The region stretches down the ‘dragon’s tail’ at the eastern end of mainland Papua New Guinea and out into the Coral and Solomon Seas, taking in the hundreds of islands and atolls of Milne Bay Province.
The mainland is divided by the Owen Stanley Range, which rises rapidly from the northern and southern coasts to peaks of 3500m to 4000m. Major roads are few: the Magi and Hiritano Hwys extend from Port Moresby, while in Oro Province the only road of any length runs from Popondetta to Kokoda.
Mt Lamington, near Popondetta, remains a mildly active volcano and further east there are volcanoes near Tufi. The section of coast around Cape Nelson has unique tropical ‘fjords’ (rias); their origin is volcanic rather than glacial.
The islands of Milne Bay Province are divided into six main groups: the Samarai group; D’Entrecasteaux group; the Trobriand Islands; Muyua (Woodlark) Island; the Conflict and Engineer groups; and the 300km-long Louisiade Archipelago. They range from tiny dots to mountainous islands such as Fergusson, Normanby and Goodenough, which, while only 26km wide, soars to 2566m at the summit of Mt Oiautukekea, making it one of the most steeply sided islands on earth.