By Julie Miller
When it comes to beaches, it’s pretty hard to impress an Australian – after all, we have more than our fair share of superb patches of sand.
But I’m sorry, Australia, the beaches of Espiritu Santo – the largest of Vanuatu’s 83 islands – leave yours in the shade, quite literally.
Not only do Santo’s beaches have powder white sand and crystalline water, but they are also backed with heavy foliage right up to the high-tide line, allowing those who prefer not to turn a shade of lobster red an escape from the tropical sun.
I don’t have to look far to find my perfect beach. Just outside the door of my ocean-view bungalow at Barrier Beach Resort – located 20-minutes drive from the airport on Santo’s east coast – is a pristine stretch of sand, lapped by the clearest, bluest water imaginable. Wander out thigh deep in the balmy bay for fabulous snorkelling; there is even a sea-grass garden where dugongs wallow – dugongs!!
But it’s those shady trees on the shoreline I’m drawn to, majestic Tamanu that twist and dip over the water, gnarled trunks supporting delicate, parasitic native orchids. The resort has thoughtfully hung a tyre swing from one of the branches, creating a simple slice of heaven, swaying in the breeze.
Dragging myself away from this idyllic scene, I head to Vanuatu’s most celebrated beach, fittingly named Champagne. Visit this picture-perfect crescent of white sand lapped by azure water on a “cruise ship day” and you’ll find it packed with admirers and lined with handicraft stores set up by opportunistic locals keen to make a buck. I arrive a day after a cruise-ship onslaught, however, and instead have the beach to myself, sharing its tranquillity with just a herd of cows dozing under coconut palms – sheer bliss.
Further north is lovely Port Olry beach, the most popular location for lunch on the island. There are three restaurants on the blinding white sand, all offering a great selection of seafood.
But for me, the biggest attraction is once again found in the spreading arms of Tamanu trees – two adorable thatched tree houses, available for rent to couples and families keen for a genuine island adventure. Although rustic, the tree houses have all the necessities – beds, mosquito netting, en suite bathrooms with rainwater showers, and views to die for – what more could you possibly wish for?
For more information on Espiritu Santo, click here