Oh Lord, how have I never been here before?! That’s what you’ll think after your first visit to Australia’s own mini Tahiti. Here, volcanic cliffs drop vertically into the sea, straight into natural aquariums crammed with inquisitive fish and turtles. Just two hours from Sydney, you can escape for a weekend, or linger longer for a week or two.
I’m Melissa (Liss) Connell and this is my personal travel blog. In this blog post, I’ve taken a break from roadtripping in The Slow Lane and flown to Lord Howe Island to become Mrs Melissa Thimios. Yep, I eloped with my love Todd Thimios to one of the most dreamy places on earth. Read on for a few of my fave experiences from our 12 days on LHI, including a few wedding pics 🙂
Few islands, surely, can be so accessible, so remarkable, yet so unspoilt.Sir David Attenborough, talking about Lord Howe Island
How do I get to Lord Howe?
Lord Howe Island is almost directly east of Port Macquarie on Australia’s east coast. You can fly from Port Macquarie, Newcastle and Sydney. In fact, Sydney to Lord Howe is only two hours’ flight! There’s rumour of a direct flight from the Gold Coast being added to Eastern’s schedule soon. Check out Eastern Air or Qantaslink.
There are just 400 visitor beds on Lord Howe Island, so accommodation needs to be booked before arranging flights. From home stays to luxe retreats, the island caters for a range of budgets. Check out Lord Howe’s website for the full range of accoms and prices. Oxley Travel, Spacifica Travel and Eastern Air offer some great flight/hotel packages.
With limited cars on the island and a max. speed limit of 25km, most people prefer to cycle. Some of the accommodations have bicycles available and/or included, otherwise you can hire from Wilson’s at 3 Lagoon Rd, ph (02) 6563 2045 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to bring?
In 1982, Lord Howe was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage property. In an effort to protect the island from invasive species, there are strict biosecurity measures such as sniffer dogs greeting each plane and boat that visit the island.
Pack lightly and be sure to bring plenty of adventure gear – hiking boots, raincoat, swimwear etc. As most food comes to the island via barge (making supermarket items quite pricey), you may also want to bring a few food items like muesli, crackers, nuts etc.
9 weird & wild things to do
1. Find glow-in-the-dark fungi
There’s no denying that Lord Howe Island feels like a mystical fairyland. Everything is so vibrant, pristine and alive, your senses will be working on overdrive. And fewer things enliven the senses more than walking through a wet forest in the dark of night, torch in hand, seeking out glowing mushrooms! Well … technically, “luminous fungi”. The endemic Mycena chlorophanos and Omphalotus nidiformis appear after heavy rain and can be found within the palm forests. Look for them at Stevens Reserve (after a solid downpour).
So extraordinary it is almost unbelievableSir David Attenborough, talking about Lord Howe Island
2. Go surfing
With only 350 permanent residents and a restricted number of 400 visitors on the island at any one time (most of whom are older folks, coming here for the bushwalking and the birds), Lord Howe’s surfing fraternity have it pretty good. There are ten main surf spots; my pick of the bunch is Blinky Beach in the east, just next to the airstrip. You can check the surf from the top lookout when you first arrive at the beach. Just further north, there’s a great point break at Middle Beach and Ned’s also gets a few waves. Note that the surf on Lord Howe is quite fickle and inconsistent.
3. Snorkel Ned’s Beach
This horseshoe-shaped bay on the north east of the island is snorkelling heaven. Walk straight off the sand into pristine, warm (about 18°C) water and you’ll encounter schools of tropical fish, hawksbill turtles and small Galapagos sharks (if you’re lucky).
Another popular activity at Ned’s is the fish feeding. Grab some food from the beach shelter and wade into the shallows to be surrounded by bluefish, mullet, spangled emperor and more. This is also a great spot for a BBQ – grab your supplies from Thompson’s Store, just a 5 minute cycle up the road.
4. Get hitched
I was never keen on a big (expensive) white wedding. A small, island ceremony was an attainable dream for us at Lord Howe. It was especially significant, as my hubby Todd had spent a decade working on Lord Howe (dive instructing), so with his intimate knowledge of the place, I was able to leave all of the planning up to him!
The location: We got married at the scenic (and aptly named) Lover’s Bay on the western side of the island. This spot is gorgeous, though it’s a popular public spot, so you can expect some passers-by throughout your ceremony. We didn’t mind.
The celebrant: There are a few celebrants on the island, but Todd enlisted the delightful Darcelle Matassoni. Darcelle is a very calm, patient and kind woman, who is also a member of Lord Howe’s council / board. You can reach Darcelle through her business Little Speck of Blue. Something that I learned during the process of elopement … you need to file government paperwork one month prior to your ceremony. Darcelle did this for us. All-in-all, our ceremony was simple, sweet and no-fuss. Perfect.
Photographer: We didn’t hire a photographer (our three friends / witnesses at our ceremony took pics for us), but I met local photographer Chelsea Scott and her photos and relaxed demeanour are brilliant.
5. Marvel at the Providence Petrels
If you’re a ‘bird nerd’ like me, you’ll love all of the avian action on Lord Howe! I was mesmerised by the Providence Petrel, a rare bird that can be found in large numbers between March to November at the end of the Little Island track, in the far south of the island. I had one swoop down and get caught in the large hoodie of my coat (see pic above, just before I released it back into the air).
When you make strange noises here, seabirds fall from the sky.David Attenborough, while filming on Lord Howe Island.
6. Behold the almighty Ball’s Pyramid
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all who gaze upon Ball’s Pyramid are surely hypnotised by its unusual shape and commanding stature. At 562 metres high, this eroded remnant of a shield volcano is the world’s tallest sea stack. Just 20km south of Lord Howe Island, you can explore it via boat on a morning dive trip or join a scenic flight with Eastern Air $350 pp min. two people – book through local surf shop Abemama. Ask about the best time for light winds and good flying conditions.
7. Kayak the lagoon
World Heritage listed Lord Howe Island is home to the world’s most southern coral reef, plus the island itself is the top of an extinct volcano. The underwater landscape here is mind blowing! There’s a lagoon fringed by coral reef on the western side of the island – you can rent a kayak from the dive shed and go exploring with your snorkel gear for $30 an hour. Alternatively, there are plenty of local tours that’ll get you out on the water, such as the three hour turtle tour $80 pp.
8. Climb Mount Gower
It’ll take you the better part of a day to climb it, but the views are sensational and the walk is accompanied by lively commentary, thanks to your trusty local guide Jack Shick. Jack is a fifth generation Lord Howe Islander and a third generation mountain guide. He’s climbed the mountain a staggering 2,000+ times! Rising 875m from sea level, this walk isn’t for the faint hearted and you need to be reasonably fit to complete this 14km return / 8.5 hour trek. Tours are $110 pp and you must book ahead.
9. Bird watch
Ok, as a testament to my love for birds, here’s a second listing dedicated to them. Lord Howe is bird watching heaven. From migratory sea birds like petrels and shearwaters, to endemic flightless cuties like the Lord Howe woodhen, which have been recently been brought back from the brink of extinction, you’ll be surrounded by birds of all colours and sizes. And most of them don’t seem to be too fazed by humans, either! Bring your camera and binocs and marvel at this rare island paradise where nature hasn’t yet been imbalanced by human occupation.
Thanks for reading! Drop back from time-to-time as I continue travelling Australia with Todd Thimios and Sandy dog (I will upload more blogs – read them all here). And please – if any of the information has changed or if you know of more great spots, leave a comment below 🙂