In this Introduction we comment on issues raised by the present collection of papers as they appear relevant in thinking about the settlement of the Indo-Pacific from the Pleistocene to the late Holocene. Successful maritime migration across this vast region was obviously related to voyaging technology and colonizing behaviors. Here we critique earlier models that indicate simple unidirectional expansion and posit farming, or indeed any other single driver, for maritime expansion in the mid–late Holocene. It now appears that the development of interaction spheres in Wallacea, and perhaps connections with New Guinea, have contributed significantly to late Holocene societies in ISEA and Island Melanesia. Even in Remote Oceania where long-term colonizing success was dependent on a transported tropical horticultural complex, initial settlement strategies are likely to have been highly varied and to have had variable success. Nor is migration restricted to the founding events of island settlement; rather, it continued as a significant component of the formation and re-formation of island cultures up to the historical era and, of course, within the present day. Like the authors represented here we suggest that if we wish to make progress in understanding the motives, sources, mechanisms and results of colonizing migration, there will be greatest reward in exploring the complexity and variability that lie behind it.