City Guide: Lae


Marisa Howden provides an insider’s guide to Lae, Papua New Guinea’s industrial capital and second-largest city.

A view from above. Credit: Lae

Don’t be put off by the negative things you might’ve heard about Lae … they may well not be true. Like anywhere else in Papua New Guinea, if you exercise common sense, you’ll soon see that Lae is a thriving town with a unique history and culture – and, if you look close enough, a natural beauty to rival anywhere.

Getting around

PMV buses are the cheapest and most convenient way to get around, with the main stops located in Top Town, Main Market and Eriku. The city’s new ‘Meri Safe’ bus program offers safe transport options for women. For added security and comfort, private transfers can be arranged with Guard Dog or ESS security companies, which offer transfers to and from Nadzab Airport.

Lae is also the gateway to the Highlands, and offers the only road access to Wau, Bulolo, Kainantu and Goroka, all breathtaking journeys, albeit on bumpy roads.


Take a stroll through the Lae Botanical Gardens, once recognised as the most beautiful botanical gardens in the tropics, thus giving Lae its nickname of the ‘Garden City’. There are over 400 native and exotic plant species on display, as well as an RAAF C47 plane from World War 2.

‘The Markham Valley, which traverses Morobe Province from east to west, is often called the food bowl of PNG.’

For a look at pristine tropical gardens, a visit to the Lae War Memorial is a must. Managed by the Australian Government, it is a touching tribute to the servicemen who died in PNG during the war. Lae is also the last place American aviator Amelia Earhart was seen during her 1937 circumnavigation of the globe. A memorial on Markham Road pays tribute to her legend.

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Lae special

Salamaua is a narrow isthmus an hour outside of Lae. It’s a quiet sanctuary consisting of local villages and holiday houses. Excellent snorkelling and diving can be found within the harbour with banana boat transfers leaving daily from Voco Point (near the Lae Yacht Club).

Two hours from Lae by boat are the spectacular Tami Islands. A haven for anglers and divers, Tami is abundant with lively corals and varieties of reef fish. A small guesthouse is available and private charters can be organised. On your way to Tami, try your hand at fishing the Huon Gulf where everything from large billfish to small pelagics are caught.

Culture vulture

A sing-sing group at the Morobe Show. Credit: Marisa Howden

Held each October, the Morobe Show showcases the agricultural, industrial, commercial and cultural aspects of the Morobe Province. Attend on the Sunday to watch the singsings, where nearly all of the country’s 22 provinces are represented through stunning costumes, songs and dance.

Doing business

The Lae International Hotel is the city’s premier destination for conferencing and functions, with facilities capable of hosting up to 800 people. Crossroads Hotel at Nine Mile offers a more intimate space, with excellent catering and access to Nadzab Airport (tel. +675 475 1111).

Retail therapy

The Markham Valley, which traverses Morobe Province from east to west, is often called the food bowl of PNG, and a visit to Lae’s main market is where you’ll find the region’s freshest produce.

A range of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers, as well as local clothes and crafts, are on display from Monday to Saturday.

Lae’s main shopping district is located in Top Town, where retailers such as Papindo, Big V, Foodmart and Lae Sports Store are located. The Brian Bell complex on Montoro

Street is home to over 20 specialty stores, including Trends Beauty.

Pillow talk

For sweeping views and modern facilities, look no further than the Morobe Hotel on Coronation Drive. The hotel’s new Garden View restaurant is the place to go for elegant Chinese dining, while the café is a cosy spot for coffee.

Further up the road is Lae Travellers Inn, a budget option (tel. +675 479 0411) with comfortable rooms and a small restaurant serving Western and Indian cuisine. For something more elaborate, the Lae International Hotel has a range of short and long-term accommodation options, with two restaurants, a bar, swimming pool and gym.

This is an excerpt of the article ‘Lae: City Guide’ which was first published in the November-December edition of Paradise, the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini.

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