Levuka, Fiji’s old capital

Levuka was founded by sandalwood and beche-de-mer traders and cotton/coconut planters in the 1830s and became Fiji’s first capital, but only for a short time, from 1874 until 1883. The surrounding mountains prevented it from growing and soon Suva was declared the new capital. Levuka froze in time and in 1989 it was designated a historic town and declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 2013.
We got here last week and were enchanted by the colourful, little wooden houses along the sea front on Beach Street that boasts the oldest of everything in Fiji: the oldest police station, the oldest hotel, the oldest club, the first school, etc. Up close you can see that the buildings from colonial times are having a hard time in the wet, tropical climate: mold and algae discolour the facades and wood rots away–most buildings are in need of renovation to prevent the old town from toppling over eventually…

It’s a bustling little town with several supermarkets, hardware-stores (no chains, all local), souvenir shops, market stalls for veg and fruit, a couple of restaurants and even a cafe and a bar(!) and we were surprised to find all that open even on Easter Saturday and Sunday… Taxis roam the (one) coastal road and trucks circle the island and bring villagers from the other side. Behind the old town newer settlements are huddled against the steep hills, behind that a rugged mountain chain soars high, reminding us of the Marquesas in French Polynesia.

Levuka’s location on the east side of the island Ovalau is of course unfortunate for visiting sailboats as the anchorage off town is only protected by a barrier reef and exposed to the prevailing trade winds, so it must be a very bouncy experience in a strong easterly or southeasterly wind (which is the case basically all winter long) and it’s certainly an adventurous experience to leave the dinghy at the pier in such conditions (next to the tuna canning factory and just off the official buildings of customs and immigration). Now in summer there are long phases without wind and we picked such a phase and enjoyed the glassy calm lagoon and even anchored Pitufa on a sandy spot on the outer reef for a day. We were pleasantly surprised to find healthy coral (almost no bleaching), quite a few fishies and even a couple of nosy white-tip sharkies :-)

Check out our gallery for pics of Levuka!


Fiji's first capital is an Unesco World Heritage and worth a visit! Cute, little colonial houses and a laid-back atmosphere. We spent a few days anchored off town in calm weather in April 2024.

(20 photos)

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