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 Up against a plethora of beautiful pacific islands with slick marketing campaigns and million-dollar resorts, Norfolk is the underdog. It may be a small player, with a home-spun simplicity but it is a stunningly photogenic island with a unique character that shouldn't be overlooked. 

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All About Norfolk Island

Norfolk truly is a pacific island with a difference. Forget the cliched coconut palm beaches and cocktails by the resort pool. Norfolk Island has a homely, country farm vibe where cattle graze freely under pine trees and the winding roads afford stunning clifftop views at every turn. With a population of around 1500, most of whom are involved in the tourism industry, everyone knows everyone and pretty soon you'll know them too.


Despite the island's diminutive size - it's only 8km by 5km - there's surprisingly plenty on offer. Norfolk's secluded bays and beaches fit the bill for honeymooners; its protected sandy and coral lagoon is perfect for families; and the wild oceans are there for adventurers. Divers can explore undersea caves, coral reefs and pelagic marine life while game fishers will find organising a boat is fairly easy. 

The UNESCO site, museums, performances and knowledgable locals will enthral historians. Foodies will love the organic farm-to-plate dining options. And birdwatchers can't get much better than Philip Island during the October-November seabird nesting season.


As for photographers, well there wouldn't be many genres the island doesn't cater for. With beautiful natural landscapes, lush green countryside, flocks of nesting seabirds and picturesque historic buildings backdropped by the iconic Norfolk Pines, it's hard to put the camera down.



The story of today's Norfolk Islanders actually starts on the high seas near Tahiti. In 1789, Captain William Bligh got on the wrong side of his crew, causing Fletcher Christian to lead a mutiny, seize the ship and set Bligh and 20 of his loyalists adrift in a longboat. While the captain made the epic journey several thousand kilometres to Timor in an open boat, Christian and his men returned to Tahiti. After a failed attempt to establish a colony on Tubuai, 9 of the mutineers and 20 Tahitians headed for Pitcairn Island. Life on Pitcairn wasn't easy. Although it was a haven from the British authorities, internal rivalries and drunkenness led to most of the mutineers' and Tahitian men's deaths. Within 10 years, only one of the mutineers, the women and children remained. Over time they were joined by whalers and the population grew. 

Whilst this was playing out on Pitcairn, a British convict settlement was established on Norfolk Island as an extension to the New South Wales penal colony. The first settlement was abandoned in 1814, only to be re-established in 1824. The Norfolk colony was renowned for harsh treatment with multiple failed uprisings and escapes. Although, its formidable reputation may have made it a deterrent of bad behaviour for convicts on the mainland, the harsh isolation also made it costly and difficult to manage, so the colony was finally closed in 1855.

In 1856, after brokering a deal with the British, 194 Pitcairn Islanders landed on Norfolk Island. Although the island fell under Australian administration, Norfolk maintained a form of independence from the mainland until 2015 when the Norfolk Legislative Assembly was abolished and a regional council formed. 

Today, many locals are direct descendants of the original Bounty mutineers, whalers and Tahitians. They have their own creole language and maintain customs that reflect their Tahitian and non-Tahitian heritage, such as celebrating the US holiday of Thanksgiving. 


1400 kilometres from the Australian coast and lying halfway between New Zealand and New Caledonia tiny Norfolk Island is a speck in the middle of the Pacific. Or, rather, 3 specks. Norfolk, Nepean and Phillip islands make up the Norfolk Territory, with only the main island of Norfolk inhabited. 

Norfolk, along with New Zealand and some of its neighbouring pacific islands, is thought to be part of the 'lost' continent of Zealandia. The continent sank below the seas a few hundred million years ago with only the tops of its peaks remaining visible and forming those dramatic South Pacific islands. 

The Norfolk group's main island is a mere 8km by 5km. It's lush green, pine covered hilly countryside with dramatic cliffs falling into the sea below. This small, isolated island, regularly battered by Pacific trade winds and with no safe harbour, is an unusual choice for a settlement. In fact, the island has only continuously supported a population since the mid-1800s.

The majority of the population engages in subsistence farming with many also having a hand in the local tourism industry. The rich volcanic soils underlie the island's agriculture, but vegetation loss caused by land clearance and introduced species, has resulted in significant erosion. This is sharply apparent on Phillip Island.  The red rock island 6 miles from Norfolk's green shores was once completely covered in thick rainforest. From the early 1800s until the last rabbit was finally eradicated in 1988, pigs, goats and rabbits roamed free on the island eating the foliage and uprooting plants. Tons of topsoil were lost and the island was stripped back to bare rock. The sunset colours of the rocks may look beautiful, but they are not a natural state for the island. Rejuvenation efforts are slowly bringing back the landscape and wildlife. In the meantime, Phillip Island is a seabird mecca. The island itself is protected as part of Norfolk's national park and the waters surrounding it are part of a broad marine park. 



Community-Based Tourism is not only present on Norfolk, it is the mainstay. Peruse the accommodation and tourism operators and you'll notice those common Pitcairner surnames: Christian, Quintel, Nobbs, McCoy, Adams popping up in every other booking.

Overall, there has been a lot of thought and effort put into providing visitors with an experience that's entertaining, succinctly packaged, yet DIY. The island offers semi-packaged 7 day holidays that includes flights, accommodation, vehicle hire, airport pick up and a couple of tours, while leaving activities and food options completely up to the visitor.

When it comes to food there are restaurants, dinner events or self-catering. All are 'paddock-to-plate', directly benefiting local agriculture and aquaculture. As for outdoor activities, the island comes complete with winding country roads with ocean views, a coral lagoon, national park, stunning marine reserves and a photogenic UNESCO heritage site.


Norfolk puts the 'community' into tourism in other unique other ways too. Almost every evening there is a dinner activity or show on offer with a cultural or historical component. Live music and dance give a nod to their Tahitian heritage;  sound and light shows re-enact colonial convict days; dinner tours showcase the islands farm fresh food; and live theatre tells the Bounty story (with a life-sized reproduction vessel).  Tourism is most definitely in the hands of the people on the ground, preserving their unique history and culture and literally directing the narrative.



Situated in the South Pacific between New Caledonia and New Zealand, Norfolk has a steady, mild climate all year round. There's no season you should avoid.  However, keep in mind that October-March is cyclone season in the Western Pacific which can kick up swells that will put a dent in your offshore activities. 


If you're looking for animal action, from June to September whales migrate to this region of the Pacific and sitings are more than likely at either end of the season as they pass by.  During October and November, Phillip Island is alive with seabirds as they raise their next generation of chicks. Many of these birds don't come ashore other than to breed so this is a pretty amazing sight even if you're not a 'twitcher'.  


Festivals occur at various times during the year with Bounty Day (June 8), being the main one. The celebration relates to the day the islander's mutineer ancestors landed on Pitcairn Island and destroyed their stolen sailing ship, the Bounty.



Without a safe harbour, the only way to get to Norfolk Island is by air. Flights transit through Australia (Sydney and Brisbane) or New Zealand (Auckland). Norfolk Is is considered a territory of Australia so the same visa arrangements apply as on the 'mainland'.


There is no public transport on Norfolk but most accommodation packages have small vehicle rentals included, or available. These vehicles are more than adequate to get around the small islands hilly terrain. Alternatively, Island traffic is very light and makes for scenic walking or cycling.


Weather is the main contender when considering the crossing to Phillip Island or any offshore activities. Frustratingly, the seas don't have to be significantly stormy to make the jetty boardings too difficult. The trick is to be flexible about your plans, luckily Norfolk is one laid back island where you can do that.   

History & Culture
Sustainable Tourism
When to Go
Getting There & Around
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With a population of 1000, but only around a dozen surnames, Norfolk Islanders tend to go by their unusual nicknames. And that's how you'll find them in the phonebook.

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