Australia & the Pacific
Top places to go in Australia & the Pacific in 2020
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In a country filled with breathtaking islands, Bora Bora is special. From the brilliant turquoise lagoons that nestle up against the emerald slopes of its dormant volcanoes to the fragrant frangipani welcome leis that tickle your nostrils with their sweetness, a visit to this vivid paradise is a delight to every sense. Luxury has become Bora Bora’s calling card, with expensive overwater bungalows beckoning honeymooners and A-list celebrities from around the world. But as luxe as the resort scene can be, Bora Bora’s true appeal is the opportunity to drink up its marvelous panoramas (and mai tais), enjoy fresh fish and fruit, and slip into the warm coral-fringed waters. Recently, several family-run lodges have begun opening up around the island, including the charming three-bungalow Rohotu Fare Lodge (starting at $398), meaning there is now a somewhat affordable, laid-back way to experience Bora Bora. This plus the recent influx of flights available to Tahiti from the U.S are helping make a visit to this once far-flung paradise more accessible than ever before. Manuia (cheers) to that.
If you do decide to opt for something sleek and swanky, you’ll want to head to the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora to laze away the day from the deck of one of their 100 overwater bungalows, some with plunge pools, which are all designed with soothing cream-colored interiors that quite literally shimmer courtesy of their mother of pearl accents. Come next year, beloved boho-cool hotel brand Coqui Coqui will debut a single residence beside their chic, fragrance-filled boutique on Matira Beach. The brand’s keen eye for design promises to make the residence not just a gateway into Bora Bora, but a destination in itself.
The best times to go to Bora Bora are November and April. Think temperatures in the mid-70s to mid-80s (with the perfect tropical breeze).
Instead of flying from Tahiti to Bora Bora, consider sailing. Hop a short flight from Tahiti to Raiatea before boarding one of Tahiti Yacht Charter’s catamarans. All cruises are tailor-made and include the opportunity to discover the more remote areas of the Leeward Islands, from snorkeling in hidden lagoons to picking up local rum on Taha’a.
With its Vancouver-meets-Santa Barbara vibes, Brisbane has way more to offer than just a jumping-off point to some of the best beaches in Australia. Relaxed with routinely great weather and plenty of culture, nature, and nightlife, Brisbane offers visitors a chance to partake in the typically great Australian experience in an extremely laid-back scene. But don’t discount the city’s capacity for fun–locals and travelers alike are bound to find adventure, entertainment, and massive amounts of cocktails within reach of any activity. The annual Brisbane Festival celebrates theater, music, dance, circus, opera, and major public events like pyrotechnic and laser-light spectacles. Past performances have included an Aboriginal adaptation of King Lear, an all-male Singaporean cast performing The Importance of Being Earnest, Gatsby-esque burlesque shows, and dance-battle royales. But besides its major cultural festivities, Brisbane routinely hosts sporting competitions including tennis, rugby, and soccer matches. But it’s the everyday encounters with Brisbanite lifestyle that makes the city so irresistible: sampling the night noodle markets and parties at the man-made beach, cycling and scooting across the city promenade and through the City Botanic Gardens, meandering through extensive museums (Queensland Museum, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, and State Library of Queensland), or getting active rappelling the Kangaroo Cliffs or climbing Brisbane’s Story Bridge. Just wandering around the city, you’re bound to encounter outdoor, free, and approachable activities taking place.
The South Bank is the best neighborhood to stay in–close to restaurants, parklands, museums, and within walking distance to pretty much everything you want to experience in the city. For the best of the nightlife scene, try Fortitude Valley, where there are plenty of affordable-yet-chic stays (check out The Calile Hotel on trendy James Street or the whimsically hip Ovolo The Valley). More upscale, centrally located lodging includes the Emporium Hotel and Westin Brisbane.
Brisbane’s weather is pretty perfect, but there are more perfect times than others to experience it. Drier months April and May offer great beach weather without being too hot. Winter (June-August) is better for those splendidly cool temps. September is warming up to what can be a hot summer season (November-February), but it is also a bit rainier than in the fall.
Snuggle real-life koalas and hand-feed free-ranging kangaroos at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, home to a wide range of unique Australian species of adorableness.
Christchurch has seen more than its fair share of tragedies, from back-to-back earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 to devastating shootings in early 2019. But the city of roughly 400,000 people has wasted no time getting back on its feet. Not only is Christchurch considered the “Friendliest city in New Zealand,” according to a 2019 poll , but the evolving metropolis rewards visitors with colonial-era British architecture, enormous parks, panoramic gondola rides, relaxing boat tours down the Avon River, and an exploding public art scene that emerged after the earthquakes. For instance, 185 Chairs, a moving outdoor installation by New Zealand artist Peter Majendie, serves as a memorial to the victims. Thanks to its relatively compact nature, Christchurch is easy to explore on foot or by bike. Either way, be sure to make pit stops at leafy-green enclaves like Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens, then swing by the immersive Canterbury Museum where you can get lost in interactive natural-history collections or unpack the natural disasters at the permanent Quake City exhibition. When your feet start to protest, hop on the historic tram for a scenic 50-minute loop around Cathedral Square, the Avon River, Victoria Square, and more. From a home base in Christchurch, there’s a buffet of nearby adventures—think waterfalls and wildflowers in Arthur’s Pass National Park, rural paradise on the Akaroa Peninsula (home to sheep, dolphins, and penguins), and the celebrated winelands of Marlborough up north.
Just opened this month, the new Novotel Christchurch Airport Hotel makes those late-night arrivals and early morning departures much more bearable. If you love to wake up in the heart of it all, the Observatory Lodge—located inside the Christchurch Arts Centre—will aim to deliver an intimate atmosphere, central location and bevy of local artwork when it opens in 2020. For those seeking the lap of luxury, The George overlooks Hagley Park and promises a one-to-one ratio of staff to guests so you’ll want for nothing. For those on a budget, the old Jailhouse Accommodation is a surprisingly comfy option: Built in the city’s 19th-century Addington Prison, the unique address is better known for its high ceilings, arched windows, and modern dorms.
Christchurch is beautiful year-round, even in the dead of winter, however, summer (December to February) tends to be the most popular season to visit. While the city rarely feels overly crowded, the spring (from September to November) and autumn (March to May) are worthy alternatives if you prefer quiet streets, temperate weather, and dramatic foliage.
Don’t skip the strip malls. They might not look like much, but these humble establishments are full of surprising restaurants and shops. To get you started, check out Dimitris Greek Food for big-as-your-head souvlakis packed with grilled lamb, chicken, beef—or a combo of all three—and wrapped in pillowy pita bread.