April 20, 2023
9 mins Read
Although Christmas Island is best known for its annual crab migration, there is a lot more to surprise and delight. From its dense untamed jungle and deep, cerulean waters filled with wildlife, to its beautiful wild beaches, and cliffs that resemble incredible architectural feats, a week-long stay here is like diving headfirst toward the exceptional and unexpected.
Any visit to Christmas Island will almost certainly include a combination of colourful aquatic life, wilderness walks and rich and colourful cultural components. Here’s our list of carefully curated things to do on Christmas Island over the course of seven days.
The lids on the pots in Idah’s Kitchen are always clattering, as it is one of the best (and busiest) places to eat on Christmas Island. Do as the locals do and order delicious roti, pulled straight off the stove, and torn into strips to dip into a bowl of spicy chicken curry.
Get a taste of the island’s rich cultural heritage in Kampong, the beating heart of the Australian-Malay community; or at the annual Chinese New Year Festival, when lion dancers wheel around the streets. Celebrate the melting pot of local Malay and Chinese flavours during this year’s pilot Indian Ocean Fest when special guest Poh Ling Yeow cooks with the local island aunties.
The Blowholes is another one of Christmas Island’s natural treasures. You will definitely find other camera-toting travellers here, but this hot spot is also popular with friendly locals who enjoy the intermittent drama of water blasting through the rocks.
Accommodation tip: The Christmas Island Bali Style Retreat on Phosphate Hill.
Day two is a choose-your-own-ocean adventure with a half-day CI Wet n Dry Adventures, Extra Divers or Freedive CI tour or experience, where you can admire colourful fish, vibrant corals and dolphins just metres from shore, take a boat trip to one of the many idyllic diving and snorkelling spots, or take an underwater seascooter snorkelling tour. Snorkelling and diving obsessives also feel a mystical pull to dive off Christmas Island alongside whale sharks (between November and March).
Look for the Chinese lanterns and balustrade coloured like a set of crayons outside Lucky Ho restaurant, located in Poon Saan. This popular lunch spot is known for its pan-Asian fare: think Thai fried rice, Mongolian beef, sweet and sour pork and fried wontons.
Some 63 per cent of Christmas Island is blanketed in national park, so it’s compact enough for forest bathers to well and truly get their fix. Ease into it with sunset drinks and BYO canapes at Martin Point, where you can watch the bright orange sun roll over the horizon and sink into the soft folds of the sea.
Accommodation tip: Splurge on a night at Swell Lodge one of the most unique places to stay in WA.
Smash down a few perfect piccolos at the Smash Espresso Bar, which has a servery window and a few tables, chairs and stools set outside. You’ll find locals on the footpath eating bacon and egg burgers and chatting to the owner in the narrow doorway of the cafe, which is made colourful with lanterns and wall hangings.
Nineteen Second World War sites have been located on Christmas Island after the Japanese occupation of the island in 1942. You can still find traces of World War 2 history on the island in an old cave and ruins used to store ammunition as well as a restored gun emplacement.
You will need to take a 4WD tour to cover some ground and get to Greta, which, on a hot day, will be calling your name. Pack a picnic and plan your visit to coincide with Christmas Island Sea Week, which includes a roster of fun and informative events such as the Ocean Film Festival.
Accommodation tip: Captain’s Last Resort on Christmas Island is best suited to solo travellers or couples.
Enjoy a savoury breakfast of egg roti or samosas with a Malaysian coffee at the Flying Fish Cafe before padding barefoot to Flying Fish Cove where you can snorkel just metres from shore. Book a snorkelling tour with one of the local operators on Christmas Island and look for octopus, turtles, manta rays and spinner dolphins.
There’s no better place to forest bathe than in the enchanted atmosphere of Hughs Dale. Enjoy cooling off at the end of the waterfall walk under the gleaming rocks and branches of Tahitian chestnut trees, which have gnarled roots with green fuzzy moss growing on them.
Grab a group of friends as the sun starts to turn red and project brilliant gold reflections over the sea and sky on a sunset cruise with Extra Divers. Enjoy a swim then kick back onboard as the sun sinks over the horizon and the water turns navy blue. You will usually find Extra Divers’ boat Nemo moored in Flying Fish Cove. Smaller dive groups can also say cheers to the sunset with CI Wet n Dry Adventures with tailored trips and private charters available.
Accommodation tip: The Diver’s Villa is one of the last pre-war bungalows built by the Christmas Island Phosphate Company and a convenient place to stay.
Order a glass of iced tea from The Chinese Literary Association cafe Le Cla located in The Settlement and it will be served hot, over ice, which is, according to the locals, a Christmas Island speciality. Sit outside on the breezy veranda at this Malaysian-Chinese-Australian restaurant and tuck into waffles for brunch to fuel your day’s adventures.
You will find several Chinese temples and shrines scattered around Christmas Island as well as Christian churches and a mosque. You will also hear people speaking a second language such as Mandarin, Malay, Cantonese, Min Nan and Tagalog, which reflects the island’s colourful cultural heritage.
The Christmas Island Outdoor Cinema was built in the 1970s and the scene here skews local. Join local families and tourists with sand still stuck to their feet to watch cult classics and new releases on a giant outdoor screen. Held every Saturday and every second Wednesday.
Accommodation tip: The Sanctuary has a private lap pool and leafy green outlook.
Sit in the sheltered embrace of the Dolly Beach spa as white foam swirls around the natural plunge pool like a lacy skirt. When the humidity is thick as soup, you can make your way to the sandy-floored sea cave known as the Grotto after dark. But do take a torch: robber crabs loom all around, their hunched bodies like giant dust mites.
Christmas Island covers 135 square kilometres, of which about 63 per cent has been declared national park. Look up high in the branches of the trees or head to the clifftops to spot birds that take it in turns to squawk, as if there’s a conductor nearby holding a baton. Look for the rare Abbott’s Booby and giant Christmas Island frigate birds.
The Golden Bosun is a CI institution. The thing to do here is order pineapple pizza and a few pots of beer to enjoy on the breezy balcony overlooking the sea until the stars light up the night sky. Enjoy the star-spangled sky and the convivial atmosphere before wandering back to your room.
Accommodation tip: The Sunset has a pool and dreamy sea views.
If you’ve timed your visit to Christmas Island between October and January chances are you will witness the mass migration of Christmas Island red crabs and, for triple bonus points, the phenomenal sight of endangered whale sharks that gather off the island’s coast to feed on the crabs’ larvae.
If you’re one of just 30 lucky visitors to score tickets to this year’s Indian Ocean Fest, you will visit Hughs Dale during the Wilderness, Walks & Wildlife Encounters. But you can also explore the island’s beauty spots year-round and the Dales is a must-do, providing significant habitat for the island’s endemic blue crabs.
The Rumah Tinggi tavern is a huge hit with visitors and locals who converge here on a Saturday arvo for pub grub such as fish and chips and steak sangas. Watch the sun set over the sea with your new friends and vow to start planning your next trip to Christmas Island upon your return.
Plan your visit to Christmas Island to coincide with the Indian Ocean Fest June 21-28. To be one of just 30 visitors to secure tickets to the inaugural program, click here.
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