Evidence of Cenozoic magmatism is found along the length of New Guinea. However, the petrogenetic and tectonic setting for this magmatism is poorly understood. This study presents new field, petrographic, U–Pb zircon, and geochemical data from NW New Guinea. These data have been used to identify six units of Cenozoic igneous rocks which record episodes of magmatism during the Oligocene, Miocene, and Pliocene. These episodes occurred in response to the ongoing interaction between the Australian and Philippine Sea plates. During the Eocene, the Australian Plate began to obliquely subduct beneath the Philippine Sea Plate forming the Philippine–Caroline Arc. Magmatism in this arc is recorded in the Dore, Mandi, and Arfak volcanics of NW New Guinea where calc-alkaline and tholeiitic rocks formed within subduction-related fore-arc and extension-related back-arc settings from 32 to 27 Ma. Collision along this plate boundary in the Oligocene–Miocene jammed the subduction zone and caused a reversal in subduction polarity from north-dipping to south-dipping. Following this, subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate beneath the Australian Plate produced magmatism throughout western New Guinea. In NW New Guinea this is recorded by the middle Miocene (18–12 Ma) Moon Volcanics, which include an early period of high-K to shoshonitic igneous activity. These earlier magmatic rocks are associated with the subduction zone polarity reversal and an initially steeply dipping slab. The magmatic products later changed to more calc-alkaline compositions and were emplaced as volcanic rocks in the fore-arc section of a primitive continental arc. Finally, following terminal arc–continent collision in the late Miocene–Pliocene, mantle derived magmas (including the Berangan Andesite) migrated up large strike-slip faults becoming crustally contaminated prior to their eruption during the Plio–Pleistocene. This study of the Cenozoic magmatic history of NW New Guinea provides new data and insights into the tectonic evolution of the northern margin of the Australian Plate.