Few regions of the world are as family-friendly as the South Pacific. With endless sunshine, sandy beaches, swimming, snorkelling and more on offer, kids will find plenty to keep them active and interested, and you're likely to have an unforgettable family holiday.
Tips for Kids by Region
- Port Villa
From sedate snorkelling to speedy jet-boat rides, you can book an activity that suits your family from one of the waterfront ‘activity huts’.
Your resort will probably have a luxurious pool, but nothing beats the family atmosphere of the city beaches of Anse Vata and Baie des Citrons.
- Amédée Islet
A day trip to this island off Noumea involves a boat ride; a French lighthouse to climb; snorkelling; dancing; and seeing stripy sea snakes.
If you think the kids can handle the dangers of visiting an active volcano, take a trip to Mt Yasur. Some resorts won’t let children under seven go on the trip.
- Loyalty Islands
Great for kids. Consider staying in traditional tribal accommodation; while basic, it’s almost always clean and comfortable.
Don’t Leave Home Without
You'll find the usual supplies you might need in supermarkets and pharmacies in New Caledonia's main towns, but you may want to plan ahead for Vanuatu:
- Disposable nappies are available at supermarkets and stores in Port Vila and Luganville in Vanuatu, and can sometimes be found in shops on smaller islands; however, buy up in Port Vila just in case. If you can, buy biodegradable nappies and nappy wipes in your own country, as rubbish disposal is a problem in Vanuatu and disposable nappies take decades to decompose.
- Baby food can be purchased in Port Vila’s supermarkets but take your own to other islands.
- It’s often cheaper to bring your own insect repellent to Vanuatu.
- To avoid malaria, consider bringing insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets to Vanuatu. It can also be a good idea to impregnate your children’s clothing with permethrin insecticide before you leave.
Vanuatu for Kids
Children and their parents will love Vanuatu; ni-Van kids are outgoing, smiling and welcoming, and so are their parents. Vanuatu has catered for visiting children for decades, so resorts are usually well equipped to look after them. Some in Port Vila have kids clubs, family apartments and lots of activities. Others are child-free or only allow children during Australian and New Zealand school holidays, so plan to meet your needs. Port Vila has plenty of kid-friendly activities. If your children are sand-castle fanatics, keep in mind that not all beaches in Vanuatu are covered in white sand; quite a few are coral or black-sand beaches.
Where in Vanuatu?
Where you take the kids in Vanuatu will depend on your level of adventurousness, but there are a couple of points to keep in mind. Most of the resorts are around Port Vila and Luganville on Santo, which are relatively easy to get to. Tanna also has some good resorts near the airport, so that trip to Mt Yasur is certainly on the cards, and older kids will be in awe of the volcano. Outer island travel is often slow-going in the back of trucks on rough roads or by speedboats that may or may not have life jackets, or on foot. Some consideration should be given to the risks or difficulty of travelling to outer islands with young children.
New Caledonia for Kids
New Caledonia is quite different to Vanuatu: don’t expect your children to be cheek-pinched or whisked away from you to be treated like little kings and queens. They’ll still have plenty of fun interactions with the locals; they just won’t be as intense and gushing as they can be on other islands in the South Pacific. New Caledonia is a little more formal, too, with Noumea’s better restaurants requiring a certain level of decorum. Noumea's aquarium, museum and cultural centre are of a high standard, while touristy highlights such as the Tchou Tchou Train are just plain great fun.
Where in New Caledonia?
New Caledonia's transport infrastructure has been built and maintained with support from France. Domestic air and boat travel is extremely efficient, the roads are amazing, and rental vehicles are available everywhere. While everything you need for a fun family holiday is in or around Noumea, exploring Grande Terre, Île des Pins and the three Loyalty Islands is very feasible as a family. If you're heading out to the Loyalties or Île des Pins, it would pay to prebook your transport out there, a rental car and accommodation.
- Port Vila Kids love the colour, smells and sounds of Vanuatu’s wonderful produce markets. Port Vila’s waterfront market in particular is bright, loud and jam-packed with goodies.
- Noumea Visit Le Marché on a lazy weekend and your troop might happen upon a musical combo playing by the fish section. Even better, there are circus-type fair rides in the parking lot.
- Hideaway Island With some guidance, kids will love posting a letter at Hideaway Island’s underwater post office. It’s in Mele Bay, near Port Vila in Vanuatu.
- Big Blue Vanuatu Children aged five and up (with their parents) can join an organised snorkelling safari that includes a lesson and a floating device if necessary.
- Île aux Canards Known in English as Duck Island, this great spot is a five-minute taxiboat ride from Noumea's Anse Vata beach and features an underwater snorkelling path.
- La Piscine Naturelle Head to Île des Pins in New Caledonia and take the kids snorkelling in its natural, protected aquarium. If they’ve not snorkelled before, see how they handle the resort’s pool first.
- Mele Cascades Climbing and swimming at the Mele Cascades in Port Vila is terrific natural fun (though it involves a bit of a walk to the top).
- Mt Yasur Nothing will beat looking into a real live volcano. Give tweens and teens a new appreciation of geography with a visit to Vanuatu’s Tanna. They’ll be driven over an ash plain and up a steam-spouting road, before seeing a fireworks display of real live lava. Cool.
- Remote Islands Show kids how simple life can be by swapping the luxury resort for a bungalow on a remote island. In Vanuatu almost any island is remote but try Port Olry or Lonnoc Beach on Santo. In New Caledonia, try Moague 'tribal lodging' on Ouvéa in New Caledonia's Loyalty Islands.
- Le Parc des Grandes Fougères For a break from the beach, head to the Park of the Great Ferns near La Foa on Grande Terre for a walk in the bush. Half the fun is driving there.
- Rom dance Children will be entranced by the islanders’ dancing, singing and chanting; in Vanuatu, see the Rom dance on Ambrym.
- Leweton Cultural Village If you’re visiting, take the kids to a dance at this cultural centre near Luganville on Santo.
- Ekasup Cultural Village If you’re sticking to Port Vila, you can see dancing at this cultural village.
- Tjibaou Cultural Centre It’s a little bit more difficult to see dance in New Caledonia, but there’s a Kanak dance at this cultural centre in Noumea each Tuesday and Thursday.
Before you go
If you’re looking for some parental time out while on your family holiday, make enquiries about the kids club at your resort before you book. Confirm that it will be operating when you are there; some of Vanuatu’s kids clubs only operate during Australian school-holiday periods (a good time to go, as there will be plenty of other children around).
Teach your children a few words of French for New Caledonia, and some common words of Bislama for Vanuatu.
Families often book into Vanuatu and New Caledonia’s large resorts for that ‘family-holiday experience’ complete with kids club, kids meals and so on, but smaller family-run hotels and bungalows are worth a look, too. Accommodation on Vanuatu’s outer islands can be challenging for kids; basic bungalow accommodation often doesn’t come with flush toilets, running water or electricity. In contrast, even the cheapest bungalow in New Caledonia will have clean sheets and electricity, with a clean bathroom not too far away.
New Caledonia has well-stocked pharmacies on all of its islands that can offer basic healthcare advice. In Vanuatu, pharmacies and large hospitals are limited to Luganville and Port Vila.
Dehydration develops very quickly in children when a fever and/or diarrhoea and vomiting occur. Bottled water is available in both countries, though tap water can be drunk in most areas of New Caledonia.
The presence of malaria in Vanuatu is a concern on outer islands; dress children in long-sleeved tops and long pants during the times when mosquitoes are biting, and keep them covered in insect repellent. Malaria and dengue fever are much more dangerous to children than to adults.
There is no malaria in New Caledonia, and no rabies in either country.