MACQUARIE ISLAND, Australia
GOOD FOR: Rebounding nature, including four million penguins
A dribble of volcanic islands dot the sub-antarctic waters south of New Zealand, largely furred by scrub and raucous with the calls of seabirds. Macquarie is a bit different, though. Not only is it the most remote (over 1,000km from Invercargill), but the Australian outpost is actually a rogue piece of oceanic crust, squeezed out of the seabed by colliding tectonic plates.
These days, sea lions, fur seals and penguins can all be spotted on the island – a far cry from the 19th century, when the latter two were hunted almost to oblivion. Today, penguins can even be spotted sheltering in the rusted boilers of the old processing plant, now given over to the wild; the only human inhabitants occupy research huts.
While burrowing rabbits and egg-eating rats (brought centuries ago aboard ships) have taken a toll on the environment, conservation efforts and eagle-eyed skuas keep their numbers down. Which means wildlife is everywhere: king, rockhopper and gentoo penguins waddling around; beaches thick with slumbering fur seals and grumpy elephant seals; and seas alive with cetaceans.
GETTING THERE: Cruises to Macquarie typically depart from Invercargill or Dunedin, New Zealand, taking in other sub-antarctic islands en route to Antarctica; trips last from around 13 days.