Nausori: History on the river

Nausori water taxi

By Sera Tikotikovatu-Sefeti

Nausori was declared a town in 1931 but is rich in a history that started well before that time.

It is the site of Fiji’s first sugar refining company, a place of remembrance for the people who died aboard the Syria and those who came to the rescue of passengers, and the place where it is believed the first rugby ball was kicked in Fiji.

The town can sometimes be overshadowed by its proximity to Fiji’s capital city, but it has its own attractions, with both the hustle and bustle of a busy Fiji city, and scenic, secluded, and unspoiled sights.

When you have fully explored Nausori, touring by water taxi is another option. Punting up and down the Rewa River, you witness the happy faces of children enjoying the cool waters and fishermen going about their daily routine. Be sure to ask your driver to take you to Nailili Cathedral Catholic Church, a secluded church still in use today.

Apart from hosting Fiji’s second-largest airport and being home to the longest and widest river in Fiji, Nausori has much to offer those who decide to discover its hidden spots.

Here are our recommendations:

Shopping and food

  • Kushal Holding Ltd.: This sweet little arcade houses shops, a bakery, a coffee shop, a photography studio, and many more little finds, including Raiwaqa Bakery (well-known for its soft, delicious bread and inexpensive, tasty cakes) and Coffee Shotz, a popular spot for young families to take a break from the heat outside and enjoy a variety of sweet and savoury dishes, and very good coffee.
  • Jiwanbhai Complex Shops: This spot reminds me of Hong Kong night markets; it is surrounded by many small shops with affordable prices; includes a foreign exchange counter and has items hanging from the ceilings to the floor. In this bustling space you will find authentic traditional Indian jewellery, restaurants, and foot massages!
  • Lagoon Hair Beauty Salon VIP provides temporary eyelashes that stay on for 3–4 weeks. It is located along the Pak and Save building on the main road. This lively spot, owned by Doris Xiao, is always packed with clients for nail, hair, and eyelash services.
  • Man’s Café is a good place to rest and enjoy well-priced steak and eggs. The steak is soft and juicy, and balanced by tasty soft eggs. Located in the heart of Nausori town, this spot is close to the court complex.


Syria Monument: When the Syria left Calcutta for Fiji on March 13, 1884, it carried 497 indentured adults, children, and infants, as well as a crew of 43. On the night of May 11, 1884, the ship was wrecked on the Nasilai Reef. Nasilai villagers in canoes were the first to arrive to rescue passengers, followed by the government boat Clyde. Overlooking the old and new Rewa bridges, the Syria Monument remembers the 59 lives lost on that day. The monument also lists ships that travelled to Fiji from 1879–1916, and signifies the long-lasting bond between Fiji and India.

Nausori Market

Nausori Market 

Nausori Market, Fiji’s largest, features a garden of flower stores on its outskirts, root crops, vegetables, and fruits on sale directly from the farm, and  a corner for all grog lovers where a beautifully arranged mountain of waka sits on one table. In another corner, the Nausori Handicraft Center includes salusalu of different colours and mats, masi and much more. On Saturdays, local women offer a wide variety of pre-cooked food, including the local delicacy, bila (fermented cassava bread).

On the water

Nasali Water Taxi is located 25 minutes from Nausori, but you also have the option of getting picked up from below the old Rewa Bridge. From your boat you will see villages, and people at work and play along the Rewa River. Our guide had great insights into points of interest and the different streams feeding into the Rewa River. If you have time, the driver can take you all the way to the mouth of the river where  juvenile hammerhead scallop sharks  are located. To make arrangements to start your journey from the Rewa Bridge, call Roko on 2135761. Otherwise make your way to Nasali landing and talk to the water taxi operators moored there. Be sure to put on some sunscreen, wear a hat, and fully charge your phone or camera because there is plenty to see.

  • Nailili Cathedral Church stands tall and proud, if worn by time. According to the Fiji Museum, Fijian catholic scholars helped Fr. Rougier to build this beautiful church from limestone and coral. Nailili was the setting of a bitter struggle for converts between Wesleyan and Catholics, which culminated in a much publicised “Bible burning” incident which enraged the Wesleyans. This historic attraction is still used as a place of worship by local Catholics. Visiting this secluded, historic building transports you to a different time and place, I felt like I was walking through an old film set. 
  • The ground on which Nailili Cathedral sits is also a place where the first rugby ball was kicked in Fiji and a good photo opportunity!
Nailili Cathedral church
Nailili Cathedral Church

This guide first appeared in Fiji Traveller, January-March 2023.

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