The Essential Guide to Christmas Island 2022
Dolly Beach (Music: Flight Attendant Josh Rouse)
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*All information is correct at the time of writing (Sep 22). We recommend checking prior to travelling as some information may have changed.
Thinking of going to Christmas Island but unsure about what the go is? Look no further, we've got you! Here we give you the basic rundown on what to expect, what to pack and the the must see and dos. There is so much more to Christmas Island than we can possibly mention here (plus why take the fun out of exploring this piece of paradise in your own time by telling you everything?) so this is a guide to get you started so you can hit the ground running!
So jump in...adventure awaits!
What and where is Christmas Island?
Christmas Island is a remote Australian Territory in the Indian ocean, approximately 350kms south of Java, Indonesia and 2600kms north west of Perth. It is a nature lovers paradise with much of the 135sqkm island covered in National Park it has everything from Grottos, to Blowholes, To Rainforests, to Waterfalls and Wetlands. If you love hiking, snorkelling, diving and getting in touch with nature, you'll love Christmas Island. The island, an extinct volcano, is surrounded by tropical reef, rising over 360m above sea level and sinking kilometres in depth only a few hundred metres from the shoreline. It is perhaps best know for it's epic annual Red Crab Migration where (usually Oct/Nov) whereby millions of crabs make their way out of the jungle and towards the coast to breed and release eggs into the sea.
Getting there from Oz:
Virgin from Perth 2 flights a week departing International Terminal with the Flight time being approximately 4 hours.
Pro tip: duty free shopping at the airport! (a side note: alcohol is available to purchase on the island at duty free prices)
What to expect:
Don't be put off by the Phosphate mining operations that mar the otherwise idyllic coastline at the main settlement, Flying Fish Cove. Here you can enjoy snorkelling straight off the beach or jetty and be immediately immersed in a coral wonderland brimming with marine life. Other settlements include Drumsite, Poon Saan and Silver City. Accommodation options range from basic but comfortable hotels and guest houses, to upmarket Villas and off the beaten track Eco Chalets so you are sure to find one that suits you. The settlements themselves have a casual charm about them and you will find supermarkets, restaurants and cafe's within easy reach. Christmas Island has a diverse range of cultures including Chinese, Malay, Australian, English and Irish, the locals are friendly and happy to have a chat and a laugh. Expect rugged, stunning scenery, beautiful beaches, gorgeous sunsets plus loads of hiking opportunities, snorkelling, diving and fishing.
Internet access is available widely and your mobile phone service should work here around the major settlement areas, you may find that you lose reception when exploring far from the townsites. Wi-Fi Hotspots are also available at various points across the island (most accommodation places, the Visitors Centre, The Golden Bosun, Tracks Tavern to name a few).
What to pack:
Food & Drink:
Christmas Island has many food choices although some groceries and eating out can be expensive. It is not necessary to bring your own food.
Clothing & Accessories:
Christmas Island(CI) is pretty laid back like Cocos but there is opportunities to style it up a bit while still opting for lightweight, breathable and comfortable clothes. It can get humid at times so natural fibres will go a long way to keeping you cool and odour free. Many of the beaches require a hike to get down to them (varying in difficulty and fitness levels) so we definitely recommend a pair of hiking boots or at least a pair (or 2) of good quality reef shoes that you can walk distances in comfortably as they will be worth their weight in gold. Sunscreen, insect repellent and a good hat is also a must.
For the girls:
For fabulous, easy care travelling partners that look great and are super comfortable, we loved the Tanah Folk Harper Linen Top (it also doubles as a skirt!) paired with the Saba Harem Pants for a stylish happy hour look that will take you on to dinner and you can't go past the Isle Sarong, a must have for so many uses. We can't go past the Gorgeous Yasmina Print Maxi by Jaase, it's just made for island getaways!
For the guys:
Destii's 100% Linen Shirt is cool, lightweight and perfect for beaching, BBQs and balmy nights. The Sea Shepherd SPF50+ Reprieve Rashie is a must have for long days out in the water, keeping you protected from the sun in or out of the wet. For ultimate reef safe sun protection we can't go past Sunbutter's SPF50 sunscreen collab with Sea Shepherd. FallenBrokenStreet bucket hats are just made for island life, weather you're out fishing, boating or beaching. Choose from reversable or one colour and get your shade on.
Where to eat & drink:
CI has a few great dining and drinking options and most don't require a booking. Some are located up the hill (Poon San, Silver City and Drumsite) and others down the hill (Flying Fish Cove, The Settlement).
The CI Bakery and Smash Espresso and Poon Saan Café are great for your morning coffee and various breakfast options.
Koolkaiz Café is a hidden gem inside the Recreation Centre serving amazing burgers, sandwiches and café style meals.
Flying Fish Café is CI's only food truck offering coffee, milkshakes, Malay and Western cuisine.
Lucky Ho (bookings recommended and book for earlier time slots as dishes can sell out) & CLA are must-dos for Chinese cuisine and the noodle dishes at CLA have reached almost legendary status.
The Golden Bosun is a great pub to watch the sunset while enjoying a pub style meal and Tracks Tavern is a sports bar that's open all day serving fresh made meat & salad rolls and you can't miss the Sunday night roast dinners (you will need to book for this one or put your name on the board the day before). There's also Paradise Pizza if you want a take away pizza moment.
Our absolute favourite place was Rumah Tinggi Tavern and Restaurant. A beautiful space, stunning ocean views, gorgeous food and amazing cocktails what's not to love? Be sure to check what days it is open as while we were there it was only open on a Saturday from 4pm. You wont want to miss having a drink and a bite to eat in the stylish alfresco area or on the expansive lawn under the palm trees and festoon lights at the most westerly spot in Australia.
There are a number of supermarkets in each settlement where you will find a decent array of products although fresh produce can sometimes be limited. Here you can also buy alcohol at duty free prices and most staples if you want to make your own meals.
Pro Tip: At the airport, most accommodation places and the visitor's centre you can pick up a flyer that outlines what eateries are open and when, where they are located and what type of food and drink options they offer. This flyer comes in very handy as times and days vary for different establishments.
Christmas Island is a rough and rugged paradise with many spectacular areas to discover that can be difficult to reach so before you go exploring, get peace of mind by dropping into the CI Police Station prior to heading off to grab Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). Available to hire Free of Charge, PLBs are portable devices that can be activated in the event of an emergency when immediate search and rescue assistance is required.
Sea Eye Car Rental and Soon Car Rental are the two car rental companies in Christmas Island. You will need a 4WD car to get around as the island is quite large and many of the places you wont want to miss require a 4wd to access. If you end up with a slightly beaten up Rav4 like we did, don't worry! These babies handle the steep terrain like a dream (low gear will be your best friend in some places) and are virtually indestructible.
Pro tip: Check you car tyres closely before accepting the car to ensure none of the tyres are flat or worn through. You don't want to find yourself stuck especially if you're flying in on a Friday as the car rental place is closed over the weekend.
It pays to book in advance to ensure a car is available and full WA road rules apply (including seatbelts).
Taxis and Airport Transfers
Christmas Island's taxi service is available on weekday evenings (except Monday) and after midday on weekends. You will need to book in advance as the service is limited with normally only 1 driver available.
If you're not comfortable with driving you can still experience what Christmas island by going on a tour. There are a number of tours to choose from, both on land and on the water. Choose from a range of day tours, fishing tours, diving and snorkelling tours even photography tours, you are bound to find one that suits you. Remember to book in advance as numbers are limited. A few of the tour companies are as follows:
Christmas Island Fishing & Adventure - Fishing Charters, Scuba & Snorkelling
Christmas Island Wet n'Dry Adventures - Scuba, Snorkelling & Sightseeing Tours
Extra Divers Australia - Scuba, Snorkelling & Boat Tours
Freedive Christmas Island - Scuba & Snorkelling
Indian Ocean Experiences - Sightseeing Day Tours
Shorefire - Fishing Charters & Tours
Hugh Dales Waterfall
Imagine walking through a rainforest jungle, reaching a stunning waterfall that you can stand or sit under the cascading water to cool down in the most delicious way AND having it all to yourself. There are few places in the world where you can have that kind of tranquil moment in time without large groups of tourists waiting for their own opportunity. Situated in the Dales area of the wetlands, take the boardwalk area through the forest and past the giant Tahitian chestnut trees up to the permanently flowing waterfall. it's about a 1km walk to reach the falls and if you're feeling a bit more adventurous, you can take an offshoot track 800m down to Anderson dale which is a small grotto like gorge with a stream that opens into the ocean (please note this track has a moderate level of difficulty and ocean conditions can be dangerous a times). Be sure to check out the Giant Strangler Fig just before you get to the Dales parking area.
About 5 minutes drive from the Settlement along Gaze Road , the Grotto is located on the left just before you reach the golf course. The grotto is a stunning small cave containing a beautiful pool that is a mix of saltwater and fresh water, perfect for a refreshing dip on a hot day. An easy 50m walk from the road will bring you to to the cave opening where you can climb down over the rocks and lower yourself into the cool water by the rope that's fastened there. It's not too difficult but be careful as the rocks can be slippery when wet. This little oasis beats to the rhythm of the sound of the waves crashing against the shoreline and squeezing through the narrow openings into the grotto itself. Sometimes, due to the acoustics and the swell, the sound can get loud, like a massive wave is going to hit although there's barely a ripple on the surface of the water.
Pro Tip: Plan a visit in the evening, where you can light some candles and enjoy a romantic evening you wont forget in a hurry (when you're ready to leave, remember to take everything with you - leave no trace)
The Blowholes are a spectacular sight and definitely worth a visit. They are easy to access by car and then a stroll along the boardwalk and viewing platforms will give you many opportunities to experience the Blowholes and the power of the sea surging through this alien landscape. Watching (and hearing) the blowholes spray seawater into the air when the large waves hit the coastline is mesmerising and its difficult to work out exactly how many you are seeing along the landscape. You'll also enjoy sweeping views along the rugged coastline along the southern side of the island. Be aware, you may get a bit wet from a few cheeky blowholes located right near the walkway....
Dolly Beach is a gorgeous secluded beach that's accessible by a 2.2km forest boardwalk and is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. The steep drive down to the bottom carpark is not for the faint hearted but totally doable, but if you're unsure your car will make it back up again you can leave the it at the top parking area and walk down. The walk is relatively easy and along the way you will see tonnes of red crabs, blue crabs and awesome giant robber crabs going about their business in the forest. The long walk is rewarding when it opens up to a palm fringed beach with crystal blue water, coral reef, freshwater stream and gorgeous rock pools, it is also a turtle nesting area and a popular choice to camp (you will need a permit first). Watch your belongings around the giant robber crabs as they love to find new 'treasures' to take away with them. Before you start on the walk down, be sure to grab one of the empty rubbish bags available at the entrance and take it down with you to collect marine debris and rubbish that comes in on the tides and washes up on the shore. Every little bit helps!
Flying Fish Cove
Flying Fish Cove is located at the bottom of the Settlement area and it's a great protected area for swimming and snorkelling. You can swim, snorkel or dive from the shore or use the platform at the end of the jetty and you'll be instantly surrounded by coral and swarms of fish and other marine life. Be sure to wear reef shoes as the coral is sharp and you really don't want to accidently step on a stone fish. There are shady grassed areas above the beach with BBQ facilities and shelters and its a great spot to watch the sun set. There's also public toilets and showers.
Pro tip: If it's fly out day and you need to check out of your accommodation early, you can still spend the day swimming and snorkelling and simply have a shower at Flying Fish Cove or if you are grabbing a bite at Kookaiz Café there is changerooms and showers at the rec centre if you're discreet.....
Tai Jin House
Unfortunately, like so many islands Christmas Island is at the mercy of tides, trade winds, swell and storms. With these comes a stark reminder of the global pollution we humans cause through high levels of plastics, rubbish and debris that wash up on the shores daily. The majority of this pollution comes from other countries and is carried across the oceans along the currents. Though the locals have regular beach clean ups and marine debris campaigns the pollution is relentless and they can’t do it alone. The island has introduced rubbish collection points at many of the places of interest, whereby you can take a rubbish bag with you, collect debris, plastics and rubbish while you're there and return it to the collection point before leaving where it will be collected along with the other filled bags and removed. If you are exploring one of these beautiful islands (or anywhere else for that matter) and you see rubbish, please pick up what you can and dispose of it in a correct manner as every little bit helps and small efforts combined can have huge impacts. Just as importantly, try to leave each place just as you found it (leave no trace) or if possible a little bit better, for If we each do our little bit, it will go a long way to helping to preserve our precious marine environments.