Sleepy Port Olry is blessed with stunning white sand beaches, picturesque offshore islands and an array of rustic bungalows and local restaurants framed by the most incredible azure waters you have ever seen! In fact, Sydney based travel photojournalist and TV producer Jac Taylor recently called Port Olry beach “one of the world’s best beaches that you’ve never heard of” (click here for link).Photo above courtesy of Daisy the Drone.
The former French-administered Catholic mission village at the top end of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu (founded in 1887) also happens to be the second largest settlement on the island (after Luganville) and even has its own bakery! Just don’t expect souvenir shops, supermarkets, billboards or other modern amenities (it has one shop and it’s pretty basic!). The good news is Port Olry (pronounced Port Lory by locals) is currently undergoing a mini-transformation, quietly turning itself into a laidback Santo tourism hotspot, with new bungalows and treehouses seemingly sprouting up every week. Two more restaurants have also joined local stalwart Chez Louis Café so there’s now a range of beachside eateries to choose from (albeit serving mostly the same type of food!).
Overall, there’s actually more to do in and around Port Olry than at first meets the eye, but it’s not always obvious or even clearly advertised. So, here’s our Top 10 Things to Do Port Olry and surrounds!
Top 10 Things to Do Port Olry
Walk to Malet Island at Low Tide For A Snorkel/Swim/Picnic hings to Do Port Olry
Malet Island is the small island just off the north end of Port Olry Beach. A sand spit exposed at low tide allows you to walk across to the island without getting too wet (note – bring reefwalkers!). Once there have a swim near the small white sand beach at the northern end of the island or snorkel on the reef at the southern end of the island (click here for a great blog post about snorkelling on Malet island). Take over a picnic lunch and chill out for a few hours. Check with local bungalow owners about access to the island.One of our things to do Port Olry.
Kayak/Paddle to Malmas Island Things to Do Port Olry
Kayaks are available for rent at some of the beachfront restaurants in Port Olry for around 500- 1000vt. Best bet is to talk to Louis Tiome, his wife Mikaela or his daughter Manuela at Chez Louis Café (cell phone 678 539 5238 or call Sylver on 5590320). We recommend paddling to Malmas Island, a small island about 1 km south-east of the main beach. There’s a cute white sand beach where you can enjoy a swim or a snorkel – turtles are plentiful here and it’s a marine reserve so lots of fish and things to do Port Olry style. A walk around the island will reward you with an interesting encounter with the local wildlife – in this case a large fruit bat colony! Alternatively, if the weather is good, paddle out to Dolphin Island (see more about this below) or if you have your own sea kayaks, paddle around the northern point of Port Olry and follow the inlet/lagoon up until you reach a crystal clear river leading to a natural freshwater spring /swimming hole!
Horseride/4WD to Port Olry Lookout Things to Do Port Olry
Just behind Port Olry is an amazing mountain lookout with spectacular views of the village and surrounding coastline. The steep track can be navigated by 4WD (but you will need a guide) or alternatively you can ride up on a local horse. Either way you will need to find John Marc at Little Paradise/Harbour Beach Restaurant (about 100m north of Chez Louis café) or call him on 5361 594 or 5935224. Best to call and book ahead. The plateau at the top of the mountain is a virtual Garden of Eden complete with citrus trees, coconut and breadfruit trees, coconut crabs, mango trees, vegetable gardens and more. By 4WD it takes about 1 hr return, by horse it’s a couple of hours. Make sure to ask about the natural spring and swimming hole on the way down! One of the more adventurous things to do Port Olry.
Boatride/Outrigger Canoe Ride to Dolphin Island/Thion Island
Dolphin Island is the largest island just off Port Olry Beach (yes, it’s shaped like a dolphin!). You can get there by hiring an outrigger canoe or a small boat with an outboard (fits around 5 pax) through Tarcisius Alguet from Little Paradise Bungalows. You will need to book ahead if you want to include this on your things to do Port Olry list. Tarcisius speaks both French and English, he can be contacted via mobile 678 542 48 93), or email: email@example.com. Alternatively, try asking around for Morris the fisherman who actually owns the boat. There is a nice white sand beach on the island and some Ok snorkelling. There are also two freshwater lakes on the island, a brown lake and a clearwater lake. We recommend doing the short walk to the clearwater lake – for the more adventurous you can also climb up the steep, overgrown track next to the lake to Dolphin Rock (it takes about an hour) for some awesome views but be warned, it’s a workout and not for the feint-hearted! Ask about the WWII plane wrecks which apparently lay hidden at the back of the island!
Barefoot Seafood Lunch on the Sand, Swim and Massage Things to Do Port Olry
With a choice of three beachside restaurants to choose from, each built in rustic Ni-Van style out of bamboo, local hardwoods and coral, we recommend you order your lobster or fish dish first and then go for a refreshing swim on the beach. Most of the time, by the time you finish your swim, your meal will be ready (service is very, very slow). The meals are a little overpriced for what they give you but it’s worth it for the view alone! Afterwards relax in one of the nearby hammocks with a cold beer/wine, book in a soothing massage or go for a stroll along the beach to soak up the ambience. Seafood, sand, swim, stroll, massage – this is barefoot luxury at its best and a great choice for your things to do Port Olry bucket list.
Village Stroll Things to Do Port Olry
Ok so the village is pretty rustic but it is interesting to walk around the dusty streets and see how the locals live (they are very poor but generally quite friendly and happy). Try and find the local Latamav-Sigon de Port Olry Co-op store (LMS store), it often has home cooked treats you can eat (like sweet pastries & rolls) as well as fresh local eggs and cool drinks. Or try to track down the local community baker and grab some fresh homemade bread. Last time we were there we watched as a group of colourful mamas sat under the shade of a giant tamanu and patiently weaved natagora leaves into roof coverings. It was mesmerising – some of the free things to do Port Olry.
Experience the Local Church Service at St Anne’s Catholic Church Things to Do Port Olry
Apart from the fact that this church probably has one of the most amazing views in all of Vanuatu (it overlooks the village and the islands), the church service itself is something special to behold as everyone gets dressed up in their colourful “Missionary Dresses” and their best floral shirts to attend the weekly event. The singing is beautiful and moving (the local Ni-Vans sing in perfect harmony) and you will no doubt get to mingle with the locals afterwards and exchange laughs and stories. Try to speak to Father Gianni Morlini, the Italian missionary priest who has been ministering to the villagers since 1973 – he has some amazing stories to tell of his early life in Port Olry and Vanuatu. And don’t forget to check out the giant stone cross overlooking the beach – it makes for a great photo op for your things to do Port Olry post!
Stay the Night in a Treehouse Things to Do Port Olry
If you’ve ever dreamed of being Tarzan or simply wanted to sleep in a treehouse overlooking a tropical, palm fringed beach in paradise then this is your chance. Port Olry now has a range of treehouse options to choose from – waking up to fresh local fruits and a spectacular sunrise through the palm trees is something not to be missed. One of our favourite things to do Port Olry. Contacts – Angelic or Jean Port Olry Treehouse Bungalows , Ph. 678 776 9869 or 534852 or Tarcisius Alguet, Little Paradise Bungalows, Ph +678 560 8361
Fishing Trip Things to Do Port Olry
Given that Port Olry is a fishing village at heart, it makes sense to try out some fishing with the local fishermen. Most of the boats are fitted with hand cranked wooden reels which are designed to drag up giant poulet fish (red snapper) from hundreds of metres deep. They also fish for tuna, wahoo and other gamefish. It’s a relatively cheap day out but remember to BYO everything (food, drink, fishing, fishing rods etc). Morris would be the best place to start (he’s the guy who takes people over to Dolphin Island) and his boat is probably the best in the area. Otherwise check in with any one of the other bungalow owners along the beach for a contact number/name of a local fisherman – make sure to book ahead for this.
Survivor Bush Walk Things to Do Port Olry
Tarcisus, from Little Paradise Bungalows runs a short tour that takes you through the village and up into the nearby hills, winding through old coffee plantations, coconut plantations and copra plantations. He identifies various plants along the way that the locals use for food, medicine and traditional kustom purposes. From plants that can be used as antiseptics, to telling the time of day, to helping children learn to speak, this is an informative tour that will educate and amaze you!