Barely visible from the sky, Norfolk Island is a world of unspoilt beauty, where a forest of evergreen pine meets the ocean, lush hills and valleys meet the beach. This is how life should be.
Part of Australia for more than 100 years, Norfolk Island was first settled in the 14th and 15th Centuries by seafarers from New Zealand – well before Captain James Cook arrived in 1774 and named the island. When the First Fleet arrived, 15 convicts and 7 free men were sent to the island to take control, with more arriving in the first 12 months. The commercial development of the island began and in the years that followed, the island was transformed into a prosperous region, predominantly through the export of the Norfolk Island Pine. Though there was development, the splendour and the beauty of the island remained intact and has been preserved since.
Just 2 hours flight from Sydney and Auckland, Norfolk Island is a tropical paradise.
Any time of year
The mild tropical weather conditions will have you comfortable at any time of year. The summer days are generally under 28 degrees, the nights a warm 20, while winter temperatures can be anywhere from 12 at night to 20 during the day. The island has a range of accommodation options with more than 60 properties to suit all kinds of budgets. From hotels and luxury cottages, to self contained units and budget apartments. When arriving you need to have your accommodation pre-booked or you won’t even make it past immigration at the airport.
The food on Norfolk is fantastic. All fruit and vegetables are actually grown on the island, freshly picked and ready to eat!! Not to mention the fresh fish and beef, as well as locally made produce like coffee, honey and cheese. There are more than 30 restaurants, cafes and clubs where you can enjoy fantastic fresh dishes. Or if you fancy something more along the lines of some good Italian or Chinese food, you won’t be disappointed either, or you might like to experience local culture with a cliff-top BBQ, sunset fish fries or a progressive dinner.
If its shopping you’re after, there are markets held every Sunday morning with a range of arts and crafts, souvenirs and home made produce. Meanwhile the Farmers markets are held every Saturday morning and you can buy yourself some seasonal fruit and vegetables for a great price!
Great tours, fun times
Most of the tours on the island are based around the natural environment, from 4WD eco tours to island discoveries, horse riding and reef tours. If you want to tour the island yourself, you can hire a rental car for a great price and take yourself around the island. Grab yourself a map and take a drive to some of the island’s great beaches!
Norfolk Island beaches include Slaughter Bay, Anson Bay, Norfolk Island Beach, Duncombe Bay and Emily Bay. Emily Bay is the safest place on the island to swim and the sparkling crystal clear waters are protected from both the breakers and the southern ocean. Its popular for young families in particular who can rest assured their little ones will enjoy a swim in safe waters. Anson Bay is the island’s most gorgeous beach and is located at the bottom of a steep cliff face. Its more secluded than the other beaches and is a great place to explore. The track down is not for the light hearted, but its well worth it once you’re at the bottom. Its a popular beach for surfers and swimmers, but you need to be careful of the drop off when you’re walking out into the water as it might come as a surprise. If snorkelling is what you’re after, Slaughter Bay is full of colourful marine life and well worth the visit.
If you want to see the ocean from a different view, there are plenty of boat tours that will take you out to explore. To discover life under the ocean, without even getting your feet wet, take a glass bottom boat tour to see the wonderful array of tropical fish in one of the world’s most southern coral reefs. You might also take to the waters in a kayak for a relaxing paddle, try your hand at fishing, or plunge right in with one of the diving or snorkelling tours.
Back on the land, you can find some fascinating tours and attractions that will take you around the island, whether you go on your own or with a tour group.
The island has a history of carnage that will have you cringing, but will also leave you fascinated, and a great walk to do is the ghost tour which will introduce you not only to stories of the past, but if you’re lucky, you might even see or hear something “ghostly” yourself! Learn about the commandants, convicts and settlers who once lived on the island, which is actually known as one of the most brutal settlements of the British Empire.
Tours take you through Kingston – the main township during the Second and early Third Settlements. Kingston is in the centre of the World Heritage Listed Kingston and Arthurs Vale Historic Area – one of the group of 11 Australian Convict Sites. There are 4 museums that tell the story of the island’s history and you can take a guided tour of the Area or follow the walking tracks yourself. As a place of secondary punishment, the area has a reputation as one of the harshest and cruellest penal settlement. Visit the cemetery, ruins and standing structures from centuries past, buildings from the convict era, and see the archaeological remains, landform and landscape elements. If you take the ghost tour, you will hear about the harsh history of the region from locals in the know. You might also like to take a historic tour of the old settlement sites at Pitcairn Settlers Village, visit Bloody Bridge, Captain Cook lookout and Cooks monument.
A Nature Lover’s Dream
If you love getting back to nature, the national park is the place to go with its abundance of Norfolk Island’s pine trees and rainforest. The National Park covers 650 hectares and comprises two sections, the Mount Pitt section on Norfolk Island 4.60 square kilometres and the neighbouring 1.9 square kilometre Phillip Island, as well as the much smaller Nepean Island. The National Park has some fantastic walking tracks, as well as stunning views from both Mt Pitt and Mt Bates – the highest points on the island. Take along a picnic or some food ready for a BBQ feast, get your walking shoes on and enjoy a journey through lush palm forests, along the coastal fringe and into a world of Norfolk Island pine. You can even walk beneath the tallest tree ferns on the planet!
There are a range of walks, from gentle to moderate and varying in length up to an hour and a half. Some of the tracks include steep sections and many of the tracks can become very slippery if its wet, so just be wary of what track you are doing on what day. The Bird Rock track has the most challenging section in the park and will take you on a steep walk, through pine forest to the cliff top overlooking Bird Rock and return. If you don’t want to do the steep climb, you can take the Red Stone link track. The Old Mountain track was the main access to Mt Pitt prior to World War II and you can still see the remnants of a gun emplacement; while the 1.7 kilometre Bridle track takes you along the edge of the coastline. And easy walk is the Summit track which takes you along the ridge top from the peak of Mt Pitt to the peak of Mt Bates.
Within the park is the botanic gardens, which allow you to walk through the gorgeous flora and fauna of the region. The Botanic gardens have boardwalks suitable for wheelchairs and strollers and you can wander through a display of gorgeous plants in their natural environment, and if you’re lucky you might even come across some of the island’s birdlife, including the green parrot which is not found anywhere else in the world! In fact, many of the species you will find in the National Park have evolved into unique, or endemic, forms due to the isolation on Norfolk. The longest walk here is the Rainforest Gully circuit, 600 metres long, where you can wander through the rainforest gully looking in wonder at the giant vines and gorgeous surrounds.
Norfolk Island truly is a nature lover’s paradise and with its unspoilt beauty, you can see why we had to include it in our Top 10 destinations.