Discover Niue’s Most Fascinating Historical Landmarks
Travelling to a new country is about discovering a different way of life, new landscapes and, of course, its history. Niue might be a small island but there’s a lot to unpack in its history which you can learn for yourself by exploring the island and visiting the historical places. Almost all of Niue’s historical sites have interpretation panels to explain their significance, making the island just like a 260 km² (100 mi²) museum! Check out the historical sites in Niue and where to find them in the list below.
1. Tomb Point
Let’s start with a historical site you can discover right in the heart of the island’s capital, Alofi. Tomb Point not only holds the grave of two Niuean kings within its grounds but there is also a World War One memorial. You can read more about the historical significance of this area on the interpretation panels on display here. In addition, there is a picnic area on the clifftops with an excellent lookout for watching whales and dolphins. Check out more attractions in Alofi in the 10 Best Things to Do in Alofi.
Location: Alofi, on the coast side of the road opposite the Commercial Centre.
Another one you can visit in Alofi, Opaahi is the site where British explorer, James Cook, attempted to land on Niue three times in 1774. However, his men were met by a band of toa (warriors) who challenged the visitors with hostility and essentially scared his men off the island! It was this encounter that Cook named Niue “Savage Island” and no further explorers visited the island for another 80 years. There is an interpretation panel telling the story of the site at the Opaahi Sea Track. Today, the sea track is storage for vaka (canoes) and provides some good views of Niue’s rugged coastline. Learn more about the sea track in the 7 Best Sea Tracks in Alofi.
Location: Alofi South, on the coast side of the road opposite Kaiika.
3. Laufoli Umu Pit
On the east coast of Niue, the Laufoli Umu Pit is nestled in the Huvalu Forest Conservation Area alongside the island’s circular road. Laufoli was a legendary toa (warrior) who, upon hearing of his brother’s death, made an umu pit (a traditional ground oven) to leap into and take his own life so that his enemies could not have the honour of killing him themselves. Visitors to the site can see a distinct dip in the ground in a cordoned-off area. See more sights worth visiting on the east coast in the 7 Best Sea Tracks on the East Coast of Niue.
Location: Tuafutu, Huvalu Forest Conservation Area, east coast.
4. Peniamina’s Grave Memorial
Nukai Peniamina was the man who introduced Christianity to Niue. The Niuean was taken to Samoa on a missionary ship where he accepted Christianity. He returned to Niue in 1846, where he was met with hostility mainly because people who had come from overseas were bringing disease to the island at the time. He was protected in Mutalau where he converted the village to Christianity and eventually the entire island save for eight locals. Peniamina’s Grave Memorial can be visited on the southern end of Makefu on the west coast. An interpretation panel tells more of his story, as does our guide to Niue’s day to honour him, Peniamina Gospel Day.
Location: Makefu, on the ocean side of the main road, west coast.
5. Taue i Fupiu Fort
This historical site relates to the above where you can see the remains of a traditional fort where around sixty warriors were said to have protected Peniamina while he was carrying out his Christian mission. Taue i Fupiu is in the village of Mutalau, accessed down a short and well-maintained bush trail. A plaque is erected in the area outlining what happened on the jagged rocks and caves surrounding it, written in both Niuean and English.
Location: Mutalau, north coast. The trail to the fort starts beside the Niue Tourism interpretation board seen alongside the village green (near signs for “A5 Tours”).
6. Vaila Cave
While Vaila Cave is not typically visited as a historical site, the cave on the coast of Alofi North does have some historical significance. The cave was traditionally used by local women for weaving during dry weather, as well as to clean and harvest arrowroot which was used for traditional cooking. The back of the cave collects freshwater, which was used for cleaning and medicinal purposes. Today, the cave is used to access a reef within the Alofi North Marine Protected Area to check out the marine life and small snorkelling pools at low tide. See more caves worth discovering in the 10 Most Stunning Caves in Niue.
Location: Alofi North, signposted opposite the Tusekolo Bush Road.
7. Anaana Burial Cave
Located on the west coast beside Anaana Point, the Anaana Burial Cave is an example of the caves that early settlers used to bury their deceased. While some caves were used as protection, separate caves like the Anaana Burial Cave were used to lay the dead to rest until only the bones remained. The burial cave has a sign just off the side of the road explaining its significance. There is a short track to the cave where you can see bone remains on the floor of the cave. Needless to say, disturbing the bones is strictly forbidden.
Location: Just south of Anaana Point between Tamakautoga and Alofi on the west coast.
8. Fatiau Tuai Vaiea
One of the most “adventurous” historical sights to get to, Fatiau Tuai Vaiea is not well signposted and mostly overgrown. What you’ll find down the grassy bush road are the gravestones and church foundation remains of the old village of Vaiea before it was moved to its current location. Villagers moved to the new location after a disease swept through the village, killing many of its residents. More information about this eerie site can be read on the interpretation board (what’s left of it) just off the side of the road.
Location: Vaiea, south coast. Take the road opposite Vaiea Farm (the Noni Farm) toward the ocean. At the crossroads, continue straight following the “sea track” sign. You’ll drive through the thick bush until you come to a clearing, which is the Fatiau Tuai Vaiea site. You will need to do a U-turn and return the same way.
9. Matapa Chasm and Avaiki Cave
What today are popular snorkelling spots used to be an exclusive bathing pool for Niuean royalty. The swimming hole of Matapa Chasm can be enjoyed at all tides and is accessible down a 7-minute one-way sea track. Similarly, Avaiki Cave is where only those of the highest rank could enjoy bathing but that’s not all. The word “Avaiki” derives from “Havaiki” or “Hawaiki”, the ancestral home of the Polynesians where history tells of the canoe landing of the first Polynesians at this site. Avaiki Cave is only accessible at low tide. See more amazing sea tracks on this coast in the 10 Best Sea Tracks on the West Coast of Niue.
Location: Matapa Chasm – Hikutavake, northwest coast. Avaiki Cave – Makefu, off the side of the west coast road.
10. Fale Tau Tāoga – Niue Museum
While not a historical site itself, the Fale Tau Tāoga is a must for history buffs. The island’s original national museum was destroyed during Cyclone Heta in 2004 but the new museum holds the remaining salvaged artefacts from the cyclone, as well as newly acquired relics from around the island. See treasures from World War One, as well as other items of cultural and historical significance such as woven wares and early stone tools. For more attractions like this, check out the 5 Best Museums & Art Galleries in Niue.
Location: Halamahaga Road, Alofi, open Monday to Thursday, 9 am to 3 pm.
More About Historical Sites in Niue
That’s it for our list of the best historical sites in Niue. For more about Niue’s history and culture, and how to experience these while visiting Niue, check out the following guides:
- 7 Best Culture Tours in Niue
- 5 Best Churches in Niue to Experience as a Visitor
- 10 Best Ways to Experience the Niue Culture
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Complete Travel Guide to Niue.