A new deep, 50-metre wide channel has been dredged through the previously shallow area south of Iririki Island, allowing easy access to the port. Now yachts with a draft of over 3 metres or a tall mast can get into Port Vila’s inner harbour from Pontoon Bay. Additionally, the new international pier and refurbished seawall edge smartened up harbour town.
Port Vila is the capital of Efate, Vanuatu’s main island. Most of the island’s business and tourism are based here in the Shefa Province. Efate boasts many rivers, cascading waterfalls, and tropical lagoons. Consequently, it also has a rugged coastline and rich verdant rainforest.
The town is just 10 minutes drive from the airport. Vanuatu is becoming known for its superb restaurants serving gourmet cuisine and being a beautiful vacation destination. The town’s friendly nightlife caters for everyone with laid-back, barefoot bars to high-end nightclubs and casinos. Souvenir shopping is less stressful than in many holiday resorts as prices are fixed with no bargaining needed. Tipping is not part of the culture.
Port Vila international airport offers many scheduled flights to Australia and New Zealand and local flights to Fiji, Noumea and the Solomon Islands.
For thousands of years, Melanesians inhabited Efate, being descendants of the original Polynesian migrators. As time moved on, battles over ownership of the region ensued. Eventually, French and English colonialists settled here. Initially, Port Vila competed with the more frequented Havannah Harbour. Finally, Malaria and drought around 1882 drove the colonialists to set up shop in Vila Bay instead.
In 1906, the new Condominium government – being a co-ownership agreement between the English and the French – declared Port Vila the Efate capital. However, it was a rough town. Mostly, beachcombers and ex-convicts from all over New Caledonia favoured the area. This seedy past continued to hang over the area for several decades. However, the region became established as a tax haven and duty-free zone in 1970. The significant redevelopment of the town and waterfront area encouraged visitors to arrive from all over the world. Tourism continued to boom. Vanuatu has since become a top-rated holiday spot for sailing, diving, fishing, and luxury holidays. It is especially popular with Australians, Europeans and the Japanese.