Guide to Norfolk Island – How to holiday overseas but still be in Australia

A weekend island escape from Sydney? It’s the stuff of romantic legends; convicts, colonies and the Bounty mutineers. It is Norfolk Island’s legacy. This little dot of an island has been keeping a fairly low profile whilst its glamazon Pacific Ocean cousins have been grabbing the limelight – all the more reason for us to share why this place is so spectacular, undiscovered and good to go now! Just 2.5hrs from Sydney you are in a tropical paradise of unspoilt beaches, Norfolk Pines and the kind of hospitality that makes you feel you have stepped back in time to a friendlier age.

Getting thereAir New Zealand
Norfolk Island is an Australian Territory yet you have to fly from the International airport and you’ll need either your passport or a driving licence. Is your brain frazzled yet? The Kaoru Air New Zealand lounge is buzzing before the 0950 flight, chefs are flipping fried eggs, the bar is making fresh barista coffee and Dulcet sparkling wine kicks off our weekend early. The Friday flight is about 10% full too! With seat back tvs, a range of new release films along with the funniest safety briefing in the skies we strap in. Kia ora!

Norfork Island – The low down
A speck of land appears in a South Pacific Ocean of blue nothingness. When you land, every twist and turn will blow your mind. It’s as if this island was squished by the gods and is packing more dramatic scenery than Wildlife on One. Are we in Hawaii? English Downs? Guernsey? New Zealand’s huge Kauri forests? Or somewhere in Asia? From Emily Bay – one of the top ten beaches in Australia (which is practically deserted), to the Wuthering Heights drama of the cliffs and sunsets at Anson Bay along with the bucolic history of the penal settlements in Kingston. This island packs beauty, drama and history beyond its tiny frame.

The Quirky
Cows have right of way (chickens too). You’ll need to learn the ‘Norfolk wave’ for every passing car, number plates are four digits, telephone numbers are five, your mobile won’t work here. Its an Australian Territory but you’ll need your passport. There are few lights at night, you’ll see the stars and navigate by moonlight. Most people grow their own food so expect seasonal menus and right now we hope you like avocados!. Its duty free (yeah baby!) cocktails in many places are around $12, wines a reasonable $7. Its safe, people leave their keys in their car, their doors unlocked, everyone knows everyone. Many shops are shut Wednesdays, Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Burnt Pine Township is protected by cattle grids on all fronts! Its like stepping back in time… in a good way

Tin Sheds – Deluxe Apartment 3
The experience starts with an electric private gated entrance and the kind of fit out a showroom would swoon for, including a fire engine red Toyota included in the price. Ooooh and ahh at touch button blinds, snazzy fridge n’ freezer drawers, zip taps for hot and cold water, Nespresso machine, wrap around outdoor entertaining area with kitchen and BBQ. Its luxury bathroom has a double shower (so you don’t need to share), spa bath and in the lounge a roaring gas fire complete with romantic fluffy rug that beacons you to stay in, when the Norfolk Island Pines are pulling you out to explore. You’ll have masses of space and glass screens separating the living area to your super King Size Elegance bed- so big you need to text your partner (if your phone worked). We are providing a warning that the leather recliner chairs will bring out the nanna in you. Somehow sleep ascends like fairy dust. It’s just a few tip toes from town. One night we walked back from the Black Anchor Bar to find a few marauding cows chomping on our neighbours lovely garden flowers in the moooo-nlight!

Serenity Day Spa
Tin Sheds has a sauna and massage room along with outdoor plunge pool and spa. Bec Sanders the owner of Serenity, sets up the massage room starting with soothing music, aroma candles and then takes charge of the next hour with blissful strokes. Knowing you are just tiptoes from your villa is distinct advantage.

Hilly Goat Farm
“Goats love hot water, they won’t leave the shed without their cup of tea” explains Emily Ryves as we explore their beautiful goat farm including the live show from the milking shed. ‘Pillow’ the goat is a champion milker at seven litres, whilst Lulu loves babysitting kids (including the human kind!) Surely this is goat heaven? Chomping on the long grasses with Norfolk Island Pine and craggy sea views. Emily explains how to make goats milk; warm to 25 degrees add renet, culture, then rest 24 hours overnight. The whey is used in their popular skincare range. At the farm house we sit down to a kitchen table heaving with a buffet of local produce including their range of goats cheese – plain chevre, fresh six hour curd, dukkah and honey crusted. Homemade feijoa chutney, salads, fresh hummus, ham from a neighbours pig farm and Kingsfish caught by a mate, which they smoked overnight along with a glass of wine rounds out a great afternoon.

Hilli Restaurant and Cafe
Lit up at night this pretty cottage with a wrap around veranda and garden emits a warm glow as good as their pea and ham soup special. We dine outside in the courtyard garden with heaters keeping the night chill at bay. Locals say hello to each other as we tuck into chicken stuffed with blue cheese and a locally caught trumpeter in a creamy mustard sauce with a sweet potato lyonnaise. Sticky date pudding could feed two (and does)! Hilli, (meaning a drowsy laziness – the state you are in after a satisfying meal) lives up to its name.

The Olive Cafe
It’s a hub of activity for the town with great baker at the helm. Piles of freshly made scones sit on the pass in the morning along with displays of freshly made cakes and bookshelves stuffed with holiday reading. There is a seat for everyone, window, table or sofas with music cheerily pumping. Over the days we try most on the menu, with the veggie omelette, brekkie wrap and french toast being favourites.

Two Chimneys Winery
Not far from Steels Point is Two Chimneys Winery. In 2003 they planted over 3 hectares of Chambourcin with a vineyard that now offers Chardonnay, Semillon, Verdelho, Merlot and Chambourcin. The property is part of the original grant of land following the arrival of the Pitcairners in 1856. We really liked the 2012 reserve Chardonnay. With wrap around verandahs all in Norfolk Pine,  you can order a platter of local produce and enjoy the wines looking out at the vines.

Two Chimneys Veranda

Ghost Tour
At night it’s dark, really, really dark. For somewhere so captivatingly beautiful, Norfolk Island has a brutal history starting out as a penal settlement for “the worst description of convicts”. The first was in 1788 then the second in 1824. Both delivered pain and cruelty beyond any Game of Thrones episode. Death was wished for, not feared. As we sit down for a light supper in one of the original settlement buildings in Kingston, our hosts adopt the personas of the history of that time. We walk with hand held lamps through the ruins of the colony, the vivisection rooms, torture chambers and cells whose sadistic captors delighted in their jobs. The area is home to many lost souls. The next day we notice that one of the photos taken that night has a shadow of small boy at the base of a tree (he wasn’t on the tour…).

Penal settlement in Kingston

Black Anchor Bar
Norfolk Island has traditionally been marketed to your parents (or grandparents). If the night time glow from the bar isn’t a beacon of youthful mischief, then the blasting house music screaming ‘good times and good vibes’ certainly is! We grab a seat at the bar and chat to owner, Ben Ford. “You should have been here last night, people were dancing on the tables”. With cocktails at $12, the place is popular with hospitality staff and locals who it’s impossible not to make friends with!  Try Ben’s espresso martini which is his Captain’s special.

Mini Moke & Picnic in Paradise
Mardi from Picnic in Paradise thinks of everything. Discreetly dropping the package by our door and we have it all – rugs, wine, glasses, utensils, coolers, food – giddy up! Our platter includes smoked salmon, chicken, mussels, local olives, chutneys, cheeses, crackers, fruits and of course avocado! We pick up our mini moke and zoom around the island up to Captain Cooks point (where we are complimented on our very cool wheels), then walk up an appetite with a few trails and then head up to Mount Pitt for our picnic, which at 320m we can survey the entire island we’ve called home for the past several days.

It’s a lovely way to say goodbye. To an island we didn’t know much about, to people whose lives will forever be entwined in history and those who have shown us hospitality, vocal opinions and inspired our desire to come back!

Also check out:
The Highlands – a new 2 story 6 bedroom ensuite villa with its own pool, just perfect for groups or exec offsites. Mum and daughter team have renovated the property and it’s just opened plus it has its own pool!

Castaway Hotel – Loved this place! Cracking home cooked food, offering everything from sticky date pudding to slow roast lamb shanks, delish! Don’t let it being a hotel put you off. The service was wonderful as were the whiskies!

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).