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6 Fantasy Island Escapes for Now: With so much challenging news, a great change of pace is to “travel” in your mind to a fantasy island.
6 Fantasy Island Escapes for Now: Pacific Ocean:
Rarotonga, Cook Islands (New Zealand), Oceania:
Rarotonga and the neighboring island Aitutaki are two of my personal favorities. I had the trip of a lifetime for 17 days one June. One nice dividend in traveling to Rarotonga: It is easy to start with a day trip in New Zealand on the way, continue to the Cook Islands and then finish up in Fiji or back in New Zealand. The latter’s North Island with a climate similar to California offered lots of adventure from skiing on an active volcano to the next day going white water rafting.
Rarotonga has miles of beaches, including stretches for kayaking and horseback riding. Beyond the beaches, you can find authentic local cuisine, tropical sunrises and sunsets. It is a quick day trip to Aitutaki and excursions to nearby uninhabited atolls via catamaran/other small boats.
The Cook Islands are about 1,000 miles from American Samoa and also from Tahiti. Easiest access appears to be flying from Australia or New Zealand. Prepare for a long flight from the US. I flew from Washington, DC to Los Angeles with a few hours layover in Hawaii in the middle of the night. After arriving in Auckland, New Zealand and spending the day sightseeing with a cab driver, I boarded a jet that night to fly three hours back east to land in Rarotonga.
For more information, click here.
Photo by Thomas Griggs, Unsplash
Easter Island, Oceania:
About 900 miles at sea, unlike so many “fantasy islands”, Easter Island is not an archipelago but a single island. A territory of Chile, it is famous world-wide for its archaeologial monuments. The 900 statues known as “moai” are the best known of Easter Island’s tourist sights. With Hanga Roa as its main town and principal population center, there are multiple places to explore. Activities available range from diving and surfing to water sports in general. Beyond the miles of beaches, there are opportunities for biking and horse back riding to Rano Kau Volcano, one of many volcanoes on the island. Caves dot the island and have been a draw for adventure travelers to explore. They are largely made up of lava tubes resulting from prior volcanic eruptions. Ana Kai Tangata is one known for its ceiling paintings of local bird species.
The island is made even more exotic by its isolated nature. It is located 2,500 miles east of Tahiti and 2,300 miles west of Chile. However, as one prior visitor pointed out to me it would not be an ideal spot in case of an accident or serious illness.
Easter Island is relatively easy to get to via Lan Chile’s one daily 6 hour flight from Santiago. (If you have traveled from California to Honolulu, it is a comparable flight.)
For more information, click here.
6 Fantasy Island Escapes for Now: Indian Ocean:
Photo by Gary Bell
Christmas Island is one of three islands which are Australian territories. Christmas Island is very different than our other featured “fantasy islands”. To start, it is based in the Indian Ocean not the Pacific about 200 miles south of the Indonesian island of Java and almost 900 miles northwest of Australia. With a population of between 1,400-1800 residents, the main town is quaintly named Flying Fish Cove.
The island has had a lengthy history. It was first spotted by explorers in 1615 and was given its name on Christmas Day 1643. During World War II, the island was occupied by the Japanese. In 1958, Christmas Island became a territory of Australia.
Besides rainforests, there is also a national park for trekking and for viewing and photographing multiple colorful species. As would be expected, there is an array of beach activities from leisurely strolls and swimming to snorkelling and diving. For reluctant trekkers, the good news is that there are said to be no poisonous snakes or dangerous animals! Endangered species include the Christmas Island blind snake, the flying fox and the shrew.
6 Fantasy Island Escapes for Now: From the Pacific to the Arctic!
Photo by Pitcairn Islands Tourism
These islands are the subject of legends dating back to HMAV Bounty and its fabled mutiny. The islands are now populated by descendants of the HMAV Bounty mutineers and Polynesian inhabitants at that time dating back to 1790. Pitcairn Island is the most famous of the group but is also surrounded by three other islands: Henderson, Ducie and Oeno. In addition to having the third largest marine reserve in the world, Henderson Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The two small remaining islands of Oeno and Ducie are less often on tourists’ itineraries.
As part of the sole UK Pacific Ocean Overseas Territory, they only have 50 residents!
The Pitcairn Islands are a real contender with Easter Island as one of the most remote places on earth. In the virtual center of the Pacific Ocean, they are approximately 1,300 miles from both Tahiti and Easter Island and about 3,100 miles from South America and New Zealand.Just getting there can be an adventure. One recommended approach is to fly from Tahiti on a once a week flight to Mangareva in the Gambier Islands (about 1,000 miles southeast of Tahiti. From there, it is only a 32 hour boat ride to arrive at the Pitcairn Islands!!
For more information, click here.
Photo by Vince Gx, Unsplash
Svalbard, set in the Arctic Circle, is comprised of a series of small islands. It is the last inhabited location in Norway and one of the last actually in the whole world before you reach the North Pole!
Very different from the other “fantasy islands”, this archipelago that makes up Svalbard is still exotic while not at all a palm-fringed tropical paradise. It provides a good vantage point for both the “northern lights” and the “midnight sun”. In addition to hardy tourists, it is mainly visited by commercial mining companies and fishing trwalers. Spitsbergen is the largest island and the only one with permanent residents. With over 2,000 inhabitants, it is said to have “more polar bears than people”! It is also home to other wildlife, including Arctic foxes, reindeer and glaciers.
Longyearbyen located on Spitsbergen is the chief town. Other popular sights for tourists are the bird sanctuary, local brewery and what is claimed to be the northernmost sushi restaurant! Despite its far north location, Svalbard has a fairly mild climate with a range of average temperatures from 6.8°F in winter to 42.8°F in summer.
The easiest way to get there is a flight from Norway. For more information, click here.
Photo by New Caledonia Tourism
New Caledonia, Oceania:
Having had a neighbor in Washington, DC that came from New Caledonia, I had already been fascinated by its remote location in the southwest Pacific Ocean. It is south of Vanuatu almost 400 miles and about 750 miles from Australia’s East Coast. To give it some geographic context: It is north of New Zealand but twice as close to Antartica than it is to South America. Governed under a special accord with France (12,000 miles away!), New Caledonia is comprised of several islands with its capital at Nouméa, a city of 100,000. Ideal for hiking, diving, all water sports and beachcombing, it also has an array of activities and sights from museum and galleries to an active nightlife and dining. Highlights of surviving French colonial architecture include the old Nouméa City Hall, the Maison Célières and Château Hagen. To learn more about local Kanak culture, you can check out the Tjibaou Cultural Center. (Kanaks were the islands’ original Melanesian inhabitants and currently represent about 39% of New Caledonia’s population.)
Fashionistas also can look for the latest styles prowling through the Port Moselle Market, the largest shopping center in New Caledonia.
Beyond Nouméa, there are four other regions to explore. First are the 5 “Loyalty Islands with the lead competitors as a true paradise being Ouvéa and the Isle of Pine. The latter was discovered in the 18th century by Cook whose name was given, as noted above, to the islands that include Rarotonga and Aitutaki. The remaining three are: (i) the West Coast which has a UNESCO World Heritage lagoon and teeming with cattle, (ii) the lush East Coast which has much of the authentic feeling of the islands’ early days and (iii) the Great South which is dominated by its rainforest and green tourism.
Easiest access appears to be flying from Australia or New Zealand.
Which fantasy island is the best destination?
One of the realities I have found is that dreaming about a fantasy island may work better than actually getting there. When I saw the small boat that is the only way to cross the open Pacific Ocean to get to the Pitcairn Islands, I decided it was better just to watch the video!
Send us your own list of fantasy islands via our Solo Trekker 4 U Contacts page.