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Palmerston Island is a coral atoll which includes five small island groups. It is one of the Southern Cook Islands. It has no airstrip; access is by sea only. It is famed for its hospitality to yachts, and is sometimes compared to Pitcairn Island as they are both remote islands supporting small English-speaking populations.

Get in[edit]

Most visitors arrive by private yacht, and the island sees about a dozen visiting boats a year. There are supply boats that arrive two or three times a year. You could probably arrange to travel on one of these but bear in mind you would be stuck until the next one arrives.

It is generally best to arrive during the daytime. The islanders can then see you approach and will invariably scramble to be the first one to meet you offshore in one of their boats. You will need the assistance of the islanders if you intend to anchor inside the lagoon as the passage is narrow and quite treacherous.

There is a telephone service to Palmerston and it would probably be a good idea to call before arriving. Often the islanders will want specific goods or people brought over and they will be very grateful to you if you can oblige, particularly if you are able to pick up their mail from the Rarotonga post office.


English is universally spoken, with a distinctive West Country accent. This is the legacy of William Marsters, the original settler of Palmerston, who populated the island with the assistance of his three Polynesian wives. The current generation of Islanders are his descendants.

See and do[edit]

There is plentiful fishing in the lagoon and amongst the islands. There are also many islands in the various groups that are beautiful and well worth exploring.

No visit is complete without a game of volleyball with the islanders.





By custom, the family that first greets you will offer you a homestay at their house. If you are looking for a resort hotel, you are decidedly in the wrong place!

Stay safe[edit]

Sailing conditions are rough at the best of times. Monsoon and hurricane seasons can be extremely wild. Do not attempt to navigate to Palmerston unless you are an accomplished sailor.


The Palmerston Islanders are honest, hardworking and dedicated people. They have great respect for their religion and traditions; however, they are not morbidly religious and enjoy a good party as much as the next man.

The islands are remote, and the telephone service provides its only link with the outside world. If you visit you should try to bring some gifts. Petrol is appreciated, and reading material and fruit are always eagerly received.

As with any small community, there is tension between the three main family groups. As a visitor you should take care to avoid any gratuitous comments relating to the internal politics of the islanders.

Go next[edit]

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