In 1774 Captain James Cook attempted to land on a tiny volcanic coral atoll in the South Pacific, about 1500 miles North East of New Zealand.
The locals however had other ideas, and Captain Cook was attacked with spears and he retreated and sailed off naming the tropical paradise “Savage Island”.
Thankfully these days the locals are much more welcoming to visiting sailors. The Island is now called Niue (which means “behold the coconut”) and nicknamed “The Rock of Polynesia”. It is a popular destination for cruisers on what is fondly known as “the coconut milk” run through the South Pacific.
Niue is located in the South Pacific. About 1500 miles North East of New Zealand and in between the Cook Islands and Tonga.
If you are sailing from the Cook Islands towards Niue, you might like to also stop at Beveridge Reef on the way through. It is located aprox 120NM to the South East of Niue at 20º00S 167º47’W If you aren’t stopping then you will definitely want to give it a wide berth as apparently the charts have it located 2-3 miles in a different spot. The reef is covered at high tide, and only hand drawn charts show the passage through to this tropical paradise.
Much of this region in the Niue EEZ has been recently designated as a marine reserve to protect it from commercial fishing.
There are a couple of other reefs in the near vicinity that should be noted and avoided:
- Antiope Reef, at 18°15′S, 168°24′W, 180 km (110 mi) northeast, a circular plateau approximately 400 metres (1,300 ft) in diameter, with a least depth of 9.5 metres (31 ft).
- Haran Reef (Harans Reef), at 21°33′S, 168°55′W, reported to break furiously, 294 km (183 mi) southeast,
- Albert Meyer Reef, (20°53′S, 172°19′W, almost 5 km (3.1 mi) long and wide, least depth 3 m (9.8 ft), 326 km (203 mi) southwest)
- Haymet Rocks (26°S, 160°W, 1,273 km (791 mi) ESE)
(This info has come from the internet so I can’t verify its accuracy personally)
Niue is different to some other islands in the Pacific in that it doesn’t have an outer reef. The low lying island – an ancient extinct volcano, rises sharply straight out of the Pacific, which is good because you don’t have to negotiate any reef passes, and not-so-good because of this it is really deep and rocky there are no suitable anchorages for yachts to use.
Thankfully the Niue Yacht Club – fondly known as “the Biggest Little Yacht Club in the world”, and quite possibly the only club where none of the committee actually own a boat, have very kindly laid 17 moorings for the 200 or so yachts that stop and visit every season.
Located in the main town of Alofi on the West Coast, for NZD$20 per night (first come first served) you can use one of the club moorings, access to a building on the wharf with a bathroom. On the wharf you will also find an electric winch which is used for lifting tenders out of the water, and also fresh safe drinking water and rubbish facilities. There is also a comfortable club room underneath the Niue Backpackers. Bargain!
Email them on email@example.com
The Niue Yacht Club has all the necessary customs and immigration arrival forms on their website. They recommend that you arrive during daylight hours and call Niue Radio (24 hours a day) on channel 16 and await instructions before coming ashore. Clearance by Customs is possible from 9am – 3pm Monday to Friday. It may be possible to arrange a Customs clearance over the weekend.
Visas are not required for tourists and a 30 day visitors entry is granted on arrival. This is plenty of time to get around and explore. However if you did want to stay for longer, extensions are available by applying to the Immigration Office before arrival: PO Box 67, Alofi, Niue Island. Phone (683) 4349
You must not land any food, plants, seeds, meat, vegetables, eggs or animal products in Niue without permission from a Quarantine officer.
Pets are not allowed on shore.
The club can be reached on channel 16 and then on channel 10 to get advice on which mooring is best to pick up.
When we visited in late September/early October there were only 3-4 yachts in the bay, but during the peak of the season all the moorings can be full, so you might have to raft up.
The bay is wide but usually sheltered from the SE trade winds that prevail. It isn’t suitable for yachts to tie up to the concrete wharf, so you will need to go ashore in your dinghy and use the electric winch system to haul it up and out on to the wharf area.
It would probably be a good idea to have some kind of system fashioned up BEFORE you head to the wharf – as it can be a bit rolly, and the winch system looks like it might need a bit of practice to perfect…
The winch is located on the South side of the wharf. There is a reef on the northern side, so only approach on the South.
There are lots of boats that use the area, so make sure you haul out quickly and park your dinghy out of the way.
From there it is a short walk up in to the centre of town.
There is fresh water and rubbish facilities on the wharf.
Niue has a semidiurnal tide range of just over 1m. Keep an eye on what the tide is doing as some of the great snorkelling spots can only be accessed an hour either side of low tide.
Being a small island nation, many of the supplies are imported on a ship which comes once a month. The biggest supermarket just North of the wharf called Swanson’s – painted yellow, and they apparently will also deliver supplies back to the wharf for visiting yachties. At the back of the supermarket is a small hardware store.
There is a Market in the centre of town which is open on Friday & Tuesdays, however when we arrived at 7am one morning, just about everyone had already packed up and gone home having started at 4am!!
In the ‘Commercial Centre’ you will also find a couple of convenience stores selling other grocery items, gifts, food and other bits & bobs.
There are also a few bakeries around town.
Behind the commercial centre is the bond store. You can buy duty free alcohol here if you purchase within 3 days of your arrival (bring your documentation).
To the South of the wharf is Central Services, perhaps 1km down the road or so can provide fuel. BYO containers and I believe that for a small fee they will deliver back to the wharf. Across the road from them is a company that will refill LPG gas bottles.
Fresh drinking water is available on the wharf free of charge.
With a population of just 1300 people, there isn’t much in the way of spare parts shops, and repair facilities. There are no haulout facilities. Parts could possibly be flown in from New Zealand if you were really desperate.
You can buy wifi for NZD$5 an hour from the internet cafe at the commercial centre. They also sell SIM cards.
Most people will only be in the South Pacific from May – October, as November – April is tropical cyclone season. During this time the South East trade winds prevail. Expect temperatures of between 22 – 28ºC, and the sea temperature is around 25ºC – so warm enough for swimming without a wetsuit. A raincoat can be useful for unexpected tropical downpours.
The supermarket sells basic pharmaceutical items and there is a hospital/medical centre up past the airport. But apparently they aren’t really equipped to cope with serious medical conditions. So if you get very sick/injured you can expect a MEDEVAC to New Zealand (at a huge expense). Stay safe and have a good medical kit on board.
On a brighter note, there are no venomous snakes, spiders or other critters that can bite and kill you – apart from sharks and sea snakes (The very friendly sea snakes will only bite you if you stick your finger down their throat – and if you do that then you probably deserve to get bitten).
The thing that probably will get you is the razor sharp rocks that are absolutely everywhere! Make sure you wear decent footwear when exploring to avoid any nasty falls and cuts.
Niue uses New Zealand dollars. There are no ATM machines on the island, but the Kiwibank at the Commercial Centre will let you withdraw cash from Visa and Mastercards only for a 3% fee. Most of the shops and restaurants take eftpos – which is handy if you have a NZ bank account. Some also accept credit cards.
Niuean is the official language, but everyone speaks English as well.
- Hello = Fakaalofa atu
- Please = Fakamolemole
- Thank you = Fakaue lahi
There are no taxis or buses on Niue so you have got a couple of options for seeing the sights.
A great trip if you are short on time, is to take a Niue Orientation Tour with the Yacht Club Commodore Keith. You’ll be shown all the best spots to visit. Given a list and a brochure of all the other great places to see on the Island, and also the optimum times to be there (as some are only accessible at low tide).
Once you have got the inside info from Keith on all the top places then you can rent a car or jump on your bike and explore the island. There are a couple of car rental places in the centre of town. Watch out for the pot holes, chickens and dogs on the road. Otherwise driving is easy and it takes about an hour if you drove all the way around without stopping. You’ll need to visit the police station in the centre of town and get a drivers license – at a cost of NZD$22.50 (no test required if you already have a licence!)
Drive on the left hand side of the road (unless you are avoiding pot holes, and then drive crazily all over the road and on the wrong side to avoid them like the locals do!)
Also hitchhiking is safe.
The friendly people at Niue Tourism located in the centre of town, will also give you a great map of the island and some information on places to go and things to see.
If you are picking up or dropping off crew, there are just two flights a week in and out of the country, from Niue to Auckland New Zealand on Air New Zealand.
However because of international carrier obligations to which Air New Zealand must adhere to, it is not possible to travel to Niue on a one way airfare unless you can prove that you are either a Niuean by birth or the descendant of a Niuean. So this could cause some issues. It would be worth checking with the Niue Immigration office to find out what to do if you are planning on picking someone up in Niue.
A supply ship arrives once a month as well.
In Alofi you will find a fantastic Indian restaurant, a brilliant Japanese restaurant – KaiIka – yum delicious. Falala Fa Cafe, Vaiolama Cafe – with a brilliant view back over the moorings, and the Crazy Uga Cafe.
There are a few other places to eat dotted around the Island. Hio’s cafe, Sails Bar and Oki Oki Mai are some other favourites.
Things to do
Niue is an amazing place. Friendly welcoming people, easy to get around, the scenery and underwater world is just incredible. It is a wonderful place to stop, relax and stay for a while. We had a wonderful time and can’t wait to go back!
Soggy Paws cruising info for this area – the pricing is a bit out of date but all the other info on here is really useful too.
Incidentally the Soggy Paws website has got HEAPS of really useful info for sailing around the South Pacific. Check it out here.