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Cook Islands Travel Guide

Avarua Map

Avarua

This attractive town of around 5,000 inhabitants is strung along the north coast beneath the green, misty slopes of Maungatea. The name means "two harbors." Somehow Avarua retains the air of a 19th-century South Seas trading post, and offshore in Avarua Harbor lies the boiler of the Union Steam Ship SS Maitai, wrecked in 1916. Near the bridge over Takuvaine Stream is the Six-in-One Coconut Tree planted in 1906.

Inland and south of the post office is the stone on which in 1823 Papeiha preached the first Christian sermon on Rarotonga. It's set on a pedestal in the middle of the crossing with the Ara Metua, Rarotonga's old interior road. Turn left and follow the Ara Metua 150 meters east to a small bridge and a gate leading into the original missionary compound, now Takamoa Theological College. You pass a row of student residences, and at the next crossroad you'll find a monument to the missionaries of the London Missionary Society who have served in the Cook Islands. Across the street is an impressive monument to Polynesian missionaries from the college who carried the Gospel to other Pacific islands. In 1837 the third LMS missionary, Reverend Aaron Buzacott, erected the two-story Takamoa Mission House facing the monuments. The adjacent lecture hall dates from 1890.

Follow the road north between the monuments and you'll reach the Cook Islands Library and Museum (closed Sunday) with assorted artifacts, many of them on loan from museums in New Zealand. The Peace Garden next to the museum is a nice little place to relax. cross the street from the museum is the Cook Islands Center of the University of the South Pacific, which is worth entering for the interesting books in the showcase on the right.

The massive white walls and roof of the Cook Islands Christian Church (1853) are visible from here. Check out the massive wooden balcony inside. It's worth being here Sunday morning at 1000, if only to see the women arrive in their Sunday best and to stand outside and listen to the wonderful singing (go inside and sit down only if you're prepared to stay for the entire service).

Near the front of the church is the tomb of Albert Henry (1907-1981), topped by a lifelike statue of the man. American writer Robert Dean Frisbie (1895-1948), author of The Book of Pukapuka and The Island of Desire, is buried in the southwest corner of the cemetery.

Across the road, beyond some old graves, is the Para O Tane Palace of the Makea Takau Ariki, high chief of the landowning clan of most of the Avarua town area. Marae Taputaputea and a basalt investiture pillar are on the palace grounds.

Backtrack to the Cook Islands Center and turn left along a wide road to the massive green and white Are-Karioi-Nui National Auditorium with 2,000 seats. The four huge buildings to the left of this road are hostels used to house outer islanders when they visit Rarotonga. The auditorium itself forms part of the National Cultural Center, erected for the sixth Festival of Pacific Arts in 1992.

The two yellow buildings beyond the auditorium contain the National Library in the building to the right, and the National Museum (closed weekends) in the one on the left. The museum has a collection of model canoes, old photos, carvings, paddles, drums, woven items, and costumes.

Continue to   Rarotonga Sights: the Ara Metua   »