Easy island escape awaits
A TROPICAL holiday for the whole family need not break the bank.
On the east coast of Australia, we are a hop, skip and jump away from a number of tropical playgrounds in the South Pacific, including family island hotspot Vanuatu.
Vanuatu's main island, Efate, and neighbouring Tanna offer activities for every age group and budget.
Here are a few things not to miss when planning a trip only three hours' flight from Brisbane.
A five-minute boat ride from the shore of Mele Bay near Port Vila, this little islet is popular with snorkellers and more experienced divers.
One of the biggest visitor drawcards is the underwater postbox, which even snorkellers can reach.
Buy a waterproof postcard, write a message and then dive to send the card to loved ones back home.
Swimming over the deep drop-off that divers use, which is only about 15m from the shore, is thrilling and terrifying.
The bar and cafe on the island provide yummy feeds (and brews) to keep the energy levels up between swims.
DETAILS: www.hideaway. com.vu.
If a romantic getaway is more on the cards, be sure to book in a sunset cruise in Port Vila's harbour.
Stroll down to the sail boats and yachts docked close to the casino and market in the main part of town and choose whichever boat tickles your fancy and suits your budget.
Some include drinks and canapes during the on-board cruise.
Be warned though - canapes island-style can include sandwich quarters.
But when watching the boat cut through the dark turquoise water of the harbour as the sun casts a golden and red glow over everything, I guarantee those sandwiches will taste as good as lobster.
The wine also helps.
DETAILS: Google "sunset cruise Port Vila" for a number of different options.
This little island took a hit when Cyclone Pam wreaked havoc across the island nation in 2015.
But repairs were under way when we visited Port Vila last September.
Stay on the island, which is a short boat ride from Port Vila, or visit for a day but remember you need to purchase a day pass if choosing the latter.
This will put a dent in the holiday spend, which is why we did not go, but seeing Mt Yasur is still on the bucket list and should be on yours too.
Flights to Tanna leave the Port Vila airport daily, weather permitting, and some packages include pick-ups from resorts, flights, entry fees to the volcano plus extras.
If time-poor, book a one-day excursion but we heard from other visitors the overnight excursion to see the volcano spit its magma insides as the sun set was absolutely spectacular.
DETAILS: www.discover vanuatu.com.au.
Visit the market
The Port Vila market is a feast for the senses.
From fresh fruit and veg to clothing, bags and other market knick-knacks, there is a lot of colour to see and people-watching to do in this heartbeat of town.
If self-catering at your accommodation, eat like the locals do and stock up on fresh foods.
Cheap clothing and bags for sale ensure souvenir shopping is also a breeze.
DETAILS: www.vanuatu traveller.com/port-vila-food-market/.
Day tour of Efate
Efate is not a huge island but much wonder lies just outside of Port Vila.
Many tour group operators are set up near the Port Vila markets.
All offer different day tour options.
Our tour included a stop at a traditional village.
Be sure to wear comfy shoes, as the locals will dance but will expect visitors to join in.