Just a two-hour flight from Australia’s east coast is a World Heritage-listed island, a tiny treasure emerging from the great empty southern Pacific. Lord Howe Island, just 11 kilometres in length and two kilometres wide, is a land mass made up of towering rock formations, ancient banyan tree forests and white sandy beaches. It’s glorious in summer but equally alluring in the cooler months: mild, sunny days are followed by evenings cool enough to warrant a cosy fire. The pristine waters and white sandy beaches are the stuff of summer-holiday dreams, but they’re still there in wintertime – not to mention excellent off-season deals.
Surrounded by a marine park in which commercial fishing is not permitted, the sea around the island teems with a diversity of fishes such as the Lord Howe kingfish, striped marlin and double-header wrasse. There are plenty of fishing charters operating and they all provide tackle – and a fish fry-up afterwards!
Take the plunge
Lord Howe’s reefs are the southernmost coral reefs in the world, and thanks to its location at a crossroads of five major ocean currents, there’s a unique ecosystem in which topical, subtropical and temperate species coexist. A diverse underwater topography of caves, trenches and dramatic volcanic drop-offs plus more than 60 dive sites make the island one of the world’s premier scuba spots – and the water stays relatively warm through winter.
Explore island history
The Lord Howe Island Visitors Centre is dedicated to the island’s history (which dates from to 1788), World Heritage environment and unique community. There are historic archives, photographs and displays.
SEE ALSO: A Weekend Getaway to Lord Howe Island
Take a hike
The island is tiny – just 11 kilometres by two kilometres – but it’s crisscrossed with dozens of fantastic walking trails ranging from the challenging (an 875-metre climb up Mount Gower) to the chilled (a 300-metre stroll along a timber boardwalk to the rocky cove of Old Gulch).
Watch a rare bird show
Thirty-two species of birds breed on Lord Howe Island, and none has a more elaborate mating dance than the rare Providence Petrel. Their aerial courtship can be seen between March and November and only on Lord Howe Island. Walk along the Little Island track to spot their mid-air wheeling and wooing. They have no fear of humans and can be literally called out of the air – if you make enough noise, they may interrupt the task at hand and come down to see what all the fuss is about, landing at your feet.
The sooty tern is another species known to breed only at Lord Howe Island
Channel David Attenborough
A wander around Lord Howe Island with naturalist Ian Hutton OAM is less a tour, more a journey of discovery. Hutton conducts Nature Tours around the island he calls home and with which he remains enamoured, thanks to its rare endemic birds, island rainforests full of ancient ferns and flowering plants and the dazzling colours of the coral reefs. There are full-day and half-day tours to the rainforest, seabird colonies and seashore.
On yer bike
Given that Lord Howe is so small, a hire car isn’t necessary. Rent a bike to get around – it’ll take less than half and hour end-to-end.
Switch off, for once
There’s no mobile phone coverage, wi-fi is patchy and televisions may be non-existent depending on where you stay. Leave your devices at home and see what happens.
Feed the fish
Ned’s Beach Sanctuary Zone allows visitors to view an incredible array of marine life very close to shore and join in an island ritual of hand-feeding the wrasse, spangled emperors and kingfish that gather for the occasion.