Last updated on December 5th, 2018 at 02:49 pm
Christmas Island, also known as Australia’s ‘Galapagos’, is a remote Island territory in the Indian Ocean. Boasting several endemic species of birdlife & host to the annual red crab migration – an event that does not occur anywhere else in the world, it’s an Eco-paradise just waiting to be explored. Add in the beautiful landscapes, amazing coral & marine life, impressive rain-forest & the friendliest locals that just want you to enjoy and love the island as much as they do – and you’ve got the ingredients for an unforgettable adventure. We’ve got everything you need to know to Travel to Christmas Island including recommendations for where to eat, where to stay and the incredible things to do on Christmas Island plus essential visitor information such a flight routes, what things costs, how to get around and recommended tour operators and resources to make your stay the best it can be.
Everything you Need to Know To Travel To Christmas Island
– Australia’s Remote Eco-Paradise
I visited Christmas Island as part of the Google Street View Capture Project and had the privilege of working with Christmas Island Tourism, Parks Australia and the GoogleDownUnder Team on the launch of their Pixel2 Phone. I was not required to produce any content as part of the project, but I was so blown away with Christmas Island as a destination and the images captured with the Pixel2, that I wanted to share it with the world.
Here’s just a little taste of what’s in this post:
Incredible Things to Do on Christmas Island
Flying Fish Cove
Flying Fish Cove is the official ‘capital city’ of Australia’s Christmas Island, and is the central point to life on the Island for many locals. On any given afternoon you’ll find families relaxing under the cabanas along the foreshore, people swimming and snorkeling in the cove, children jumping off the jetty and the port going about it’s daily business. On days where the swell is up it is also possible to surf in the cove – although with no surf experience myself, I’ll leave it up to your own abilities/competence to decide whether it’s a good idea or not (it looked very shallow to me!).
The Cove is also a great sunset spot and major Christmas Island tourist attractions so be sure to include an evening here on your Christmas Island Itinerary. Grab a cold one (or two, or three) and pull up a seat as mother nature turns the sky different shades of pink and purple in front of your eyes – and keep a lookout for spinner dolphins on the horizon!
RELATED: Visiting Christmas Island is just one of my 100+ Things to See, Do & Experience in Australia post – click here to read my other recommendations!
Meet the Crabs
If someone says “Christmas Island” to you, your first thought may be the Christmas Island red crabs who’s spectacular migration is one of the most impressive on the planet (more below) but the Island is so much more than a habitat for red crabs. There are in fact over 20 different crab species that have been found on the Island. From the endemic blue crabs that inhabit the wetlands, to the extraordinary Robber Crabs (also known as Coconut crabs) who are the world’s largest land crustaceans and wander across the Island’s roads as if they own the place (and you will be required to Slow down. Drive Around when navigating the Island). They also have a habit of stealing any shiny and foreign objects that they find in their path, to the point that locals will hang bags from trees rather than leave them on the ground when camping or hiking (Just be sure to remember where you put it!). There are also various species of hermit crab, ghost crabs, nipper crabs, land crabs and cave crabs on the Island (to name a few) and if you are really interested in getting to know them I recommend reading Crabs of Christmas Island by Max Orchard. – or if you want to see it all in action, take a look at my Christmas Island Photo Essay post for some wanderlust worthy pictures!
And now, a little bit about the main event.
The Christmas Island Red Crab Migration is one of the highlights of the tourism year, and a truly incredible event to witness. It is too much to go into serious details about the crabs migratory behavior and spawning in this post (but you can read all about it here – coming soon!) but suffice to say when Sir Richard Attenborough described it as one of the “most astonishing and wonderful sights” he was absolutely on point. The Island is home to 50 million red crabs (scientific name Gecarcoidea natalis –which are only found on Christmas Island) and each year the adults migrate from the jungle to the coast to breed and spawn. The event takes place between October and January, although it’s commencement is dictated by the wet season and levels of moisture in the air. The synchronized and island wide migration is truly a one of the worlds natural wonders – the carpet of crabs a sight that needs to be seen to be believed. Click through to my full post about the Christmas Island Red Crabs where I (hopefully) have given them the attention they deserve.
Diving & Snorkeling
Offering some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world, the narrow fringe of reef that surrounds Christmas Island is home to 88 different species of coral and 600 species of fish. (This is one place that you don’t want to forget your GoPro when you jump in the water!)
On any given day there are turtles, manta rays, giant trevally, lion fish, spinner dolphins, various small shark species and between October and January, the chance to see Whale Sharks on their migration.
The tiered structure of the Island – which is much like a wedding cake – also continues into the water, with the ocean floor dramatically dropping away into the abyss less than 50m from the coastline. This provides scuba divers and snorkelers with beautiful views of the coral and fish in the shallows and a shelf and wall which drops down to the depths where the fish become larger, and the chances of spotting a (small) shark increase.
Check out Extra Divers (who also have an incredible Facebook page with inspirational underwater imagery from around the Island) and Wet ‘n’ Dry Adventures. Both organisations can arrange day or night dives or coordinate a full on Christmas Island diving trip if you are super keen to spend most of your time underwater.
Walk The Boulder Track
Christmas Island National Park covers twothirds of the island and the Boulder Track is a fantastic walk to get you into the heart of it. Where the track to the Blowholes start, the Boulder track heads off in the opposite direction and winds through the rain-forest and along the coast to the Boulder at South Point (an area of the island which has been ravaged by the Phosphate mine). There is usually lots of red crab and robber crab activity along the track, and visitors are encourage to stick to the path, as the crab holes that cover the ground at either side make the ground less stable (and can result in a shoe full of National Park when your foot disappears down one of them! And yes I am speaking from experience) – although keep your eyes peeled for coloured tags along the trail that will take you out to the coast at various viewing points, the most impressive of these being the Natural Arch. Also, keep in mind that some of the viewpoints may not be accessible at all times of the year due to weather fronts that hit the island, the results of which can occasionally block paths.
See A Blockbuster at the Outdoor Cinema
When was the last time you visited an outdoor cinema?! This small, but perfectly formed outdoor entertainment area is on the hill in Poon Saan allowing for a natural gradient of seats so everyone can have a great view. Every Saturday night, and alternate Wednesdays, a Hollywood Blockbuster (both new releases and old classics) are played out on the big screen. At only $5 a ticket, it is an absolute bargain – and the range of choc tops available is more expansive than any cinema on the mainland! (Although keep in mind that all produce costs a lot to get to the island, so be prepared to pay the very reasonable $6 each for your frozen treat!)
Check out the Views from the Lookouts:
Providing dramatic panoramic views across the coastline, Margaret Knoll is an easy to reach, but isolated spot, located on the East of the Island. A favorite with bird watchers due to the number of seabirds in the area. Head to lookout to watch the Frigatebirds, Golden Bosun, Christmas Island flying foxes and the Red-footed and Brown Boobies as they fly and nest in and around the coast.
Drive along the Murray Road over the north coast towards Settlement for a panoramic view across the island from the on-site gazebo. Surrounded by recent planting’s in the Rainforest Rehabilitation Program, Abbot’s Bobbys may be sighted flying to and from nearby nest sites. Sighting opportunities are increased in the early evening when the birds are returning to their nests and more birds can be spotted beyond the lookout along the section of the road where the crab grids are.
Territory Day Lookout
The spot to take that iconic shot above the expanse of Flying Fish Cove, and come face to face with some of the island’s seabirds. There are picnic, BBQ and playground facilities and it is also the start of the Territory Day Walking track that leads to Tai Jin House.
Golf Course Lookout
The Christmas Island Golf Course lookout (located above the Golf Course, in case you hadn’t guessed) is perched on the cliff edge in the Island’s North East. Offering views of the coastline and several species of sea birds, it’s a great place to come and watch the world go by.
Swim in the Crystal Clear Waters of The Grotto
Only a short 5 minute drive out of Settlement, and a short walk through the bush, and you’ll find the Grotto. A sandy bottomed cave covered by the crystal clear water that flows in from the ocean, it is a great place to take a dip during the day, or dressed with candles, makes for a romantic spot at night. Just be careful if going for a swim as the cave leads to the Ocean, and the opening to get back in can be hard to spot once you are out on the high sea.
Get Sprayed At The Blowholes
Located on the South Coast of the Island, the 4WD track to The Boardwalk at the Blowholes winds through the stunning tall rain forest which covers this part of the Island. Unable to drive to the bottom of the track, visitors are restricted to parking at the top of the hill and walking down to where the track splits into the Boulder Track and The Blowholes (don’t worry, there is signage to point the way at the bottom!). On your way down the hill from the parking area, keep a lookout for the giant strangler fig tree on the right which has absorbed the tree below it leaving a giant hollow trunk. (The kids on the Island have been known to abseil down it, which is very cool!)When you reach the Blowhole Boardwalk you’ll be greeted by a carpet of jagged, porous rock that acts as a conduit for the ocean as it crashes against the coastline, forcing the air bubbles through the gaps and shooting the remaining salt water particles high into the air. The wheezing of the rocks as the air forces it’s way through is a sound like no other and the spray created from these Blowholes is a welcome reprieve from the heat and humidity on Christmas Island.
Jump of the Jetty (in Flying Fish Cove)
“You haven’t ‘done’ Christmas Island until you have jumped off the Jetty” – at least that is what I heard from all the locals, and judging by the number of kids that do this for fun everyday – how bad can it be?! Just head on down to Flying Fish Cove, walk to the end of the Jetty and jump into the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean which surround the island. Although, note to the ladies: when jumping in a bikini, hold onto your top or you
could will end up giving everyone in the cove a bit of a show! (But rest assured, you won’t be the first.. if you know what I mean!)
Christmas Island is a twitchers paradise. Over 100 vagrant and migratory species have been recorded here, and over 80,000 seabirds come to nest here annually. The most famous of them is the golden form of the white-tailed tropic bird which is endemic to Christmas Island and has been adopted as the Island’s fauna emblem. Known locally as the ‘Golden Bosun’ (and is the bird the pub is named after!) they can be seen soaring gracefully above most coastal parts of the Island – but we recommend heading to the Territory Day Lookout for a eye-level view. Other endemic species include the endangered Christmas Island Frigatebird, and endangered Abbotts Booby.
Away from the coastline, the rain forest also boats several endemic species (four of which are on the endangered list), including the Christmas Island hawk owl (elusive and a real prize for Birdwatchers), thrush, goshawk, distinctive sounding emerald dove, imperial pigeon, gossy swiftlet and white eye.
With the number of endemic species, variety of nesting birds, and not to mention the crab activity, it is a wonder that Christmas Island hasn’t been UNESCO heritage listed.
Explore the Dales Walking Tracks
IMPORTANT: As with any walking or hiking activities on the Island, please follow regular safety procedures which include walking with someone (and not alone), letting someone else know where you will be going and your expected arrival time back; carry plenty of drinking water; stick to the marked trails; stay away from cliff edges and obey all signage – they are there for your benefit and protection.
Hugh’s Dale Waterfall
Follow the boardwalk right to the top of the track where you’ll be greeted with a waterfall that flows all year round. You can take a dip under the refreshing (read: cold) falls or simply splash round in the rock pool at it’s base. For the adventurous, climb up the rocks to the left of the waterfall and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful jungle vista, and one of the most beautiful natural sights on the Island.
Quite possibly one of the best kept secrets on the Island, Merrial Beach (often pronounced as Muriel Beach) is located between the start of the Dales Walking Tracks and the boardwalk to Martin Point. The small car park area which marks the start of the trail is next to a fallen tree when there can be up to 20 Robber crabs feasting on the pulp. (They’re actually getting drunk of the natural sugars in the bark of the tree, so if you’re looking for quirky crabs that fall over as they try to climb, this is the place to be!)
To find the beach, hop over the tree and head down the track. There are pink nylon tags around various branches to guide you down to the cove. The bottom of the track can be difficult to negotiate with the rough volcanic rocks both a help to grip and a hindrance to loose limbs or clutching fingers. There can also be some red crab activity on the track, so remember to watch your step.
At the bottom of the track you will have to hop down onto the beach where you will be able to enjoy the cove, practically all to yourself (depending on who else decided to head out that day!)
Anderson Dale & Cove
Now, I was in two minds whether to include this as a must do, but the root systems of the trees leading to the cave at the end of the track is just too impressive not to share. The Anderson Dale Track starts half way along the walking rack to the Waterfall, and there is a sign which marks the right hand turn into the rain forest. There are reflective arrows attached to trees and pink nylon tags to mark the trail (although I did ask Christmas Island Tourism and Parks if it was possible to put out more of these tags as I personally felt a little apprehensive when walking the track – even though I was with some awesome locals! – I’m not a natural bush walker!) Towards the end of the track you will reach a concrete dam and from there you follow the flow of water down to the coast. You’ll climb down the rocks and underneath the root systems of the trees above the crevice before reaching a sheltered cove where the waves crash in.
End your day on the boardwalk at Martin Point where you have the perfect spot to watch the sunset over the ocean as the coastline of the Island is bathed in light.
All the features of diving around Christmas Island, are also the reasons that it makes a great spot for sport, line and fly fishing! Giant trevally, wahoo, yellowfin and dogtooth tuna are just some of the large fish species that cruise these waters and with a range of fishing spots for both novice and advanced fishermen (or women!), all levels of angler are sure to have a great experience. Have a chat with the folks at Shorefire to arrange the perfect trip to suit your needs.
That’s right, folks. this island paradise has it’s own 9 hole golf course, offering visitors a round of golf with one of the most impressive backdrops on the planet. The Ladies comp takes place each Wednesday (from 3pm), with the Men’s comp taking place on Friday (from 3pm) and a mixed comp on Saturday from 12.30pm. Clubs and balls can be hired from the Golf Club or the Visitors Center. And there are rules about what the penalty is when a crab takes your ball – which will definitely give you a story to tell your golf buddies back home!
Chill Out on Some Incredible Beaches
A small Island in the Indian ocean is bound to have some seriously beautiful coastline and Christmas islands beaches do not disappoint. Depending on the time of year, some beaches are more accessible than others, but you won’t be disappointed by a visit to any of them! I have highlighted the major ‘tourist’ beaches below, but if you have a lot of time on the island and want to get more off the beaten path than you already are, ask in the Visitors Center about Egeria Beach, Winifred Beach, Isabel Beach and the natural springs at Freshwater Spring and Waterfall Spring. Also note that none of the beaches on the Island are patrolled by lifesavers and can be subject to large waves, swells, rips and undertows. Please take care when swimming at all areas of the Island.
Lily Beach + Boardwalk
Lily Beach is one of the most easily accessible beaches on Christmas Island and is a great location for crab watching during the red crab migration. At the lowest point, the still as glass rock pools provide the perfect foreground to the waves crashing into coastline behind. And up above on the raised boardwalk, views over the coast line are just as impressive. Get here for sunrise for the perfect start to any morning.
Ethel Beach is similarly easy to reach and offers the traditional sandy expanse below the cliff edges. Look up into the rocks to see the seabirds nesting or simply thrown down a towel and soak up some of the suns rays.
Dolly Beach is possibly the most famous beach on the Island (after Flying Fish Cove) and was once named as the 7th best beach in Australia. Located at the end of a 2km boardwalk (which can often take up to an hour to walk due to stopping and admiring your surroundings). You’ll hear the waves before you see the beach as the line of coconut palms and spiky pandanus trees block your view at the end of the boardwalk before opening up to a beautiful sandy arc bordered by clear ocean on what is easily one of the most impressive beaches on the Island.
If you are lucky you’ll see the tracks of the turtles that have used the beach to lay their eggs, or from the babies making their way to the waters edge after hatching. And if you follow the tracks you may find the nest of either a hawksbill or green turtle, both of which have been spotted on the Island. It is also a favorite with locals who like to camp of Dolly Beach, but be warned, the robber crabs live up to their names here and it is advisable not to put your items down in the sand for any length of time, as you may not fin them there when you return.
One important thing to note is that at some times of the year, Dolly Beach may not be the pristine island paradise you were expecting. This is because the beach lies on the Indian Ocean Gyre, a current system that transports thousands of tonnes of rubbish from Indonesia south each year, with Dolly (and Greta) Beaches becoming the ocean’s dumping ground (more below).
(The beach was inaccessible during my visit, but images of the debris on the beach can be found here)
Arriving at Greta Beach is quite an experience. The steep hilly track down to the cove accessible by car, and then the four flights of stairs hugging the wall of the surrounding cliffs to reach the beach are a brief but challenging walk (moreso when coming back up!). As with Dolly Beach, Greta also lies on the path of the Indian Ocean Gyre which unfortunately carries tonnes on man-made rubbish from South East Asia onto Greta’s shores each year. Beach clean-ups are often organised by the local high school when the kids and wider community spend a day carrying bags off garbage up the steps and off the beach. It is impossible to keep Greta Beach clean year-round because of this, but be sure to take a plastic bag to collect some of the debris on your visit, and do your bit to help keep Christmas Island beautiful. Greta Beach is also a location favored by turtles nesting , making it even more important to keep the beach as clear as possible.
West White Beach
Access to the West White Beach is not for the faint hearted. The most challenging of beach to reach on Christmas Island, an extremely arduous downhill walk and section of cliff face that is traversed by ropes guiding the way down the last 12m of cliff to the beach, may be too challenging for the eldery or children (or those without a reasonable level of fitness). If getting to the beach independently sounds too difficult, you can also arrange for a boat to drop you off at the beach, but (for me, at least) climbing in and out of the beach via rope should be the only way to do it.
Explore The Island’s Caves
Very much off the tracks and barely marked, the entrance to the cave is only meters from the track down to the Blowholes. Marked by a wooden sign that seems to have been there as long as the island itself, the cave is home to several robber crabs. The top (and lit section) can be clambered around by anyone who is able bodied, however to go deeper into the cave, we recommend at least a basic knowledge of caving – and definitely a headtorch!
Daniel Roux Cave
Located in the North of the island and just beyond Smith Point, the Daniel Roux Cave complex consist of two very different cave systems. The upper cave is a large, multi-chamber cave that contains stalemates, stalactites and shoals; the lower cave is a deep subterranean cave that has an entrance that opens into the ocean. Visitors would benefit from having a headtorch for the darker parts in the recesses of both caves. If exploring the cave, ensure you obey the signs, take your time, let people know where you are going and be prepared to get dirty!
Tai Jin House (aka. Buck House)
The former home of the Administrator of Christmas Island, this historic property sits on the cliff edge with a view of both Flying Fish Cove and the expansive Indian Ocean. The two storey property is now a function venue and a museum, but at the time of writing (December 2017), was inaccessible due to a landslide on the access road. Please check with the Visitors Center if access to the property had been resorted when you are on the Island.
Immerse Yourself with Local Culture at the many Temples on the Island
Christmas Island is a melting pot of different cultures, who have lived harmoniously on the Island for decades. There are around 2000 residents on the Island heralding from China, Malaysia and mainland Australia, a lot of whom were initially drawn to the Island to work in the Phosphate Mine.
The Malay community are Muslim, praying at the Mosque in Kampong at Flying Fish Cove. Members of the Chinese community follow a variety of religious beliefs including Buddhism, Christianity and Confucianism and there are a number of temples, shrines and Christian churches around the island. If entering these temples, please remember they are places of worship and are not ‘designed’ with tourists in mind but they are a window into day-to-day life and this fascinating mix of cultures should be respected as such.
Christmas Island Accommodation Options
THE SUNSET – spacious, fully serviced air-conditioned rooms with en-suites and a pool on a wooden deck overlooking the ocean.
From $165 AUD per night
Read Reviews Here
VQ3 LODGE – Centrally located at Settlement, each room has a private ensuite, tea and coffee making facilities, microwave, TV, small fridge and is air-conditioned. Guests are able to use the Pool at the Sunset (across the road)
Approx $145 AUD per night
Read Reviews Here
THE SANCTUARY – tropical home set among lush gardens with its own private lap pool -sleeps 4. Approx $450 per night (1-2 ppl) – $580 per night (3-4 ppm)
COCOS PADANG LODGE – These 3 bedroom units with fully equipped kitchens are perfect for families or large groups, and are centrally located in Settlement.
Approx $235 for 3 bedrooms; $215 AUD for 2 bedrooms & $195 AUD for Double/Twin Share
Read Reviews Here
HIBISCUS HOUSE – whole house that sleeps 4 which is located in the leafy part of Settlement.
Approx $220 AUD per night
THE RETREAT – A fully self contained three bedroom unit perfect for the family or up to three couples. (Sleeps 6)
Approx $220 AUD per night
In Poon Saan
CHRISTMAS ISLAND LODGE – motel style accommodation close to shops, Lucky Ho restaurant and the outdoor cinema.
Approx $120 AUD per night
Head over to the Christmas Island Visitors Center Page to organize bookings for more accommodation options and to learn more about the Island history or Christmas Island travel in general. We recommend booking through the visitors center as the staff there are invaluable when flight cancellations/alterations affect bookings.
Where to Eat on Christmas Island
Whilst there may appear to be quite a few dining options on Christmans Island, not all of them are open for all meal services. Some are breakfast and lunch, dinner only, or breakfast and dinner. They also all have different nights of the week that they are closed – or are sometimes closed for reasons not disclosed, and so it is best to check with the visitors center when you are on the Island as to what is currently open and when! (and making nightly bookings may not be a bad idea!)
Located on the main drag in Settlement, 1888 is open daily for breakfast and lunch. With a small, but tasty menu, I can highly recommend the toasties for breakfast ($10) – although there is a monster all day breakfast available if you are feeling super hungry (or had too many beverages at the Golden Bosun the night before!) and you can’t go past one of their burgers at lunch time.
Located in Poon Saan, Smash is one of the top rated cafe’s on the island, and for good reason. Their coffee is delicious and their menu selection wide and varied. Open for Breakfast and Lunch, be sure to make this cafe a spot for at least one meal on the Island. The breakfast rolls and wraps are fantastic.
Koziak Cafe (at the Recreation Centre)
Serving counter meals, snacks, burgers and salads, the Koziak Cafe is a great spot to stop for lunch if you’ve been out and about in the middle of the Island; or after you have taken advantage of the many facilities available at the Recreation Center including a 25m outdoor pool, gym and multi-use recreation hall.
CLA (Chinese Literary Association)
Serving up huge portions of Chinese food for lunch and dinner, you won’t leave the CLA hungry. Located next door to the Christmas Island Visitors Center on the main road through Settlement the CLA is a favorite with locals and visitors alike.
This colorful Chinese Restaurant is located in Poon Saan, approximately 5 minutes drive from Settlement. Offering multiple pages of menu items comprising different proteins served in a variety of ways, the best way to eat is to chose a few medium sized plates to share and dig into a selection of tasty treats. Highly recommended are the Indian Noodles, Silver Fish or Prawns and Kai Lan (a traditional Chinese leafy green) with Garlic. (Yum!) – And tell Aunty I said hi!
Best known for it’s breakfast fare, head to the Malay Club, just above Flying Fish Cove in Kampong for a feast of curries and Roti before a big deal of exploring.
Rumah Tinggi Bar & Grill
Serving modern Australian meals (with huge portions!), this restaurant is located in an 80 year old building, set on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. Sit on the deck as the palm tree lined coast fades into darkness and watch the moon rise on a clear night. There is a large menu available and the seafood linguine and garlic/chilli prawns are always well received.
The Golden Bosun
Named after one of several endemic bird species on the Island, the Golden Bosun is both the local pub and a restaurant. Loved by visitors and locals alike, and where a round of 4 beers comes to less than $25, there are free pool tables and a dart board for those who like a bit of friendly competition in the pub side, and a dining room overlooking the ocean on the restaurant side. Light meals cost between $13-20 and larger meals between $20-45.
Tour Companies & Photographic Guides on the Island
If you are feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of things to see and do on Christmas Island, there are a couple of tour operators and companies the we highly recommend and who can help tailor your trip to your specific needs:
Indian Ocean Experiences
Lisa at Indian Ocean Experiences operates the only tour company/travel agents on Christmas and the Coco Keeling Islands. Having lived on the Island for over 20 years, you can be safe in the knowledge that she knows all the best spots, activities and things to do on the Island to make your stay a memorable one. And can give you an incredible details about the Island’s past, present and community values. Check out her website for a range of Christmas Island holiday packages and information about crafting your own itinerary.
Faulkner Photography Tours
For the photographer in you, Kirsty will take you to some of the most beautiful parts of the Island and help you capture some of the most incredible images to compliment your visit. Whether you are interested in the rugged landscapes, exquisite birdlife, land crab activity or simply want to capture the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets around the Island, Faulkner Photography Tours will help you showcase the best of the island both in location and through the helpful shooting and editing tips that Kirsty is happy to share with you throughout the tour.
Essential Visitor Information
Why is Christmas Island Called Christmas Island?
First sighted in 1615 by Richard Rowe, master of the Thomas, it wasn’t until Captain William Mynors of the Royal Mary, an English East India Company vessel, named the island when he sailed past it on Christmas Day, in 1643. It is always referred to as Christmas Island and not Xmas Island.
Where is Christmas Island?
Christmas Island is an Australian External Territory located in the Indian Ocean and is in fact closer to Indonesia than Australia. As such, Christmas Island residents always say their address is is ‘Christmas Island Indian Ocean’ (and can be seen on all tourism products) rather than Christmas Island, Australia. (Other external Australian territories include the Coral Sea Islands, Norfolk Island, Ashmore and Cartier Islands and Heard Island and McDonald Islands.
In latitude and longitude terms, Christmas Island location lies at 10.4475° S, 105.6904° E.
How to Travel to Christmas Island
Christmas Island (and the nearby Cocos Island) are one of the most remote parts of Australia and is far removed from the regular tourist track. Flights into and off Christmas Island are only serviced by three airlines: Virgin Australia from Perth and Garuda from Jakarta, Indonesia. Virgin fly to Christmas Island on Tuesday and Friday; Garuda operate their return service on Fridays only and Malindo Air have just (late 2018) started a service from Kuala Lumpur which flys on Monday and Tuesdays.
The difficulty in getting to Christmas Island (and sometimes getting off! – especially with Virgin who only have 1 plane that services the Island and the offshore mines in the area – you can probably guess who takes preference. Note, it’s not visitors to or Christmas Islands residents) is part of it’s charm. However all visitors should take potential delays into account when planning their trips. (READ: Buy Travel Insurance) But remember – the most incredible places on this earth are off the beaten path, and the effort it takes to get to them is always worth it. And that includes sharing how to go Christmas Island and our top tips for visiting Christmas Island.
How to Get Around Christmas Island
Covering a total area of 135 square kilometers (of which 63% is Covered by Christmas Island National Park), visitors will need to hire a vehicle in order to get around Christmas Island. There is no public transport, and only 1 taxi firm available. A variety of 2 or 4WD cars are available to collect at Christmas Island airport and are ideal for exploring the various unsealed roads and bush tracks which wind around the Island.
Visitors are encouraged to take care and drive slowly on Christmas Island, both to protect the various crab species which can often been seen on the roads and because the tracks can become slippery with the intermittent rain and constant humidity on the Island. Experience with 2 or 4 wheel driving can only be helpful to visitors, but of course, is not mandatory.
Currency, Cash & Card Usage on the Island
As an Australian external territory, the Aussie Dollar is legal tender and the Australian Government remain in charge. All supermarkets, shops and restaurants etc accept credit and debit cards, but cash in small notes is very much appreciated at most establishments. There is only one bank on the Island owned by Westpac, however cash can be withdrawn if you spend over $20 in the supermarket or from the post office located just above Flying Fish Cove.
What Things Cost on Christmas Island
Christmas Island Australia is remote and all supplies – food, drink, fuel, products etc – have to be imported. Air freight is meant to arrive every few weeks, and the shipping container with bulk items/products is meant to arrive every few months but can be delayed due to a number of factors. The residents deal with these delays as a consequence of Island life, and unless there is a serious shortage of supplies visitors will not notice.
These supply issues and distance they have to travel do have a couple of consequences though. The first is that food items – particularly fresh items such as fruit and vegetables carry a premium price point:
- Small meals average between $10-25
- Large meals anywhere between $20-50
- Coffee $3-6
- Iced Coffee $10
- Soft Drinks $3
- Beer (bottle) $5-8
- Wine (250ml) $5-9
Duty Free on Christmas Island
Despite the fact that Christmas Island is officially one of the Australian Indian Ocean Territories, Duty Free is still available to purchase when entering or leaving the Island. However I would highly recommend that you skip the Duty Free in Perth and buy your booze (or other such goodies) on the Island. This is due to the fact there is no tax on Beer, Wine, Spirits and Cigarettes on the Island, making these items ridiculously cheap – even better than Duty Free Prices. 750ml of Smirnoff will set you back $12 and 1 Litre of Gin comes in under $20. And you still have the 2.25l import limit per person when re-entering mainland Western Australian.
Telephone Networks & Wifi on Christmas Island
At present, the Island has a 2G network operated by Telstra, which is available in residential and airport areas. This means everyone on the Telstra network has the ability to call and text in these serviced areas, and international roaming charges apply to those on alternative networks. There is no data available on any mobile network.
Wifi on the Island is restricted to the Internet cafe in the Visitor Information Centre and a few hot-spots in residential areas where the connection that can be bought by the hour, day or week. Additionally, several hotels offer their own wifi networks as standard, perfect for emails and social networks, but not for streaming or heavy bandwidth tasks.
However – this is set to change with a superfast cable network slated to come from Singapore in the pipeline (literally) and is expected to go live in the next 12 months; and when this happens, the wifi will likely be better than mainland Australia (not that that is such a hard task!)
Weather & Climate on Christmas Island
Christmas Island is located only 10 degrees South of the Equator (+ 2750km from the Australian mainland) and offers a year round tropical climate with wet and dry seasons. The temperature is warm all year round with average lows of 22°C and average highs of 28°C (don’t forget your sunscreen!) and constant humidity levels between 70-90%. The wet season runs between December and April when it is advisable to pack a light rain jacket, although showers at this time of year rarely last long.
Mosquito’s on Christmas Island
Yes there are plenty of mosquitoes – in the jungle, on the beaches and in the bars and restaurants – they are everywhere. And yes they love to bite (one night without bug spray and I got 50 bites on my legs alone – the mozzies have always been a fan of my English skin and the lack of bug spray often results in bites wherever I am in the world). BUT – on Christmas Island the Mosquitos do not carry any diseases. There is no risk of malaria or dengue or yellow fever – or any of the other associated conditions that result from Mosquito bites, just a potential for itchy skin. We highly recommend taking a serious supply of bug spray and reapplying generously throughout the day. And in the event you run out (which if your plane is cancelled twice can definitely happen!) – you can purchase more at the supermarket in Settlement.
Time Zone on Christmas Island
Christmas.Island is UTC +7 time zone (also known as IndoChina time), making it one hour behind Western Australia.
And don’t forget these Christmas Island Essentials before you go!
So there you have it – hopefully we’ve given you enough information help you plan your trip to travel to Christmas Island – and given you a suggested itinerary of Things To Do in Christmas Island to make sure you get the most from your visit. Don’t forget to let me know you’re own highlights once you’re back!
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