Less than 10 hours from Australia: 10 exotic destinations that are a short flight away

There's a popular theory that Australia is miles and miles away from pretty much anywhere. We're isolated. We have to travel for days just to get to anywhere interesting. That's our geographical lot in life.

And that's an easy thing to believe when you can spend four or five hours in a plane and still find yourself in your own country. It takes forever just to get out of Australia, let alone to then arrive somewhere different and new.

That said, however, we're really not as isolated as some people think. Yes, it takes a long time to fly to Europe, or to get to the States, but how about all of the adventures that are right on our doorstep? This isn't even the predictable places, either – the likes of Bali or New Zealand or Bangkok. There are plenty of remote, amazing and exotic destinations within a 10-hour flight of Australia's east coast just waiting to be explored.

There's no need to head too far afield for adventure: spend fewer than 10 hours* on a plane and you could easily be in any of these places.

*Flight times are calculated from Sydney, and don't include stopover time


There's plenty to love about the mainland of East New Britain, from the ruins of Rabaul to the friendly marketplaces of Kokopo; from the Baining culture in the mountains to World War II history throughout. However, for the best experience of this northern PNG province, jump in a banana boat and head to the out-islands, where a homestay in a village provides the perfect immersion into local culture.

Total flight time: 5hrs 35mins (via Port Moresby)


Sipiso piso waterfall on the north side of Lake Toba, near Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia.

Sipiso piso waterfall on the north side of Lake Toba, near Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo: Shutterstock

There's so much of Indonesia that remains pretty much unexplored by the Western hordes. Take Sumatra, an island that's as wild as it is vast. There are orang-utans in the dense jungles here, as well as tigers and elephants; there's amazing sea life on the coral reefs; and a rich blend of cultures that stretches from hill tribes to cosmopolitan city-dwellers.


Total flight time: 9hrs 50mins (via Jakarta)


An aerial shot during a domestic flight.

Photo: Solomon Islands Visitors Board

Everyone knows about Fiji, and Vanuatu, and even New Caledonia. But how many go to visit the Solomons, a group of islands that's just as close to Australia as those hugely popular holiday destinations? The answer: not many. The Sollies are a little on the rustic side, without the international resort chains of its neighbours, but that just adds to the charm. And the scuba-diving here is incredibly good.

Total flight time: 4hrs 45mins (via Brisbane)

See: 20 reasons to visit the Solomon Islands


The large fairy cave near Kuching in Malaysia, Sarawak, Borneo. Shutterstock

The large fairy cave near Kuching in Malaysia, Sarawak. Photo: Shutterstock

Here's another destination that gets missed in the clamour for Bali and Langkawi and the like – and that may have something to do with the remote, rough-and-ready nature of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. Kuching is a thriving city, but as soon as you head into the Kelabit Highlands, or up the Batang Rejang river, you're in seriously remote wilderness. Sarawak is beautiful, culturally diverse, and probably unlike anywhere you've ever been before.

Total flight time: 9hrs 35mins (via Jakarta)

See: The extraordinary corner of Southeast Asia tourists forgot


The view from Cristo Rei Statue in Dili, East Timor. Shutterstock

The view from Cristo Rei Statue in Dili, Timor-Leste. Photo: Shutterstock

For so long "East Timor" was just a thing we heard about on the nightly news, a place of conflict somewhere up to the north that you would never consider as a holiday destination. Now though, things have changed. Timor-Leste is independent and open for business, a destination with some of the world's best diving, as well as indigenous culture and stunning island scenery. Well worth exploring.

Total flight time: 5hrs 50mins (via Darwin)


On show at the Mt Hagen show.

Mt Hagen Festival. Photo: Supplied

You're not in Kansas any more – the wild streets of Mt Hagen, in the Highlands province of PNG, couldn't feel any further away from the comfort and safety of Australia. Yes, it can be a little sketchy up here at times, but the chance to immerse yourself in a huge range of distinct tribal cultures, particularly during the Mt Hagen Festival, makes it worth the journey.

Total flight time: 5hrs 15mins (via Port Moresby)

See: The untamed paradise on our doorstep


Tongkonan traditional houses in Palava village. Tana Toraja, Sulawesi. Indonesia

Tongkonan traditional houses in Palava village, Sulawesi. Indonesia. Photo: Shutterstock

Sulawesi is an island shaped like a starfish, and its attractions are as numerous as its limbs. This is a place to get far away from the beaten track, to explore jungles and mountains, to observe highland tribal rituals, to float over seabeds and to hang around in coastal towns. Pretty much the only thing you won't find here is a lot of other tourists.

Total flight time: 9hrs 55mins (via Jakarta)

See also: 11 ancient cultures we can still learn from today


Shallow channel (hoa) between islets that link the inner lagoon to the ocean, atoll of Tikehau, Tuamotu archipelago, French Polynesia

Tikehau, French Polynesia Photo: Shutterstock

Just because you're in the middle of nowhere, doesn't mean you have to rough it. Tikehau is a coral atoll that sits lonely and exposed in the Pacific Ocean, an hour flight from Papeete in Tahiti. While it seems wild and remote, Tikehau is home to two beautiful resorts – Tikehau Pearl Beach, and Ninamu Resort – that make being stranded on a desert island seem like a very good thing indeed.

Total flight time: 8hrs 55min (via Auckland and Papeete)

See also: Where you can cut yourself off from the rest of the world


Where's Wallis? This tiny volcanic outpost and its sister island, Futuna, lie in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to the north-east of Fiji. For travellers they're a relatively untouched destination, thanks in large part to their isolation, but also to the lack of infrastructure. Still, there's plenty of fun to be had here, with rustic village life, and the chance to completely switch off for a while, awaiting those prepared to make the relatively short trek.

Total flight time: 5hrs 30mins (via Nadi)


Niue: It may be one of the world's smallest countries, but this tiny speck of land is not laying low when it comes to gold and silver.

Niue: It may be one of the world's smallest countries, but this tiny speck of land is not laying low when it comes to gold and silver. Photo: Supplied

There's a surprising amount to do in Niue, given its small size – the population here is just over 1000, and the island is about the size of 40 football pitches. Still, there are all sorts of caves and other impressive rock formations to check out, as well as great scuba-diving, and world-class fishing.

Total flight time: 6hrs 30min (via Nadi)

See: The Pacific paradise undiscovered by tourists

What do you think are the most remote and exotic destinations close to Australia? Have you ever travelled to any of the above places? What were they like?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

See also: Bucket list: The 10 most epic experiences in Australia

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