A history of convicts, bandits and the crew of the Bounty. Upon discovering Norfolk Island in 1774, Captain James Cook wrote “this is an island paradise”.
Thanks to my wonderful family sending myself and my fiancée to Norfolk Island this month, we came home relaxed and filled with admiration toward this beautiful island paradise in the South Pacific. Norfolk Island is only about 1hr 45 mins flying time from Auckland, which makes it one of the most accessible subtropical islands in the Pacific for New Zealanders to visit. It is 5kms by 8kms in size, making it small compared to some of its other larger neighbouring islands, but it is large in hospitality, history and scenery. When people speak of ‘island time’, you truly begin to realise its meaning when you visit Norfolk Island. People are in no hurry, it is a steady pace and a relaxed friendly attitude that will became infectious from the moment you step off the plane. What seems like an hour in our busy lives in Auckland will be 10 minutes there.
Norfolk Islanders are some of the warmest, most welcoming people we have come across in our travels; experts in making one feel like a local and will oblige in any way possible to ensure you enjoy your stay. Most Norfolk Islanders are direct descendants from the Bounty mutineers, so their cultural heritage is very important and extremely fascinating.
One-third Norfolk Islanders, one-third Australian, and one-third New Zealanders make up the population of approximately 1,600. The island is a territory of Australia, but with its own self-governing laws. It is tax-free, so shopping is quite good (especially cosmetics, jewellery, perfumes and the Liquor Bond) with more than 70 shops in the township of Burnt Pine selling everything from art supplies to Italian shoes. Jewellery is in abundance on Norfolk Island and you will find yourself spoilt for choice, from casual jewellery to glistening diamonds — there are thousands of gems to dazzle you and all are very reasonably priced. Hand-crafted pieces and private viewings are also part of many of the services.
A highlight for us was the food; eating out has never been so enjoyable. We found ourselves trying several places ranging from wood oven-cooked pizzas to luxury three-course candlelit dinners with wine and all finished with gorgeous coffee. Our favourite was Café Tropicana. The owner is Cliff, a fellow New Zealander from Auckland who fell in love with Norfolk and set up business there. He serves delicious meals presented in award-winning style that tastes more divine than you could imagine. He is also, like all locals, extremely friendly and helpful. Everywhere you go, people will start up a conversation and pull out a map of the island advising you of many of the great places to go and see. You will also notice that the same friendliness is shown when driving; everyone waves with their index finger pointed from the steering wheel. By the end of your stay you could well be on a first-name basis with most people, making it a hard place to leave!
The local supermarket has everything you need, but groceries are dearer than at home — milk is more than $5 a litre — due to the fact that it’s imported. Cows have a pretty good life on the island, roaming freely with just a few cattlegrids around the island keeping them out of the main shopping areas of Burnt Pine and Kingston. Farmers register the cattle at $50 a head for them to roam freely and cattle have right-of-way, so watch out as you will be fined $200 for hitting the animal. Rental cars on the island are definitely a requirement, and you can get around on all of the roads (50km/hr speed limit and 40km/hr in the township) easily, hiring a car for around $27 for two days plus which makes touring very affordable. You will find most motels will give you a complimentary car, so all you need to pay is $10 a day for insurance.
There are many places to stop and visit around the island including Emily Bay with its golden sandy beach, the national park and Captain Cook Memorial overlooking the cliffs, Kingston and Quality Row with its history of prison settlements (we loved Kingston). For culture vultures, there’s a plethora of museums, sweets (for handmade chocolates), botanical gardens, an old whaling station, waterfalls, Mt. Pitt and Mt Bates, as well as numerous group shows and dinners. You’ll also come away with a wealth of knowledge regarding the history of this island, not to mention ghost stories. We visited Kingston at night after everyone else had deserted it, to get the true feeling of the area and take some interesting photos — we even had the obligatory stormy winds to set the mood!
Let’s not forget those famous trees. The Norfolk pines are everywhere, along with some of the tallest tree ferns in the world and abundant kentias, with tropical blooms of hibiscus, frangipani and other delightful scents.
These are many great places to stay while you enjoy your time on Norfolk. We stayed at the Governor’s Lodge Resort, a 4.5-star resort with 55 stand-alone cottages on 12 acres of gorgeous landscaped gardens. We were provided with a rental car and complimentary full buffet breakfast daily, along with exceptional service from the staff. The pool is definitely the place to lounge around on warm days, or enjoy the large spa right next to it — heated all year round. At night, you can hear the ocean roar as you sit on your private deck surrounded by lush plants and colourful parrots with wine in hand. The next day you can spoil yourself with a massage at a few of the spas dotted around Burnt Pine or go horseback riding and take in the same spectacular sights from the high cliffs. Or if you prefer the water, then a glass-bottom boat ride, snorkel, scuba dive or surfing at Emily Bay (which is protected by a reef and perfectly safe for swimming) might be just the way to spend your day before heading to the liqueur distillery for a tasting. There are also bushwalks, mountain bike riding, a great golf course, tennis and squash courts, lawn bowls, archery, clay and pistol shooting, mini golf, volleyball and skateboarding facilities.
An island of contrast is the best way to describe this island paradise. Rugged coastlines and pristine golden beaches; lush forests and sapphire blue waters, historical buildings and modern shops — incorporating everything from traditional to new, you will find it all on Norfolk. It is not just a place for the ‘newly wed or nearly dead’, but I feel so many people still think that. We both fell in love with Norfolk and have vowed to return.
Words: Donna Malneek