Fiji travel guide and things to do: Why it's now the No.1 destination for Australians

"I feel like I'm the prime minister in parliament," Tourist Transport Fiji driver Kayum Abdul tells me. "Sitting in air-conditioning all day, getting paid to talk."

Abdul's only been back behind the wheel since Fiji opened up on December 1. "When you [travellers] were gone I went into construction just to feed my kids," he says. "But I'm over 50, it was hard work and there was little money."

Driver Bawan Sharin lost his car, then his house, unable to meet repayments with meagre part-time work available when COVID shut down Fiji's tourism. "A lot of us have worked in tourism since we left school," he says. "It's all we know. Then there were no tourists."

Now Fiji's resorts are full of Australians after the country became the first Pacific nation to open to Australian tourists quarantine-free. Late last year any vaccinated Australian visitor could enter the country if they passed a pre-departure PCR or Rapid Antigen Test and a subsequent RAT within their resort 48 hours later. In further good news, this changed to 24 hours from April 7.

In the first few months since international borders opened, Fiji has become Australia's number one overseas destination by a considerable margin.

So how did Fiji manage to pull off the great holiday heist? "It had a lot to do with the government," Tourism Fiji CEO Brent Hill says. "Tourism is so important to Fiji, it makes up 40 per cent of its GDP. Government worked with the tourism industry's decision-makers to ensure we opened sooner than other countries.

"It's been a masterstroke, I think. Vaccination has been tied to opening, so everyone in Fiji felt a part of the journey. We set goals and we stuck to every one of them - we picked a date to open and we didn't waver from that."

Not that there haven't been obstacles along the way. In the first month of opening, Omicron tore through Australia; but Fiji stayed open, with an overall COVID positivity rate of less than one per cent (those who test positive in Fiji must quarantine in their hotel room for seven days).

"We had to respond quickly, there was a lot of talk about closing Fiji up again but we stayed open," Hill says.


"We designed a testing system for tourists and that was different to other countries. It was much more simple to be tested in Fiji than it was to be tested in Australia. We made sure tourists didn't have to line up in downtown clinics, they didn't even have to leave their resorts."

On a recent visit, my COVID-19 test 48 hours after my arrival requires no appointment, I simply turn up for a RAT within my resort where a room is set aside for staff from the Ministry Of Health. Twenty minutes later, I have my results while I wait at the bar.

By the end of last month [March] almost 70,000 tourists had visited Fiji since its December 1 opening; though April looks like being Fiji's most popular month by far, with 30 000-plus visitors booked already.

May has more than 40,000 bookings, while the winter months of June, July and August have long been Fiji's most popular months for Australians to visit.

All this despite the fact other destinations have opened up since, particularly Australia's previous No. 1 overseas destination, Bali (the Cook Islands is also set to open from April 12.)

"I think Bali is a lot different to Fiji," Hill says. "We have major advantages as a place to go during COVID. There's more open spaces, beaches and private islands, so I think Australians consider Fiji safer. I think Australian travellers are still worried about overseas travel and Fiji seems a good place for them to start doing it again. The other huge advantage we have over Bali is we've already had four months of this system and it's working beautifully, so we have runs on the board."

Being back here reminds me no matter how exotic Fiji feels – for despite its proximity to Australia, it is nothing like Australia - there's a sense of comfort in being in the South Pacific that you don't feel in other destinations.

Locals won't try to sell you anything and petty crime is negligible.

At the Marriott Momi Bay, guest Bob Lambie sits at the table next to me weeping as staff sing him Isa Lei, the Fijian farewell song (… must you leave me, so lonely and forsaken).

"Sorry," he apologises. "They're just such beautiful people."

It's no surprise to Hill. "What we've hearing is visitors are talking about how special the human connection with Fijians has been," Hill says. "Australians spent so much time avoiding people for two years that they're craving attention and Fiji's the place for that."

So here's your up-to-the-minute guide on where to experience that warmest of welcomes.


Handout image supplied by Fiona Carruthers for AFR Life & Leisure Fiji cover Dec 17 
Shangri-La Yanuca Island, Fiji

Shangri-La Yanuca Island.

Fiji has a resort for every traveller, and every budget; from humble two-star establishments to the most revered private island resorts on Earth, frequented by Hollywood stars. (Mel Gibson owns his own island retreat here).

Many travellers opt for family-friendly Denarau Island, just 20 minutes from Nadi International Airport. There's the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort (, which completed a $48 million refurbishment in late March. It has five restaurants and five bars on-site, a championship 18-hole golf course and day spa.

Only an extra 20 minutes from the airport, Fiji Marriott Resort Momi ( offers overwater bungalows in an isolated bay amongst green rolling hills. Its Fish Bar is a must-see, set high on a cliff above the ocean, facing west for a hell of a sunset.

The Coral Coast starts an hour from the airport and this is where you'll find Fiji's longest established resorts. The Shangri La Yanuca Island ( is set on its own private island connected by a causeway, with a design inspired by a traditional Fijian village; while the InterContinental ( and The Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort ( have been popular with Australians for decades.

You don't have to travel much longer to stay on your own island. The Manamuca archipelago is made up of 20 islands, easily accessible from Port Denarau, including some of the South Pacific's most iconic resorts like Vomo Island Resort, ( Just beyond, the Yasawas also offer 20 islands, with several private island resorts.


sunapr10cover Fiji cover story ; text by Craig Tansley
(handout image from Tourism Fiji <> for use in Traveller, no syndication) 
cr: South Sea SailingSabre Daytrip from Port Denarau to Malolo Sandbank

Take a full-day sailing trip around the Manumuca Islands on Sabre, a 24-metre-catamaran. Photo: South Sea Sailing

With 333 islands to choose between, you could spend months in Fiji and not do the same thing twice. While famous for its blue water, don't forget the vast interior of the main island, Viti Levu.

Go white-water rafting ( on one of the Pacific's most pristine rivers, protected within a Conservation Area. The Navua River flows for 65 kilometres from the highlands to the south coast, through 50-metre-high basalt canyons and past more than 50 waterfalls.

Or take a jet-boat up the Sigatoka River on the Coral Coast on a half-day adventure into authentic Fijian villages (, travelling through Fiji's Food Bowl.

Fiji also offers some of the world's best surfing, with thousands of islands and coral reef options, for everyone from beginners to experts. There's surf year-round, with surf charter operators who can take you from your resort, or stay in surf resorts (, set mostly around the Manamucas and Viti Levu's Coral Coast.

There's boat excursions of every kind from diving, fishing, sailing and snorkelling charters available daily throughout the island groups of Fiji and from main island, Viti Levu. The newest is a full-day sailing trip around the Manumuca Islands on Sabre, a 24-metre-catamaran, ( offering snorkelling and lunch on a sandy cay in the middle of the ocean.


Close up shots of kokoda in coconut bowls sunapr10cover Fiji cover story ; text by Craig Tansley
(handout image from Tourism Fiji <> for use in Traveller, no syndication) 
cr: Tourism Fiji [Use for the promotion of Fiji as a tourist destination]
seafood dining - please see filename for restaurant name

Kokoda, Fiji's national dish. Photo: Tourism Fiji

The advantage Fiji has over other South Pacific destinations is that it has the most diversity in its cuisine – that's because 37.5 per cent of its population originate from India, offering unique dishes found nowhere else in the world.

Taste dishes like fish suruwa, a unique Fijian curry cooked in coconut milk and Indian spices. Fiji has some of the Pacific's healthiest cuisine too – relying heavily on starch vegetables like taro and cassava. Traditional Melanesian dishes also revolve around the use of a lovo, or underground oven, with seafood, meats and vegetables wrapped in banana and taro leaves and cooked in an underground pit with heated stones for up to three hours.

Some resorts cater for simpler Western tastes, but COVID has instigated a greater focus on local Fijian-Indian techniques. "We've been seeing a greater depth to resort cuisine since COVID," Hill says. "Locals had to rely more on local ingredients and this has forced a change in meals offered for tourists. Improving our food has really been a key focus since opening up again."

Explore Fiji's unique dishes at restaurants throughout Nadi and the capital, Suva, and at the major resorts. Also try the national dish, Kokoda, raw fish steeped in lime juice and coconut milk with Indian spices.


Lovo preparation - Traditional Fijian food cooked in an underground oven. sunapr10cover Fiji cover story ; text by Craig Tansley
(handout image from Tourism Fiji <> for use in Traveller, no syndication) 
cr: Tourism Fiji [Use for the promotion of Fiji as a tourist destination]Lovo - earth oven

Traditional Fijian food cooked in an underground oven. Photo: Tourism Fiji

While there's a handful of modern cities in Fiji, most locals live in traditional villages, ruled by paramount chiefs. Many resorts offer village excursions where you can discover these traditional ways as you meet locals where they live. Or take an off-road ATV vehicle into the highlands behind Sigatoka on the Coral Coast to meet traditional Fijians. See

Many resorts also offer kava ceremonies. This traditional drink is made from the ground root of local black pepper trees mixed with water. Firewalking ceremonies and traditional lovo feasts, with food cooked in underground ovens, are also popular.

Sunday morning church services also allow for insight into a local culture heavily influenced by 19th Century Missionaries.

Or visit Fiji's old capital, Levuka, accessible via a 90-minute ferry ride from Viti Levu's east coast at Natovi, north of Suva. The former capital of Fiji until 1877, it has the best preserved example of colonial architecture in the Pacific and was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013, offering a window into early colonial Fiji.

Take in Fiji's capital city, Suva, where corporate attire comprises business shirts, ties and the traditional sulu (skirt). Stay where the queen and heads of state sleep at one of the Pacific's oldest hotels, the Grand Pacific Hotel (


Aerial shot of island Sawa-i-Lau island in the northern Yasawa Island group.
sunapr10cover Fiji cover story ; text by Craig Tansley
(handout image from Tourism Fiji for use in Traveller, no syndication) 
cr: Tourism Fiji [Use for the promotion of Fiji as a tourist destination]

Sawa-i-Lau island in the Yasawa Island group. Photo: Tourism Fiji

Don't forget: Fiji isn't one destination - there are 333 islands and most of them are seen by few travellers. Visit the 20 islands of the Yasawa Group aboard a Blue Lagoon Cruise ( These islands were shielded from land-based tourism till 1986. Here you can swim into underwater caves, snorkel with manta-rays and dugong and visit traditional villages where locals still live subsistence lifestyles. There are many accommodation options in the Yasawas, which is accessible via high-speed catamaran from Port Denarau (

Check out Taveuni, an hour's flying time north of Nadi International Airport. Dubbed the Garden Isle, it's an eco-tourist's dream with more than a third of the island covered in national park accessible along hiking trails. Surrounded by a marine park, it's one of the Pacific's best diving and surfing locations.

Tread further, head east out into the 60 islands of the rarely-visited Lau Group on board a Captain Cook cruise (, exploring a part of Fiji that's otherwise largely inaccessible to visitors.


How do Australia's most popular overseas destinations stack up against each other?


Fiji is renowned for its lack of litter and pollution and locals have long been fastidious about cleanliness. Bali has long had issues with pollution, with many of its beaches covered in plastic litter, though clean-ups have resolved some of the issues.


Fiji is just under four hours from Australia's east coast airports, with only a 20-minute transfer to its popular Denarau Island resorts. Bali is about six hours' flying time from Sydney and Melbourne.


You won't need to lock your valuables in a safe in any resort in Fiji. Aside from a few areas in Suva, you won't have to consider protecting your valuables at all. Petty crime is common in Bali. Always lock your valuables in the hotel safe.


Fiji relies on its tasty local produce and the spicy dishes from its Indian population. Bali is now home to some of south-east Asia's best restaurants, run by chefs with Michelin-star ratings. On the streets, locals prepare delicious meals on wood-fired grills for passing tourists.


Fiji has some of the Pacific's top private island resorts – and Bali has some of the best luxury resorts in all south-east Asia, so both cater well for the uber-wealthy. Both Fiji and Bali offer a variety of family-friendly resorts, from two-star to five-star, with all-inclusive packages to choose between.




Fiji Airways flies twice daily to Fiji from Sydney from April 1; five times a week from Melbourne, and three times a week from Brisbane. See Virgin (, Jetstar ( and Qantas ( fly from Australia's east coast.


From April 7, all vaccinated travellers are allowed into Fiji provided they complete a pre-departure PCR or RAT, and have a pre-booked RAT within 24 hours of arrival. Guests no longer have to have a pre-booked three night stay at a Care Fiji Commitment hotel.


Stay close to Nadi International Airport on Denarau Island at The Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, or find your own private bay a little further south at The Marriott Momi Bay. There's the Coral Coast at Shangri La Yanuca Island or stay out in the Manamuca Islands at Castaway Island Resort or Vomo Island Resort. Book through

Craig Tansley travelled courtesy of Tourism Fiji and My Fiji