When I used to hear the words ‘Norfolk Island’ my mind conjured up images of lots of old people playing golf surrounded by pine trees!
After recently spending a week there, what I discovered instead was a fascinating blend of nature and history.
Norfolk is an amazing island to visit, here are my top five reasons why:
#1 Emily Bay
Emily Bay is a beautiful sheltered bay with a white sandy beach, calm clear waters, and coral reef. It’s the perfect spot to swim, snorkel, or relax on the sand. I met other tourists who came back to Norfolk just to swim at Emily Bay. It is a very pretty spot!
- the glass bottom boat tour is a great way to see the coral reef, especially if you have young kids.
- snorkelling is best on low tide, both in Emily Bay and the adjoining Slaughter Bay. If you get the slack tide the visibility is great. There are turtles in the lagoon and you will see lots of fish – the parrot fish are the friendliest I’ve ever met!
- there are shady spots on the beach both morning & afternoon thanks to the pine trees fringing it
#2 National Parks
There are quite a few walking trails marked through parks on the island – we managed to do most of them and what surprised me was the variety of landscapes and the relative ease of the walks. All of the coastal walks had stunning panoramic points, and the forested areas had beautiful vegetation- a mix of palms, tree ferns, and pine trees. The native Norfolk Island hibiscus was lovely to see aswell.
- my two favourite walks were the Palm Glen Circuit (for birdlife and palms) and the walk from the Captain Cook Monument – the most impressive scenery of the holiday!
- public toilets on Norfolk Island are spotless and found everywhere, especially at park entrances.
- you can buy a national park map or just use the island map which comes with your accommodation.
- picnic spots are at most parks, it’s a great idea to pack a picnic to enjoy with beautiful scenery.
#3 Bird Life
It’s so easy to see wild birds on Norfolk Island- there are feral chickens everywhere ha ha!
Ok apart from the chickens there is a wonderful mix of woodland birds and sea birds, with some really exciting species!
I’m not a bonafide bird watcher but I do like looking for them, and Norfolk Island did not disappoint.
In the forested areas I saw many brightly coloured Norfolk Island robins, who would pose perfectly for me on a branch in the open, sunbeams shining down on them, while I fumbled with my camera, they got bored and flew off, only to tease me again a few minutes later. More patient were the grey fantails who happily posed for me for minutes at a time.
Slightly more elusive were the green doves and famous green parrot- we only saw one parrot but could often hear them chattering to each other.
There are also tons of crimson rosellas on the island – an introduced species from Australia that is causing havoc with the green parrots.
As we were there in summer the seabirds were in full swing with nesting – noddy birds, red-tailed tropic birds, booby birds amongst others.
At most cliff lookouts you could enjoy watching seabirds wheeling through the perfect blue skies, and see trees dripping with nests.
- Hundred Acres Reserve is a pine forest full of nesting sea birds – it’s a surreal experience to walk through the pine trees with noddy birds swooping right over you.
- get local advice about green parrot sightings- we were told of someone’s fruit orchard with green parrots.
- it’s actually quite easy to see seabirds, so take some time to watch their antics.
I admit I was somewhat ignorant of the history of Norfolk Island when we decided to go there – luckily my partner is a bit more investigative then me and became somewhat obsessed with the story of the Bounty. If like me you are scratching your head at ‘Bounty’ here is my super quick summary of Norfolk Island’s history:
Basically a long long time ago a ship (the Bounty) was taken over by mutineers – the captain William Bligh and his followers were kicked off and put on a tiny boat near Tahiti and somehow made it back to England. Meanwhile the mutineers sailed the Bounty first to Tahiti and then to Pitcairn Island which was virtually unknown and uninhabited and so they decided to stay there to be safe from the British Navy. They lived there for quite a number of years until they were discovered and by then needed a bigger island – luckily Norfolk had just become available as the penal colony on the island had been abandoned. So the Bounty descendants moved to Norfolk, and the crazy thing is most of the locals can trace their ancestry back to one of the mutineers!
There is so much other history to learn about too, like the penal colony, the wreck of the HMS Sirius, the early Polynesian settlers..
Fortunately Norfolk Island has a fantastic set of museums, all within the World Heritage listed Kingston area.
There is also a very cool cemetery which I highly highly recommend visiting.
- you can buy a museum pass which covers all museums over your stay and also includes a free walking tour.
- read about the Bounty before you go – I recommend Peter Fitzsimons book ‘Mutiny on the Bounty‘.
- try and visit all the museums, it will really open your eyes to what has happened on the island.
- go to the cemetery. I noticed there was a daily cemetery tour you could do which looked interesting.
#5 Quirky Shops & Cafes
I never imagined Norfolk Island as much of a shopping destination but after browsing the shops in Burnt Pine I was seriously impressed by what was on offer.
In most shops I actually found far more variety then in a similar store in Brisbane, and with pretty good prices.
One older couple I met had last been to Norfolk Island fifty years ago, and told me the shops are still the same!
There are also a number of lovely cafes in the town, and it’s easy to spend a few hours wandering around.
- if you are shopping for kids you must visit the Bounty Centre – the most extensive toy store I have ever seen.
- the Sunday art and craft markets are quite interesting and worth visiting.
- pretty much every cafe we went to had a play area/toys for young kids, so cafe visits were fun for everyone!
- check out all the different hibiscus lining the streets as you walk around Burnt Pine- so pretty!
My other holiday highlights include seeing sharks eat fish scraps at Kingston Jetty, getting up close to cows, searching for treasure on roadside stalls, not locking the car, watching huge swells break on the reef, and being off internet for a week!
So yes while there is a golf course, and old people, and lots of pine trees, there’s so much more to Norfolk Island!