While great civilizations were flourishing in the rest of the world, much of the Pacific was barely inhabited. Still the small spits of land in the region saw several important historical scenes. Mysterious monoliths on Easter Island and Aboriginal spiritual sites in Australia round out some of the cultural highlights. Elsewhere the pristine waters of the South Pacific saw some of the most intense fighting in World War II, turning many beaches and reefs into battlegrounds and graveyards.

  1. Easter Island, Chile

    The baffling collection of Moais, stone monoliths spread around this isolated island, have perplexed scientists since the day they were discovered.

  2. Uluru, Australia

    Also called Ayer’s Rock, this sacred Aboriginal site is one of the most important Australian historical landmarks.

  3. Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands

    From 1942-45 some of the most intense fighting of WWII, including the Battle of Guadalcanal, took place on this small island in the Solomons. A memorial stands today near the town of Honriara.

  4. Battle Site, Midway

    A turning point of WWII and one of the most important naval victories for the Allies took place at the tiny Midway atoll. The remains of air craft carriers and warplanes can still be seen in the clear waters.

  5. Ruapekapeka Pa Historic Reserve, New Zealand

    This fortified fort of the Maori was the site of the final battle of the War of the North.

  6. Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea

    The 60 mile single file trail through Papua New Guinea was an important battleground between Japanese and Australian forces during WWII and is now an Australian pilgrimage site.

  7. Port Arthur, Australia

    The elaborate gardens and prison facilities on this 100-acre site in Tasmania were built with convict labor. A notorious massacre took place here and tales of ghosts still roaming the site are rampant.

  8. Sydney, Australia

    OK, so the Opera House isn’t that old, but check out the Victoria Barracks, Georgian and Victorian architecture, the Customs House, and Macquarie Street.

  9. Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea

    This small bay is littered with WWII war relics, from the first Japanese defeat in the Pacific.

  10. Royal Exhibition Building, Australia

    Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition building was home to the 1880 and 1880 World Expeditions, as well as Australia’s first parliament.