Bountiful Beautiful

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Notice something about the bay and beach pictures on this page? That’s right: lovely holiday settings … yet completely uncrowded. 

Peace and solitude is just one of the special charms of beautiful Norfolk Island, a destination that can sometimes seem a little fusty, with too much emphasis on its Bounty mutineers’ past. There’s no doubt the story of the island’s foundation is an appealing aspect and attraction, but travellers want more from a 21st century holiday than a lone attribute that should be seen as a bonus, rather than the only lure of our chosen getaway.

And Norfolk, some two to two and a half hours’ flying time from Sydney or Brisbane, offers a superb array of diversions to suit every holidaymaker: young, old, family, honeymoon, bird watcher, hiker, swimmer and more … even party animals, with its range of festivals and events throughout the year a remarkable variety of attractions. This month alone there are the Governor’s Cup golf tournament with a prize pool of $10,000 on indisputably one of the world’s most beautiful courses; Australia/New Zealand Masters Squash; an Open Day at the island’s glorious seaside Government House; even a Lions convention – all topped off by Norfolk Island Food Festival. Last month it was a model aeroplane convention and next month it’s a week-long trad and modern jazz festival. And there’s: the Clay Target Shooting international championship; Vets Golf; South Pacific Bowls; the History Lovers tour; Ukulele Festival; Vets Tennis Championships and July-August County Music Festival: a week of hoedown hedonism (and, for variety, even performances of special sets of songs by Elvis ad Dean Martin!)

Once scarce of enough fresh commodities to sustain rapacious visitor appetites, Norfolk in recent years has transformed into a terrific foodie destination with abundant fresh organic produce and succulent local beef and pork – the world’s shortest distance from paddock to plate, perhaps? – to add to the ocean’s bountiful harvest. The annual food festival showcases it all over five days with a series of attractions mostly in fabulous scenic outdoors settings: cocktail party; festival night; Sunset Cinema and Little Eat Street; celebration dinner and Thanksgiving Day lunch. Thanksgiving’s been celebrated since visiting US whalers last century made it a fixture the community came to embrace.

Home to a population of a mere 1750, Norfolk today boasts more than 25 venues for eating out. Coffee, honey and cheese are all home-grown and you can visit the goat farm, join in milking, taste goat cheeses from a platter of goodies served on the farm homestead’s leafy veranda … and learn the history of the farm (and adjacent pottery) from the personable couple who run the place. Actually, most enterprises on NI seem to be family – couple’s – endeavours.  Everywhere, a pair of entrepreneurs is hosting accommodation, making beds, cleaning the BBQ, serving the scones, brewing the coffee, making the wine, hiring you a car, packing wicker baskets of picnic goodies, stocking the shelves of their fashion or shoe store. If the wine has a familiar bouquet it’s because grapes are derived from Port Macquarie vignerons, Cassegrain. The fashion, meanwhile, is decidedly novel: New Zealand has some wonderful designers and much of the clothing at the several fashion and shoe outlets around the main street offer a hand-picked, curated, selection of Kiwi clothing and cashmere sweaters. As well there are sneakers from Germany, French perfumes, rare and eclectic (and useful) gifts and souvenirs … and duty free prices that are genuine.

Norfolk is around 1400km due east of the Australian mainland around Byron Bay. From/to Sydney flights are on Mondays and Fridays and to/from Brisbane on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Both departure points necessitate an overnighter in both directions as flights depart at 9.35am and 10.10 am respectively, returning in to both cities at 4.10pm. During daylight saving time, NSW is on the same time as Norfolk. Sydney flights are scheduled to arrive in to Kingston Airport at 12.40pm and Brisbane flights at 2pm, so flying out of Sydney offers the chance to be in time for lunch and a half day on Norfolk.

Conversely, flights out to Brisbane leave at 3pm, offering a morning on the island and lunch before the flight. It’s all wonderfully casual: you can see incoming flights while you’re sipping a drink at an outdoor cafe and still have plenty of time to make it to the airport two minutes away! (But checking in according to regulations is a good idea).

The outdoors/indoors cafe The Olive is a standout venue for daytime dining and two superb independent restaurants grabbed my affection in the evenings: Dino’s in a rustic 1880s Norfolk Pine farmhouse and Hilli’s, in a pine-floored cottage and set among beautiful gardens next door to Australia’s most outstanding historical display, the Mutiny Cyclorama.

Here on Horton Street we’ve the country’s leading travel agent for Norfolk Island. Oxley Travel can give you all the info, such as: it’s essential to hire a small car to get around NI. And it’s fun, especially if you choose a Mini Moke! A sample package includes Air NZ flights, seven nights at boutique Poinciana Cottages,seven days car hire with insurance, five tours, and lunch vouchers from $1399pp ex BNE, $1499 ex SYD.

If the mark of a satisfying holiday is to depart for home with tears in your eyes and a “Miss you already” longing to return, Norfolk’s your island.

Travel Editor Susie Boswell.

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