A walking tour of Levuka (pop. 3,745) should take about 2 hours. Begin at Ovalau Watersports, on the south end of Beach Street (tel. 344 0166; www.owlfiji.com), the only scuba diving operation here; it also rents bicycles, does laundry, provides Internet access, books tours, and generally is the focal point for all visitors. German owners Andrea and Noby Dehm and their staff are fonts of information.
Levuka Community Centre -- Next door to Ovalau Watersports is the Levuka Community Centre (tel. 344 0356), where you can explore the town's small but interesting history museum. In addition to displaying real Fijian war clubs and an excellent collection of shells (including ancient mother-of-pearl buttons), the museum chronicles Levuka's earliest European settlers, such as American David Whippy and Englishman Henry Simpson, who arrived on ships in the 1820s and stayed to found two of the country's most prominent families.
The center occupies the quaint old Morris Hedstrom store built in 1878 by two other early arrivals, Percy Morris and Maynard Hedstrom. The trading company they founded is now Fiji's largest department store chain ("MH" stores are all over the country). The company donated this dilapidated structure to the National Trust of Fiji. The Levuka Historical and Cultural Society raised money throughout the country to restore it and install a small branch of the Fiji Museum, a public library, a meeting hall, and a crafts and recreational center. The furniture is made of timbers salvaged from the rotting floor. The center is open Monday through Thursday from 8am to 1pm and from 2 to 4:30pm, Friday from 8am to 1pm and from 2 to 4pm, and Saturday from 8am to 1pm.
Nasova & the Deed of Cession -- South of the museum, the post office stands at the entrance to the Queens Wharf. The drinking fountain in front marks the site of a carrier-pigeon service that linked Suva and Levuka in the late 1800s. The Queens Wharf is one of Fiji's four ports of entry (Suva, Lautoka, and Savusavu are the others), but along with domestic cargo, it now primarily handles exports from the tuna cannery, established by the Pacific Fishing Company (Pafco) in 1964. Follow your nose to the cannery in the industrial buildings south of the pier.
Keep going to Nasova, a village on the shore of the little bay about half a mile south of the cannery. The Cession Monument now marks the site where Chief Cakobau signed the deed ceding Fiji to Great Britain. Three stones in the center of the grassy park at the water's edge commemorate the signing ceremony that took place on October 10, 1874, as well as Fiji's independence exactly 96 years later and the 1974 centennial celebration of the Deed of Cession. Two meetinghouses -- one traditional Fijian-style, the other a modern building -- stand across the road. The new one was built in anticipation of a meeting of the Great Council of Chiefs in early 2007, but the coup in December 2006 put an end to those plans.
South of Nasova, the Old Levuka Cemetery is tended to perfection by prison inmates. Tombstones bear the names of many Europeans who settled here in the 19th century -- and some who met their demise instead.
Beach Street -- Backtrack to the weathered storefronts of Levuka's 3-block-long business district along Beach Street. Saloons no longer line this avenue; instead, the Indian- and Chinese-owned stores now dispense a variety of dry goods and groceries. On the horizon beyond the ficus trees and park benches lie the smoky-blue outlines of Wakaya, Makogai, and other Lomaiviti islands. The green cliffs still reach skyward behind the stores, hemming in Levuka and its narrow valley. Walk along the waterfront, and don't hesitate to stick your head into the general stores for a look at their amazing variety of goods: You could see an old fashion kerosene lantern displayed next to a modern DVD player.
After the last store stands the Church of the Sacred Heart, a wooden building fronted by a baroque stone tower. It was built by the Marist Brothers who came to Levuka in 1858. The clock in the tower strikes once on the hour, and again -- in case you missed the number of chimes marking the time -- 1 minute later. Across Beach Street stands a World War I monument to the Fijian members of the Fiji Labour Corps who were killed assisting the British in Europe.
Walk on across Totoga Creek, from whose bridge local youth like to dive off for a swim, to low Niukaubi Hill, on top of which is another World War I monument, this one to Levukans of English ancestry who died fighting as British soldiers in that conflict. Parliament House and the Supreme Court building sat on this little knoll before the capital was moved to Suva. They had a nice view across the town, the waterfront, and the reef and islands offshore. At the bottom of the hill is the Levuka Club, a colonial-era social club established by Indians, who weren't allowed in the European-dominated Ovalau Club.
Keep going north on Beach Street, which soon passes the 1904-vintage Anglican Church before arriving in the original Fijian village known as Levuka. The Tui Levuka who lived here befriended the early European settlers. Later, Chief Cakobau worshiped in the Methodist church that was built on the south side of the creek in 1869. John Brown Williams, the American consul, is buried in the village's Old Cemetery near the church. (Remember, good manners dictate that you request permission before entering a Fijian village.)
To the north, Gun Rock towers over Levuka village. In order to show the chiefs just how much firepower it packed, a British warship in 1849 used this steep headland for target practice. Beach Street now runs under the overhang of Gun Rock, where the Marist Brothers said their first Mass. The road didn't exist then, only a shingly beach where the sea had worn away the base of the cliff.
Inland -- Beyond Gun Rock lies the village of Vagadaci, where the Duke of York -- later King George V -- and his brother, the Duke of Clarence, once played cricket (the field is now covered by a housing project), but I usually turn around at Gun Rock and return to Hill Road, the first street inland south of the hospital. It leads to the 199 steps that climb Mission Hill from the Methodist church to the collection of buildings comprising Delana Methodist School. For the energetic, the view from the 199th step is worth the climb.
From the church, cut down Chapel and Langham streets and take a look in the historic Royal Hotel, a sightseeing attraction in its own right. Even if you don't stay at Fiji's oldest operating hotel, have a look at its public rooms, for this ancient establishment is as much attraction as accommodations. It dates to about 1860 but was rebuilt in 1917 after a fire destroyed the original building. Except for installing ceiling fans and bathrooms, little seems to have been done to it since then. Not much imagination is required to picture W. Somerset Maugham or Robert Louis Stevenson relaxing in the comfortable rattan chairs in the charming lounge, slowly sipping gin-and-tonics at the polished bar, or playing a game of snooker at the antique billiard table. Note the large piece of tapa cloth, which was part of the bridal train of the late Queen Salote of Tonga.
After your visit to the hotel, keep going south along the banks of Togoga to the Town Hall, built in 1898 in honor of Queen Victoria's 50 years on the British throne; it still houses most of Levuka's city offices. Behind the Town Hall, Nasau Park provides the town's rugby and cricket field, bowling green, and tennis courts.
Now head uphill on Garner Jones Road along the creek until you get to the lovely white Victorian buildings with broad verandas of Levuka Public School, Fiji's first educational institution (opened in 1879) and still one of its best. A row of mango and sweet-smelling frangipani trees shade the sidewalk known as Bath Road between the school and the rushing creek. Walk up Bath Road, which soon turns into a "step street" as it climbs to a waterfall and concrete-lined swimming hole known as the Bath. Cool off at this refreshing spot before heading back down the steps to Beach Street.