The Best Islands in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific
How many different shades of blue are there in nature? It’s a question you might contemplate as you gaze out at the seas surrounding the best islands in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific — where it’s all about leaving your cell phone behind and dialing in to the beauty in front of you.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.
Related: The World's Best Awards 2019
Most of this year’s favorites lay claim to dazzling beaches. A notable exception: Waiheke, New Zealand, which snagged the No. 3 spot thanks to its rugged beauty, stellar wineries and restaurants, and the ease with which it can be reached from the mainland (a quick 45-minute ferry ride from Auckland).
Other destinations on the list require a more serious travel commitment, but the payoffs make the effort worthwhile. French Polynesia’s mountainous Mo'orea (No. 2) is frequently cited on this list thanks to its family-friendly culture, famous beaches, and incomparable diving on the Garden of Roses coral reef. Its neighbor, Huahine (No. 5), is less familiar but just as beautiful, with a white-sand coastline as glorious as they come. Stay in an overwater bungalow at the secluded Royal Huahine (formerly the Te Tiare Beach Resort), where you can snorkel off your porch. One reader dubbed the isle “Everything you expect a tropical paradise to be.”
As for the place claiming the No. 1 spot, it actually consists of 332 islands, a paradise that also justifiably ranks among this year’s best islands in the world. Read on to find out who won the accolade.
5. Huahine, French Polynesia
4. Cook Islands
3. Waiheke Island, New Zealand
2. Mo'orea, French Polynesia
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 87.67
1. Fiji Islands
Fiji’s two most populated islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, are well worth a visit, but if you’re craving time away from it all, consider more secluded spots. They’re easy to find, given that 332 islands comprise Fiji, and only a third of them are inhabited. Namena Island, which has a marine reserve, is a top diving spot, while Beqa Island has one of the finest barrier reefs in the South Pacific, as well as excellent bird-watching. Few places in the world have more luxurious lodgings, evidenced by the new Malolo Island property from Six Senses — the company as a whole was voted this year’s best hotel brand — and the ultra-exclusive Vatuvara, a private-island resort where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle spent their honeymoon.
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2019.