Norfolk Island has so much to offer – from great food and history, to a stunning natural environment, friendly locals and pristine coastline – and getting there has never been easier. In September this year Air Chathams will be launching its first international route with direct flights to Norfolk Island from Auckland, and with a flight time of only two hours this little piece of paradise is just up the road.
BASKING AT THE BOTTOM
of the Pacific, New Zealanders have always looked to the surrounding islands for getaway-from-it-all escapes, but if Australia and the usual fly-andflop destinations are getting a little tired, then look no further than Norfolk. It’s decidedly different – where else do cows and chooks roam freely with the right of way on roads – it has its own language, and it’s stunning. Oh, and like New Zealand it doesn’t have snakes. So book a ticket and come and say Watawieh, which is Norfolk (the local blend of 18th century English and Tahitian) for Hello.
So where to start?
Most people equate Norfolk with the story of the Mutiny on the Bounty and its convict past, so a trip to Kingston is a good way to sort the fact from the fiction. It is a World Heritage listed site, with intriguing layers of settlement to be explored, from the convicts to the sealers and whalers who followed. In the same vein,
Fletcher’s Mutiny Cyclorama, created by local artists Sue Draper and Tracey Yager, is a 360 degree painting depicting the story of the mutiny and it was chosen by TripAdvisor as one of Australia’s top five landmarks in 2014. It is eerily realistic, so maybe not for those that are prone to seasickness!
But while Norfolk’s past has made it what it is, it certainly isn’t the star of the show today. The island is known as a photographer’s paradise, and with good reason because the Norfolk landscape is outstanding. Sunsets are spectacular and the valleys of pine and rain forest have a vividness not seen in New Zealand. There are plenty of tracks and walks to take you around all this scenery, all catering to different levels of fitness, but a popular favourite is the Bridal Track on the North coast; this walk starts from the grassy slope where Captain James Cook first landed and meanders up and around the coastline through pine and white oak with great views of the outlying islets.
Walking maps listing all the tracks are available, so you can make up your own schedule and choose your routes depending on whether you are after the unique flora and birdlife that the island has, or just want to wander and take in that breathtaking landscape. Because it really is spectacular: from the pristine lagoon of Emily Bay that is protected by a coral reef (great for swimming and snorkelling) to the moonscape of the uninhabited Phillip Island just offshore, this is some seriously beautiful countryside. Rest assured that if walking isn’t your scene then you can hire a Mini Moke and plan your own grand tour on wheels – just remember to give the ‘Norfolk wave’ to any other drivers you meet – or you can simply go fishing; given its location, its no surprise there is great angling. Red throat sweet lip, silver trevally, tuna, snapper, wahoo, mahi mahi and marlin are all to be had, and the fish aren’t only in great quantity, they’re also some of the largest in the South Pacific. Another facet of Norfolk is that for such a small place, it has a very busy schedule. There are celebrations for Bounty Day (in June) and to commemorate the First Fleet (in March), as well as the Norfolk Island Food Festival, the Country Music Festival (in May), the Jazz Festival (in December) and the Golf Pro-Am (in August). And at the end of the day, when you are done exploring, Norfolk has one more card up
There are more than 25 restaurants and eateries on the island, all using locally grown produce with a real ‘paddock to plate’ (or in some cases Pacific to plate) approach.
There are more than 25 restaurants and eateries on the island, all using locally grown produce with a real ‘paddock to plate’ (or in some cases Pacific to plate) approach that means fresh, in-season ingredients tasting like they should. Here’s an example: the regular Island Fish Fry is held at Puppy’s Point overlooking the ocean and features a selection of fresh fried fish, salads, homemade breads and desserts all served while the sun goes down and with local performers providing an accompaniment. It’s just 35kms square, but there is so much to do and see on Norfolk Island, and they do it so right. There is a laid back, barefoot kind of pace to the island that means you can feel like you are on an adventure, but relaxing at the same time. This is island life as it should be.