Travelers looking for a seriously isolated island getaway can end their search at Pitcairn Island. Situated some 1,400 miles away from Tahiti, it has no airstrip, and hosts just 50 natives on two square miles — making it the most remote island in the world that is also a destination for tourists.
The trip all starts with a flight, but not to the island directly. To get there, visitors have to fly to Tahiti, catch a second flight to the French Polynesian Island of Mangareva, and finally take a 32-hour boat ride on a New Zealand cargo ship called the MV Claymore II. But there’s more than enough amenities and excursions on the island to make this a comfortable trip. After disembarking at the aptly named Bounty Bay (named after a band of infamous mutineers whose descendants still populate the island), visitors promptly face
the challenge of an uphill climb on the island’s only formally named road,
literally called “The Hill of Difficulty.”
Above: Google street view of the port at Bounty Bay, leading up to the Hill of Difficulty.
The vertical ascent leads up to the tiny hamlet of Adamstown, which houses the island’s entire population, along with a post office, museum, and convenience store that’s open for one hour three days a week.
The island was formed by a swell of magma known as the Pitcairn hotspot, accounting for the numerous rocky cliffs that define the island’s coastline and the winding dirt paths that make the island a dream spot for serious hikers. But the signature mode of travel on Pitcairn is the quad bike, which is perfect for motorized island tours.
Tourism represents 80 percent of the island’s economy, and residents are an enthusiastic bunch who are surprisingly well-versed in the ways of the world. “People have an idea that Pitcairners are these provincial people, but they know plenty about the outside world through TV, the HAM radio system, and the internet,” says Rhiannon Adam, a photographer who spent three months in 2015 immersing herself in the tiny island community. When she contacted islanders before her arrival, they asked her to bring them Captain Crunch.
Meralda Warren has spent her whole life on Pitcairn, and apart from teaching the island’s culture and traditions to its four schoolchildren, she also makes handcrafted Polynesian cloth called tapa from the bark of the island’s trees to sell to tourists. To Warren, the limited access to the outside world is no problem, and she is proud to call the island her home.
“When you are born and raised on Pitcairn, you never feel isolated,” she wrote in an email using the island’s limited broadband access. When she leaves every couple of years, it is usually for trips to Tahiti, over 2,000 miles away. In between these trips, her contact with the world comes from island visitors, whom she regularly hosts for home stays.
“We have to look after our guests,” she wrote. “This entails feeding, providing a clean environment, picking them up from Bounty Bay, and taking them around the island to show them our Pitcairn way of life.”
Pitcairn Island may be a schlep, but if your idea of the perfect vacation involves equal doses of relaxation and exploration on a tropical island where no one can find you, then this is the ultimate place to escape from it all.