Some of the most secluded islands in the world lie in the sea around Alotau, and the seas are just as teeming with life as the verdant hills surrounding the area's pristine white beaches. Despite being the capital of the Milne Bay province, the town is delightfully peaceful – looking down over the bay from the quiet northern hills. If it's a calming escape you're looking for, take a trip to Alotau and spend some time in the beautiful back of beyond.
Alotau has one of the most relaxed atmospheres of any town in Papua New Guinea, being something of a small coastal retreat all but cut off from the nation's capital. There's no shortage of things to see and do in the town, though:
Alotau Canoe and Kundu Festival
Stemming from an ancient native practice of ritual to satisfy the gods, Alotau has a rich tradition of creating beautifully painted canoes and tall, hourglass-shaped kundu drums. They have historically been an important part of daily life in Alotau and Milne Bay, but now the canoes and drums feature most prominently at the festival itself. For one weekend in November, the quiet town truly comes alive with visitors from all over Papua New Guinea – all bringing their own cultures and canoe traditions to this festival, as jubilant and colourful as it is fantastical.
Being surrounded by some of the most secluded and unspoiled islands on Earth, visitors to Alotau and Milne Bay might want to take boat trips out to see these fascinating paradise islands for themselves. Normanby, Goodenough and Fergusson are beautiful islands to visit by boat, and being all but uninhabited they're perfect places to spot some of the rare wildlife in this part of the world – or even just prime spots to lie back and relax on the beaches.
Milne Bay fishing
There's a great choice of fishing competitions around the Milne Bay area, and local professional associations can also provide visitors with advice on the local fishing. The annual Milne Bay Classic competition brings sports fishers flocking to Papua New Guinea, which is known for its giant marlin and wahoo species.
Shopping in Alotau
The market in town is quite close to the sea, and so the crabs and fish on offer couldn't be any fresher. Produce on the stalls includes greens and bananas, as well as yams, sweet potatoes and bananas. Look out too for the bright red teeth and lips of people chewing betel nut – a local favourite that also goes by the name of buai. Much like the natives of Burma, many people in Papua New Guinea chew it in huge quantities for its effects as a tobacco-like stimulant.
Eating Out in Alotau
Diners might want to try hotel dining in Alotau, where establishments are known for their friendly staff, great food and excellent service. Styles range from traditional table dining to barbecues on the lawns, and some offer more international cuisine too – giving diners a great choice of wines and fine food from the local area and further afield.