and beach bashing, with a dip in the ocean to wash off the mud afterwards, this is an adrenaline-junkie winner, although there are definite ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour (and Mum never finds out about it)’ vibes on their return.
Zorbing, Vanuatu-style, is another must-do for my guys, so we join locals careering down a steep slope in a zorb and water slide at the Wet ‘n’ Wild Adventure Park.
Image © Ian Wilkinson courtesy Vanuatu Tourism
For larger families, private holiday rentals or resort villas and apartments offer space for everyone to spread out. The award-winning boutique Poppy’s on the Lagoon Resort is an excellent option with accommodation choices including luxury bungalows and huge three-bedroom villas, catering to any family’s needs.
Au Bon Marche is the main supermarket chain if you’re self-catering, however, we suggest you buy your fruit and vege from Port Vila’s food and vegetable markets. Bursting at the seams with the freshest local produce, the market brings out our inner MasterChefs as we inhale fresh herbs and hand-picked salad greens and enjoy the sweetest pineapple we’ve ever tasted, which our 12-year-old carefully counts out local coins to treat us to.
From quick and easy resort lunches to five-star dining experiences with sunsets and views to match, we eat like kings. Watching the sun dip below the horizon from a pretty table on the beach is a family highlight, as is our final dinner at The Blue Marlin Club, where we soak in another sunset stunner with exquisite food and service.
Image © Aleney de Winter
A culture hit
We like to take away more than Instagramworthy photos and local trinkets from any holiday, and in Vanuatu we immerse ourselves in this beautiful Pacific Island culture in a natural, relaxed way. After our taxi driver Kora, shyly asks if we’d like to see his village, we are proudly shown the village church, resplendent in purple, that the villagers sheltered in during the devastation of Cyclone Pam in 2015. Sometimes it’s the simple things that can have the most impact.
We go to Vanuatu for a relaxing family holiday in a sublime setting, and we leave having experienced this and so much more. It doesn’t take long to settle into ‘island time’, and when your kids are arguing about whose turn it is for the kayak, rather than the Xbox, you know you’ve nailed it.
This article appeared in volume 55 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.
Image © Tourism Media courtesy Vanuatu Tourism
Air Vanuatu operates direct flights from Sydney and Brisbane.
Mini-buses are the easiest (and most fun) way to travel. Simply wave down any van with a “B” on the number plate going in the direction you’re heading. Alternatively you can hire a taxi for day trips.
Port Vila is a popular stop for cruise ships; where possible schedule activities when cruise ships aren’t in port, so you can enjoy Vanuatu without the crowds. Avoid Mele Cascades and Hideaway Island when a cruise ship is in. Most passengers start to head back to their ship by 3pm.