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Lord Howe Island Travel Guide
Lord Howe Island Travel Guide

Lord Howe Island travel guide: best things to do and see

Island life is placed at bicycle speed and shoes are optional. Perfect for a couples weekend getaway where a relaxed lifestyle is a given.

Lord Howe Island permits 400 visitors at any time ensuring that you are not going to feel overcrowded and there is plenty of space to absorb the island’s natural beauty. Subtropical forests sweep down to the world’s southernmost coral reefs. There are shallow beaches to snorkel and paddle with a surf beach tucked around the next cove.

 

Is Lord Howe exclusive, a retreat for celebrities, effectively blocking everyday visitors?

An uninhabited island, for millions of years has a fragile ecosystem and the first settlers had the foresight to protect what they passionately loved with limits on visitor numbers. We are all invited however we have to form a queue to get in. A pristine island is the jewel, there are viewing rights for everyone however we have to wait our turn to get there. When we arrive, kick the shoes off, we are on island time. And the Island does not offer bargain basement deals, there are no camping grounds or budget accommodation, plus cruise ships are banned. Paradise is not cheap and the waiting list can stretch for periods of up to a year. Lord Howe is Australia’s birthday cake, elaborate, delicious, an occasional treat that we all deserve.

Lord Howe Island @jasminealley

Lord Howe is water-lovers’ heaven. Warm ocean currents and the southernmost coral reef, shallow white sandy beaches make for a flawless montage of beach experiences.

The Island’s blue lagoon is set off by two mountains, Mount Gower and Mount Lidgbird, providing a framework for walkers to challenge themselves with rugged terrain and multi-day treks or short strolls fossicking on empty beaches. Walkers will encounter over 240 species of native plants with over 100 endemic to the Island. The Pumpkin tree, the giant Fitzgeraldii Tree and the Mountain Daisy will be part of your walk. There are no mammals present and, similar to New Zealand there are flightless birds such as the LH woodhen, a special survivor who had the challenge of only 20 odd birds left in the 1970’s.

Your mobile will have no service, you are on island time and it is back to the pleasure of immersing yourself in Lord Howe.

Highlights:

  • Beach fossicking
  • Glass bottom boat tour of the lagoon
  • Snorkelling
  • Diving
  • Hand holding and hand feed fish at Ned’s beach
  • Beach picnic
  • Bird watching
  • Walks and tramps

Lord Howe, due to its isolation grows some of its produce and gets the rest from mainland Australia (a cargo ship arrives from Port Macquarie every fortnight) so all-inclusive lodges such as Pinetrees, Arajilla or Capella are more popular than self-catering holiday houses and apartments.

How to get there

Qantaslink flies most days from Sydney, and from Brisbane on the weekends, throughout the year. There’s also a seasonal service direct from Port Macquarie weekly from February to June and September to December. You can sail to Lord Howe and moor on the lagoon but you need to contact the Lord Howe Island Board before your arrival and apply for a public mooring.

Friday evening, arrival.

Top ten popular visitor experiences
1
A snorkel and walk is an excellent combination on Lord Howe, check out the details for North Beach Remember to ask the locals where the shipwreck is located.
2
To observe aerial roots of the banyan trees and magnificent kentia palms you will take a walk on the wild side, the east coast. The extraordinary flora and fauna make this a special walk.
3
An easy 2km walk to the top of a hill to get those panoramic views without trudging up a mountain starts at Blinky Beach. Your reward are views that rotate around the island
4
Malabar Hill is a two-hour return walk and home to one of the world’s largest nesting sites for the red-tailed tropic bird known for its spectacular airborne courting displays between November and June.
5
Do not be fooled by the words intermediate hill traverse. There is a reasonably steep descent which can be slippery in the wet. Yet another spectacular view is laid out behind you.
6
Marine exploration the basalt caves and reefs below the world’s tallest sea stack, with a height of 551 metres. Balls Pyramid is home to huge schools of violet sweep, rainbow runners, marlin, dolphins, turtles and rare species such as Spanish dancers, double-headed wrasse and Galapagos whalers.
7
Heritage and history. The local museum has a range of displays on the island's World Heritage environment, community and history dating back to 1788, when the British naval vessel HMS Supply was believed to have discovered the island.
8
Another Island, Admiralty Island is a well known diving location with clear water making for perfect dive viewing. There are over 25 dive sites among the atolls and reefs.
9
Glass boat tour of Lord Howe coral reefs there is not much more to say other than it is a must do experience, combine with your diving expectations and all members of your party can experience coral reefs up close and personally.
10
Chilling out, doing nothing, finding your zen moment on Lord Howe.

The beach: must do highlights

Beach picnic anyone, get your accommodation to organise all those pesky details. A perfect moment for couples to savour the moment on their secluded beach.

Old Settlement beach

a great place to swim, relax and admire impressive mountain views

Blinky beach

a great spot for a refreshing swim, surf or a relaxing snorkel

North Bay

a place where you can picnic

Walks

The Seven Peaks Walk is Lord Howe’s premier five day guided adventure that takes you from pristine beaches and exposed coral platforms to the delicate mist forests on Mt Gower. Along the way, you’ll see sheltered swimming coves, subtropical palm forests, freshwater creeks, rugged sea cliffs and volcanic peaks. Some sections of the walk, such as the Lower Road on Mt Lidgbird, wind along exposed narrow ledges (protected by ropes, of course) across a 300 vertical metre cliff. Other sections of the walk take you deep into Jurassic Park style banyan forests with the only rookeries of Providence petrels in the world. When you yell, the curious birds land at your feet, almost hypnotised. It’s an incredible experience.

The Seven Peaks Walk is a member of the Great Walks of Australia – a small collection of Australia’s finest luxury walks.

Although only 11km long and 2km wide, Lord Howe is laced with dozens of delightful, well-marked walking trails; nearly two thirds of the island is a Permanent Park Preserve.

The choice ranges from easy strolls at sea level through lush kentia palm and banyan forests, to moderate cliff-top hikes where you’ll see seabirds wheeling on the thermals, to the challenging 875 metre Mt Gower climb – rated as one of the best day treks in the world.

NORTHERN SECTION

MAX NICHOLS MEMORIAL TRACK TO NORTH BAY

1.5 km one way, moderate. This walk commences at the picnic area at Old Settlement beach. The track crosses a cleared paddock and then winds its way up to the top of the ridge. The climb is demanding, though made easier by the steps. The track then descends steeply to the picnic area at North Bay where there are toilets and barbecue facilities. Return can be either by the same track, or at the Dawsons Point Ridge junction, take the track to Malabar, and continue down to Ned’s Beach.

MT ELIZA

0.6 km one way, moderate. The Mt Eliza walk starts at the picnic area at North Bay and climbs up to the summit of Mt Eliza, 147m above sea level. The track is very rocky and steep.  From September to March, sooty terns nest along the trail and on the summit. During this period the track is closed to the public, to protect the birds and their young.

OLD GULCH

0.3 km one way, easy. This is a short level walk, mostly along a timber boardwalk, from the picnic area at North Bay to the small rocky cove known as Old Gulch.

MALABAR HILL TO DAWSON’S POINT RIDGE

1.5 km one way, moderate. The Malabar walk commences at Neds Beach, with the start of the track located off to the side of the road, before you reach the grassy section at Ned’s Beach. A climb up an open grassy slope to Pooles Lookout with its commanding views. From the lookout, the track leads to the summit of Malabar Hill, 208m above sea level. This section of the climb is interspersed with tree roots and rocks, and is of a relatively moderate grade. The track then follows the cliff edge to Dawson’s Point Ridge, past Kim’s Lookout, you can either turn left and walk back down the Max Nichols Memorial Track to Old Settlement Beach, or turn right and walk down the many stairs that lead to North Bay.

SOUTHERN SECTION

GOAT HOUSE CAVE

2.1 km one way, difficult. Access is from Lagoon Road, turning left at the bottom of the hill after Capella Lodge. The track leads initially to Smoking Tree Ridge. From this point you turn right and continue up the ascent to the Goat House Cave. The track up to the Goat House Cave is very steep, and is a demanding climb. The track is narrow and is interspersed with tree roots and rocks. There are sections of trail where ropes are used to assist the climbers.

MOUNT GOWER

4.5 km one way, difficult – only accessible with a guide. The Mt Gower walk is very hard and demanding, and takes about 8 hours to complete. This walk must only be attempted with a licensed Gide. Ask your lodge proprietor for contact details for licensed guides. In preparation for this walk, ensure you have adequate footwear and clothing.

COASTAL TRACK TO BOAT HARBOUR VIA MUTTONBIRD POINT LOOKOUT AND ROCKY RUN

3.5km one way, moderate. This walk commences on Lagoon Road near the turn-off to the airport. It follows the eastern coastline. The track is narrow in parts and is interspersed with tree roots, rocks, fallen vegetation and leaf litter. Approximately 1.4 km along the route, a sidetrack descends a short distance to a lookout platform with views across to Muttonbird Point. The main track leads to Rocky Run Creek. Here you can branch off and follow the creek to the ocean, or you can continue the walk to Boat Harbour. From Boat Harbour, you can return along the coastal track or branch off at Rocky Run Creek and continue over Smoking Tree Ridge to the southern end of Lagoon Road. Follow Lagoon Road north up the hill past Capella Lodge and the golf course to your original starting point.

INTERMEDIATE HILL

1km one way, moderate. The track to Intermediate Hill branches off 0.2km from the commencement of the Coastal track (see above). It is a steep and demanding climb to the summit of Intermediate Hill, 250m above sea level, but well worth the walk as the viewing platform at the summit provides some of the best vistas on the island including excellent views of Ball’s Pyramid. From there you can backtrack to Lagoon Road, or continue to Smoking Tree Ridge. The descent to Smoking Tree Ridge is very steep and extra care should be taken on this section of the walk.

LITTLE ISLAND

3km return, easy. The Little Island track starts at the southern end of Lagoon Road. It is an easy walk along an old service road meandering through forest and arriving at a grassy section. The furthest location one can reach before you need a guide to climb Mt Gower.

CENTRAL SECTION

TRANSIT HILL

1.2km one way, easy. This track starts opposite the Administration Office and goes part way up Bowker Ave before branching off through the palm forest and coming out along the fence line about the Pinetrees’ paddock. From there it climbs steadily to the summit of Transit Hill. The lookout platform on the summit gives an excellent 360 degree view. Return can be either the same track, or continue further for another 0.5km to Blinky Beach. This section of the walk is much steeper and slippery when wet. From Blinky Beach you can walk back along Lagoon road.

STEVENS RESERVE

1.2km return, easy. The Stevens Reserve loop track is a walk that starts opposite the boat sheds on Lagoon road. The track is relatively flat, narrow in sections and is interspersed by tree roots. Interpretive signs along the way make this an informative and interesting walk.

CLEAR PLACE / VALLEY OF THE SHADOWS

1.2km return, easy. This is an easy, fairly level walk that starts at Middle beach, and continues around a large land slip, through palm forest and out to The Clear Place. A short diversion just before The Clear Place takes you down to the Valley of the Shadows.

FORESHORE WALK

0.5 km one way, easy. This track commences at the boat sheds, heads south to the Aquatic Club blind the hind dune and continues south along the foreshore past the Pinetrees boatshed. It offers an alternative to walking along Lagoon Road. Another option is to take a stroll along Lagoon Beach. We’re sure you’ll find your own way along this one.

Events

Pinetrees Lodge, Lagoon Rd

Their Walking and Photography Weeks combine the skills of local guides and photographers to help you discover and capture the Island’s stunning landscapes and life forms. Each guide can help you capture better images (and help you win the daily ‘best photo’ competition). This is a bucket list experience that is world class. Additionally Pinetrees wellness weekends are held various times throughout the year, these wellness weeks offer a daily program of yoga, spa treatments, massage, aerobic fitness, wholefood cooking classes and organic gardening classes. Disconnect from the outside world and rejuvenate in a slice of World Heritage located in Australia’s backyard.

Golf

Held each year in early November, the Lord Howe Island Golf Open week offers more than $A5,000 in prizes. Players of all standards and handicaps are welcome.

Where to stay

Special treats, deserve special places, Arajilla Retreat: Lord Howe Island Luxury Accommodation Resort pampers the spirit with Lord Howe hospitality. An exceptional visitor accommodation, nestled among the magic that is Lord Howe.

Travel Pack Information

  • Lord Howe Island is just 11km long and 2km wide, an idyllic boomerang-shaped sliver of land 780km north-east of Sydney. The island hugs a turquoise lagoon rimmed with the world’s southernmost coral reef and was designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 1982 for its spectacular volcanic geography, rare endemic fauna and native plant species found nowhere else on Earth. After a 1997 visit, British natural historian Sir David Attenborough described it as, “…so extraordinary it is almost unbelievable… few islands, surely, can be so accessible, so remarkable, yet so unspoilt.”
  • Birding stories for Lord Howe, ‘Extinct’ seabird lured to pest-free island off NSW with bird call recordings. Lord Howe is part of the programme to provide Australian birds with a chance to increase survival odds.
  • Lord Howe Island visitor information website is a great place to get yourself on the waiting list to visit. Lord Howe Island | Just Paradise

 

Travel pack. Lord Howe Island, a Riddle of the Pacific. Part II

Travel pack. North Bay – Bushwalking NSW notes

Travel pack. Lord Howe Island appendices biodiversity plan

Travel pack. Lord Howe Island walking map

Travel pack. Lord Howe Bird Monitoring Site Guide

Visitor Facilities

The Lord Howe Island Board provides and maintains visitor facilities in public open spaces for the use and enjoyment by visitors and residents.

These visitor facilities include:

  • BBQ / picnic areas at Ned’s Beach, Old Settlement, North Bay, The Pines, the Aquatic Club, the Playground and Cobby’s Corner. Most BBQ’s are wood fired although there are gas BBQ’s at North Bay and Ned’s Beach
  • Public toilets at the Public Hall, Ned’s Beach, Old Settlement, North Bay and the Playground
  • The LHI playground with swings and climbing equipment
  • A swimming pontoon located at The Pines; and
  • Bike racks at numerous locations around the island.

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