The Queen was the most well-travelled Monarch and her legacy of exploring the world started her first year of taking the throne, with her first commonwealth tour taking place between 1953 to 1954. The tour still holds the record as the longest commonwealth tour to date and in nearly six months, the Queen travelled some 44,000 miles across the West Indies, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Asia. Here are 11 countries that she visited.
The Queen’s first ever Commonwealth tour started in Bermuda in November 1953. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh only spent 24 hours in the country but made the most of their time, visiting St Peter’s Church and the capital city of Hamilton. The Queen went on to visit the country more times during her reign including in November 2008 when she visited alongside her husband to celebrate Bermuda’s 400th anniversary.
From Bermuda, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh went to Jamaica where notable moments included the royal couple waving from an open Land Rover to thousands of onlookers at a rally in Sabina Park in Kingston and attending a dinner at King’s House. While her first visit saw the Queen only spend a day in Jamaica, she had the time to slow down and see more of the country on future visits, going to Jamaica a total of six times between the years of 1953 and 2002.
The next stage of the Queen’s journey took almost a month as she departed Jamaica on the 27th November and arrived in Fiji on 17 December. It was the first time a British Monarch had set foot on the island. Upon arrival, the Queen was presented with a bouquet of flowers from a child Fijian princess. A welcoming ceremony then took place in Albert Park in Suva, Fiji’s capital where people gathered to see the Queen. During her time here, the Queen enjoyed numerous cultural performances including traditional dancing, singing and ceremonies.
It was the first of many visits to Fiji, with other members of the royal family following in the Queen’s footsteps including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2012 and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018.
Next on the tour was a 400-mile flight to Tonga. Here, the Queen met the Tongan royal family in the capital, Nuku'alofa. During her time here, Queen Elizabeth II paid her respects at Tonga’s war memorial and later tucked into a feast of whole roast pigs, roast chickens, yams and tropical fruit alongside thousands of guests. The banquet took place on a low, long table with the Queen sitting on the floor along with the other guests.
5. New Zealand
In December 1953, the Queen became the first monarch to visit New Zealand, and spent Christmas in the country, giving her traditional Christmas Day message from the Government House in Aukland where she spoke about the travels she had been enjoying, thanking her ‘hosts very warmly for the kindness of their welcome and the great pleasure of our stay”. This would be her first of many visits to the country where she is called Kotoku, Maori for the white heron which is a rare but cherished bird in New Zealand. During her many visits over the years, the Queen made a point of travelling widely throughout the country and meeting local New Zealanders from all different walks of life, listening to their stories and seeing their customs and traditions first-hand.
From New Zealand, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh journeyed to Australia, another place where the monarch would continue to visit regularly throughout her reign, forging a personal relationship with the country. On that very first visit, the Queen started in Sydney before enjoying tours alongside her husband of the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
7. Cocos (Keeling) Islands
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are a remote territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean which inspired the setting of Jurassic Park, and today, the group of islands is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Queen arrived here on 5 April for a brief visit during which time she enjoyed a special welcome dance and was presented with model boats.
8. Sri Lanka
The next stop was Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) where the Queen wore her coronation gown to open Parliament in Colombo. During her time in the country, Queen Elizabeth also enjoyed a train ride to Kandy, a tour of the city of Anuradhapura, a visit to Polonnaruwa (where the remains of the royal ancient city can be seen) and the green and hilly city of Nuwara Eliya.
After Sri Lanka, the Queen continued her journey to Uganda where her main engagement was opening of the Owen Falls hydro-electric scheme. The Queen didn’t return to the country again until 2007 when she was greeted by thousands of cheering Ugandans that came out and lined the streets. During her time, she toured Kazinga National Park which was later renamed Queen Elizabeth National Park in her honour.
The Queen’s first Commonwealth tour may have been the first time Her Majesty visited Malta as Queen, but it was not her first ever time on the island. In fact, she had lived on the Mediterranean island between 1949 to 1951 while Prince Philip was stationed in the the navy. It is believed these are some of the Queen’s happiest years. The couple visited again in 1967, in 2005 and in 2015 which marked the royal couple’s last trip abroad together.
During that Commonwealth visit in 1954, the Queen started in the capital city of Valetta and paid her respects at the War Memorial.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were reunited with their two children in Malta and the family sailed together to Gibraltar to conclude the Commonwealth tour on the 10 May. This was the monarch’s first and only visit to the rock of Gibraltar. During her time here, Queen Elizabeth II visited Elliot’s Monument and planted a tree in the Almeda Gardens.