Updated: Thursday, June 26, 2008
Levuka is the old capital of Fiji and is located on the south-east coast of Ovalau, in the Lomaiviti Province.Figures from the last census of 1996 show Levuka with a population of 3,745, more than a third of Ovalau's total. It is the economic hub and the largest of 24 settlements on the island. Levuka is seeking recognition from UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
History - In the 1820’s, a disparate band of European settlers and traders founded the township of Levuka which later became the first modern town in the Fiji Islands. The settlers quickly turned Levuka into an important port and trading post, made up of a population of traders, missionaries, shipwrights, speculators, and vagabonds, as well as respectable businessmen. In 1871, the first modern nation state of Fiji was founded and Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau was crowned as its King. Despite the annexation of Fiji as a British colony in 1874, Levuka remained the capital for another 3 years before the administration was moved to Suva.
Fact : Levuka was also the site of Fiji's first public electricity system, which began in 1927, three days before the capital Suva was electrified.
Beach Street - Famous for many of Fiji's "firsts." It was on this street, that Fiji's first bank, post office, school, private members club, hospital, town hall, and municipal government was erected. Fiji's first newspaper, the Fiji Times, which is still in operation today, was founded in Levuka in 1869.
Levuka's Royal Hotel - The oldest hotel in the South Pacific still operating. Historians are yet to ascertained its exact age, but records show that it was in existence by the early 1860s.
Levuka Public School - The first public school in Fiji, opened in 1879. Many of Fiji's leaders in the years leading up to and following independence in 1970 were educated there.
Lodge Polynesia 562 SC - Established in 1875, this is the oldest Masonic lodge in the South Pacific.
Economic Activities - Levuka Town was a popular stopover port for ocean vessels crossing the Pacific until the 1950s, when the town was threatened with economic extinction. In 1964, however, a Japanese firm specializing in freezing and shipping canned tuna, founded the Pacific Fishing Company (PAFCO). A joint PAFCO-government venture, saw the opening of a cannery in 1976 which became the largest private employer on the island of Ovalau.
Tourism plays only a minor role in the Levuka/Ovalau economy, mostly due to the island’s isolation.
Governance and politics - Levuka has been incorporated as a Town since 1877, and is governed by a Town Council of members, elected for 3 year terms.