Travel on a South Pacific Cargo Boat

Lonely Planet Travel Editor Tom Hall is on a mission to discover 52 of the most awe-inspiring places to visit across the world. This week he uncovers the delights of travelling by cargo boat around the South Pacific.

South Pacific

The South Pacific stretches across an immense area from Chile to Australia, sporadically dotted with tiny paradise islands. But such small destinations and enormous distances don’t lend themselves to the commercial demands of modern-day plane travel. Island-hopping by air is expensive and involves plenty of back-tracking to hub airports in Hawaii, New Zealand and Fiji.

Happily there is an alternative. Many island groups are linked by regular shipping services radiating out of larger settlements like Tahiti, Rarotonga and Samoa. These vessels are the closest you can get to recreating the golden age of sea travel, packed with people and cargo and making rare calls at distant ports.

This being the South Pacific, more often than not the islands resemble paradise. And on a boat journey far from the main settlements you’ll often have white-sand beaches to yourself without a honeymooning couple in sight.

How to travel around the South Pacific

The best-known ship is the Aranui, which makes regular supply cruises around the Marquesas and Tuamotu Islands. Every inch the Pacific dream, these archipelagos hold soaring peaks, lush forests and Robinson Crusoes-style beaches. Life on board is a comfortable, air-conditioned ride on a cargo boat. Cruises leave Papeete 16 times a year.

Planning your trip

Find out all about trips on the Aranui. Tahiti Tourism can tell you much more about the region. French Polynesia is an overseas collectivity of France, which means that you’ll spend euros, speak French and need no visas to visit.

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