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Picture perfect Lord Howe Island

Situated only 1.5 hours’ flight from Sydney, Lord Howe Island is isolated more by exclusivity than distance. It’s an idyllic family escape.

The island can only accommodate up to 400 guests at any one time and unless you’re already a resident or you’re lucky enough to marry a resident, it’s more or less impossible to move here.


Because of its relative isolation, the island is an important conservation site for many rare and endemic species. Almost half the island’s 241 native plant species are found nowhere else in the world and the same goes for both the island’s reptiles, a skink and a gecko, and almost a thousand insect species.


It is an escape from technology and the hustle of urban life – there is no mobile phone coverage (the islanders voted against its introduction), limited internet access and the easiest way to get around is by bicycle.


For the limited number of cars on the island, there is a 25km/h speed limit and, possibly one of its most charming features is its No Lock Policy. It’s like stepping back in time to a place that moves at a slower pace.


This is the perfect place to unwind, relax and teach kids to appreciate the surrounding natural environment. Really, it is what you make of it: a virtual Choose Your Own Adventure destination.


It is a mecca for birdwatchers the world over. 180 bird species have been identified here, of which 32 currently breed here, including 14 species of seabird – petrels, shearwaters, terns and noddys all visit in their hundreds of thousands.


There are guided and un-guided hikes for all levels of fitness – from the relatively easy climb to Kim’s Lookout in the north, to the 8-hour trek up Mt Gower’s 870m in the south.


If you’d rather work on your tan while the kids have a splash, there are 11 safe swimming beaches on the island, each just a short bike ride from the next. There are also two world class day spas, at Capella and Arajilla resorts on the north and south end of the island (respectively).


On Neds Beach you can grab a snorkel and fins (just leave a donation in the honesty box) and enter a natural aquarium of rainbow-coloured wrasse, green turtles and black-tipped reef sharks, stingrays, clownfish, giant clams, corals and 14 kinds of sea urchin.


I’m here to do all of the above. Relax, unwind, get in touch with nature. Go on a few hikes, tackle Gower and maybe get myself a couple of spa treatments. But mainly, I’m here to explore the island’s marine park.


As a recent convert to the joys of scuba, I’m inspired by the amazing photos I’ve seen in the brochures (and on friends’ Facebook pages) and excited about the 50 dive sites. In fact I’m already fretting about which ones I won’t get to see.


As soon as we’ve settled into our rooms at the gorgeous family-run Pinetrees Lodge we head off for the beach, snorkels at the ready.


There are two dive operators on the island, Howea Divers and Pro Dive. They’re situated next to each other – literally – on Lagoon Beach and enjoy a healthy rivalry. They are both great operators – easy going, safety conscious and incredibly knowledgeable about the abundant marine life to be found here.


Over our week on Lord Howe we manage to squeeze in six dives and a few snorkels – and not one experience is like any other. The whole experience is exhilarating and refreshing.


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Written by: Deborah Dickson-Smith
Published: 12 December 2012

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