A cruise around these remote tropical islands just went to the top of our travel to-do list

View of Aranui. Photo by Tom Fowlks.
View of Aranui. Photo by Tom Fowlks.

Take the road (or waters) less travelled with an immersive cargo cruise to a little-known archipelago in the South Pacific

In partnership with Aranui


The Austral Islands are the southernmost group of islands in French Polynesia, an archipelago of verdant cliff tops and azure waters located in the South Pacific. As remote as they are beautiful, these islands can be difficult to access, so have often been overlooked by tourists.

If you’re like us and revel in journeying to places that are off the beaten track, a trip to the Austral Islands should be high on your travel wish list. And thanks to boutique cruise line Aranui Cruises, getting there has never been easier, with mixed passenger-freighter Aranui 5 sailing to all five inhabited islands in 2024 and 2025.

Cruising done differently

Aranui has been cruising the South Pacific for 40 years, building a reputation for unique voyages that offer an authentic way to experience the real French Polynesia. As one of the only remaining cargo cruise lines in the world, Aranui gives guests exclusive access to remote communities and unspoiled shores. While the crew unloads cargo at each port, guests disembark and explore the isolated islands on specially curated itineraries that feature picturesque hikes, visits to archaeological sites and local feasts.

Carrying both passengers and freight, Aranui 5 accommodates just 250 people. This smaller number ensures guests are treated like insiders and have the chance to immerse in the local culture.

The addition of freight on board appeals to ethically-minded travellers, with Aranui acting as a vital lifeline for the islands and creating a sustainable flow of tourism in some of the world’s hardest to reach places. By carrying a small number of tourists to the islands each month,  Aranui helps keep traditional arts and culture alive, as well as offering a steady stream of customers for local businesses.

“We have watched on proudly as Aranui became an integral part of the Marquesas community and helped create a sustainable flow of tourism in an isolated part of the world,” said Aranui Cruises Regional Representative Australia New Zealand Laurent Wong. “We hope to put the Australs on the map in a similar fashion, working with the remote southern communities to develop their economy and tourism in a slow, sustainable way while also opening up their beautiful islands for a privileged few to see.”

See the Austral Islands

After four decades of cargo cruising to the northern Marquesas Islands, 2025 will mark Aranui’s first freight delivery to the Austral Islands. With three, 13-day itineraries to choose from, these trips present the best way for travellers to see these remote paradises and experience the culture of southern Polynesia. From the beautiful blue lagoons of Tubuai and Raivavae, to the exquisite wildlife at Rurutu and Rimatara, and the beauty and seclusion of southernmost Rapa Iti, the Australs have it all.

Uncover a different side of French Polynesia

In addition to its expanded Australs program in 2025, Aranui 5 will continue to offer its signature itinerary to French Polynesia’s remote Marquesas Islands, with 19 12-day cruises. These voyages depart from Papeete, with freight delivery to the six inhabited Marquesas Islands, plus stops at some of the region’s most beautiful locations, including Bora Bora.

Aranui has launched a sale on 2025 voyages, removing the usual 50 per cent single supplement for solo travellers and offering 50 per cent off the second guest travelling on most Marquesas Islands voyages and all Australs cruises next year. For more information visit:

Share this article