Superb scenery from Malabar Hill/ Kim's Lookout
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Lord Howe Island (named after the First Lord of the Admiralty, Richard Howe) sits in the Tasman Sea, about 1/3 the way from Australia to New Zealand., and approximately due east of Port Macquarie. It is a small, slightly crescent-shaped (like a backwards 'C') island, stretching across the length of a beautiful reef. It is the southern-most reef in the world. At the southern tip of the island lie the "twin peaks" of Mt. Lidgbird (named after Henry Lidgbird Ball, who discovered Lord Howe Island), and Mt. Gower. Flights to Lord Howe Island leave regularly from Sydney, Brisbane (weekends only) and seasonally from Port Macquarie. QantasLink has the monopoly on flights to and from the island, meaning there are no cheaper "no-frills" options. The flight, in a prop-driven Dash-8, takes a little under 2 hours. If you are lucky enough to have clear weather, the approach to Lord Howe Island airport gives lovely photo opportunities, particularly from the left hand side of the plane (facing forward).
The airport cuts a swathe through the narrowest, central part of the island, and the runway extends out to the ocean. We found it hilarious that the "baggage reclaim" was a trailer towed behind a tractor, which was driven a short distance to an area just off the tarmac!
We were given a quick tour of the island by one of the staff members of Pinetrees Lodge, our chosen accommodation. The speed limit is 25 km/hr, as many choose to travel by bicycle. Another interesting fact about Lord Howe Island is that it is officially part of New South Wales (a state of Australia); therefore all vehicles have NSW number plates.
After unpacking, one of the first things to do is hire a bicycle. This involved a bit of a walk from Pinetrees, along the main road and up towards the tiny shopping strip, but once we had our wheels we were off! Small cars can also be hired, especially for the elderly visitors who may not feel at home on two (or three; see pic below) wheels!
The island has a primary school, and we were told that older kids have to travel across to the mainland and board at secondary school. There is also a tiny hospital, obviously with limited facilities. We visited the charming Anglican Church to celebrate Easter Sunday and felt most welcome. There is also the church of St. Agnes, the Catholic church.
THINGS TO DO ON LORD HOWE ISLAND
Explore the 'back beach', which is accessed by foot from the road near the airport. Cycle your way around the perimeter of the airstrip and explore the southern part of the island.
A 'must-see'; wear your swimsuit and take gold coins! Ned's Beach is up on the northern part of the island, accessed via a rather steep road. You can purchase fish food from a dispenser, walk down the sand and into the water and watch the ocean come alive as you dole out the food!
An underwater camera is essential; you can take amazing close-ups of the beautiful fish, which may include eagle mullet, wrasse, spangled emperors, garfish and kingfish. There is a large board with illustrations which help you to identify each species.
Scenes from under the surface at Ned's Beach
. . . 3. CLIMB MT. GOWER.
This day-trip is rated as one of Australia's best. Mt.Gower is 875m above sea level, and to reach the summit involves some steep, rope-assisted climbs. A guide is essential- set aside an entire day (it's an 8-hour round trip), and book ahead! You will need to be very fit to complete this hike, with excellent leg and core strength.
On the way up Mt. Gower
View from near the top
You can swim out from the front beach or take a glass-bottom boat out to the main part of Lord Howe's beautiful, unspoilt reef. The water may be colder than places like Cairns, but the colours you will see are vivid and spectacular. Unfortunately, the coral up north (Great Barrier Reef) has suffered a bleaching process which will take years to reverse, so this little reef provides a better alternative.
The views are out of this world! See main picture at the start of this blog. There are a considerable amount of steps up, but there are places to rest if you need a break!
Anyone who loves fishing will love chartering a boat on Lord Howe. Kingfish, Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Trevally and Bluefin are in abundance. You can also fish from the beach, jetty or rock platform, where Garfish are plentiful. Some fish are exclusive to the Lord Howe area- read more about these under "Flora and Fauna".
Yes, the back beach is excellent for surfing. On one of our cycling trips we were watching an expert kite-surfer negotiate the waves.
Surfing at Lord Howe's back beach
. . 8. CRUISE TO BALL'S PYRAMID.
This volcanic remnant points jaggedly out of the ocean and has a vaguely pyramidical shape. It is here that the one remaining population of Phasmids were discovered in 2001. (See Flora and Fauna).
LORD HOWE'S UNIQUE FLORA AND FAUNA
Species endemic to Lord Howe Island include many insects; the most famous (arguably!) is the Phasmid. It is a very large stick-insect which was re-discovered on Ball's Pyramid in 2001 after being declared extinct in 1960. An extensive breeding program has ensured that the species is no longer extinct, though it is still critically endangered.
The Lord Howe Woodhen was also close to extinction due to being excessively hunted, but a rescue program has saved the species. It is a fairly large, flightless bird and we saw many running around during our stay. The Lord Howe Island Providence Petrel and the Lord Howe Island White Eye are land and sea birds only found here- and usually on Mt. Lidgbird and Mt. Gower.
A LH Island Woodhen
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The Lord Howe Doubleheader Wrasse is one species of fish only seen in this vicinity. It is the unique for the prominent bump on its head.
My overall message is: put Lord Howe Island on your bucket list, save up for the air fares and go! Visitor numbers are limited, so you will need to book your accommodation ASAP after sorting out your flights. You can rent a basic dwelling, or stay in the luxury Capella Lodge (5-star), or somewhere in between. Pinetrees is officially 3-star but gets 4-star reviews, and the food is amazing. We were very happy to stay there, especially when we remember the drinks and canapés served to us as we sat on the beach and watched the sun set, plus the central location of the resort.
Sunset at Lord Howe