Olive Christian, who lives on Pitcairn Island, the last British overseas territory in the South Pacific, is one of only 50 residents in what is technically the smallest country in the world. Halfway between Peru and New Zealand, Pitcairn was established in 1790 by British defectors. Christian, as well as her husband Steve, are directly descended from the first settlers.
“It’s not the Hilton, but it’s home!” Olive tells Brandon Presser of Travel+Leisure.
The island, which is roughly two miles long and one mile wide, has subsisted for the last 200 years primarily as a bed and breakfast for curious travelers, who often brought necessary goods to Pitcairn. Nowadays, the Internet has made Pitcairn accessible to adventurous tourists, who are matched with with local families. Most homesteads start at $150 a night, which includes meals and laundry service.
Pitcairn is not particularly easy to get to. Visitors must board a cargo freighter, the Claymore II, to travel to the island. The ship, which delivers goods from New Zealand, can be boarded on the island of Mangareva in the southeast of French Polynesia. To reach Mangareva, travelers must fly from Tahiti, which is approximately four and a half hours away. The Claymore II runs four times a year from New Zealand to Pitcairn, and is able to transport 12 passengers.
The island is currently attempting to become a Dark Sky Sanctuary, “public or private land that has an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural, or educational value, its cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment,” according to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
“The wonderful isolation and lack of light pollution across all four islands in the Pitcairn group will make our sanctuary status truly special,” said Heather Menzies, Pitcairn Travel Coordinator. “As a community, from our tiny vantage point, we deeply value our unparalleled view of the Universe but we also benefit from the physical and psychological wellbeing that a truly dark sky affords all living beings.”
Pitcairn would be only the world’s fifth dark sky sanctuary due to its non-existent pollution. Visitors to the island will be able to observe a total solar eclipse on July 2, 2019.
“The quality of Pitcairn’s night sky is up there with the best in the world,” said Menzies. “We’re incredibly excited about the prospects accredited Dark Sky Sanctuary status will grant Pitcairn ... the sky really is the limit.”