Milne Bay Province: Papua New Guinea Business Guide


Milne Bay Province takes in the land at the extreme eastern end of Papua New Guinea together with seven groups of islands; the Trobriands, Woodlark, Laughlan, Louisiade Archipelago, the Conflict Group, the Samarai Group and the D’Entrecasteaux Group. The names come from a variety of explorers from as early as 1660.

The jungle-fringed coastline near Tawali Resort. Credit: Robert Upe

Economic overview

Economically the province is diverse. Its economy features tourism, oil palm, gold mining, spices, forestry, coffee, copra and cocoa. Cruise liners are now a regular feature of the growing tourism industry of Milne Bay Province, with thousands visiting annually. Two prospects for gold mining are the Woodlark Island gold project, and a re-exploration of the gold site on Misima Island, which, from 1989 to 2004, operated as an open pit gold mine. One estimate is that the province contains more than 60 million ounces of gold.

There is a large palm oil plantation in the province and many small-scale village projects in cocoa and copra production. Other small agriculture operations include vanilla, rice and livestock. There are extensive forestry operations and a small afforestation plantation at Ulabo. Milne Bay has one of the greatest marine species biodiversities in the world; it has recorded a third of the world’s species of marine fish and is listed as an ‘ecological hotspot’. There is one local fish market, owned and operated by the Huhu local government. Infrastructure is being improved, with plans to expand Alotau’s Gurney Airport facilities. There will be a new terminal, plus extension of the runway by another 200 metres.


The islands have world-class snorkelling and diving, secluded white-sand beaches, bubbling hot springs, traditional villages, and lush hiking trails. The most comfortable way to enjoy Milne Bay diving is aboard one of the live-aboard dive boats based out of Alotau, the provincial headquarters. Another highlight is the three-day Kenu and Kundu Festival in Alotau in early November, where war canoes filled with warriors in traditional dress race to the beat of island drums. There are hot springs and bubbling mud pools on Fergusson Island, the largest of the D’Entrecasteaux islands.

The inhabitants speak about 48 languages. There are 160 named islands and 500 cays and atolls scattered over 250,000 square kilometres of ocean. In many parts of Milne Bay, the reefs are characterised by dramatic drop-offs, clefts and overhangs. Alotau, sited on the edge of Milne Bay, is a good base for visiting the outlying islands.

Where to stay

  • Tawali Resort on the north coast is a remote rainforest hideaway with breathtaking views and easy access to snorkelling and diving.
  • Doini Island Plantation Resort is a 20 metres walk to the warm ocean.
  • In Alotau, Driftwood has 11 bungalows on the water’s edge and a restaurant on its private jetty.
  • Island accommodation in traditionally built  bungalows is available at Nuli Sapi on remote Logeia Island.

Milne Bay Province in brief

Province name: Milne Bay

Capital: Alotau

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Population: 276,000

Area: 270,000 square kilometres

Distance from Port Moresby: 374 kilometres.

Getting there: Air Niugini flies from Port Moresby to Alotau’s Gurney Airport regularly. The flight time is 50 minutes.

Sectors: Tourism, oil palm, gold mining, spices, forestry, coffee, copra and cocoa.

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