We know there are questions around travel amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read our note here.
If you want to put a smile on someone’s face, sending an old-fashioned letter, snail-mail style, will do the trick. And if that letter comes from one of the most unique post offices around the world, it’s even better. From the top of a mountain to the ocean floor, here are some of the coolest places around the world to send mail.
Underwater Post Office (Hideaway Island, Vanuatu)
The world’s only official underwater post office is located in Vanuatu, an archipelago nation composed of 83 islands in the South Pacific. Located nine feet underwater near Hideaway Island, the functioning post office opened in 2003 and has been a delight for snorkelers and divers alike.
If you want to send mail from Vanuatu’s Underwater Post Office, there are waterproof postcards available for purchase at gift shops on land. Instead of stamping the postcard with ink, the underwater clerk will use an embossed cancellation device to approve mail. (Yes, a postal clerk is available to receive your underwater mail and a flag will be raised above water to indicate the employee is present and you can dive down to mail your letter.) Outside of office hours, there is also a postal box available for sending postcards, which are guaranteed to be delivered domestically and internationally.
Penguin Post Office (Port Lockroy, Antarctica)
The Penguin Post Office in Port Lockroy, Antarctica, is the southernmost post office in the world. Located 7,000 miles south of Argentina on Goudier Island, the post office is named for the colony of gentoo penguins, which are often found on the premises. In addition to the 3,000 penguins who inhabit the island, other notable residents include five postal clerks who manage the small post office.
As a one-time port for whaling fleets, Port Lockroy also contains a small historical museum and a gift shop, but the Penguin Post Office remains the most popular spot. With 70,000 postcards dispersed around the world from Port Lockroy annually, this unique post office continues to draw people who are interested in sending a letter from the end of the Earth.
Black Mailbox (Route 375, Nevada)
Located on the edge of Area 51, the Black Mailbox is a famous extraterrestrial landmark in the Nevada desert. Before the Black Mailbox became a landmark, however, it was just an average mailbox belonging to a local rancher named Steve Medlin. It wasn’t until Bob Lazar, a former Area 51 employee, began to use the mailbox as a congregation site for “believers,” that the unassuming P.O. box began to gain fame.
Located along Nevada State Route 375, also known as the Extraterrestrial Highway, a stretch of road that claims many UFO sightings, the mailbox’s location eventually became a nuisance for Medlin. Unhappy with the consistent tampering of his USPS-issued mailbox, he moved it off the highway and closer to his ranch. Much to Medlin's chagrin, the Black Mailbox continued to be a pilgrimage for UFO enthusiasts. As a result, the rancher eventually added a second mailbox marked “Alien” for visitors — many of whom leave a dollar inside.
Post Office Bay (Floreana Island, Ecuador)
Located off the coast of Ecuador, Post Office Bay has long been the unofficial post office of the Galápagos Islands. The bay’s history of sending letters began when whalers became homesick after months at sea. The men started leaving letters for friends and family on Floreana Island, which were then carried back to the U.K. or the U.S. by ships departing from the region. With all the letters coming and going from Floreana Island, the whalers began calling it Post Office Bay.
This moniker remains fitting today. Visitors to the Galápagos can leave letters at Floreana Island’s unofficial post office. Using an honor system, travelers are permitted to take letters from the post office with the intent of delivery. While some letters are stamped and can be mailed, traditionally the letters are supposed to be hand-delivered, in order to relay the fascinating tale of where they came from.
Tibetan Paradise Post Office (Mount Everest, Tibet)
Located 17,388 feet above sea level, Tibetan Paradise Post Office is the world's highest post office. Originally called the China Post Space Office when it was established in 2001, the post office can be found at the base camp of Mount Everest. Originally housed in a military tent, the building has since been renovated to include exhibits on local culture, meteorology, and ecology. It also offers free drinking water and rest services for visitors.
Operating during the mountain’s peak climbing season, the post office is open from April to August, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. However, the post office’s unusual location means that postage is more costly than it is at sea level. If you’re sending mail from Mount Everest, you can expect to spend around $2 USD to send a postcard from Tibet to North America.
Juliet’s Mailbox (Verona, Italy)
However fictional Romeo and Juliet may be, the two lovebirds are alive and well in the Italian village of Verona. Thousands of letters have been addressed to “Juliet, Verona” for years, with visitors making the pilgrimage to the “town of love” to see where Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers originated. The trend took off in the 1930s when a man who guarded Juliet’s tomb — an empty sarcophagus purported to be the site of the last scene in the tragedy — began collecting and answering letters addressed to Juliet.
These letters eventually led to the creation of the “Juliet Club,” with thousands of letters to Juliet being answered by volunteers. Known as the “Secretaries of Juliet,” these volunteers answer letters from all over the world in several languages, an act that served as the inspiration for the romance film Letters to Juliet (2010). If you’d like to send a note to Juliet yourself, letters can be mailed, emailed, or delivered by hand to Juliet’s Mailbox in Verona.
Ochopee Post Office (Ochopee, Florida)
The smallest United States Post Office can be found on the edge of the Everglades in Ochopee, Florida. As an old shed that once stored irritation materials on a tomato farm, the building was converted into a post office in 1953, after a fire destroyed the local general store. A mere 56 square feet in total, the office has enough room for a single clerk to serve a town of 11 people.
Located between Miami and Naples, the Ochopee Post Office attracts plenty of visitors who want to see the pint-sized post office for themselves. They can use the office’s pre-stamped postcards to send international and domestic mail from the 34141 zip code. A word of warning — alligators are common in Ochopee, and can often be spotted in the parking lot, so be careful.
J.W. Westcott Mailboat (Detroit, Michigan)
The J.W. Westcott mailboat services the Great Lakes marine community, and has done so for nearly 150 years. Fist captained by a seaworthy entrepreneur named John Ward Westcott, the mailboat originated in 1874 when Wescott implemented the “mail in a pail” system on the docks of Detroit. In lieu of a P.O. box, a pail was tied to a string and hoisted over the side of passing vessels, allowing crewmen to send and receive letters without setting foot ashore.
The system was so popular that the J.W. Westcott mailboat became the first official United States Postal Service Mailboat and the first boat with a non-military zip code – 48222. Today, J.W. Westcott still operates out of Detroit, delivering mail and other goods to maritime vessels. In addition to the USPS mail, the company also delivers food and transports crew members from the ship to the shore.
Hoolehua Post Office (Hoolehua, Hawaii)
Located on Moloka’i, one of the least visited Hawaiian Islands, Hoolehua Post Office sees more coconuts sent than handwritten letters. In 1991, the post office started an initiative that allowed visitors to send coconuts to friends and family on the mainland. Fourteen years later, after facing severe budget cuts, Postmaster Gary Lam expanded the program as a way to increase post office traffic. The marketing ploy worked, with “Postanut” (Post-a-Nut) becoming a trend on the island.
Today, postal employees in Hoolehua mail over 3,000 coconuts a year, accounting for nearly half of the post office’s revenue. To assist with the demand, and in order to be out of federal jurisdiction, an island local named Teri Waros installed a Postanut store across the street. Embossed and painted coconuts can be purchased at the shop before they receive an agricultural stamp at the post office to be shipped worldwide.