Levuka Town
Ovalau, Fiji Islands

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Diminutive LEVUKA TOWN , once a rollicking hovel of debauchery, is essentially a one street seaside town with a hatful of history and a couple of charming guesthouses. The weathered but still colourful collection of clapboard buildings radiates a distinct village style ambience. The best way to absorb the surroundings is by walking and talking with the genuinely hospitable locals to unravel a unique mix of a proud Fijian heritage with a dignified colonial upbringing.

Levuka history
With a protected harbour and welcoming chief, Levuka Village hosted a small band of whalers during the 1830s, receiving gifts of muskets and other novice toys of fancy for protection from the warlike hill people. Soon to follow were a motley crew of fugitives and other mercenary traders with the zealous missionaries hot on their heals. By the 1850s, a ramshackle outpost had sprung up south of Levuka Village establishing itself as the hub of trade in Fiji . In the 1860s, with speculation that Fiji would soon become a British colony, Levuka town grew rapidly with free traders arriving from New Zealand and Australia and by 1871, when the great warrior Cakobau declared his adoptive town as the capital of Fiji , there were over 2,000 European residents and 52 hotels and bars. It was joked that ships would navigate into port by following the bobbing rum bottles drifting on the out- going tide. The town’s short life as a metropolis came to an abrupt end in 1881 when the British colonial administration deemed it more purposeful to move the capital to Suva where land for expansion presented itself. The town slipped into its shell and soon after suffered a second devastating blow when the north side of town was flattened by two major hurricanes. Like other parts of Fiji , Levuka became a small copra trading port in the early 20th century but that too sunk after the demise of coconut oil in soaps and other cosmetic products.

Beach Street
The main through fare of Levuka Town , misleadingly called Beach Street , passes between the rocky seawall and the town’s most picturesque historical buildings. It’s a sleepy tar- sealed track where dogs roam and people wander back and forth unconcerned about the occasional carrier van that bundles along.

In the heart of Beach Street is the Church of the Sacred Heart. This beautiful Catholic domain was built in two stages - the original church was crafted from local timber in 1858 with the arrival of the first Catholic missionaries to Levuka.

The southern end of Levuka, beyond the tuna factory, is the area known as Nasova. In the 1870s, Nasova House was residence of the government of the day and so became the ceremonial spot where King Cakobau signed the Deed of Cession on 10 October 1874 handing not only sovereignty to Great Britain but also his iconic war club. A public re- enactment of this momentous occasion is performed every year on 10 October coinciding with the week- long festival Back to Levuka with craft, dance and farming competitions. A stone embedded with a plaque was laid to mark the Cession Site in 1935, and two further stones accompanied this; one in 1970 to commemorate Independence; and the second in 1974 to mark the centenary of the original Deed. The area has since been neatly cordoned off by a white picket fence.

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