Over the last few years, my family and I have taken to enjoying Christmas holidays with close friends. We chat about destinations and do some research on a list of locations.
If you are like us, we all enjoy warm weather, beach locations, easy-going, low key kind of stuff. Budget is also a big consideration, as our group includes three adults and five teenagers. We were all surprised at how reasonable that 'other' Pacific island paradise turned out to be ... Vanuatu. So, why not consider a family holiday in Vanuatu?
Port Vila (Efate Island), is the capital and only 3½ hours from Sydney, a little more from Melbourne, a little less from Brisbane. The international airport is only a 10-minute drive from town and all major resorts and hotels. So, how great is it that you get on the plane in the morning and are relaxing by the beach that very afternoon? Air Vanuatu offered some good deals and we found their service very pleasant. Once in Vanuatu getting around is easy with the local taxis being plentiful, cheap and easy to hail.
We quickly met some locals and got the run down on what to do for our two week holiday. Our friendly taxi driver had given us his mobile number and he became our default tour guide, and had inside knowledge of some ‘secret locations’.
The locals are extremely friendly and accommodating. We found Vanuatu to be a place of adventure and had fun doing things like driving around in a hire boat, excited about what was around the next bend!
The main island of Efate is quite small, and you can drive around it in a day, so it’s easy to get to some beautiful spots. We went to the Blue Pool more than once because we could! It's absolutely stunning and well worth more than one visit.
Hideaway Island offers great snorkelling and that real tropical island feel.
What a pleasant surprise the dining and food options are in Vanuatu! Our first meal was takeaway chicken and chips from the local milk bar. Our last was an exquisite French-style 3-course meal by the water. Neither was expensive and both offered great choice and value.
One of my favourite things was exploring and tasting new things at the local food market. It seemed to be open all the time (24/7!) and when combined with the local supermarket, organising low cost and nutritious food was easy.
One of the things that still strikes me long after the holiday is the sense of deep connection that I was left with. Saying goodbye to the locals who had become our friends was a little sad and is a mark of the powerful impression Vanuatu left on me. I know when I go back though that my friends, the happiest people on earth, will be waiting ...
Wayne Stickel is an entrepreneur, life coach and founder of Men’s Revolution, which runs fathers' groups and workshops on the northern beaches of Sydney. Having travelled extensively, Wayne shares his passion with his three teenage children Amelia, Lauren and Sam.