Lord Howe Island Pacific-Escape natural paradise wildlife sanctuary

7 reasons to visit Lord Howe Island | Pacific paradise | fitness holiday

Brainy and cheeky. Witty and inventive. Always smoking hot.

Snorkel, scuba dive, climb, trek and kayak… then rest up with fine food and designer digs. All reasons to head to Lord Howe Island, the treasure island just a couple of hours’ flight from Sydney. Chris Roseby gives it his best shot

Here are must-have adventures for those who embrace fitness and the great outdoors. And who find a wildlife sanctuary  like Lord Howe Island – smack bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – deeply appealing.

Climb Mt Gower

Mount Gower sits at the southern end of the island, rising 875m above sea level. Getting to the top of it is rated one of Australia’s best day walks. From Far Flats, the walk is 14km return and takes about eight hours. Or one hour, 41 minutes if your name is Philip Whistler and you hold the record for the Mount Gower Challenge. Be prepared to sweat. (Tip: sneakers won’t cut it on the near-vertical rock-climbing sections; hiking boots work best. Nor will just one bottle of water; take at least two.)

Jack Shick of Lord Howe Island Tours guides walks to the summit twice a week. He’s a fifth-generation Islander and third-generation mountain guide. Having done this walk more than 1700 times over the past 18 years, he knows his stuff. You’ll have to navigate 100m sections of billygoat track, but the views are spectacular, so the more spectacular your camera, the better.

Be prepared for lens envy and a willingness to discuss your megapixels as you sneak glimpses of nearby Mount Lidgbird and Ball’s Pyramid, far offshore. Climbing ever higher, see the landscape change. Nearing the summit, conditions get cooler as you enter a forest blanketed in misty cloud and populated with mosses, ferns, lichen, orchids and the occasional earthbound woodhen.

Visit between March and September to meet the providence petrel, a quirky bird that gracefully loops air currents before crashing through the canopy and landing at your feet, possibly on your arm. Bragability factor: 10.

Lord Howe Island birdlife tern nesting naturewonderland great outdoors Pacific Ocean

Birdlife is abundant on Lord Howe Island. Here, a tern shoots the breeze. Photo Susan Skelly

Snorkel the lagoon

Lord Howe Environmental Tours offers snorkelling in the sandy, sheltered coral-reef lagoon along the island’s 10km west coast. Pace yourself through four reefs. First out of the blocks is Erscott’s Hole, a luxuriant garden of staghorn coral, double-header wrasse and spangled emperors. Erscott’s Reef boasts the greatest coloured coral density as well as turtles. At Comet’s Hole, look for huge black stingrays and animated clown fish. Recover at The Horseshoe, a shallow reef dominated by neon coloured corals and mesmerising butterfly fish.

Lord Howe Island Neds Beach

Fish up close in the shallows at the pristine Ned’s Beach. Photo Alan Deans

Scuba dive the Pyramid

Lord Howe has hundreds of dive sites, but the best is Ball’s Pyramid, the world’s tallest sea stack, 20km offshore. Expect clear visibility and large schools of fish including sweep, amberjack, kingfish, rainbow runners, trevally and silver drummer. You might be lucky enough to spot the rare Ballina angelfish, usually found only in very deep water.

Lord Howe Island Neds Beach sea urchin

Low tide welcomes a curious sea urchin at Ned’s Beach. Photo Alan Deans

Kayak to the islands

Kayak from Ned’s Beach to Roach Island, the largest islet in the Admiralty group. The highlight is paddling through the arch, a naturally formed cave open at both sides. Get wet again and snorkel a pristine reef.

Lord Howe Island kayak pristine wilderness great outdoors

Kayaking in the pristine waters of Lord Howe Island. Photo Susan Skelly

Trek the coast

Lord Howe is laced with dozens of well-marked walking trails, from short tracks such as Old Gulch and Mount Eliza to the longer trek to Goat House Cave (6km). Some are fast and flat, other tracks are steep, so be prepared to adjust your gait. You won’t find any drink stations, so carry water and carb reloads. A must is Kim’s Lookout at the northern end of the island, which has photo-friendly views to the Admiralty Islands.

Lord Howe Island Pacific Ocean Arajilla Retreat Communal Lounge

Set in the rainforest on Lord Howe Island, Arajilla Retreat, with its cook communal lounge. Photo courtesy Arajilla Retreat

Arajilla Retreat

Set among kentia palms behind Old Settlement Beach on World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island, Arajilla Retreat has been a place to rest and rejuvenate for more than 20 years. Now the resort, a two-hour flight from Sydney, has six new luxurious Banyan suites surrounded by native rainforest. Each of the split-level offerings has a large, north-facing deck overlooking gardens, a king-sized bed, informal lounge room, enormous bathroom and a mezzanine living room perfect for bookworms. The communal space has expansive lounge areas (indoor and out) and a dining room where produce from the retreat’s own garden features on the menu along with line-caught fish. Owners Bill and Janne Shead are on hand to meet guests and plan the day’s activities.

Related: Paradise portfolio

Capella Lodge

Located at the southern end of Lord Howe Island, 550km east of Port Macquarie, Capella Lodge has one of the most gobsmacking views in the country. Its verandah faces the imposing double act of Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower to the south, to the west a 180-degree sweep of ocean. It’s the island’s premium accommodation, with nine suites. The prize is 2009’s two-level Lidgbird Pavilion, with its plunge pool, private outdoor bathtub, upper and lower decks, Bang & Olufsen sound systems, music library, wines and Champagne. Capella has style and substance, from the granite vanities to the dispensers of designer lotions, and guide and guest books covered in signature-print cloth. The original interiors were put together by Australian artist Bruce Goold and his linocut prints abound. The little spa is an indoor attraction – a rainy day reward has to be the three-hour Dreaming body refurb that includes a pink desert salt exfoliation, yellow ochre mud wrap, cherry elder moisturiser infusion and Li’tya product facial.

Capella Lodge Mount Gower Lord Howe Island Luxury accommodation great outdoors

View to Mount Gower from the Lidgbird Suite at Capella Lodge on Lord How Island. Photo Susan Skelly

First published Qantas The Australian Way  August 2014

Your turn: Been to Lord Howe Island? what did you love?


Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab. susan@excessallareas.com.au

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Copyright © Susan Skelly 2020.