Located on the island of Ovalau off the eastern coast of Viti Levu, a twelve-minute flight from the capital of Suva will bring you to Levuka, the nation’s first capital. With a population of about 3,000 residents the town of Levuka is the island’s sole town, with the remaining 5,000 of the island’s inhabitants living in villages scattered about the island.
Levuka was the site of the nation’s first Western development, and with the arrival of Europeans and a handful of Americans, modern churches and small businesses were slowly built amongst the tropical palms. The Royal Hotel was opened in the 1860s, and the same hotel still operates today as the oldest hotel in the South Pacific. Many important treaties were also signed in Levuka, including a treaty with the British in 1874 which ceded Fiji to the British Crown. Similarly, in a symbolic full circle, Levuka was the site of the 1970 treaty that officially made Fiji an independent nation. Despite the capital having been moved to Suva, Levuka was voted as a UNESCO World Heritage site in the early-summer of 2013.
Levuka today is a popular destination with more to offer than simply its history. The town is backed by an extinct volcano which has various treks heading up towards the peak. In addition to the views which are afforded from the heights, guided treks visit the island’s interior and weave their way through traditional villages. In town, colonial buildings run the length of Beach Street where classically-old restaurants still serve up cold drinks in the same way they did of centuries past. Offshore, the island is rung by coral reefs, and the snorkeling here is an inviting escape from the searing heat of the tropical shores.
Or, for an extended journey away from town, consider a day trip or overnight stay at an offshore island such as Leleuvia or Caqalai. These small atolls define simplicity, and the white sands, thatched bures, and lazy palms offer a utopian side trip from the historic port town.