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Outer Islands

For the truly adventurous in spirit, the undeveloped outer islands have a remote, unspoiled appeal for the explorer, author and artist in all of us. Six sister islands are in the rest of the southern group and six more lie to the north. Some are accessible by local flights, all are accessible by boat. Off the beaten track and spread over 2 million square km of the South Pacific Ocean, their uniqueness and timelessness are their own reward.

Southern Group

Mauke

Mauke is the garden island, with locals taking enormous pride in their home gardens. An extraordinarily pretty island, flowers grow wild everywhere and locals catch their evening dinner off the close reef.

Mitiaro

Mitiaro is one of the most beautiful yet hardly visited islands in the Pacific, with a distinctive history and culture plus stunning subterranean limestone pools and tranquil caves. Enjoy village homestays where you live with a local family under a traditional thatched roof.

Mangaia

Mangaia is the second largest, southern most and at 18 million years, the oldest of the Cook Islands, made of raised limestone coral with caves stretching into giant underground caverns. Bikers and hikers will love exploring the tropical bush, mountain valleys, swamps and rugged coastline.

Manuae

Manuae is about 100 km south-east of Aitutaki, when the weather allows, Manuae’s stunningly beautiful lagoon can be viewed from the air when flying from Aitutaki to Atiu. It is an uninhabited nature reserve and an important seabird and turtle breeding ground.

Takutea

Takutea Seabirds thrive on this pristine little uninhabited island that is just a few miles off the north-east coast of Atiu. This wildlife sanctuary is administered by a trust. Permission for visits is needed from the Trust Chairman and High Chief Rongomatane Ariki.

Northern group

Manihiki

Manihiki is an atoll made up of a cluster of 40 tiny coral islets which form a ring around a huge, clear deep blue lagoon. A true escape from the modern world, time here stands still, untouched by the trappings of tourism. The pearl farming centre of the Cook Islands, legendary black pearl farms built by local families on coral outcrops are scattered across the turquoise lagoon.

Penrhyn

Penrhyn is the northernmost island of the Cook Islands group. Its most spectacular feature is the immense enclosed blue water lagoon that covers 233 square kilometres, one of the largest in the South Pacific. There are two settlements on islets at opposite ends of the lagoon: Omoka and Tetautua.

Rakahanga

The stunningly beautiful two main islands and seven islets surround the Rakahanga lagoon, which is picturesque and unspoiled. Access is only available by inter-island boat from its sister island Manihiki, situated 42 km to the south-east.

Pukapuka

One of the most beautiful untouched and secluded places in the Pacific, Pukapuka’s remoteness has also helped to keep the wonderful traditions and culture of its people largely unchanged for centuries. It is 1150 km from Rarotonga but accessible by air. Pukapuka is one of the two official languages of the Cook Islands.

Nassau

Often described as the Eden of the Cook Islands, Nassau is home to about 70 people. It lies 83 km to the south of Pukapuka. Measuring just one square kilometre, it is the only island in the northern Cook Islands without a lagoon. Access is gained by inter-island boat from Pukapuka.

Suwarrow

The Suwarrow National Park is the first National Park in the Cook Islands. It is uninhabited and an untouched breeding area for turtles, seabirds and crabs. Caretakers live on the island during the cyclone off-season from April to November, when cruising yachts often visit whilst transiting the South Pacific.

Palmerston

Palmerston is stunningly beautiful, yet remote Palmerston was made famous by Englishman William Marsters who settled there in 1863 with his three wives. About 60 descendants live on the island which has six lovely motus and a large blue lagoon 11 km wide. Palmerston hosts the occasional cruise ship and cruising yacht.

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