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Published June 27th 2016
Norfolk Island, a safe hidden paradise in the South Pacific
I must admit until recently I didn't know where Norfolk Island was. I was keen to go on an island holiday that was different and less 'touristy'. Norfolk Island might not be a destination that springs to mind for a short break or a long weekend but what lies at the end of a short 2.5 hour flight (from Sydney, Australia) is some of the most breathtaking, natural landscape of soaring pine trees, rugged terrain, lush greens and blues, and surprisingly, a foodies paradise. "No need to lock your car door, it's quite safe here" I was told when I arrived and most locals don't know where they've put their house keys.
Norfolk Island is an external Australian territory in the Pacific Ocean about 1600 km northeast of Sydney, a 2.5 hour flight from Sydney. It is an island of magestic pine trees in the South Pacific, east of Australia, north of New Zealand and south of New Caledonia. Air New Zealand is the only major airline that flies to Norfolk Island. The main language is English but you may hear the islanders speak the local language Norf'k, which is a mix of Tahitian and Old English. Their currency is the Australian dollar and people drive on the left hand side of the road like Australia. The climate is sub-tropical so if it's Winter and cold in Sydney, it's likely to be mild on Norfolk Island. You get around the island by a hired car and anything more than 7 minutes away by car is 'out of town'. And by the way, you will see many free range cows and chooks on your road trip.
Little known about Norfolk Island, is that I discovered it is a foodies paradise: fresh, locally grown produce in healthy soils, paddock to plate and zero miles, and by that I mean that fish you eat on your plate today is likely to have been caught earlier that morning. Whilst there's no mass of produce available or a grand selection you would find on mainland Australia, when it comes to food, Norfolk Islanders draw upon generations of passion and resourcefulness, growing virtually all nutrients rich fruits and vegetables on the island with the exception of onions, potatoes, garlic and ginger.
There is an excellent range of dining options on Norfolk Island despite its size, with endless and delicious choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner and in between snacks using locally grown and sourced produce from the island. Here are some of the places I tried.
Hilli's Restaurant is tucked away between the must see Cyclorama and Marie Bailey's charming Queen Victoria Gardens. Hilli meaning to relax, chill out, rest in the Norfolk language is a casual fine dining restaurant serving modern Australian cuisine. Fresh fish is in abundance so I tried their local catch of the day for dinner, the trumpeter fish, and also if you can fit it in, indulge on their delicious and well plated desserts.
If you need your morning coffee fix, The Olive in the heart of the Town Centre serves up high quality coffee and a delicious breakfast fare. Try their big breakfast, corn fritters and French toast. They are all made with locally grown and sourced ingredients.
Jolly Roger Bar and Restaurant
Jolly Roger is an excellent casual venue for dinner and entertainment with Norfolk Island's excellent musician Matty Zarb who sings and plays the guitar with a rosella happily sitting on his left shoulder all night. This establishment is run by Matty and his family and the service is warm and friendly. We had the specials for the evening of steak and Thai red curry cod and they were hearty meals, good sized portions and delicious.
This is a café with a tea garden that has a 180 degree panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, 10 minutes 'out of town'. The café feels like you have walked into someone's home (in this case Heidi's) where some traditional Tahitian food is served and the most delicious tea cakes. It is also a place where you can get a massage.
I first tried Josh's (the owner and chef of Josh's Café and Restaurant) food when he came over our cottage to personally cook for us one evening. Trained in fine dining restaurants in Sydney like the well known Quay Restaurant in Sydney Harbour, Josh's dishes are exceptional and well plated. Josh has cooked for officials like the Princess of Brunei on the island. I loved his food so much we went to his café for breakfast before we headed back home. Try his Hummingbird cake. It's absolutely devine and perfect for a tea or coffee break. It is also a place to grab excellent coffee.
If you don't want sit in the restaurants or cafes and just want to connect with nature like watching the sunset, you can order a hamper from Island Nectar. Island Nectar 's hamper contains loads of fine local produce in an island made weaved basket: mild and full flavoured cheeses; guava paste; gome made relish; sour dough; coconut bread; fresh seasonal fruits; smoked king fish.
The Hilli Goat is a goat farm on a stunning clifftop property on Anson Bay in Norfolk Island. The people that own The Hilli Goat can take you on tours to watch and learn about the milking and cheese making process and then sit down to a delicious platter of freshly made goats cheese and edible delights that have been freshly picked from their back yard.
Other places we tried include The Golden Orb Bookshop café which serves some home cooked style delicious brunches and also if you feel inclined to drink some good quality wines with fruity and refreshing tasting notes, visit Norfolk Island's first and only winery Two Chimney Wines and also their picturesque Vineyard Lunch Platter.
With all the spectacular island scenery and good food, another part of Norfolk's appeal is the history of its people who are descendants of the crew of the 1789 mutiny that occurred on the Bounty ship and their Tahitian companions. Many of the descendants of the Bounty mutineers live on Norfolk Island today. "Have you seen Cyclorama yet?" a local said to us during our stay at Norfolk Island. By that stage, we knew Cyclorama on Norfolk Island was a must see. The entire island hums with history and their past is a significant aspect of the island's present and future. Fletcher's Mutiny Cyclorama is a magnificent piece of artwork on Norfolk Island that tells one but a significant part of Norfolk Island's history, the story of the mutiny and the settlement of Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands.
Sunset on the Island – Puppies Point
Our best guide during our stay on Norfolk Island was Rick Kleiner who took us on a 2 hour tour around the island. One place we went back to was Puppies Point on the west coast of Norfolk Island to watch the sunset. During Winter, we were advised to get there about 4pm, nibbled on some goodies in a hamper from Island Nectar that we took with us and then waited until the sun went down behind the Pacific Ocean.
A stunning blue lagoon beach is located in Emily Bay in Kingston, south of the island where stillness meets tranquility. The water temperature wasn't that cold during our stay there and warm enough for some to go swimming. The water in the bay is calm and you will see so many shades of turquoise blue. It was there where we saw Norfolk Island's surfing cat (not kidding!)
World Heritage Site
This tiny island holds volumes of history and intrigue. Norfolk Island was settled by Great Britain as part of its settlement of Australia from 1788 and the island served as a convict penal settlement from 6 March 1788 until 5 May 1855. The World Heritage Listed convict site is situated in Kingston, on the south coast of Norfolk Island and it has the most beautiful lush green scenery set against the pounding ocean waves backdrop and some historical Georgian architecture.
For golfing nuts, you can play golf at the seaside golf course, a lush green seaside fairway that is beautiful to look at as it is to play on. Despite the ruggedness of the terrain on the island, the golf course is pretty even with a few little rolling hills here and there but it was easy to walk around with our golf bags.
If you hire a car you can stay anywhere on the island and you don't need to stay in the main centre of town called Burnt Pine. Everything is only less than 10 minutes away by car and fairly easy to drive around. We stayed at the Whitewood Sea cottage run by The Travel Centre Norfolk Island and it was a beautifully renovated one bedroom with ensuite, almost new little homestead with glimpses of waterviews. It was clean, warm and spacious and the kitchen was large enough so we could have our own personal chef, Josh from Josh's Café and Restaurant cook for us one evening.
This tiny island holds volumes of history and intrigue, jaw dropping green and blue scenery and outstanding fresh produce cooked up by some fine local cooks on the island, and truly a hidden gem of the South Pacific. We were able to do a lot on the island having stayed there for only four days as everything you could see, taste and do was less, than 10 minutes away. Not only was Norfolk Island a place to be discovered and to unwind from the hustle bustle of my city life, but it was also a place to connect with the local community in the old fashion way of simply having a conversation with the locals.
Thank You Gayle! Norfolk Island is such a beautiful place and the locals are such friendly and wonderful people. If you were thinking of going a good time to go is when the Norfolk Island Food Festival is on from 28 Nov-2 Dec 2016 showcasing local chefs dishes of island grown and sourced produce. Best, Jenny
A great article Jenny. I had been looking at Norfolk Island as a holiday option last year and it did look inviting. It's still on my bucket list but it lost out to a road trip to Uluru last time around.