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Niue Revisited - Trip Report

Tauranga, New...
Level Contributor
39 posts
45 reviews
45 helpful votes
Niue Revisited - Trip Report

16 years ago, in August 2007 we visited Niue for a week. We enjoyed it so much that we thought why not go again? So in September we headed off, and as there was still only one weekly flight, this time we opted for two weeks so as not to be rushed. (I think Air NZ has recently introduced a second flight for over the NZ summer, but it may well go back to once a week in the future - always check.)

One flight a week means that, except for a handful of yachts stopping in, the only tourists on the island are on that flight, with roughly the same number departing on the same day back to Auckland.

Niue became self-governing in 1974 but remains in free association with New Zealand, ensuring that Niuean’s continue to have New Zealand citizenship. This has resulted in a steady population drop on the island since the 1960s, with less than 1500 living there permanently today. With so few people there, most of the time when exploring the tracks, caves, and swimming areas, we had them to ourselves.

Niue is just one island, roughly four times the size of Rarotonga. It takes approximately 2 hours to drive around the island at a maximum speed of around 40kms per hour. It's a raised coral atoll of porous limestone with no lakes or streams, so there is no run-off into the ocean, resulting in viz of up to 80m. Numerous walking tracks lead to the fringing rock platform and reef complex up 50m wide that is exposed at low tide, making it great for walking and exploring the resulting rock pools. Out from the shelf, it gets very deep very quickly.

We were happy to find that not too much has changed since we last visited. A new supermarket, café and bar along with a few shops up near the airport was the main change. We also found better signage at the numerous sea tracks, making it easier to find them.

The other noticeable difference is the large contingent of China Aid workers repairing the roads. This is matched by a NZ infrastructure company working on the airport runway.

With the prevailing wind coming from the east, pretty much all the water activities are based on the west coast.

The main goal for our Niue holiday was to swim with the humpback whales. (Niue and Tonga are the only two countries that allow this). The whales are only there during the winter months - July - August being the peak. There are two operators: Niue Blue which is an extension of Dive Tutukaka and locally owned Explore Niue. We used and recommend them both as they have good gear and know what they’re doing.

Having previously swum with whales in Tonga, we knew what to expect, however the combination of only being a maximum of a few minutes boat ride from one of the two boat launch sites (and sometimes only 100m or so off the coast), and the deep clear blue water makes Niue our number one choice for swimming with whales.

We had been scuba diving 16 years ago and decided NOT to dive this time. Aside from going into underwater caves, with such clear water we felt we could see just as much by sticking to snorkelling this time. Access to the numerous rock pools on the reef edge is only possible at low tide, and snorkelling on the outside of the reef edge isn’t always easy. But it’s possible to find areas where, by walking over the exposed reef (limestone rock, not coral), and if the swell wasn’t too much – we found guts that we could drop into and swim out past the reef edge.

These areas had some good colour and varieties of coral and tropical fish, as well as the odd turtle and shark. The most accessible of these spots were in Alofi itself, and at Avatele where we were staying. There were more challenging ones further north, and we’re sure there are others we didn’t get to explore! (Next trip 😀 )

We always hoped that we would have our own personal whale swim, as we could often see them on the surface and hear them singing underwater. That didn’t happen unfortunately.

It's important to check the tides when planning your Niue holiday. Our second week was best for exploring as low tide was from late morning through until late afternoon, so we explored every possible area at a decent time of day. With most visitors only venturing into the shallow tidal pools, we certainly wouldn’t want to see tourism get out of hand, as the coral in these pools would be easily damaged.

Both Niue Blue and Explore Niue offer snorkelling tours to the outside reef, so if scrambling over rocky coral ledges doesn't appeal, there are easier ways to access the outside of the reef.

We did one organised land tour, with Ebony Rainforest Tours – a walking tour into the heart of the Havalu Conservation Rainforest area, with Jack Feleti. Jack is also an expert ebony wood carver and I’m proud to now be the owner of a beautiful piece. There is a good selection of tours to choose from and–if you’ve only gone for the week, it’s very easy to run out of time to do everything.

We found Niue to be generally clean and tidy and the Niuean’s friendly, but if there is to be an ongoing ‘overseas aid competition’ then some money could go into metal recycling to remove all the abandoned machinery, cars, trucks, shipping containers etc that are left to decay once no longer needed.

A word about accommodation. There is one 3–4-star hotel – the Scenic Matavai. Otherwise, excellent self-catering options abound . We stayed at 'Aleki's' located at Avatele, approximately 12 minutes’ drive south of Alofi. Our rate included a rental car which was great value. But no matter where you stay, even if it’s in the heart of Alofi, a hire car is needed to get around as there is no public transport or taxis.

Food-wise, it’s possible to take pretty much anything into Niue from NZ . We took heaps of snacks, breakfast stuff, lunch stuff and our own tonic for the gin! We purchased an ‘Extra Bag’ to take it all up there, so it probably cost us more to do that than buying things up there, BUT we had what we wanted and consider it money well spent. Supplies in the supermarket can be hit and miss and stocks easily run out before the next ship arrives from NZ, or Air NZ brings in supplies, so you never know what will be available, or at what cost. There were no eggs on the island for the first week, and all the tonic had gone from the shelves by the start of the second week.

There are plenty of restaurants, almost all with bars, mostly located in Alofi. Washaway Cafe at Avatele (Sundays only), and Hio Cafe to the north of Alofi are the exceptions. We dined out on all but two nights and found the meals to be good and reasonably priced, considering that all the meat is brought in from NZ. Lots of lovely fresh fish of course—always dependent on what has been caught as there’s no commercial fishing. Lots of coconuts - there’s nothing like a cold coconut water drink – and we found it goes quite well with gin and tonic as well.

New Zealanders can use their Eftpos cards as payment pretty well everywhere - very convenient.

Internet - accessed via purchasing a SIM card for your phone on arrival, and then adding a date package.

Church – Everything you may have read about the beautiful singing at Pacific Island church services applies to Niue as well. it’s worth checking out on Sundays if you love singing.

Drawbacks? I can only think of one thing …. those flaming roosters that start up in the middle of the night!! Light sleepers, take note and add earplugs to the packing list!

Is Niue for everyone? Maybe not if you want an island holiday with flashy accommodation, clubs and shopping malls, sandy beaches, bright coral gardens, scuba diving 3 times a day on brightly coloured walls with big fish.

But if a laid back, friendly island with the best whale swimming, stunning walks, sea caves, and snorkelling in crystal-clear tidal pools all to yourself sounds good to you, then we encourage you to check out Niue.

3 replies to this topic
Wheat Ridge...
Level Contributor
65 posts
24 reviews
6 helpful votes
1. Re: Niue Revisited - Trip Report

Wow, what an excellent review. Thank You!

Kelowna, Canada
Level Contributor
108 posts
78 reviews
171 helpful votes
2. Re: Niue Revisited - Trip Report

Very nice trip review! I’ll be returning to Niue (2nd visit) in January 2025…for a 3 month house sitting opportunity. I hope to explore much of the island! Cheers!

New Zealand
Destination Expert
for South Island, Nelson-Tasman Region, New Zealand, Tonga
Level Contributor
24,835 posts
750 reviews
511 helpful votes
3. Re: Niue Revisited - Trip Report

thanks for your review. we are heading back to niue for the fourth time - always love it and the friendly laid back area.

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