One such secret spot is Norfolk Island. This 8km long and 5km wide island is off the east coast of Australia above New Zealand and below New Caledonia. While you’ll need to head to the international airport to get there, Norfolk Island is actually part of Australia (so no need to exchange money or pack an adapter). And, while you will enjoy the home comforts you get in Australia – such as great food with a focus on local produce, and warm Aussie hospitality - Norfolk Island has its own unique landscape and island life vibe that will make you feel like you’re on the other side of the world.
Norfolk Island’s rich history
This small island has an impressive historical past, including at least four distinct periods of settlement. Captain Cook came across the uninhabited island in 1774 and was drawn to the plentiful indigenous pines, which he thought would serve as excellent ship masts. Norfolk Island was later abandoned in 1814, but was once again settled in 1825 and became home for up to 2000 convicts. UNESCO World Heritage listed, Norfolk Island’s Kingston and Arthur's Vale Historic Area (KAVHA) is one of 11 historic sites that form the official Australian Convict Sites.
The island is not only steeped in Aussie history, at Emily Bay there is archaeological evidence of a Polynesian settlement that dates between c.1150 CE and c.1450 CE. Top must-see historical sites on Norfolk Island include the relics of the Prisoners’ Barracks and the pentagonal New Gaol, as well as the Norfolk Island Golf Course, which is one of the only golf courses in the world located within a World Heritage Site (the views from the greens are some of the best on the island).
The beauty awaiting you in this local paradise
Beyond the beautiful historical buildings and sites is the island’s stunning landscape, which is surrounded by views of the sea. Best enjoyed via rental car, combined with hikes on foot, this little island has a lot to offer. One of Norfolk Island’s most secluded beaches, Anson Bay, is a pristine patch of sand below steep cliffs and is the perfect picnic spot; however, if it’s swimming you want to do - that crystal clear water is hard to resist - then make your way to Emily Bay Lagoon for the relaxing, wave-free beachfront and fish-filled snorkelling along the reef that’s just metres offshore.
Nature lovers wanting to stretch their legs should explore Norfolk Island’s Botanical Garden, as well as the National Park, which is full of lush palm forest trails and incredible lookouts. For the best view on the island, head to Mount Pitt, which offers panoramic vistas. Sunset and sunrise are especially spectacular here.
How to get to Norfolk Island
Just a short 2.5-hour direct flight from Brisbane or Sydney, Air New Zealand is the only airline that flies to Norfolk Island from Australia. Flights to Norfolk Island depart Brisbane every Saturday and Tuesday, and leave Sydney every Friday, Sunday and Monday.