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Old Feb 5, 10, 11:38 pm   #1
 
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Exotic stopovers between US and Brisbane?

I have a business trip in July to Brisbane, and am considering bringing along the whole family (eight of us) from the US to make a vacation of it. We have been to the typical spots in Eastern Australia before (Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns) and while they are certainly worth a second visit, we are collectively in the mood to do something rather more exotic. We are the kind of people who are far more interested in remarkable natural beauty or bizarre flora and fauna than, say, urban nightlife and museums. It seems like it has been too long since I woke up someplace and thought "I can't believe I am actually here".

We may have up to a couple of weeks to work with. What would any of you recommend as an unforgettable place to visit/explore in the general South Pacific area?

Having been to (and loved) Thailand and New Zealand, those would not necessarily be at the top of our list this time around. Other than that, we haven't traveled in Southeast Asia or the South Pacific at all. While not being beach people by any means, we were thinking that we had never been anyplace (well, except Hawaii) of a Polynesian culture. However, are there really places where one can get completely away from the beach resort culture, and yet remain thoroughly safe? I had been thinking maybe Papua New Guinea as off the beaten path, but then a few things I have been reading online have made me doubt both how practical it would be to get anyplace interesting there (from a transportation standpoint - I do like to have the independence of driving wherever I go, so a lack of roads can be a problem), and whether it is truly a safe destination.

New Caledonia? Christmas Island (would love to be there for a crab migration, but I don't know when that takes place)?

I feel I am unusually ignorant about that corner of the world, which is precisely why I would like to explore a bit.

Any recommendations will be appreciated. Of course, it would be a big plus for any possible destination if it could viably be included as a stopover of sorts in an air ticket (award or otherwise) US-Brisbane-US, or at least be relatively inexpensive to reach.
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Old Feb 6, 10, 3:09 am   #2
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NAN (Fiji) is just about the only option for an award ticket stopover (Air Pacific award on AA, etc.). Otherwise SE Asia is a few thousand miles in the wrong direction, and most of Polynesia doesn't have air service except via AKL. Of course there are many somewhat unspoiled islands, though life is tough (do you really want no electricity, for example?). Cost gets high quite rapidly unless you are flexible with travel plans (and you aren't for that size/type of group). Probably renting a house in Fiji for a week would be your most cost-effective option. While parts of Fiji are touristified, other parts are not and the natives are charming. Plus a culture that values children (hotel staff play ball with kids there, for example). If you want more exotic, charter a yacht in Fiji.
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Old Feb 6, 10, 1:22 pm   #3
 
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NAN (Fiji) is just about the only option for an award ticket stopover (Air Pacific award on AA, etc.). Otherwise SE Asia is a few thousand miles in the wrong direction, and most of Polynesia doesn't have air service except via AKL. Of course there are many somewhat unspoiled islands, though life is tough (do you really want no electricity, for example?). Cost gets high quite rapidly unless you are flexible with travel plans (and you aren't for that size/type of group). Probably renting a house in Fiji for a week would be your most cost-effective option. While parts of Fiji are touristified, other parts are not and the natives are charming. Plus a culture that values children (hotel staff play ball with kids there, for example). If you want more exotic, charter a yacht in Fiji.
Thanks for the input. I will certainly take another look at Fiji, which I had sort of written off as too common/touristy (I do tend to have a fascination with seriously out-of-the-way places and curiosities of geography, Tristan da Cunha, St. Pierre et Miquelon, Svalbard, Point Roberts, WA, that sort of thing). But perhaps Fiji could be the starting point for some exploration in that area. I do like the idea of chartering a yacht, which I would not have thought of. I will definitely investigate that possibility.

For anyone else reading the thread, I should clarify that while it would be great if any destinations recommended happened to make a viable "stopover" of sorts, maybe I shouldn't have put that in the thread title. A side trip to SE Asia, Indian Ocean destinations, etc. would be perfectly viable.

And as to true "stopovers", I wonder about the possibility of viable routings via South America (we are coming from the eastern US, so that would not be so much out of the way).
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Old Feb 6, 10, 5:53 pm   #4
 
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Norfolk Island is nice part of the world and quite out of the way so not overrun with tourists.
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Old Feb 6, 10, 6:09 pm   #5
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Flights between Australia and SA are in extremely high demand -- so high fares and limited availability. Many wind up flying SCL-LAX-SYD as the SCL-AKL-SYD flight is sold out, for example. QF does fly EZE-SYD. However it is basically adding 50% to trip length; most wouldn't consider that on the way.

The outer islands of Fiji can be quite pristine. The main part is like Hawaii, just much less densely developed (sort of like Waikiki in the 60s, so quite nice). The more exotic islands are hard to get to, don't have daily flights and can be boring unless you are going there for specific activities like diving or sailing. Easter Island is a great destination but really difficult to get to (LA flies SCL-IPC-PPT on alternate days). Definitely not on the way to BNE.
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Old Feb 6, 10, 6:57 pm   #6
 
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Easter Island is a great destination but really difficult to get to (LA flies SCL-IPC-PPT on alternate days). Definitely not on the way to BNE.
Thanks for the further suggestions. I had, with some regret, years ago written off IPC as a future destination, since LAN seemed to be charging quite an unjustifiable premium to fly there. The joys of monopolies...
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Old Feb 6, 10, 8:37 pm   #7
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Thanks for the further suggestions. I had, with some regret, years ago written off IPC as a future destination, since LAN seemed to be charging quite an unjustifiable premium to fly there. The joys of monopolies...
Yes -- fares are similarly high for some of the other islands that you are considering (such as Christmas Island).

The trick for going to IPC is simple: include it in a RTW fare, such as an xONEx fare product. Then it counts the same as ORD-LAX etc! The RTW fare products might be useful to you (they allow 12 months to use the flights, have unlimited stopovers, etc.). Unfortunately most exclude the minor airlines (such as Air Pacific, the Fiji flag carrier) so they will fly you LAX-BNE direct but not around the Pacific. Of course there are 100 different products out there and some do cover more (generally for higher price or less favourable terms).
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Old Feb 6, 10, 11:19 pm   #8
 
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Could look at Noumea flying to Nadi and then onto Brisbane with Air Pacific, then Air Calin to Noumea.
Alternativly could fly Air NZ LAX-AKL, then AKL-NOU
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Old Feb 7, 10, 11:13 am   #9
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The Christmas Island with the crabs is in the Indian Ocean, so hardly convenient for a US to BNE trip.

You don't mention alliances. NZ, a member of *A, has flights from LAX to AKL via APW (Samoa) & TBU (Tonga), and also via RAR (Cook Islands). Depending on fare or award rules you may be able to stop over en route to BNE.

There are direct flights from BNE to various islands

NAN (Fiji)
HIR (Solomon Islands)
INU (Nauru) - very odd place
POM (Papua New Guinea)
VLI (Vanuatu)
NOU (New Caledonia)
NLK (Norfolk Island)
APW (Samoa)
LDH (Lord Howe Island) - very nice and can include on OW awards (but very hard to get availability)

Most of these places I have posted info & tips in my how to get to series on my blog.
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Old Feb 7, 10, 1:04 pm   #10
 
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The Christmas Island with the crabs is in the Indian Ocean, so hardly convenient for a US to BNE trip.
Right - as relatively ignorant about that part of the world as I may be (for a generally well-seasoned traveler) I was aware of the location of the island. We had, however, considered heading out to Perth - where we have friends - as part of this trip to Australia, hence the discussion of Christmas Island as plausible. However, I gather the main attraction of the island really is the crab migration, and we are going to be down there at very much the wrong time of year anyway.

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Originally Posted by Kiwi Flyer View Post
You don't mention alliances. NZ, a member of *A, has flights from LAX to AKL via APW (Samoa) & TBU (Tonga), and also via RAR (Cook Islands)..
I am actually well-positioned both in terms of status and tons of banked miles with both Star Alliance and Sky Team, but nothing with OneWorld, so Air New Zealand would seem the obvious way to go in that part of the world, rather than Qantas.

I was rather thinking about doing the trip down via Asia (ATL-ICN-BNE, for example - I generally prefer to start off "international" rather than beginning a Pacific trip with a domestic trans-continental flight) but might reconsider. I actually took that NZ flight LAX-AKL for my honeymoon, so I guess it has positive memories, but that has been a number of years ago now.
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Old Feb 8, 10, 7:25 am   #11
 
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You could always try either Hanoi (HAN) (Ha Long Bay cruising for a couple of days, truly gobsmacking scenery) or something like Guilin (KWL) in China - again, teeming with natural beauty and a very different cultural experience.
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Old Feb 25, 10, 8:00 pm   #12
 
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I have flown BNE-LAX quite a bit, and often do a stop over for the hell of it.

The following airlines can stop overs in fairly exotic/different places on the way, which are often the same price or less then direct flights.

Nadi, Fiji (Air Pacific)
Port Vila, Vanuatu (Air vanuatu-Qantas)
Papeete, Tahiti (Air Tahiti Nui)
Auckland, New Zealand (Air New Zealand/Qantas)
Taipei, Taiwan (China Airlines)

Then there is the rest of Asia.
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Old Feb 27, 10, 12:55 am   #13
 
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NZ is also starting a RAR-SYD-RAR service this year, so you could fly NZ & do something like this.

LAX(NZ)-RAR(NZ)-SYD(NZ)-BNE(JQ/QF/DJ)-AKL(NZ)-APW(NZ)-LAX(NZ)

Raratonga(RAR) is a lovey Island, its very laid back, relaxed & safe.

This company provides holiday home rentals http://www.rarorealty.co.ck/rental1.htm

They are great value for thought that want a non hotel/resort holiday.
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Old Mar 1, 10, 12:20 am   #14
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I focused a lot of my award-travel resources on the South Pacific in the last decade or so, using the stopover rules to the hilt and spending countless hours trying to nail down the perfect trip, sometimes against what agents on the phone said was possible or permissable.

For me the two "heroes" were CO and their Micronesia network, and NZ using UA miles, in both cases for regional awards (either Australia or Asia to Micronesia or S. Pacific) at 20-25K. A typical award ticket might go something like BNE-AKL-PPT (stop)-RAR (stop)-AKL-BNE on NZ, or the "illegal" one I did of AKL-RAR(stop)-NAN (stop)-AKL. On CO I once got MNL-GUM-MAJ (stop)-GUM-YAP(stop)-GUM-MNL via computer at 25K even though the agent swore up and down they couldn't do it. On another trip is was MNL-GUM-KSA (stop)-PNI(stop)-GUM-MNL on the island hopper. All those flights would be very expensive as paid tickets.

Some of the islands indeed are under-touristed and great experiences if you can get the booking somehow. Am a big fan of the Cook Islands, and they're a much cheaper alternative to Tahiti. Hopefully "Survivor" didn't ruin Aitutaki. Western Samoa is really beautiful. Fiji is more touristed and many people go for the "castaway" experience in the Mamanucas or Yasawas, which is a bit narrowly focused. In Micronesia, Pohnpei is really beautiful, has Nan Madol (and you can drink kava at night) and might have 40-100 tourists at a time. Yap for Yap Day was quite an experience, especially seeing all those dancers try to maintain composure as a fierce rainstorm blew through because all the chiefs were watching. Palau has unique scenic beauty. Majuro and the Marshalls are really, really unique and might not exist in 75 years due to global warming.

There's a midlevel with the likes of New Caledonia, Kiribati, Nauru and a few others not heavily serviced that'd be nice to see someday, and I wish I could have gotten to see Tonga. A big money-saving rule of thumb for many places, like the Cooks, is to get a fan room rather than an AC room, as you probably don't need the AC and the cost savings can be substantial.
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Old Mar 1, 10, 10:51 am   #15
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Originally Posted by cavemanzk View Post
NZ is also starting a RAR-SYD-RAR service this year, so you could fly NZ & do something like this.

LAX(NZ)-RAR(NZ)-SYD(NZ)-BNE(JQ/QF/DJ)-AKL(NZ)-APW(NZ)-LAX(NZ)

Raratonga(RAR) is a lovey Island, its very laid back, relaxed & safe.

This company provides holiday home rentals http://www.rarorealty.co.ck/rental1.htm

They are great value for thought that want a non hotel/resort holiday.
Thanks for the info ... great to know.
Do you know if this is seasonal or year round ?

Cooks are a fav of mine. I'd love to do a stopover on the way back from OZ.
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