Lord Howe Island - a hidden paradise | Travel
Ensconced in its own corner of the Pacific Ocean, 700km off the coast of Sydney you'll find Australia's best kept secret - Lord Howe Island, a veritable, luscious and magical island paradise, and one of the last paradigms of true relaxation.
Its landscape is sub-tropical and fringed by the native Kentia Palm (which you won't find growing anywhere else in the world); volcanic peaks mingle with hidden valleys, and silica sand beaches meet turquoise lagoons.
Most Sydney-siders are yet to discover Lord Howe (most that I told we were going had never heard of it) and yet it continually ranks in top 10 Australian island lists, amongst the esteemed company of the Whitsundays and Rottnest Island in WA. What's more, in order to preserve its precious ecological habitats and laid-back way of life, visitor numbers are capped at 400 at any one time, meaning it really is a lucky few that get to experience its beauty.
Lord Howe is home to the southern-most coral reef in the world, its crystal clear waters - many of them sanctuaries where fishing is forbidden so as to preserve rare marine life - offering a veritable feast for snorkelers and divers, and where sea turtles, coral and a riot of fish inhabit the underwater world. It's easy to see why the island was inscribed on the UNSECO World Heritage List in 1982 as a place of rare & unique beauty - it is perhaps the most peaceful place on the planet, where time truly stands still and where stresses & strains seep into the Pacific Ocean that greets you on almost every bend.
As you come into land on your Qantas Dash 8 propeller plane, the first feast for your eyes is Ball's Pyramid, an impressive rocky outcrop which lays claim to being the largest structure protruding from the sea in the world. The oceans surrounding Balls and beyond are as deep as 6,000 metres - an absolutely mind-boggling depth!
Your tiny little plane wobbles its way through cross winds and comes into land on the airfield, fringed by Kentia palm trees, and with the imposing figures of Mount Gower and Mount Lithgow before you. Locals told us that since the introduction of the Qantas Link flight tourism has seen a real boom, with easy access from both Sydney and Brisbane. The runway is short - just 846 metres, compared to those at commercial airports which are usually over 1,800m long - and the Dash 8 is the only plane in the Qantas fleet small enough to land here (there's just 32 passengers on board, each with a luggage limit of 14kg each, so you'll need to pack light!)
As an onlooker, witnessing how the locals live is fascinating. Honesty systems exist for pretty much everything - snorkelling kit, paddleboards, lawn bowls - and locks don't seem to be used widely, on front doors or unattended bikes. Nothing is too much trouble for islanders, and a friendly wave is doled out by every passing car driver (though you're more likely to see bikes than vehicles on the island).
Above anything exists a deep respect for the environment and preserving this island treasure - the Co Op food store sells pulses and nuts in giant tubs, encouraging buying in bulk and minimising the use of plastic containers. Water supply comes purely from rainfall and electricity from giant generators, so you're encouraged to be conservative with each.
It was the afternoon spent at Old Settlement Beach in which turtles outnumbered people that really sealed it for me. Three turtles bobbed sedately up and down the shoreline, pausing occasionally for a lungful of air (and which gave you a glimpse of their incredible dinosaur-like faces) and seemed almost endeared by human company, weaving in and out of our legs as we stood knee-deep in total awe. I absolutely believe that the only interactions with animals in the wild should be on their own terms, and this was definitely of their doing.
With the backdrop of Mts. Lithgow and Gower before us, a vast stretch of pearlescent water and a warm Australian sun, I closed my eyes and reasoned I was, quite literally, in paradise.
You can fly to Lord Howe Island with Qantas, with flights departing from Sydney, Brisbane and Coffs Harbour. We stayed at Beachcomber Lodge and would highly recommend for a relaxed, informal stay.