Cook Islands: Palmerston Atoll – Feedback from Cruisers

Palmerston Atoll is in the southern group of the Cook Islands and should not be missed if the weather is favorable for a stopover. However, permission has to be obtained to visit here and advance notification of arrival must be provided to the Island Council.

Published 6 years ago, updated 11 months ago

An Amazing Place to Visit

Andrew Bereson – SV Second Sun  – July 2023

That was an amazing place to visit. They have the material and budget for six new moorings that will be managed by the island council. They need someone to come through with dive equipment and air to help then install the equipment. Given they don’t seem to have that capability on hand, I would be concerned about how they will maintain the moorings in the long run.

The anchoring is exciting! It should not be attempted without local knowledge! Cruisers should provide advance notice of arrival and then call the island when approaching on VHF Channel 16.  We emailed Will Rowe in advance and then called him at Alpha Whiskey on approach. The community will send a skiff out to assist with anchoring.

We were anchored way closer to the reef than I ever would have attempted on my own. Our guide had us drop the anchor in 30′ in a location where we depended on steady outflow from the lagoon to hold us off the reef. We were there for five days with no difficulty.

Our guide showed us where to drop and helped us lay out our chain as well. We are very experienced and still this help was invaluable. We recommend using a return retrieval line on the anchor as the bottom is foul. Our guide tried to guide our anchor to trench in the bottom where holding would be more likely. Our anchor held fine. Not sure if it dug in anywhere or just hooked around a rock. We didn’t dive it. We did test it by pulling back with the engine, though.

I should also note that we kept our AIS transmitting while we were at anchor. This allowed our boat to be monitored ashore in case it did drag or move towards the reef. There were two other boats anchored with us. Although iIwould not depend on this, Will set up an anchor alarm on his laptop for each of the boats using the AIS signals but I don’t think his computer was active at all times. Andy

Hugh Pilsworth – Brief report after a quick visit – May 2018

Photo by Hugh Pilsworth

Palmerston Island is beautiful with extraordinarily kind people.

When you arrive, calling EA on 16, you are met by one of the families and helped onto your mooring, there are about 8 available. The same boat is your transport through the reef to the island. Don’t even think about doing the passage yourself. The position of the moorings is on the NW of the island, 18 02 810S,163 11 552W.

We had to stay on board until the Bio-Security and Customs checked us over, $20 fee in cash. Customs officer is the island administrator and the Bio-Security is also the Mayor. We were met by Edward, the policeman. He will accept any sort of surplus boat bits you may have. Contact him on phone at Cook Islands 87265, 37616 or 37617, or email [email protected] before you leave for the island. You will be asked to bring goods to the island.

Mooring is $10 per night and includes the transport each day, and lunch on shore in the family house.

Nothing is too much trouble, and if you’re there on Sunday then go to the 10 o’clock church service. It’s in Cook Island Maori and English. Women to wear a dress and hat, men long pants and shirt.

Three days is long enough for a visit. Edward accepts cash payment and will also put laundry through his machine for you. There are phone and internet, and you can buy access cards from BlueSky Monday to Friday until 2 pm. The Internet is slow and not reliable.

This is a really beautiful small island, the current population is 40 plus, normally 60 plus. There are a nurse and clinic there, but no doctor.

If you’re going near, stop and visit, you will not be disappointed.


Palmerston Atoll is in the southern group of the Cook Islands and should not be missed if the weather is favorable for a stopover.

Cook Islands: Palmerston Atoll – Planning and Arrival Tips

By Anthony Swanston: October 2013

Before you leave Rarotonga or Aitutaki check with the harbormaster if there is any cargo for Palmerston. Your consideration will be very much appreciated.

On arrival call, Palmerston on CH16 and they will send a boat to guide you to a mooring. You will need two warps port and starboard to put through the mooring eye. The boat that meets you is your host for the duration of your stay. When your boat settles on its mooring follow this procedure.

1. Check the depth – it could be 15 meters or 35 meters. The mooring is on the edge of the reef which has a vertical drop off.

2. Whatever the shallow depth is drop enough chain so your anchor is 1 meter above the bottom.

3. Take care if you swing into shallower water – your anchor can get caught and on the swell put a heavy strain on it – so a stretchy snubbing line is essential. If you hear it grinding pull in some chain quickly.

4. This is a safety precaution in case the wind goes west and the mooring breaks. Please see the attached photograph!

5. Please note; one day and into the night the wind blew at 14 to 18 knots.  By morning it had moderated to 12 knots and at 0800 even in these quite light winds, my mooring broke.  By the time I got the broken line out of the water and could safely use the engine I was less than 15 yards from the reef.  These moorings are made of polypropylene and have many knots in them, so be warned.

This is a fascinating island with simply wonderful people. You would be mad to miss it. Equally, you might be considered mad to try and anchor if the moorings are all taken.

Anthony Swanston

SV Wild Fox

From The Executive Officer: Palmerston Island Administration  

25 September 2013 

Clearance into Palmerston Island

A clarification needs to be made.

Immigration and customs clearance authorization are only made by the Executive Officer of the Palmerston Island Administration. All visiting yachts are encouraged to call the Palmerston Island Administration on channel 16. All yachts visiting are also required to have a Health Clearance and an Agriculture/Quarantine Clearance. All fees collected are used for development/services purposes on the island.

Note if you have not been cleared through Aitutaki or Rarotonga you can be cleared in Palmerston and the fee charges are as follows; Immigration/customs NZ$25 or $20 US, Euro, Aust per person (Ait & Raro charges $50 /person, our charges are less than normally charged at a port of call); Health clearance is $20.

On departure, all yachts are encouraged to obtain a departure clearance even if you have received one from Aitutaki or Rarotonga. Palmerston Island Administration will only be too happy to provide a certificate to indicate that you have been cleared from Palmerston Island.

Note the individuals indicated in your clearance section are not local officials authorized to give clearances. They assist yachts with picking up a mooring or to make contact with visiting yachts to host them.

Palmerston Island Administration contact: The Executive Officer, email: [email protected] ph:(682)376 20.

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  1. January 28, 2019 at 7:39 AM
    Data Entry2 says:

    DO visit Palmerston! We did so this year and the welcome was just wonderful.
    We contacted Bill Marsters in advance and brought much-needed supplies from Rarotonga. Our reward was to be adopted, fed, and brought into their daily life, with No Charge for the use of their (newly laid) mooring.

    Bill’s wife Metra makes delightful necklaces and wristbands and various other beautiful mementos and gifts for very reasonable prices. I bought a shell necklace for my 96y/o mother and mailed it to her – she wears it every day! I and my 3 crew had a wonderful time, and we cannot praise Bill, Metua and their lovely family, enough.

    I cannot say how the other families treat you, but I can wholeheartedly recommend getting in touch with Bill and stopping with him if you can.

    Only one caveat……the mooring is on the reef, which will be a lee shore if the wind becomes N round to W. We only left because a trough was coming, which would have – and did, I am told – make the anchorage untenable.