Top 10 must-dos in Niue

7 December 2016

Circled by ocean caverns and home to less than 1500 people, rugged and surprising Niue is unlike any other Pacific destination. Direct flights from Auckland make it the perfect place to experience a unique combination of active adventure and excellent food, all infused with Polynesian warmth and humour.

Nieu 1 Swimming in Avaiki cave, Niue. Photo: Carol Atkinson

 

Negotiating sea caves

Niue is one of the world's largest raised coral atolls, and the craggy shoreline crafted in nature-eroded makatea (coral) is punctuated with sea caves. In cathedral-like Avaiki, shadows and light interplay around a pristine swimming pool, while Niuean nobility from earlier centuries used to bathe in the shaded narrows of Matapa Chasm.

Exploring Togo Chasm

Reached by a meandering track through a jagged landscape of indigo coral, Togo Chasm is a compact sandy canyon of palm trees just metres from the often wild Pacific waters of Niue's more exposed southeastern coast. After negotiating the 20-minute track from Niue's sleepy main road, a rustic ladder descends into Togo's sheltered oasis.

Niue 2 Matapa Chasm, Niue. Photo: Alexia Santamaria

 

Swimming with humpback whales

From July to September, humpback whales visit Niue's warm tropical waters to nurse their newborn calves, and it is possible to snorkel with these gentle cetaceans in the crystalline ocean just off Niue's rocky coastline.

Deep-sea fishing

Welcome to one of the South Pacific's best fishing destinations where marlin, tuna and sailfish all frequent the extremely deep waters close to the island's coast. Beyond the thrills of deep-sea fishing, visitors can also take to a simple Niuean vaka (canoe) with a hand line.

Niue 3 Snorkelling at the Limu Pools. Photo: Carol Atkinson

 

Diving and snorkelling

No rivers drain into the ocean around Niue, and the waters around the island are regarded as some of the clearest in the South Pacific. Visibility can extend up to 100 metres, and local dive operators run trips negotiating the caverns, drop-offs and coral walls around the island. At Limu Pools, Niue's brilliant visibility is easily experienced with just a mask and snorkel, and at Hikutivake, deep reef pools are filled with patrolling parrotfish and shapeshifting schools of tropical fish.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking is growing in popularity on Niue, and more than 170km of easygoing trails radiate through taro plantations and tropical forest. Bikes are available from accommodation operators, and across two days in early June, the Rally of the Rock attracts riders from around the world keen to race around Niue's 64km circular road.

Niue 4 A ukulele musician at a show day in Alofi, Niue's capital. Photo: Carol Atkinson

 

Village show days

Niue's small population of around 1500 people lives in 14 villages across the island, and visitors are welcomed at each village's annual show day. These easygoing events feature local foods and crafts – woven hats and fans are especially popular – and singing and dancing also usually take place.

Church on a Sunday morning

Woven hats bedecked with tropical flowers are worn by village matriarchs to Niuean churches on a Sunday morning, and the rest of the day is focused on relaxation and family. Attending church is a great way to meet the local community. Look forward to beautiful harmonies from the women, booming voices from the men, and a warm welcome from the pastor.

Niue 5
Sunday afternoon at the Washaway Bar, Avatele. Photo: Carol Atkinson

Sunday afternoon drinks at the Washaway

Located right above the sandy arc of Avatele – pretty well the only beach on rocky Niue – the Washaway Bar and Cafe is only open on Sunday afternoons, but is an essential appointment for all visitors. Great burgers and fish sandwiches combine with drinks from the self-serve bar, and visitors can settle the tab with friendly owner Willie Saniteli at the end of the night.

Excellent cafes and restaurants

For a small island, Niue has a decent selection of eating and drinking options. Start the day with the island's best coffee at The Crazy Uga, combine superb views with fruit smoothies and fresh carrot cake at Vaiolama, or grab a roti wrap from Gill's Indian before more snorkelling at Limu Pools. Evening options include super-fresh sashimi and tasty pizza at Kai Ika, or courtyard dining and good fish dishes at Falala Fa.

Brett Atkinson

Brett Atkinson is a full-time travel and food writer who specialises in adventure travel, unusual destinations, and surprising angles on more well-known destinations. He's based in Auckland but frequently on the road for Lonely Planet and other publishers in New Zealand and abroad. @travelwriterNZ