Lord Howe Island is a drop of perfection in the Pacific, with its azure-blue lagoon, mountain peaks and verdant vegetation providing a stunning backdrop.
With few cars, guests get around the small island on bicycles, and walking is a pleasure. We hired our bikes from Wilsons, and clocked up many kilometres rediscovering the joys of peddle power going from one end of the island to the other, the bike’s basket usually stuffed with a towel, snorkel gear, sun screen and water. The only decision to make is where to swim?
We ride to Ned’s beach for a snorkel or to check out the huge kingfish or baby reef sharks that come in to say hi. We ride down to Blinky’s Beach to enjoy the sunrise, go for a bodysurf or watch a local surf a wave or two. But mostly we swim in the idyllic lagoon and feel like we have gone through a Dr Who-like portal onto a heavenly planet. One that we are reluctant to leave.
Lord Howe is home to the southernmost coral reef in the world, and you can see it as you snorkel or swim in this most spectacular of lagoons. If you don’t fancy longer swims, sign up for a glass bottomed boat tour, a snorkelling tour or you can go diving. I do fancy longer swims, and experienced a week of swimming on an ocean swimming program with ironman legend Trevor Hendy – run by Pinetrees Lodge.
Every day we hopped on the boat and were dropped to a different part of the lagoon, and swam, and swam some more, until, like Dory, we were distracted by coral, or fish, or just scenery that required treading water for a few minutes just to fully appreciate it. It was one of the best things I have ever done in my life.
Walking the island
There are so many walks on the island, from easy to very difficult. For the ultimate hiking holiday, Pinetrees also offers a walking week, similar to the swim week. The Seven Peaks Walk is five-days of guided hiking on a different trail every day. These walks take you to nearly all corners of the island, from North Bay to Lord Howe Island’s highest peak Mount Gower, taking in untouched beaches, coral platforms, ancient forests and breathtaking views.
The seven-kilometre walk from Old Settlement Beach to North Bay rewards walkers with pristine white sand and incredible snorkelling. Valley of the Shadows is one of the most memorable tracks on the island, with walkers passing under large canopies of banyan trees and Kentia palms. The two-hour return walk to Malabar Hill is ideal for birdwatchers, as the area is one of the world’s largest nesting sites for the red-tailed tropic bird.
For walkers seeking a more challenging trek, the Intermediate Hill traverses 1.2 kilometres and the summit of the Smoking Tree Ridge offers unforgettable views over Ball’s Pyramid and Mount Lidgbird. We loved the Little Island walk in the shadows of Mt Gower, through forests of tangled banyan trees and kentia palms.
But the most challenging of all, and one for serious hikers, is the Mt Gower climb. You cannot do this walk on your own – so the Pinetrees package is a great way to access it. It is a full day climb, and in some places you’ll be using ropes and traversing narrow ledges.
The reward is unbelievable views over the ribbon of island down below from the mystical and magical Mt Gower, meeting some of the island’s myriad birdlife on the way up. You won’t know where to look first, over the incandescent blue waters of the lagoon? Out over the blue Pacific? Or just around you, at the tangle of vegetation that adds a Jurassic feel to the experience?
A stunning stay
Only 400 people are allowed to stay on the island at any one time, so you can be sure that this natural wonderland is never over run. The island does have a number of beautiful places to stay, with Pinetrees Lodge certainly one of the favourites. Dani Hanson, nee Rourke, has Pinetrees Lodge and Lord Howe Island in her blood. She is the sixth generation of her family to run the lodge, and does so with her husband Luke Hanson. Staying at Pinetrees is like staying with family, with incredible meals served each and every day and an afternoon tea that you will want to get back for.
Arajilla Retreat is a serene and elegant property tucked into forest near Old Settlement Beach. It is well located to access the cluster of shops, and if you swim at the Beach chances are you will come across a turtle or two. Arajilla also has a spa.
At the other end of the island, with Mt Lidgbird and Mt Gower near neighbours, Capella Lodge is a luxurious escape. There are electric buggies to hire if your legs tire of cycling on the resort’s complimentary bikes, a gorgeous pool, the food is exemplary and the service certainly worthy of a resort that is part of Luxury Lodges of Australia.
There is now another luxury option on the island, with Island House catapulted into the public eye in October, when Chris Hemsworth took his family and friends to stay in the brand new accommodation. Island House consists of two houses that can sleep eight, with guests treated to the best of everything including a whole room full of equipment to enjoy the outdoors including paddle boards, surf boards, surf skis, snorkelling gear, bikes, wetsuits and more.
No matter where you stay, be prepared to fall a lot in love with this special place. I have been seven times and my love affair will never be over.
This story was first published on 5 January, 2018 and updated on 30 October, 2020.
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