Port Vila is the main town on Efate. It is a busy bustling place and many of the main resorts are located here. However there is much more to see around the rest of the island.
The ring road around the island is 130km long. You can either go on an organised day tour – around NZD$100 per person including lunch, hire one of the local buses for the day – around NZD$200, or hire a car – medium size around NZD$120 per 24 hour period.
As there was four of us and we needed to transfer from our villa, get back to the airport the next day and also carry lots of luggage, we decided to rent the car.
We spoke to some people who had hired the bus for the day, but the driver didn’t speak for the whole trip, so they wished that they had done a tour instead and got the spiel that came with it.
In Vanuatu, they drive on the right, so this takes a wee bit of getting used to. The roads around the town also have lots of pot holes, but it is much better around the rest of the Island. Keep an eye out for the locals who all seem to be walking down the middle of the road carrying machetes… Even the young children! This looks a bit intimidating but they all smile and wave as you go past.
We had breakfast at an amazing French Patisserie just opposite the main market and then set off from Port Vila and headed in a clockwise direction.
First of all you come to Mele Village and just past that is the Cascade waterfalls. There is an entrance fee and a 20 minute walk up to the waterfalls where you can swim in the pools formed by the falls. The kids spent most of the day here on one of the days we were in Tanna.
From there you head up and over a very steep hill and at the top you get a great view of the Havana Harbour. There were over 200 American war ships stationed here in WWII. It was where they did their training and repairs before heading over to the Solomons to fight. These days it is a lovely sheltered anchorage bordered by a few smaller islands. There were a few cruising yachts moored up in the bay.
There are a couple of lovely looking restaurants just as you arrive over the hill – Francesca’s Italian, and the Wahoo Bar, but we were a bit early for lunch and so didn’t check them out.
From here you can also do a day tour on the SV Coongoola which takes you over to a Turtle sanctuary at Tranquility Resort on Moso Island. Tranquility Resort is an Eco-Dive resort and it looked basic but lovely. Then the yacht took us around to the other side of the island to a beautiful white sandy beach, for a day of snorkelling and a BBQ. It was a great way to spend the day and cost around NZD$120 per person, and we had done that the day before our round island trip.
In the Village of Tanoliu you will find a quirky collection of WWII things in a waterside shack. The old man has been collecting things from the beach and jungle since the 1970’s and has accumulated some interesting relics. It costs just V200 per person, and we had a talk from the grandson who pointed out some of the points of interest including lots of old bottles, a grenade and a bomb tail!
Further along the road at Siviri, we saw some caves marked on the map, so we went off road to look for them. There was no one at the entrance, however a sign said it was V500 per person (about NZD$6) to enter. As no one was around we went in anyway. As our eyes adjusted to the light, a huge cave with a pool appeared. There was a kayak there too , but as we hadn’t paid we didn’t want to just take it. There was a small opening in the rock and it looked like it went much further back. Exciting find!
A little further on down the road is another quirky collection of WWII finds, as well as a sunken fighter plane which they offer snorkelling tours on for around V2000 per person. We were getting hungry at this stage so we flagged that, but it did look interesting.
We had lunch at a place called Beachcomber. We hadn’t seen a restaurant for ages, and we were getting desperate, so we headed there. It had hot pools which the people having lunch could use for free. The place looked pretty basic and old, and the food was expensive and took a long time to come, but when it did arrive we all agreed they were the best toasted sandwiches we had eaten in a long time. There were a couple of buskers there playing waltzing Matilda and Po Kare Kare Ana songs much to the delight of the handful of tourists who were there.
Along the road side we came across a rickety sign pointing to another cave. We parked the car and headed down a bush track – thankful that there are apparently no poisonous snakes or insects on the island! Only a hundred metres or so the track opened up in to a clearing and we found a cave with a stream coming out of it. We waded up as far as we dared without a torch and decided that perhaps you could kayak all the way through from the other cave we found…
Our next stop was the stunning Eton Beach. Most of the beaches are privately owned, so you need to pay about V300 per person to visit. However they usually provide parking, picnic tables, rubbish bins and toilets. Today there wasn’t anyone at Eton, and it was a bit cold too, so we took some photos and carried on. This is a stunning white sand beach with incredible blue water. The small bay was protected from the big waves breaking on the reef out in the ocean.
The local villages are very tidy and there are often roadside stalls selling fresh produce, however you are best to bring your own picnic lunch as there aren’t many other shops or restaurants around this side of the island. The main market is full of fresh fruit and vegetables, and further up the road heading South East out of town is the largest supermarket Au Bon Marche. Get some of the local Tusker beer – it’s good!
Just past Eton Village is the Eton Blue Lagoon. This is a stunning spot. Fresh water, surrounded by trees. There was a rope tied to the trees and the kids spent ages swinging from the platform and jumping in to the water.
Heading back towards Port Vila, take a side road to Eretap resort for a sunset drink overlooking the water. The food here is delicious too. We had lunch here one day when the kids were horse riding at Club Hippique which is just a little further on. They even got to swim in the lagoon with their horses.
Then it is just a 10 minute drive back to the centre of town. It took us most of the day just cruising along and three whole separate extra days for the horse riding, Eton Blue Hole visit and the Coongoola cruise. There is plenty to see and do along the way if you just want to drive around the island.