Niue is a fantastic Pacific island option, writes our family travel columnist Alexia Santamaria.
As Kiwis, we are so lucky to have the beautiful Pacific Islands right on our doorstep. In two or three hours you can go from gridlock traffic and shopping malls, to beaches, crystal-clear water and the feeling that stress is something that happens to only others.
Fiji and Rarotonga are crowd favourites for family holidays and understandably so, but where do you go after your tribe has "done" those places? If you're looking for something a bit different, Niue is a fantastic option.
This is definitely not your typical Pacific Island experience. Rather than classic tropical scenes of long white sand beaches watched over by swaying coconut palms, its secret treasures hide at the end of paths and steps, not even remotely visible from the main road. Nicknamed "The Rock", it's a large upraised coral atoll with a two-terrace structure. The lower terrace is 28m above sea level and the upper, 69. This means swimming happens in secret spots — chasms, underwater caves (complete with stalactites) and secluded coral sand coves that could easily be used as a movie set. And the best thing is with only two flights a week, and some of those filled with locals coming home to see family, you'll have to share these places with only a few others — if anyone at all.
There are a few insider tips that are really helpful when taking your family to Niue. Being less of a tourist machine than other bigger islands, organisation — before you go — is a little more important.
Book a car before coming
You can't really get round the island any other way. The roads are a bit potholed, but you soon get used to them and you'll love the fact that almost all drivers will do a two-finger wave as they pass you. You'll find your driving hand twitching in no time in reciprocation.
Look into self-catering
The only resort, the Scenic Matavai, has studio apartments and a three-bedroom villa as well as its resort rooms, and the Namaluku Cottages are another excellent self-catering option. A new, bigger, supermarket opened last year so it's easy to buy whatever you need for meals.
Bring reef shoes for swimming
You will need them almost everywhere as it's a coral atoll.
Consider a guided tour in your first few days
Although not essential, it makes it really easy to plan and navigate the must-sees (Matapa Chasm with its sheer cliff faces descending to sapphire and emerald waters; and Limu Pools — a giant natural aquarium, are definitely two of them). Vanessa from Explore Niue Tours and Travel, and Keith (The Commodore) from Niue Tours will both give you great local insights.
Book diving and snorkelling trips in advance
The diving in Niue is world class so it's very popular.
There are a few places to eat out but part of the joy of Niue is that it's not overrun with tourist operations and hospitality. Check out Kaiika for some of the best sashimi you'll taste; the Crazy Uga for local sandwiches; Vaiolama Cafe, where you can have lunch with a side of mini golf (and incredible views); Falala Fa and Gill's for Indian. Don't miss The Washaway Cafe on Sundays, which operates on an honesty system. Go to the bar, write down your order, tell the chef what you're having, help yourself to drinks and leave the money in the till. Can you imagine that working in New Zealand? The Scenic Matavai has a restaurant as well, and if you're lucky you may even spot a whale from the deck.
So if you're looking for a different Pacific Island adventure in 2019, check out The Rock. You definitely won't regret it.
● Do you have a question about travelling with your family? Want advice on a particular destination? Or tips on how to keep everyone happy — and sane — when you go on holiday? Email email@example.com with Family Travel in the subject line and Alexia will help.