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An underwater view along Port Alotau Papua New Guinea

Alotau, Papua New Guinea

The sprawling town of Alotau, spectacularly located on Papua New Guinea’s southeastern tip, is an ideal introduction to the relaxed charms of the region. The capital of Milne Bay Province, Alotau is also the main port for the 600 islands that encompass the area.

The buzzing harbor, just a short walk from town, is a hive of activity, with ships, boats and canoes transporting passengers and plying their trades.The town was the site of the 1942 Battle of Milne Bay, resulting in Japan's first defeat in the Pacific during World War II. Milne Bay was a major Allied base, and some of the war’s fiercest fighting took place in Papua New Guinea. Although there’s not much to see now, a fascinating Battle of Milne Bay tour combines historic war stories with locals’ tales of how modern warfare changed their world.

More broadly, Alotau is an excellent place to gain insight into Papua New Guinea's cultures and traditions; don’t miss the Cultural Festival excursion in which you’ll see everything from warrior dances to gospel choirs to traditional drumming. For even more local flavor, wander through Alotau Market with its mounds of betel nuts, which many islanders chew.