“Papa don’t preach, I’m in New Guinea,
Papa don’t preach, I’m in PNG,
Papa don’t preach, I’m in Port Moresby,
But I made up my mind, I’m touring the city…” – Mad Donna
Port Moresby is a whackpacker’s dream. This is a place straight out of my textbook days of backpacking endless countries, upon which this blog and my passion for travel was built. Indeed, “Amazing” Port Moresby was probably the biggest surprise of my recent Pacific Islands tour. Get it on your list soon before everybody and their horse has backpacked it! It’s a city vivacious, precocious and outstandingly welcoming.
“Life is precocious in the most peculiar way” – Noel Gallagher.
Port Moresby is the capital city of Papua New Guinea, located in the south of the country. Papua New Guinea boasts over 400 languages, countless tribes and endless backpacking options.
I managed to tour all the main sights I wanted to see in Port Moresby, enjoy dinner for sunset by the harbour, have some beers in a few bars and I left the city completely blown away and impressed by it after being told to avoid it by buck eejits beforehand. Where are those buck eejits afterhand?
“Gone away” – Duran Duran.
For sure, for sure, for sure – this is a hidden gem of a city and a backpacker’s paradise. Don’t be surprised if in 10 years time, every backpacker has Port Moresby on their stop over list when heading from Australia to Singapore or the Kong, or vice versa. Port Moresby is an almost perfect stop over and one of the cool things about my trip in 2019, is that is was largely free from other tourists (except in the hotels we visited) and visa free on arrival too.
Also what hits you immediately in Papua New Guinea is just how friendly and welcoming the people are – it’s incredible. I would say it’s up there with Iran, Russia, Poland and Afghanistan with friendliness and welcomes from the locals. You cannot and will not be disappointed by the people here. Smiles and hellos on almost every corner.
I was here at the tail end of a Least Visited Countries Tour with YPT (Young Pioneer Tours) and due to visa issues, I had to add this onto my itinerary as a late comer. It was an absolutely inspired decision and I want to tell you how brilliant this city is and convince you to visit it. It also made a final dream come true on a 10 year plan. You see when I lived in Parramatta in Australia, I once met a guy called Lucas in the One World Sports Bar and he was from Papua New Guinea. At one point, my then flatmate Daniel Evans and I planned to get a boat from north Australia into Port Moresby. The dream didn’t happen, but I arrived by flight finally in August 2019 and it was worth it!
Touring Port Moresby
To tour Port Moresby, you can use the local minibuses, get a driver, take taxis or in some cases (those sights near the hotels) you can walk them. Our group of 5 chose to get a driver in a 9 seater car on the first day, and then a taxi ride (with a few stops) on the second day when there were just 3 of us. Organising such things saves time but costs more money. Yet they save the hassle of hopping on and off minibuses, which sometimes don’t go directly to all of these sights, stopping at the viewpoint for example or the parliament, war memorial and museum.
Our Drivers in Port Moresby
Our first day we had Danny from Black Swan security group (625 Kina split between 5 of us, so $200 US – $40 US each) and the second day we had Jackson from Mountain Mangi (190 Kina split between 3 of us, so $60 US – $20 US each). These 14 sights are my personal top 14 in a short space of time here. I was so impressed by this city!!
I’ve been in more markets than I can ever remember or find time to write about and this means I’m usually disappointed. I usually find markets boring, repetitive and uninspiring. And then – wham – we headed to Boroko Market.
This well organised fruit and vegetable market blew not just my mind, but that of all our group of 5. What stood out here was – the people. Whether it’s the locals selling produce or the fellow shoppers, everyone stopped their daily lives to chat to us, pose for photos and welcome us. It was an eye opener.
I have to say it’s probably the friendliest market I’ve ever been in. Prices are cheap and the produce is fresh and grown locally. The people love to see tourists and they say “thank you” to you when you take a photo of them!!! It was so brilliant.
The lasting memory was when I stopped to take the below photo of some of the market traders and after taking it, they said a huge “thank you” to me! They thanked me for taking the photo!! Normally I have to thank the market traders for letting me take the photo. Here – the total opposite. It felt like we were pioneers or guinea pigs to take such photos and help promote their country. You have to go to Boroko Market to witness this first hand – it’s incredible.
- The National Football Stadium
In a new city I always want and need to visit the national football stadium, or in some instances, any football stadium. I managed to see 4 stadiums in Port Moresby, used interchangeably for the country’s main two sports – Rugby League and Football.
The main national football stadium for Papua New Guinea is a magnificent structure right next door to the Citi Boutique Hotel (where my friends Pier and Douglas were staying) and also opposite Boroko Market.
Security had to request clearance for us to enter the actual grounds and as it was tight for time (we’d have missed the museum which closes daily at 3 p.m.), we just saw it from the outside, and I posed for my standard photo with my Northern Ireland flag. Papua New Guinea have never qualified for the football World Cup.
3.PNG National Museum and Art Gallery – Indoor
The PNG National Museum is across the fence from the parliament and totally worth a visit. But please be aware of the limited opening hours, it usually opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m., which is even shorter on Saturdays and Sundays. Weekdays are free entry for all, with a tariff of 10 Kina at weekends for foreigners.
Once inside, prepare for a lesson in Papua New Guinea history, some superb art and an insight into the countless tribes that reside here.
There were too many highlights from our visit to the museum and we were also very lucky. We literally arrived at 3 p.m. as they were closing and they kindly let us in. This gesture typifies how friendly people from Papua New Guinea can be.
Although the guide isn’t officially included in the entry cost, we had the excellent Patricia Sosori (Education Officer) showing us round and explaining things to us.
4.PNG National Museum – Outdoor Relics
If you are unlucky and the National Museum is closed, fear not. Outside in the grounds, on the grassy banks, they are lots of interesting relics. It’s like an open air museum.
These are mostly remnants from World War 2 with tanks, guns and aeroplanes, all destroyed but all on display in the gardens.
Also in these gardens are outdoor souvenirs stalls. Again, the friendly welcomes we got here were ridiculous! Everyone was so friendly and happy to see tourists here.
The Papua New Guinea Parliament building is behind gates and fences, but we were able to take photos from both the side and the front. We spoke to the security guards here.
The parliament is right beside the National Museum and for an odd reason, the city reminded me a bit of Canberra in Australia.
6.Viewpoint of the Village on Stilts – Hanuabada
When I backpacked through Venice (Italy), Suzhou (China), Bydgoszcz (Poland), Tai O (Hong Kong) and Kampong Ayer (Brunei Darussalam), they all shared a common trait – they are villages built on stilts on water. Here in Port Moresby there is also a similar village called Hanuabada. We didn’t visit this time, but were able to get up into the hills for a viewpoint down on the city including Hanuabada. The viewpoint itself was marvellous – with a calm breeze and watching the ships come in.
7.Harbourside Wall Murals
There are murals aplenty in Port Moresby but by far the most interesting collection was down towards the harbour, opposite the yacht club. Murals included football, tribes, Australian history and art. Again, locals loved it and posed with us for photos!
8.Port Moresby Harbour
We had dinner down by the harbour. A good place to watch the sunset here, lots of yachts in the marina and you can blag your way into the “members only” Port Moresby Yacht Club for a beer or four.
I had pasta for dinner here which was actually my first decent meal for about 3 weeks, food in the Pacific islands was bland except for one cheeseburger in Anibare, Nauru and a Chinese sweet and sour pork in Meneng, also in Nauru. Actually the coconut fish in Kiribati was good too, but generally mediocre.
Beers went down well here too – I loved the local South Pacific Export and SP (a different beer). The fridges were well stocked and incredibly clean.
9.The Commonwealth War Cemetery
There was a sadness here too and on the second day, myself, Rick and Ingve my fellow backpackers decided to ask our driver Jackson to take us out of the city to the countryside war cemeteries. This was an essential thing to do, to see these mass graves was sombre and tranquil. Though strictly not in Port Moresby, I’m including them in this list as they are important and not too far a drive from the city – 30-40 minutes if I recall.
At The Commonwealth War Cemetery, there are a few things to check out. Firstly the explanation boards and monuments at the front, then walk around the graves themselves and gasp at the many bodies that were buried here but remain unknown and unidentified. Some of the names, I noted were Polish or Irish sounding. Below, I pictured a Blicharski and a Quinn.
The final part of the Commonwealth cemetery to check out is the memorial at the top of the hill with all the names of those who perished here at Papua New Guinea during the Second World War.
10.The Papua New Guinea Cemetery
The local cemetery was very close to the Commonwealth and again, mass graves here. Perhaps there was a slight sadness that locals had grafittied some of the graves.
I am not normally a shopping centre geek, but our hotel, the excellent Stanley Hotel was connected to the fabulous Vision City Shopping Mall. This mall had everything a mall should have – a supermarket, cafe, cinema, sports shops, massage places, international food court, beer shop, post office. The list goes on. I visited it on both days. Again locals smiled at us and posting a postcard was very easy here.
12.Sir John Guise Stadium
The Sir John Guise Stadium was right next to our hotel and is a whopping 15,000 all seater stadium Papua New Guinea play rugby league and football mostly and both are played here. The country is also hosting the Asian and Pacific games in the near future and will be ready for that! There was also another stadium beside it – pictured below also.
13.Port Moresby Nature Park
The Port Moresby Nature Park could well be the highlight from your time backpacking in Port Moresby. Down the years, I always heard about the Bird of Paradise and here, I finally saw it – and a few of them! The Bird of Paradise is native to Papua New Guinea and there are a few of them in this Nature Park.
Entrance is 9 Kina for students and 15 Kina for adults. Once inside, you walk around and follow the trail which includes lots of bird species, many of which can only be seen in this part of the world.
We also saw wallabies, tree kangaroos, crocodiles and flying foxes.
However, the highlight came in the final aviary on the tour, when a beautiful green (male) Eclectus Parrot jumped on my friend Yngva’s shoulder and neck. This bird was so cute, and then he jumper on Rick’s arm and back before backpacking with me with his green plumage matching my green MindShift gear backpack and green hat from Bolivia’s La Paz in 2010!
Also here is a great souvenir shop, good coffee and friendly staff! It’s a must visit in my opinion! Just brilliant.
14.The Stanley Hotel
Even if you don’t sleep in the Stanley Hotel, you should try and visit it. This magnificent hotel towers over the city, has 4 bars, 2 swimming pools, a spa and is connected to the shopping mall. We slept here and it was pure luxury, worth a post of its own sometime. I also visited both bars.
That’s a quick 14 and covered all I really wanted to see in Port Moresby. As I explained the city exceeded all expectations – especially thanks to the local people for their friendliness – from the airport to the flight staff to the restaurants, the llocals at the market, the bar staff, the hotel staff, the museum staff – all were so delighted to see us. This country is a tourist gem waiting to unravel. That bird of paradise again…
Goodbye Papua New Guinea, thanks for a great time!!
I must have made about 40-50 videos in Papua New Guinea. Here are just some videos I made while backpacking in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea: