Have you ever been to Lord Howe Island?
I hadn’t heard of it until a few years ago because it’s not mentioned too often in every day conversation, but my mate, Madd’s dad, Graham (GK) had read about it and wanted to go.
What has that got to do with me? I hear you ask… well Madds and GK were organising a trip and as I don’t like to miss out on anything, when it was suggested that I go along, I made it happen by tacking it on to the end of my European journey.
So, Madeline, Madd’s son, Archie (2.3.5 years old), GK and I flew in a small plane 741km across the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand to a tiny crescent shaped island with a couple of large volcanic mountains – of which my mountain climbing friend was going to climb – all 875 metres of it.
The day we landed, it was absolutely salubrious! The weather was perfect with not a breath of wind, mild temperatures and flat, crystal clear water in the lagoon.
We stayed at a place called Beachcombers, which for those wanting to go and visit after reading this blog is up the hill! It was very comfortable and the owners, Una and Gary were friendly and helpful. From what we heard from other people on the island, Beachcombers was at the lower end of the economic scale, so the other accommodation can only be better (or just more expensive, which doesn’t always add up, does it?) If I were to go back again, I would check out somewhere different to stay.
There are a few cars on the island belonging to the locals and you can also hire a car, but most people hire and ride bikes.
Where we couldn’t take the bikes, Archie got a ride in this cool backpack – not hired on the island by the way – we bought this one with us.
And managed to have quote a few nigh nighs in the back there. I was so jealous!
You can pretty much ride on every inch of road on the island in about 30 minutes, so there’s not a huge need for a car – although by the end of the week, at hill was making me rethink that. There is one place on the island where you hire bikes, the kiddies caboose, helmets and if you can’t handle the peddling – a car. He also does snorkelling gear paddling skis and spy boards (I’m not sure what they are…. SUP boards perhaps?)
So once you’ve got accommodation and your transport sorted, the next thing is to check out the island. There is so much to do on LHI that one week is just not quite enough time to do it all in, especially if you like to punctuate your days with doing nothing except read a good book or looking at the glorious scenery.
There are walks a plenty for all fitness levels, from me just walking on a flat sealed road to the beach…
… to Madeline climbing the biggest mountain on the island – it took 8 hours to get up and back down!
Woodhens – these ones look stuffed, but they were quite real.
Some of the plants and animals/insects found on Mt Gower and not found anywhere else in the world – not even anywhere else on the island.
You can feed the fish at Ned’s beach, play golf, bowls, tennis, go fishing, visit the museum, walk, snorkel, paddle board, swim….. the possibilities are endless.
If you take a $1 down to Ned’s there’s a dispenser in the shelter where you can fill a small container with fish pellets or you can buy a container full from Thommo’s General Store for $2.
There are heaps of tours to choose from. There are glass bottom boats to see the turtles, snorkelling tours around a couple of ship/boat wrecks, fishing charters, boat trips around the island and out 20kms to Balls Pyramid.
It is a massive rock in the middle of the ocean that was once climbed by Dick Smith! Seriously – he wrote a book about it.
Most of the accommodation places have some sort of restaurant and there are also a few lovely places to eat around the island.
We tried and can recommend:
The Anchorage – not cheap, but neither is anything on the island – nothing! Friendly staff and a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by. It’s situated in what would be considered the centre of town. Lovely food and also bakes its own bread.
The Museum Cafe – situated in the museum, it has a lovely deck area. Friendly staff and nice food.
Thompsons – This is more of a general store/gift shop/news agency, but they also do the best fish and chips on the island.
If you’d rather cook for yourself, there is a Co-op where you can buy all sorts of lovely bits and pieces all by weight. They try to sell local produce where they can and the shop is manned by volunteers and has the best rissoles I’ve tasted anywhere (except my Mum’s, naturally!)
Joy’s Shop – is the only supermarket on the island (except for what you can get at Thommo’s General Store) Joy’s has a bit of everything – souvenirs, grocery items, newspapers (usually old) games, toys and tourist clothes.
Other services on the island…
The Bottle Shop is down near the Island Board. It’s only small, but has decently priced wines. You can buy wine from the restaurants at triple the price, so best to get to the liquor store before 4.30pm.
ATM – there is one ATM on the island and it’s at the bowling club. The kind that charges you big bucks for every transaction, but will only let you take a minimal amount out at a time. Take heaps of cash with you.
WIFI – There is a local network that you can pay to use. I think it costs about one arm and 2 legs depending on how many Mbs you want. There is also no mobile telephone service.
There are phone boxes all over the island though that only take phone cards that you can only purchase at Joy’s Shop.
So here is how we spent our week…
Day 1: Was spent getting our bearings and settling into our accommodation
Weather = glorious
Day 2 Was checking out what was on offer and booking some tours
Weather = still glorious with slight breeze
Day 3: GK and I did the boat trip around the island, over to the Admiralty Islands and out to Balls Pyramid
Weather = windy and cold, although the sun was shining.
Cruising through the lagoon gave us some false hope as to how calm/rough it was going to be outside the reef!
Shell: “Hey Chad, would you call this a good day?”
Chad:”Um… well, this is the roughest that we would take people out.”
That’s Chad there under GK’s armpit.
This is part of the Admiralty Islands. Two women were sick!
Day 4: Madeline climbed Mount Gower
and apparently it felt this good!
Whilst GK, Archie and I fed the fish at Ned’s Beach – weather = lovely day, although a bit chilly for swimming.
Day 5: GK went on a fishing charter promising to bring us back dinner. Weather = too rough for me to go out there!
Mission was successful!
Day 6: This was our last day on the island so we wanted to make sure we had purchased all our gifts and visited everything we wanted to visit. This included checking out the Catalina plane wreck.
I tripped over a tree root and sprained my ankle.
Weather = who cares? my ankle hurts!
Day 7: Yeah, we should have been on a plane today, but the weather in Sydney is so bad that the planes aren’t flying out to the island, so we bunk in for an extra night. Accommodation paid for by Qantas Link thank you very much. We have no bikes and we’ve eaten all our food.
Weather = windy.
Mood = slightly annoyed, we were all ready to head home. The beach is full of blue bottles!
Day 8: We woke early as we’d been put on an early plane ….. to SYDNEY (we all need to go to Brisbane!) so we pleaded with Leon from the LHI airport (our new best friend) and he changed our flights so now we were on a flight to Brisbane tomorrow because ALL the flights in and out have been cancelled for another day…. We were told that Qantas will only pay for one night’s accommodation if the flights are cancelled, so we were billed for another night.
Weather = really windy with rain.
Mood: Less annoyed, more cranky.
We’ve all had enough and now we were frantically trying to rearrange appointments and meetings and whatnot.
Day 9: Bags were still packed from the day before. We got notification that the planes were on their way out from Sydney – so straight to the airport.
Weather: good enough to fly!
Goodbye Lord Howe Island.
Now, I said at the beginning that LHI had so much to offer and that a week just wasn’t long enough to fit it all in and because of an “act of god” we were magically given 2 more days, however, we had a little boy who wasn’t well, no bikes and me with a sprained ankle who couldn’t walk. Madeline had planned the amount of food we had right down until our last meal – so we were all thrown out of whack and it was raining and windy. I would never complain about being stuck on a beautiful island, but I will admit I got cranky.
If you’re keen to check out Lord Howe Island have a look at this website: http://www.lordhoweisland.info
Geez I’ve had a good time, but it’s good to be heading home.
Wuvers you Archie.