Welcome to Samarai Island
The sleepy island predates Port Moresby and was the provincial headquarters until 1968, when local government realised it had outgrown the tiny island and left for greener pastures. Two years later the international wharf closed and the town’s been left to the ravages of time.
At the northeast corner of the sports ground stands the memorial to Christopher Robinson, the one-time administrator who committed suicide in 1904. The inscription reads that ‘his aim was to make New Guinea a good place for white men’. Near the southeast corner of the field, a road leads up to some foundations – all that remains of the old hospital and, just north of here, a small hill with great views of the island and China Strait. On the 'main street', and south of the wharf, is Samarai’s oldest-surviving (if by 'surviving' one means 'still standing') building, the picturesquely decayed Anglican church. There's also some spectacular muck diving and snorkelling around the rotting piers of the Samarai island wharf (bring your own gear).
There are simple lodgings offered by Bwanasu Women's Association Guesthouse, at the top of the steep steps leading up from the north side of the football field, and also by friendly Cyprian and Magrette at Maggie's Homestay, on the west side of the football field; meals can be arranged.
Public dinghies at Sanderson Bay (K30, two hours, Monday to Friday) in Alotau depart for Samarai around 3pm and return between 7am and 8am the next morning.