First published on 2 Feb 2012. Updated on 15 Jun 2012.
Stressed, suspicious cityslickers do a little dance when they get to Lord Howe Island. It’s a spasm of discomfit and readjustment at the idea of not locking doors and just leaving your belongings lying around. Believe me: no one is going to steal your stuff. The island’s population is just 350 and no more than 400 tourists are allowed at any one time. The way of life is impossibly laid-back; most visitors get around on rented bicycles. (No, nobody is going to steal your bicycle either.)
A volcanic island in the Tasman Sea formed seven million years ago, Lord Howe was colonised in 1834 and remains a temperate paradise with astonishing bird and marine life, exciting mountain climbs and bushwalks, pristine beaches and a small number of guest resorts where the food, service and accommodation are of a very high standard. It’s an idyllic escape within very easy reach of Sin City.
SEE AND DO
Bring a crust of bread and watch the surf round your ankles turn to foam as you feed the fish at Neds Beach
; you can rent a snorkel here and observe the world’s southernmost coral reef up close.
Discover the full abundance of the reef’s marine life by taking a two-hour Lord Howe Environmental Tour
out in the Lagoon in a glass-bottomed boat to Erscott’s Hole. Jump in and observe an undersea wonderland populated by the likes of the doubleheaded wrasse, butterfly fish, silver drummer and hundreds more colourful species, many unique to the island.
offer a 3.5 hour North Bay Turtle and Nature Tour that takes you to coral reefs and to view the giant turtles who frequent North Bay and Old Settlement Bay. Local nature expert Ian Hutton will introduce the nesting grounds of birds like the sooty tern as well as the island’s world famous kentia palm.
The adventurous may opt for a guided all-day hike to the summit of Mount Gower.
A shorter but equally adventurous climb will take you to the Goat House Cave on the side of Mount Lidgbird
where the views are incredible. On the north side of Lord Howe the peaks at Kim’s Lookout
and Malabar Hill
offer panoramic vistas of the island and the chance to see many seabirds.
When you’ve done these and some of the island’s shorter walks you may be ready for a boat expedition to Balls Pyramid
, a 550m mountain of grey basalt that soars out of the ocean 23km south of Lord Howe. It’s twice the height of Sydney Tower and a superb site for fishing and snorkelling.
is an 110-year-old family business on Lagoon Beach central to the island’s various attractions. Meals are served on the deck and are included in the room tariff. Each morning the staff will personally help plan your day’s activities and organise a packed lunch to take along, or a barbecue pack to be left at one of many barbecue sites on the island. In the evening, watch the sun set over the Tasman from the Boatshed Deck and help yourself to a drink at the honesty bar.
The island’s premier luxury resort is Capella Lodge
, where all rooms are kitted out in designer fittings and furnishings and command jaw-dropping views of Mounts Lidgbird, Mount Gower and the turquoise ocean. Breakfast and three-course dinner is included in the tariff and Capella’s day spa offers facials, massages and foot treatments to weary hikers. The ambience may be luxe but the welcome is down to earth, with a maximum of 18 pampered guests. The two-level Lidgbird Pavilion includes private pool, outdoor bath, panoramic views and use of a golf buggy to get around.
Qantaslink operates daily flights from Sydney to Lord Howe Island. Flight time is just under two hours but there is an 18kg luggage restriction. There are weekend flights direct from Brisbane.