What Should I Know About Niue?

Brendan McGuigan

Niue is a small island country in Polynesia. It covers 100 sq. miles (260 sq. km), and has a population of just under 2000. Niue is near Samoa, the Cook Islands, and Tonga, and is roughly 1500 miles (2400km) from New Zealand. The island is often referred to simple as The Rock.

Coral reefs, like this one, are found around Niue.
Coral reefs, like this one, are found around Niue.

Niue was first settled sometime around the 5th century by sailors from Tonga and Samoa. For the next seven centuries, new waves of Polynesians continued to arrive on the island, enriching the culture and keeping the population stable.

Niue is a fabulous place for snorkeling.
Niue is a fabulous place for snorkeling.

In the late-18th century, Captain Cook arrived at the island. He attempted to land multiple times, each time being met by hostile Polynesians who stopped his ship from making anchor. After the third failure, Captain Cook gave up and left the island, dubbing it Savage Island in his wake.

Five decades later missionaries arrived at the island, kidnapping two youth to teach the gospel. Over the next few decades Christianity spread across the island, and by the mid-19th century the island was predominantly Christian, although disillusionment with the Church continued to dwell beneath the surface. In the late-19th century the ruling King wrote to Queen Victoria asking for the protection of England, but the request was denied.

At the dawn of the 20th century Niue is eventually made a British protectorate, passing the next year to New Zealand. The transfer of power to New Zealand was not favored by the inhabitants of Niue, particularly once they realized that New Zealand had lumped them in with the Cook Islands. In 1964 New Zealand offered Niue autonomy, but the island requested that the decision be postponed for another decade. In 1974 the island became self-governing, joining in free-association with New Zealand, which handles diplomatic relations and military defense for Niue.

In 2004 Niue was devastated by a cyclone, which destroyed much of the island’s infrastructure. Although it is rebuilding, the island has not yet recovered fully. Economic aid from New Zealand makes up a large portion of the country’s economy, but Niue is turning more and more to tourism as a source of stable income.

Although not as well developed as many other Polynesian vacation spots, Niue offers an incredibly untouched beauty, and a low-key atmosphere that appeals to many visitors. Beaches such as Hio Beach offer the opportunity to soak up the sun’s rays in isolation, or to partake in some of the island’s fabulous snorkeling. Flocks of butterflies can be found in the island’s virgin rainforest, as can a wide array of tropical flora. Swimming with dolphins is also a popular tourist pastime on Niue, as is exploring the majestic coral reefs that surround the island.

Flights arrive daily in Niue from New Zealand and Samoa. There are no ships offering commercial passenger service to Niue, but the island is a popular destination among yachties from nearby Polynesian islands and New Zealand.

Swimming with dolphins can be done in Niue.
Swimming with dolphins can be done in Niue.

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