Looking out over Flying Fish Cove, Christmas Island.
As uniqueness goes, Christmas Island is up there with the best of them. A destination is so rare and remote that it is home to exotic flora and fauna found nowhere else.
Travelling to Christmas Island, you are still in Western Australia and indeed Australia, be it just, you’re on the very edge of its boundaries, closer to Asia and another world away.
Christmas Island’s, melting pot of cultures will quickly captivate you, sweeping you away in a puff of balmy air and a haze of a million Red Crabs.
Where is Christmas Island exactly?
Christmas Island is in the Indian Ocean, 1500km west of the Australian mainland and 2600km from Perth. Christmas Island is an Australian territory. However, its nearest neighbour is Indonesia, which lies 350km to the north.
Getting to Christmas Island.
Perth, Western Australia, is your departure point to fly to Christmas Island from the Australian mainland. Virgin Australia flies twice weekly; their flights do a return loop that takes in Perth, Christmas Island, Cocos Island and Exmouth. Virgin is the only airline that services the island. Flights leave Perth on Tuesdays and Fridays. The Tuesday flight is via Perth/Christmas Island/Cocos Island/Exmouth/Perth, and the Friday departure is the reverse Perth/Exmouth/Cocos Island/Christmas Island/Perth.
HOT TIP #1
When planning a trip to Christmas Island, consider it an overseas holiday. Even know you’re travelling to an Australian Territory and technically still in Australia, go about your planning as if you’re going overseas.
HOT TIP #2
Plan your trip and flights to take advantage of the direct legs to Christmas Island. Depart Perth on the Tuesday flight and return to Perth on the Friday flight. This will eliminate the long haul via Cocos Island and Exmouth. If you plan to visit Cocos, there is no avoiding it on one leg of your flight.
HOT TIP #3
Christmas Island airport is a sight-only runway, meaning if the pilot can’t see the runway, the plane doesn’t land. Make sure you have a good carry-on bag that contains a change of clothes, medicines, passport (In case you end up in Jakarta for a night) and paper copies of all travel documents. Don’t rely on your mobile phone working or having internet.
Note: Exmouth is purely refuelling. There is no getting on or off the plane.
Note: Departures are via the T1 terminal at Perth Airport, which is an international departure, not domestic.
Things to think about/organise before arriving on Christmas Island
A Hire Car
You will need a vehicle to navigate the island successfully. This is not an island you can ride a bike around. The distances between places are substantial, and the hills steep and taxing.
Christmas Island does not have a fleet of taxis and Ubers waiting at the airport arrivals; a car is essential and best organised before arriving. There is not a huge fleet of hire cars on the island; demand can be high depending on the time of year. They are best organised before departing so you’re mobile when you arrive.
Two things you will have to watch out for while driving around Christmas Island, especially at night or after rain, are crabs and potholes. All crabs tend troads.
Crabs are a big part of Christmas Island.
When driving around Christmas Island, look out for its famous Crabs.
Your Mobile Phone
Communications on the island are not fantastic, don’t expect your mobile phone to be much more than a camera in most places you venture.
Telstra is the only carrier that works on Christmas Island; sometimes, this is only just. There is no data service on mobile phones on Christmas Island.
You should be able to make calls in the populated areas of The Settlement, Flying Fish Cove, Silver City and Drumsite; however, sending texts and photos and logging onto emails and Facebook will have to be aided by WIFI at your accommodation.
Over half the island is National Park a lot of what you will want to see is within the National Park, and your phone will not have service in these areas.
Mobile phone coverage is limited; if venturing out to explore, drop by the Police Station in The Settlement before departure. They will loan you a PLB (Personal locator beacon). They are free and might just save you some major grief should you get lost, injured or stuck somewhere.
Bring Some Food with you.
On the island, you have several options for buying groceries. Christmas Island supermarket in The Settlement and Metro at Flying Fish Cove would probably be the most accessible to most visitors. They would have enough supplies to get you by. The catch is that it may not be exactly what you want and will cost you; it’s expensive, but so is freight to get it here.
Before leaving Perth, get two white foam esky’s, fill one with fruit & veg and the other with meat. Meat must be vacuum sealed and frozen solid at check-in time. Keep your receipts to show exactly what you have, and when you bought them, you will have to present them at check-in at the airport.
Doing this bit of preparation before leaving will remove a lot of stress once you arrive and start your holiday and ensure you have meals that you enjoy eating.
NOTE: If you are only staying for four days, this might not be necessary; however, any longer, and it should be considered.
Ensure you bring spares of things like phone cords & chargers, memory cards, Go Pro batteries, battery packs, a USB charging adapter for a cigarette lighter in a hire car, sunglasses, and reading glasses. Retail outlets are limited on Christmas Island, and there is every chance they won’t have what you’re looking for. To save yourself from being stuck, bring a spare.
Don’t forget to pack your snorkelling gear; you will need it and want to see what’s under the water; it’s a wonderland. Shoreline Fishing & Dive in The Settlement has a fantastic selection to purchase should you forget or decide you want to once you’re here.
Bring what you need and a little more, just in case. You may have, especially if the medicine you need is specific to controlling a health issue. There is a Pharmacy on the island, which is pretty well stocked. However, they may not have what you need or the quantity. Should they not have what you are looking for, it would take longer to get it here than your holiday is long.
Arriving on the Island
Most of the accommodation for visitors to Christmas Island is located in The Settlement. From the airport, this is roughly 8km or nearly 5 miles. Hopefully, you have your hire car. Once at your accommodation, you are within walking distance, bike ride or short car trip of most of the services Christmas Island has.
Services on the Island
The populated areas of Christmas Island are on the west side, broken up into four areas as you venture up the hill. Down at sea level is The Settlement and Flying Fish Cove. As you progress up the hill from here, you will pass through Silver City/Poon Saan, finally reaching Drumsite at the top. The remainder of the island is all National Park and mining leases.
The Settlement & Flying Fish Cove: In these places, you will find the majority of what Christmas Island has to offer.
- Most of the accommodations except for Swell Lodge.
- The Visitor Centre
- Supermarkets in The Settlement, you’ll find the CI Supermarket and in Flying Fish Cove is Metro Supermarket.
- Restaurants include the Golden Bosun Tavern, Le CLA Chinese, CI Bakery & Flying Fish Cafe – Christmas Island’s only food truck serving authentic Malay.
- The Pharmacy doubles as a news agency.
- The Post Office – Australia Post.
- Most of Christmas Island‘s retail shops include a fishing tackle/Bike/dive store, a Surf shop, and a couple of clothes shops. You don’t come to Christmas Island to shop.
- Banking – There is one bank on Christmas Island a Westpac bank, the Post office allows cash withdrawals and just about everywhere accepts Eftpos.
Poon Saan: This is the first place you will pass through up the hill from Flying Fish Cove. It is largely a residential area. However, it does have a few things to discover.
- Accommodation, CI Apartments are in Poon Saan
- Restaurants, Lucky Ho – Chinese, Seaview Fish & Chips – Try the local Wahoo & Smash Espresso – good food & coffee.
- The grocery store is called Meng Chong
- The Outdoor Cinema is also located here
- Christmas Island Hardware is also here
The Yellow Temple in Poon Saan on Christmas Island.
Drumsite: This is the last place you’ll pass through on your way up the hill; this is the last stop before heading to the National Park.
- Restaurants, only one up here, it is called Tracks Tavern
- The grocery Store is called Boong Trading
As a point of interest, the only school on Christmas Island is in Drumsite, Christmas Island District High School, which caters to Prep to Year 12.
Located in between Poon Saan & Drumsite is Prospect Hill Road; along this road, you will find the Christmas Island Hospital and the Recreation Centre.
The Recreation Centre offers a full gymnasium, indoor courts for various sports and a 25m eight-lane outdoor swimming pool.
The recreation centre is also home to Koolaiz Cafe, offering nice food, good coffee and a great selection of iced coffees/milkshakes and fruit smoothies.
Whether you have a day a week or a year, there is so much to discover and explore on Christmas Island. I will endeavour to give you a guide, a mud map if you like, and a point of reference on where to start and aim.
Four-day plan – Arrive on a Tuesday and depart on a Friday. Airline arrivals and departures on Christmas Island are not an exact science if everything is running on time, you will arrive in the afternoon around 3.30 pm and depart in the afternoon around 3.30 pm.
After getting through the airport, collecting your hire car, finding your accommodation and drawing your breath, you won’t have too much time left on Tuesday. Finish your day down at the jetty watching the sunset, followed by dinner at the Tavern.
Christmas Island sunset from the Jetty, Flying Fish Cove.
Christmas Islands Tavern with Indian Ocean views.
One of many great meals to be enjoyed while dining out on Christmas Island.
Wednesday is your first full day. Start it at
Flying Fish Cove, grab your snorkelling gear and, get in the water, enjoy one of the best off-the-beach snorkels you’ll find anywhere. Swim out to the drop-off, where the reef ends in a spectacular perpendicular drop, and the big blue begins.
HOT TIP: Enter the water off the end of the jetty.
The Drop-off in Flying Fish Cove, Christmas Island.
Nature’s Aquarium on Christmas Island.
Out beyond the reef, underwater on Christmas Island is just Wow.
Once you have had enough, check out the Flying Fish Cove Cafe – Food van
Christmas Island’s very own food van.
or make your way up to
Smash Espresso in Poon Saan for a feed and coffee.
Breakfast or lunch, no need to go hungry on Christmas Island.
Pretty good coffee too on Christmas Island.
Kaya Buns, a Malay treat on Christmas Island.
Continuing up the hill to Drumsite, you will find the
Territory Day Park, there is a stunning lookout over Flying Fish Cove and a beautiful little rainforest loop walk of 1km; take your time there are several big fig trees and lots of crabs.
Your cue to turn, for one of Christmas Island’s best views.
View from the lookout is one of Christmas Island’s best.
One of many large fig trees on Christmas Island.
From here, backtrack down the hill a little, turning at Prospect Hill Road, follow to the end and turn left. Stop in and check out the
Golf Course Lookout, splendid views over the golf course and ocean; the walk to the lookout is about 1km, passing an old Chinese cemetery on the way. The walk is pretty easy going in as it’s all downhill; the walkout is a little steep but manageable.
Beginning of the track, Christmas Island has many great hikes.
Vibrant Robber Crabs a Christmas Island surprise.
View from the Lookout, Christmas Island at its best.
Continue on down the hill to
Lily & Ethel beaches are beautiful spots, best swum at low tide if you can time your visit. There is a wonderful little boardwalk that links the two beaches. There are a reasonable set of stairs to negotiate at Ethel Beach.
Ethel Beach on Christmas Island is great for a swim, snorkelling or walking.
Walk Between Beaches, lots of boardwalks on Christmas Island.
Lily Beach a Christmas Island favourite.
From here, continue onto
The Grotto, a cave, an underground swimming hole filled with a mix of fresh water and salt water, the latter being pushed through a narrow channel from the open ocean; it’s a surreal experience. The colour & noise are extraordinary, picture-perfect.
Swimming at The Grotto, Christmas Island. Unforgettable.
The Grotto on Christmas Island.
You’re almost back in The Settlement by this stage; time to freshen up and think about sunset viewing.
Indian Ocean Sunset, from a vantage point on Christmas Island.
Thursday, Day 2. Venture out into the Christmas Island National Park, head to
Hugh Dale Waterfall, from the carpark, it’s a 1km pretty flat, easy walk-in. However, there are a set of pretty steep stairs at the end of the walk to reach the waterfall, so save some energy.
On this walk, you will encounter the island’s Blue Crabs and many large trees like the Tahitian Chestnut.
Refreshing, Christmas Island’s very own tropical waterfall.
Christmas Island Blue Crabs
After completing the waterfall walk, continue down the track a little way to the next carpark; this is
Martin Point, a gentle walk of 200m to a beautiful lookout.
Stay awhile and enjoy a fabulous view. There are many to enjoy on Christmas Island.
Continue back along the east/west baseline road, calling into the
Blowholes, along the track down to the Blowholes, be sure to stop and admire the ancient Strangler Figs. There are two, and well worth a look. The walk around the Blowholes is completed on a constructed boardwalk; it’s an easy walk and allows great viewing of the Blowholes and the ocean, take some time here to sit, listen, and watch Boobie birds are often spotted up close.
The Blowholes of Christmas Island, best when the sea is angry.
Boobie Bird of Christmas Island.
Strangler Figs are numerous on Christmas Island.
Leaving the Blowholes wander down to
Back in the day, South Point once had a thriving community. Today all the remains are the ruins of the old railway station and a building, having said that it’s quite interesting. Nearby is a Chinese Temple, also interesting to check out; it’s an insight into what was.
Old Train Station, Christmas Island history.
Chinese Temple on Christmas Island.
South Point Ruins, Christmas Island’s yesterday.
On your drive back to The Settlement, you will pass the turn-off to Dolly & Greta Beaches. These two beaches are beautiful and definitely worth your time and effort if you have some time at the end of your day, a 4WD vehicle to get you in and a bit of energy remaining.
Dolly Beach is approximately a 2km walk each way through the jungle; most is completed on the constructed boardwalk. However, there is a set of stairs and a tricky unmade section at the end; take care.
Jungle walk to the beach on Christmas Island.
Coconut Palms & Christmas Island is just tropical.
Dolly Beach a Christmas Island joy.
Greta Beach is an easy 1km walk to a lookout that sits atop a big set of stairs. This is a steep, large set of stairs. Before heading down to the beach, be sure of your ability to make the return trip back up them.
Gretta Beach on Christmas Island, secrets to discover.
Stairs to get on & off the beach
Swimming in rockpools on Christmas Island.
Friday, Day 3/Day of departure. You effectively have half to three-quarters of a day before having to head to the airport. Three options here:
1/ Take one last snorkel at Flying Fish Cove
2/ If you like golf, pop into the visitor centre and hire some clubs, then play some holes
3/ Head up to Tai Jin House and check out this heritage-listed property with fabulous views across Flying Fish Cove and beautiful gardens. Be sure to take some time to visit the island’s museum inside the house while you’re there.
Tai Jin House, Christmas Island’s official residence.
If you are planning to stay a little longer, perhaps over the weekend till Tuesday (An eight-day stay) or even till the following Friday (A 10-day stay), this will allow you to complete some of the National Park’s longer walks, such as West White Beach, Anderson Dale or Winifred Beach, perhaps visit or re-visit Dolly and Greta Beaches.
Perhaps drive through the heart of the island and check out Grants Well and the Pink House; the tracks around these places are ideal for mountain biking.
Or indulge in a Snorkelling, Diving or Fishing Charter, or have a few days of R&R and do very little.
Fishing at Flying Fish Cove on Christmas Island is just beautiful.
Offshore Fishing, try your luck on Christmas Island.
Find a place to relax and do nothing. There are many on Christmas Island.
Around just about every corner and after every experience on Christmas Island, there is a “Wow, I didn’t expect that” moment. Christmas Island is one of nature’s greatest achievements, a wonderland of Wow on the land and under the waters surrounding it. A place where all the elements combine and the senses engage to create a truly memorable travel experience.
Further reading you might enjoy.