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Lord Howe Island

A ‘treasure island’ of extraordinary contrasts, with rugged volcanic peaks, lush forests, rolling surf and serene lagoons, Lord Howe Island is encircled by the world’s southern-most coral reef. Families love the safety and variety of kids  activities; lovers find romance in the island s secluded corners, natural beauty, luxury lodges and fine dining establishments; adventurers scale the heights of its mountain peaks.

Rising from the Tasman Sea just 700km northeast of Sydney, this tiny, breathtakingly beautiful island is just 11km long and 2.8km at widest. The stately twin peaks, Mounts Gower and Lidgbird tower some 875m above sea level at the southern end of Lord Howe. These matronly mountains preside over the island as its natural guardians, inviting exploration and wonder. Lord Howe Island and its surrounding islets are the eroded remnants of a large shield volcano that erupted from the ocean floor some 7 million years ago. Lord Howe Island was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1982. Long recognised for its pristine natural heritage, around 75% of the island is permanently preserved as marine park and subtropical rainforest.

It truly is a gem in the South Pacific, a touch of paradise, but it is not Hawaii. For starters, there are only around 300 people lucky enough to call the Island home and visitor numbers are restricted to 400 at any one time to preserve Lord Howe’s precious natural environment. Qantas flies to Lord Howe from Sydney and Brisbane and from Port Macquarie in peak season, but seats sell fast and you have to book well in advance. Lord Howe is therefore never crowded, a stay here always feels secluded and special, making it the perfect location for a romantic getaway or for some time to yourself.

The waters are crystal clear, the beaches are pristine, there is no pollution and birds and marine life abound. The island has 11 beaches, all with golden sand and shells waiting to be collected. The eastern side of the island offers excellent surfing and fishing opportunities. At Ned’s Beach, huge kingsfish swim around tourists’ legs at feeding time. The western side of the island is protected by a long stretch of coral – the world’s southernmost reef, making it the ideal place for swimming and snorkelling. You can just wander in off the beach to snorkel among colourful tropical and sub-tropical fish, turtles and other marine life.

Two-thirds of it is covered in natural forests, Banyan trees and Kentia palms. For adventurers, there are bushwalks and more strenuous hikes, including Mt Gower, rated as one of the world s best day walks. And to ease tired muscles, there is a choice of spa treatments.

There is a range of accommodation available, from high class luxury lodges to guest houses and self catering apartments. There are no big resorts dominating proceedings or restricting access to parts of the island, which is common among island resorts around the world.

About Lord Howe Island

Located 700 kilometres north-east of Sydney and covering an area of 146 300 hectares, the Lord Howe Island Group comprises Lord Howe Island, Admiralty Islands, Mutton Bird Islands, Ball’s Pyramid, and associated coral reefs and marine environments. According to geologists, nearly seven million years ago geologic movement of the Lord Howe Rise (an underwater plateau) gave birth to a large shield volcano on its western edge. Over time the sea eroded 90 per cent of the original volcano, leaving the islands that today comprise the Lord Howe Island Group.

Lord Howe Island has a spectacular landscape with the volcanic mountains of Mount Gower (875 m) and Mount Lidgbird (777 m) towering above the sea. The central low-lying area provides a marked contrast to the adjacent mountains and northern hills. The waters surrounding Lord Howe Island provide an unusual mixture of temperate and tropical organisms. The reef is the southern most coral reef in the world and provides a rare example of the transition between coral and algal reefs. A marine national park was declared by the State of New South Wales in 1999 to increase protection of the marine environment.

Europeans first discovered Lord Howe Island when the island was sighted in 1788 from the British colonial naval vessel HMS Supply, en route from Sydney to the penal colony on Norfolk Island. The first landing was made two months later on the return voyage to Sydney. By the 1830s there was a small permanent settlement in the lowland area of the main island. The settlers made a living by hunting and fishing, and by growing vegetables, fruit and meat for trade with passing ships.

Pigs and goats, which were introduced to Lord Howe Island for food, later went wild and caused extensive vegetation and habitat changes, threatening populations of native species. Rats arrived on the island in 1918 from a wrecked ship, and have since been responsible for the extinction of five bird species. Over the last decade there have been intensive efforts to control these feral animals and the wild pigs have been successfully eradicated.

Lord Howe Island and its associated islands are today under the care, control and management of the Lord Howe Island Board. The Lord Howe Island Group was inscribed on the World Heritage List for its outstanding natural universal values as an example of superlative natural phenomena; and containing important and significant habitats for in situ conservation of biological diversity. There are 241 different species of native plants, of which 105 are endemic to Lord Howe Island.

Most of the island is dominated by rainforests and palm forest. Grasslands occur on the more exposed areas of Lord Howe Island and on the offshore islands. Most of the main island and all of the offshore islands are included in the Lord Howe Island Permanent Park Preserve. The islands support extensive colonies of nesting seabirds and at least 168 bird species have been recorded either living at, or visiting, the islands. A number of these are rare or endangered.

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