Alotau, the capital of the Milne Bay Province, is spectacularly sited on the edge of the Bay on the eastern tip of Papua New Guinea. The rugged Owen Stanley Ranges to the west have isolated Alotau and there is no road access to the rest of the country. Many of the population of around 10,000 rely on the sea for their livelihood and as a result the busy harbour is the focal point of the town. Cargo movements drive harbour activity, and there's an array of colourful vessels to be seen, ranging from tiny canoes to well-equipped dive and charter boats.
Alotau is within the area in which the invading Japanese army suffered their first land defeat in the Pacific war in 1942, before the Kokoda Trail battle. The recently completed Australian War Memorial is close to the foreshore and has a detailed description of the Battle of Milne Bay. In August 1942, the battle over Gurney Airport saw the Australians win the first land-based victory over Japanese forces in the Pacific. Remnants of the battle are still being discovered with aircraft, vehicles and tanks to be found on land and on the seabed.
It is also a good base for visiting the outlying islands. The volcanic D'Entrecasteaux Islands have an active thermal region, hot springs, bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers and volcanoes. Misima Island was the scene of a 1930' gold rush from which a major mine has now been developed. Woodlark Island is populated by people of Melanesian ancestry. The islanders are renowned for their expertly crafted wood carvings.
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