With rich green forests, rugged volcanic peaks, and pristine beaches surrounded by crystal clear water, the World Heritage listed Lord Howe Island is an unspoilt wonderland for lovers of the outdoors. This breathtakingly beautiful volcanic island, 600 kilometres east of the northern New South Wales coastline in the Tasman Sea, is nothing short of paradise.
Although only 11 kilometres long and less than 2 kilometres wide, the isolation and varied landscape of Lord Howe Island has resulted in a diverse range of habitats supporting a large variety of flora and fauna. In order to lessen the environmental impact of tourism across this fragile system, no more than 400 people are allowed on the island at any time. With a permanent population of around 350, this also functions to ensure low crowds and a more natural and isolated island experience.
Getting To Lord Howe Island
Located directly east of Port Macquarie, Lord Howe Island is a short two-hour flight from either Sydney or Brisbane, with a seasonal weekly flight also available from Port Macquarie from February to June and September to December. Accommodation on the island is generally upscale and includes self-contained apartments, eco lodges and resorts.
In the Water
With a plethora of marine life and the world’s southernmost coral reef, the warm, clear waters of Lord Howe Island and the surrounding Lord Howe Island Marine Park are some of the most colourful and exciting in Australia. A snorkelling or diving trip in the marine park is sure to include tropical fish, pristine coral, magnificent sea turtles and large stingrays. Amazing snorkelling is available right off the coast of the entire island, but most of the best sites, including Erscott’s Hole, Ball’s Pyramid, and the wreck of the ship Favourite, require a boat trip.
For those wanting to get even closer to the underwater action, Howea Divers and Pro Dive Lord Howe Island offer diving trips to sites throughout the Lord Howe Island Marine Park. There are hundreds of possible dive sites throughout the area, so trips can be tailored to the experience and preferences of clients. The most stunning diving is available around the Admiralty Islands, a small group of volcanic formations just 15 minutes from Lord Howe Island by boat. With depths ranging from 15 to 40 metres, diving around these atolls includes huge schools of fish, brilliantly vibrant coral reefs, wall dives, and caves.
On the Water
There are a variety of aquatic environments and equipment hire suited to all types of water sports around the island. There are a number of surf breaks that offer great conditions for surfing and kite-surfing, although care should be taken to avoid reefs and shallow rocks in places. The flat water at Lagoon Beach provides great conditions for windsurfing, while at North Bay and Old Settlement Beach, the calm shallow waters are perfect for stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking.
The surrounding marine park and lack of any commercial fishing in the area make Lord Howe Island one of the best fishing destinations in Australia. The huge diversity and abundance of fish species, varied underwater terrains and different methods used make fishing in these waters an incredible experience. Great fishing spots just off the island are common, and huge Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Marlin and Trevally can all be caught without venturing too far from the shore. For those wanting a day of open water fishing, charter boats from the island offer half-day, full-day and private fishing tours.
On the Land
Although small in size, Lord Howe Island is dotted with dozens of incredible walking trails, making exploring the island by foot an amazing experience. There are hikes for every skill and fitness level, with the undeniable highlight being the challenging and technical ascent of Mount Gower. This hike can only be undertaken with a local guide, and involves climbing large boulders with the aid of permanent ropes and a long rope-assisted haul up a near vertical rock face to reach the final summit. The challenge of the Mount Gower trek definitely adds to the allure, and, along with the stunning views across Lord Howe Island and the Tasman Sea, has placed it in the ranks of Australia’s best day hikes.
Surrounded by Nature
With 130 migratory and permanent bird species, including 14 species of seabirds, Lord Howe Island is Australia’s premier birdwatching destination. Seabird colonies can be viewed across the island along walking tracks or roads, with some viewing areas requiring a moderate hike. Depending on when you visit the island you can expect to see vast flocks of Shearwaters returning to the island at dusk, courtship displays of the rare Providence Petrel, and masked boobies nesting on cliff sides.
Lord Howe Island off the central eastern coast of Australia is a unique and amazing destination. The varied landscape, amazing marine environment and unique ecosystem of the island provides endless opportunities for a variety of outdoor and underwater adventures.
Main image credit: Destination NSW