“Just paradise!” That’s the common response I have given to my friends when they ask me how my recent trip to Australia’s Lord Howe Island was. There simply is no other way to describe it. And there is no more perfect way to describe it either.
As I sat down to begin drafting this piece from my cosy little cabin, “Waimarie,” the sun was peeking through the ominous storm clouds as it began to set over the ocean, casting this vibrant, golden light across the palm trees before me. My feet were up and my muscles aching in a way that reminded me that it was only the day before I hiked Mt Gower (and survived), and my cheeks and jaw sore from positively smiling so much.
I was so happy to finally be on Lord Howe Island, feeling alive and feeling really inspired.
Lord Howe Island represents the way the world is supposed to be.
It takes just a two-hour flight from mainland Australia (Sydney or Brisbane) to discover a volcanic island of picturesque crescent lagoons teeming with diverse life, palm-tree shaded streets and incredible mountains rising from the sea.
n Lord Howe Island, shoes are optional, the mode of transport is a bicycle, and the universal language is a wave combined with a smile found on the face of every person you cross paths with. Mobile reception here doesn’t exist and connecting to WIFI is the last thing you think about when you a pristine, untouched beach to yourself for hours.
This is Australia’s best kept secret. A world treasure and by far the one of the most stunning treasures of them all — A real Holiday destination.
Only 11 kilometres long and 2.8 kilometres at its widest, Lord Howe is PARADISE and for the most part you will feel like you have stepped back in time to a place where birdsongs fill the cleanest of air and time slows to still.
After years of dreaming to visit Lord Howe Island, there is really no way to prepare yourself – places like this aren’t supposed to exist anymore. And despite the fact that Lord Howe Island is a PART of my native Australia; I felt worlds from “home.”
Sir David Attenborough once said Lord Howe Island is “so extraordinary it is almost unbelievable… Few islands, surely, can be so accessible, so remarkable, yet so unspoiled.”
And as always, Sir David Attenborough is right.
Breathtaking natural beauty that constantly changes with every hour of the day.
The mood is complex and unpredictable, as are all good places at mercy to the elements of Mother Nature, but let me tell you this place is a breath of fresh air in a busy, modern world. It could be best described as the sunshine on ANY overcast and bleak day to the 400 souls whom reside here and me; who loves wild and remote places of this beautiful planet.
With a romantic old-world appeal, this untouched utopia remains relativity in this natural state, unlike many remote islands over the last 200 years which resulted in destruction of the native fauna. With diverse and abundant sea marine and bird life, the charm and beauty of Lord Howe is due to the protected distance from established human settlement and in a fast-paced world of technology and high-rises, Lord Howe remains untouched. There has been a lot to preserve and treasure this jewel in the Tasman Ocean to ensure there is a balanced living in harmony with the natural environment.
Lord Howe Island is characterized by white-sandy beaches, subtropical forests and water so clear and blue it’s hard to believe it’s real. Whether it be swimming, snorkeling, diving, golf, cycling, hiking, mountains, bushwalking, photography, fishing or a sunset Australian BBQ- Lord Howe offers something for everyone.
The locals will embrace you with open arms, you won’t see anyone walking around glued to their phones and I can promise you will find real conversation and a real connection that will make you never want to leave.
THINGS NOT TO MISS:
CHALLENGE YOURSELF ON THE MOUNT GOWER HIKE.
From the air, sea or land the mountains of Lorde Howe dominate the landscape, as Mt Gower and Lidgbird stand guard protecting all below.
Mount Gower is the islands greatest challenge – a 875 metre mountain only to be tackled under supervision by a local guide and not for the faint hearted or those scared of heights. However if you are fit and up for a challenge and the adventure then I can promise you this experience is not something you want to miss.
Following in the footsteps of his Father and Grandfather, you will want to be guided to the Summit of Mount Gower by Jack Shick, the most passionate and experienced guide on the Island (having summited over 2000 times now).
The 14 kilometer round trip day hike is one of Australia’s best and takes approximately 8.5 hours to enjoy and complete. Beginning with a “rock-hop” along the edge of the mountain which turns through the forest of Lidgbird, the “Lower Road” has been rung with rope along the edge of the cliff for a helmet-adorned traverse – Just try not to think about the 100m drop straight into the ocean, but get lost staring back at magnificently beautiful island.
The steep and tricky ascent begins past the morning tea break resting spot where rope is used to haul climbers into the heavens. And the summit provides one of the best and most rewarding views in the world.
Come rain or shine, standing atop Gower’s iconic peak, amongst its misty forest inhabiting the islands famous woodhen’s, as well as trees, ferns, mosses and orchids seen nowhere else on the planet, you will realize that this is a truly special and unforgettable hike.
CATCH THE SUNRISE FROM MALABAR:
I hope you have gathered by now that Lord Howe is the kind of place that “strangers” very easily become friends and you can find yourself having a BBQ watching the sunset one evening and hiking with your new friends for sunrise the next morning.
There are two ways to complete the Malabar hike on Lord Howe and I can recommend beginning the climb from Old Settlement Beach. First you will reach Kims Lookout and stop to admire the sweeping views before traversing the ridge between Kims and Malabar (two peaks).
Reaching Malabar in about an hour, you are greeted with a spectacular view of the island and 360 degrees of pure paradise.
From here you can admire the mountains of oceanic basalt rising from the floor of the ocean to tower 875 meters above one of the most stunning shorelines’ in the world. With the Admiralty Islands to your immediate left and Balls Pyramid towering in the distant blue, it is a sight to behold.
As you descend the south ridge of Malabar be sure to stop in a Neds beach and have a swim, snorkel or feed the fish with healthy fish food that can be purchased by a $2 coin donation alongside the “honesty box” snorkel hire at the top end of the beach.
Did I mention this place is PARADISE? All of this before a morning coffee? As always, it is worth waking up for!!
If you’re not up for the challenge of the Mount Gower hike, then this hike and view is for you. And if you have completed the Mount Gower hike this vista is yet another picturesque view of the island, that comes with fresh perspectives of your hiking achievements.
GO EXPLORING THE DEEP BLUE.
The moods of the sea dominate life on Lord Howe, nowhere else is the sea so full of life and the coral reef which encloses Lord Howe is a beautiful lagoon; home to fascinating marine animals. Globally unique, containing thousands of tropical, subtropical and temperate species (including some endemic that are found nowhere else) the marine environment is pristine.
Pro dive LHI will take you out for unforgettable day/s exploring the blue. I have been fortunate enough to have dived various sites around the world, and Australia, over the last 12 years, but having only recently recovered from quite a bad chest infection I was nervous to get back in the water. The team at Pro Dive literally welcomed me with kind open arms and had me in the water for some of the most exquisite diving I have been privileged to.
Explore the deep blue alongside dolphins, turtles, Galapagos whalers and Ballina Angelfish.
If you’re not an experienced diver that is okay, Pro dive and their amazing team run Open Water Divers course and I encourage you to open yourself up to the underwater world. What a place to learn how to dive – I can’t promise you won’t be hooked!
If diving is not something that is possible for you then don’t fear there are Glass Bottom Boat tours with Lord Howe Environmental Tours or you can go snorkeling Old Settlement beach, where you literally walk off the beach and into the bay and of a high tide can be co-existing with the beautiful, local sea turtles (from September – April)
I don’t know how to conclude a story about a destination that completely captured my heart, and maybe it’s just that.
Have you ever found yourself in a place and felt so completely at home and at ease that would could live there?
Perhaps that is why I changed my flight last minute and stayed a few extra days to soak it all in.
The Lord Howe Island life could be the life for me.
A special thank you Sharon and Waimarie appartments for hosting me for the first few nights of my stay. A true little cabin oasis that I really cannot wait to stay at again one day. The type of place I could see myself re-visiting for the rest of my life with attention to detail that is next to none.
And Jack and Cindy Shick, from Sea to Summit Expeditions for inviting me into your home and spare room/ family space and sharing moments of kindness with me that I will cherish forever.
Lisa and Az from Pro Dive, thank you for everything all the fun, enthusiasm, encouragement and knowledge imparted – I simply cannot wait to return (fingers crossed for the shoot-out) and can’t wait to explore Balls Pyramid when I do.
Kyla, for stopping me in the street, a stranger who is now a dear friend. Thank you for the adevntures beautiful soul.
Lord Howe Island, I love you. X