Formed by an extensive continental mass (Australia) and by thousands of islands with contrasting landscapes and cultures, Oceania offers an array of attractions for the adventurous souls.
Around the 16th century, during the period of the Great Navigations, Oceania was known as the New World. Nowadays, the continent is subdivided among Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Australasia (a region that includes Australia and New Zealand) and is increasingly explored as a tourist destination. Although Australia occupies almost 90% of the territory of Oceania, the continent is made up of 16 independent countries and several dependencies.
Not only is Oceania seen as an exotic destination in the eyes of many travelers, but it also provides a wide range of adventures – both on land and at sea – to make every thrill-seeker’s heart beat faster.
Water sports in Australia
Among the many things Australia is famous for, water sports are definitely on the top of the list. Aside from diving and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, sea kayaking in Tasmania, crocodile cage diving in Darwin, or jet-skiing in the Sunshine Coast, surfing is probably the one to be embedded the deepest in the culture.
Anyone who has visited the country noticed the close relationship most people have with the sea – possibly due to the fact that the majority of the population lives along the coast. When it comes to surfing, the worship for the sport is so great that one has the impression that everyone surfs. If the waves are good, it is very common to find spots (and beach parking lots) full from sunrise to sunset.
Surfing is practiced all year round in Australia, especially on the part of the Eastern Coast stretching from Sydney all the way to the Gold Coast, Queensland, where the first leg of Quiksilver Pro (one of the contests of the world tour of surfing) takes place at Snapper Rocks. The states of South Australia and Western Australia also offer great options for surfing, albeit being known as “sharky” regions. Among the most famous surf spots in Australia are Kirra, Snapper Rocks, Burleigh Heads, Duranbah (on the Gold Coast), Margaret River (WA), and Bells Beach in Victoria.
Overall, the best season for surfing in Australia is between December and April due to the summer cyclones in the Pacific Ocean. However, there waves all year round, even if in smaller size or consistency. In the summertime, water temperature is usually around 26º C, while in winter it can get as cold as 18º C (or less in places along the south coast), making it is necessary to wear a wetsuit.
All that being said, if surfing is your thing you are bound to find a lot more of it across Oceania, with places of Fiji, French Polynesia and the mighty Teahupoo, and even New Zealand (although it is a bit colder) featuring great surf spots that range from tropical, palm tree-laden islands to rugged coastlines with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop.
Land Adventures in New Zealand
Despite being far from it all, New Zealand is worth every second of the long plane journey. The country is divided into two major major islands and gathers a host of impressive sights and attractions for its compact size. On the North Island, where three-quarters of the population live, summers are relatively warm and there are beautiful beaches (such as those on the Coromandel Peninsula) for surfers as well as for those who simply want to sunbathe. But the North Island’s main assets hides in the interior: active volcanoes, geysers, multicolored lakes, and other unusual geological formations form unreal scenarios such as the Tongariro National Park, featured on The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
As another highlight of the North Island, is Rotorua, the city of volcanoes. Among other reasons, a visit to the area is worth just in order to see the Waiotapu geothermal area. The entire place seems to have originated from a fictional film, with gases coming out of the ground, colorful lakes, geysers, and pools of bubbling mud with suggestive names of “Hell’s Gate” and “Devil’s Pool” – the impression is that everything will explode in a matter of seconds.
Meanwhile, in the sparsely populated South Island, a land of icy winters and mild summers, the adventure attractions are the snowy peaks, gigantic glaciers, a coastline populated by seals and whales, and some of the most beautiful fjords on the planet – Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, among others. Another highlight of the South Island for adventure seekers is the city of Queenstown, where the bungee jump was created. Here, you can choose to jump off a 43-meter platform, ski in one of the region’s renowned resorts, hike up and around ridges like the one leading to Aoraki/Mt. Cook, try skydiving, or explore a series of 4WD, cycling, or quad biking trails around the city. It is no wonder that the city is known as the “World Capital of Adventure Tourism”.
Add to these natural resources splendid wines, vibrant cities like Auckland and Christchurch, friendly people and an exemplary infrastructure of sustainable tourism, and this is one of the most complete and seductive destinations on earth. Still, despite being hard to beat, some of New Zealand’s neighbors (particularly Australia, for its size and infrastructure) also feature great options of land adventures, even if in a smaller scale.
Wildlife Adventure in New Caledonia
Being an island, it is only natural that New Caledonia boasts a variety of water adventures, like surfing, snorkeling, and sailing. And yet, what truly makes this country unique within Oceania is the incredibly rich, exotic, and, to a certain extent, bizarre wildlife.
There is a plethora of diverse landscapes to explore in New Caledonia – from woodlands to underwater worlds and swamps – in which more than three-quarters of the species are endemic to the territory. Creatures like the dugong and giant clams inhabit the islands’ shores, while endangered species like the kagu – which is not only one the country’s most sought-after species for birdwatching but also the official emblem of New Caledonia – can be spotted along the dense mountain forests of the Riviere Bleue Territorial Park. Overall, birdwatching is a very common activity in the islands, especially in the capital Noumea, where most excursions are organized.
Similarly, the coral reefs that surround the main island (Grand Terre) create one of the largest marine reserves in the world, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and home to various species of turtles, exotic crabs, and many tropical seabirds that call this unique environment home. In the month of July, it is also possible to spot humpback whales within the lagoon, as they return from Antartica to give birth.
New Caledonia is also known for its various plant species (more than 160), of which many are endemic to the island. A good place to get close to the country’s rich vegetation is at the Maquis shrubland in the south – which hosts some of the world’s oldest conifers –, around the La Madeleine waterfalls, as well as the mangrove regions of Voh, in the north of the country.
If you are into exploring and getting to know a place’s wildlife, New Caledonia – and the whole of Oceania for that matter – is bound to take your breath away.