administrative island and gateway to Vanuatu
Efate island is the administrative centre of Vanuatu and home of Port
Vila, Vanuatu's capital. It's also home to Vanuatu's only international airport, Bauerfield International Airport,
located just outside of Port Vila. Efate island is part of Shefa Province, one of 6 Vanuatu provinces, established
Efate Island name origins
The first humans to settle in Efate were the Lapita people, who
probably arrived from Papua New Guinea via Solomon Islands by sea-going canoes, possibly 3,500 years ago. The name
Efate seems to mean ‘a place where we will settle’.
Captain James Cook was the first European to visit this island, which
he promptly named Sandwich Island, after the patron of his voyage – Lord Sandwich (who “invented” the sandwich, as
we know it). But fortunately the indigenous name of Efate Island eventually prevailed.
The town of Port Vila is scattered on the hills around Port Vila harbour, where some of smaller
islands are also located, such as the best known Iririki island.
The majority of 50,000 people living on Efate island reside in Vila.
Port Vila is the capital of Vanuatu, gateway
for visitors (via its Bauerfield International Airport) and an important business and commercial centre for Vanuatu
and South Pacific.
The town of Port
Vila is a lively mix of services, offices, banks, duty free shops, restaurants, gift shops, boutiques,
hand-craft galleries, cafes, Chinatown and the colourful Port Vila market. It blends the elements of Melanesian,
English, French and Asian cultures. This is reflected in its many restaurants and cafes – French, Vietnamese,
Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Melanesian and others.
A trek leading to the beach in Mele village, on Efate island.
Efate island is dotted with beaches, resorts, places of historical,
cultural and artistic interest and significance. The Vanuatu Cultural Centre contains one of the most extensive
artifacts collections in the South Pacific. The Museum and Art Gallery provide a good introduction to Vanuatu’s
There's plenty to see and do on Efate island and in Port Vila. From
lively Port Vila markets, duty free shops and harbour restaurants, to great sightseeing spots, day and night tours,
and round the island day tours.
Bauerfield International Airport
Situated 5 kms from Port Vila, Bauerfield International Airport is
Vanuatu's main international gateway. It's home to Vanuatu's international airline, Air Vanuatu and its domestic
carrier, Vanair - ideal for island hopping. Bauerfield international airport was originally built by the Americans
during WWII, when they were stationed on Efate island.
The airport is named after Bauerfield, an American WWII pilot. After
flying from French Caledonia to Vanuatu, Bauerfield heard of Battle of Guadalcanal and flew straight to Solomons
Island without refuelling. He joined the battle with Japanese and shot down 6 Japanese planes. Some weeks later he
was reported lost at sea. The airport was named in his honour.
Bauerfield airport serves Air Pacific (Fiji's international airline),
Air Calin (New Caledonia's international airline), Pacific Blue (New Zealand subsidiary of Australian Virgin Blue
airline), QANTAS (Australia's international airline) and Air New Zealand.
Vanuatu's Bauerfield International Airport building seen here from an arriving
South Pacific University
Efate island is also the home of The University of the South Pacific
(USP) Emalus Campus. The University has 14 campuses throughout the South Pacific, situated in 12 Pacific Islands
countries. The Efate island University campus includes Law school.
The USP is a public university doing teaching and research on Pacific
culture and environment. Its academic programmes are recognized worldwide.