-Locals call it The Rock. Having no outlying islands or reef, it really is just that. A lone coral atoll atop a long extinct volcano that popped up like a pimple in the middle of the Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga.
It's also an island currently enjoying a real boom in tourism which means the hardest part about your trip may just be getting a seat on a plane or a room at the island's only resort — The Matavai.
Not that you will ever feel crowded here, with only one flight a week (two in peak season), one resort, and just 1300 locals, it's easy to find your own space.
Fishers, spearfishers and divers have long
since known about this place. With no rivers or lagoons it has no sediment run-off, so offers some of the clearest seawater in the Pacific. I've had days diving where the visibility has been in excess of 60m or more — for perspective in New Zealand 10m is considered champagne.
You want to talk fish? Let's see, I've line caught or speared blue marlin, wahoo, giant trevally, blue fin trevally, barracuda, green jobfish, yellowfin tuna, mahimahi and dog tooth tuna among others, and because the water goes so deep so quickly, some of these have been nabbed just metres from the wharf. Paradise.
People not into fishing often ask me why they should go and I always tell them the same thing. That it's a perfect island for couples who like to get out and explore by themselves.
Seven days is about right to drive to and then walk nearly all the well-signed tracks, each one taking you to a highlight. Here's a canape of my favourites:
Anapala Chasm — a short steep walk 155 steps down into a crack that has a cool freshwater pool at the bottom. If you are feeling up for it, take a dive torch with your snorkel gear and swim off into the inky blackness. Great fun.
Talava Arches — A 30-minute walk finishing through a cave to an Instagram ready view.
Matapa Chasm — It's easy to see why this place was once only for royals, with an excellent swimming hole where salt and fresh water mix.
Palaha Caves — Time a sunset with a low tide and take a bottle of something nice. As the sun dips it fills the cave with an incredible golden light so stunning and romantic that I once went to film it with cameraman Mike, and we came back engaged.
Avatele — Pronounced "Ava-sell-e" — for me one of the best snorkelling destinations in the Pacific. In its small bay there are hundreds of species of fish to see, but brave the current out to the reef drop off and the place comes alive with fish. It's a real hotspot for sea snakes (sea-krait). Yes, they are venomous, their gentle nature and tiny mouths means there is never a threat. Just ask Willy at the nearby Sunday-only Washaway Cafe.
As a kid he used to wear them like a necklace to impress the ladies.
Speaking of Willy, if you are up for a real adventure get him to take you to the mysterious Vaikona Caves. Translated as sour water, it's guided only, and a tough walk that involves ropes and climbing. He seems to be the only one left on the island that knows how to get there.
I can't finish this piece without mentioning the annual humpback whale migration. From July to October Niue is a place where females come to give birth and males come to sing and find a bit of holiday romance. As one of only four places in the world where you are allowed to swim with them, I can't recommend this experience enough. At 16m and 36 tons or more, there is something incredibly moving about sharing the water with such a giant, sentient being. I've seen tourists burst into tears after encounters and I get it.
Staring into a mother's weary eyes while her calf plays nearby, you feel an absolute connection to the struggle for life she has to endure. In peak season (August) the whales can be prolific, often parked right out the front of the resort. Which is probably a good indication as any as to why this place is suddenly being discovered by so many.
● Join Gayford on Fish of the Day on Prime this Wednesday, 8pm, on Niue.