I've had Lord Howe on my wish list to visit for many years, and my recent stay more than lived up to expectations.
UNESCO listed Lord Howe, located in the Pacific 600 kms east of Sydney, represents the most pristine of Australian Island's with just 320 residents who all work together as conservationists to maintain the unique flora and fauna and the most southern of our Coral Reefs unusual to be found in such a temperate climate, which ranges from 22-26 most days during summer.
Just 11kms long and 2kms at the widest point the island only accommodates a maximum of 400 guests at any one time, mostly in 70's motel style self catering accommodation clean and comfortable, but very little choice if something more contemporary is required.
The island board of governors insists that the accommodation is discreetly hidden behind foliage dense and subtropical, the Kentia Palm is prolific and a major export for the island, along with stunning Banyan Trees and fragrant Frangipani it reminded me a lot of Hawaii.
Old Settlement is the central point of the island with most of the accommodation within easy access of the General Store located here where provisions have been available since 1927 - quite sure nothing has changed here since it opened, an icon.
There is also an island co-op manned by locals from 11am until 5pm daily selling locally produced goods, the icecream is highly recommended .
Generally food provisions are pricey as the majority of goods are brought in by ship fortnightly and variety very limited getting close to the arrival of the ship.
The Anchorage restaurant is open daily for breakfast through to dinner, and also doubles as the island bakery where delicious cakes and breads freshly baked are a highlight and must visit for my daily coffee and muffin - yum!
The only other cafe is located within the museum complex, a must visit for a very comprehensive detailed history of the island .
Dinner on the island is offered by the various accommodation not on a daily basis and I soon worked out Sunday was Hamburgers, Monday Fish and chip night at Milky Way, Tuesday Beachcomber served an a la carte dinner, and this was my favourite a high standard with good choices. Dinner generally is around $28- $38 for a main course
What is unique to Lord Howe is that your accommodation offers transport to the various dinner venues at 630pm, and the venue returns you to your accommodation following dinner. This in reality meant we were always home by 9pm. Lord Howe is not for anyone looking for any kind of nightlife, as no street lights, bars or anything other than the Anchorage Restaurant open past 9pm!!
The island is stunningly beautiful, especially the green and blue waters of the Lagoon, with the backdrop of Mount Gower, dramatic when the weather changed following a 3 month drought. The locals were thrilled but this stopped our ability to participate in several of the scenic walks as the tracks were muddy and slippery.
Transport for tourists is on foot or bicycle- easily hired at a cost of $55.00 for a week and a fun way to get around though our accommodation was at the top of a significant hill - push bike was right!!
Settlement Beach and Neds beach were fabulous for snorkelling with Turtle viewing at high tide a highlight at Settlement beach.
I participated in a snorkelling /Turtle / wildlife tour operated by Islander Cruises in a glass bottom boat, good value at $60.00 p person for 3 hours. Peter the owner operator was very informative on every aspect of Lord Howe, fishing, sealife, birdlife and politics and fiercely proud of his island. A nice touch was the serving of tea or coffee with his wife's chocolate cake - appreciated after 30 minutes snorkelling and served in a pleasant picnic spot at North Beach.
I would thoroughly recommend my choice of accommodation at Earls Anchorage; the complex of 6 large 1 and 2 bedroom villas with spacious living area, large well equipped galley kitchen, spacious separate bedroom with king bed and equally spacious bathroom with shower and the added bonus of a washing machine. Pleasant private outdoor deck and bbq ensured everything necessary for a relaxing comfortable holiday. The villa unit was serviced daily with Twinings Tea and plunger coffee replaced as necessary.
A highlight for me was the discovery of Stevens Reserve accessed from our accommodation enabling a pleasant natural bushland walk taking approx 12 minutes to the lagoon and Old Settlement village - once found this was a daily highlight for me.
Another bonus of staying at Earls Anchorage is the ability to charge back from the Anchorage restaurant.
During my stay I also visited Capella Boutique Hotel, located in a cleared farm area of the island, adjoining the island 9 hole golf course. The views from the restaurant and small infinity pool towards Mount Gower are stunning. Mark, the very laid back manager of the Hotel showed me through the public areas which has a fabulous bare foot luxury feel to it and comes highly recommended.
The location near the airport and approx. 15 minute bike ride from old settlement village easy access by the push bikes provided by the hotel for active clients.
Capella does not open its restaurant to anyone other than guests.
Arajillo is the other luxury Hotel on the island, and arguably in a better location at Settlement Beach, walking distance to the village. The accommodation is very well appointed however I was surprised at the block of accommodation which detracted from the overall luxury feel of the property. Hidden amongst the dense vegetation too, therefore no views.
Arajillo boasts a fine dining restaurant with a 4 course dinner at $95.00 per person. They will take a waitlist for dinner reservations confirmed only if their residents chose not to eat in; known as the best restaurant on the island yet unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity to dine here.
Another unique aspect of Lord Howe is the virtually non existent levels of crime! Not any of the properties have door locks - took a little while for me to become comfortable with this before leaving valuables in our villa. There is a police station and the major felony is fining those tourists who don't wear bicycle helmets!
Lord Howe is a perfect destination for more active clients who can appreciate the many walking opportunities. Comprehensive maps are available with all walks graded from 1-5 Mount Gower being 5 and only available as an escorted guided walk with an official guide. Families with young children can also enjoy the laid back holiday experience with safe calm waters and little or no WIFI allowing a complete step away from busy lifestyles.
Many of the guests return year after year. I spoke with an elderly gentleman who was enjoying his 22nd visit!!
Be prepared for delays in travelling here, as the tiny airstrip and small Qantas prop jet aircraft servicing the island is very much weather determined. Often flights can leave Sydney but unable to land on the island and turn around mid flight with an unplanned overnight in Sydney quite common, and extra nights on the island also quite usual to accommodate this.
Currently Qantas cover the costs for one nights delay, more than this is at clients own expense therefore good travel insurance is a must for this destination.