Norfolk Island is an island in Melanesia, administered as part of New South Wales in Australia. It is 1600 km (1000 mi) east of Sydney and Brisbane and 1000 km (620 mi) northwest of Auckland. It's an ideal relaxation destination, with a range of accommodation and dining, beautiful vistas, history and reefs.
There are two settlements on the island:
- 1 Kingston — the historic settlement, convict ruins and beaches.
- 2 Burnt Pine — the commercial centre. Shopping and dining.
Although the distance between Burnt Pine and Kingston may look walkable on the map, it is a steep road with no footpath or lighting. Car is best.
There are a number of other small settlements on the island but residences and attractions are distributed around the island.
Captain Cook discovered and named the island after Lady Norfolk during his second voyage around the world. He observed the presence of the tall Norfolk Pine, that he thought would be suitable for ship's masts, and flax that would be useful for sails.
The first settlement was established by the British a few months after their settlement in New South Wales in 1788. Some of the most capable men and women were sent from Sydney to the island, to exploit what Cook had observed. It was also hoped they could be a source of food and other supplies to the struggling settlers in Sydney town. None of these hopes were realised, and the colonists on Norfolk Island were also struggling to feed themselves. When the island was evacuated, nearly all of the structures were destroyed.
The second settlement was from 1825 to 1855. This time the settlement was made with a purely punitive function. Whereas the first settlement was made up of free settlers, convicts and military, and also had both genders, the second settlement was all male, and all convicts and military. Many of the military left their wives and children in Sydney while they served their time on Norfolk. Over 2000 convicts were housed on the island, more the total present day population. Substantial structures were built. Eventually the cost of running the colony was no longer justified, and the convicts were all transferred to Van Diemens Land and the colony evacuated.
The third settlement in 1856 was by former inhabitants of Pitcairn Island. The Pitcairn Islanders were descendants of the Bounty mutineers (Christian, Young, McCoy, Adams, Quintal) and the later Pitcariners (Buffett, Evans and Nobbs). Pitcairn Island was unable to support 200 inhabitants, and Queen Victoria offered them land grants on Norfolk Island with the convicts departing. The administrators of the island from the second settlement stayed long enough to show the Pitcairners the way of life on Norfolk, before they themselves left the island.
Although Norfolk Island has been a self-governing territory of Australia for much of its history, in 2016, the Australian government decided to reduce Norfolk Island's autonomy and annex it to the state of New South Wales.
Later influences were from the American sealers, and migration from Australians and New Zealanders.
About a third of the population of descendants of these Pitcairn Islanders; with the remaining residents mainly split between people from Australia and New Zealand. The permanent population of the island is about 1500 people. Most residents have spent some time off-island.
The sub-tropical maritime climate is quite mild. There is no air-conditioning on the island, and very little heating. Temperature ranges are small, with days averaging around 24 °C in summer, and 20 °C in winter. Weather on the island is notoriously unpredictable, so don't be surprised to be caught in short downpours every now and then.
- 1 Norfolk Island Airport. Norfolk Island has a single airport in the south-west of the island. Burnt Pine, the island's commercial centre, is immediately to the east, and you can walk there from the terminal. There is a cafe in the airport that is opened for departing flights. It serves hot and cold food, sandwiches and coffee. There is free (albeit unreliable) Wi-Fi available in the airport terminal. The ubiquitous Norfolk Telecom Wi-Fi is also available if you have a card.
Air New Zealand is the only airline, operating direct flights from Sydney and Brisbane.
There is no longer any scheduled passenger transport to New Zealand.
Around 3 or 4 Cruise ships per year call at Norfolk Island. The local shipping Agent, Transam Argosy, lists details of cruise ships calling at Norfolk Island. All passengers are tendered ashore, weather permitting. If you are tendered into Kingston, and only have a few hours on the island, you shouldn't be in a rush to get to Burnt Pine - unless you are desperate for a good cappuccino. Kingston is the unique and picturesque part of the island. Spend your time walking along the cost to Emily Bay and the Cemetery. Call into the Golf Club, and give the queues for the shuttle bus a miss.
There is no regular passenger service to Norfolk Island by sea, but there is a regular freighter service for goods, etc.
Visa and immigration control
Norfolk Island is an external Australian territory. So, you must meet the visa requirements for Australia to visit. Travel between mainland Australia and Norfolk Island is domestic travel, but flights leave from the International Terminals in Sydney and Brisbane.
Because you're travelling through the International terminal, you will need to allow longer to pass through immigration and customs and you will need a passport or other photo identification. You can't use the automatic gates and you'll need to queue to see a person. If you have a passport, it's probably easiest to take it with you. If you don't then make sure you have suitable government issued photo identification.
You are entitled to duty free goods in line with your normal Australia allowances. Typically duty free liquor is cheaper on Norfolk than in Sydney or Brisbane. If you want to take advantage of duty free allowances you will need a passport.
There are quarantine restrictions on the movement of many items of food, including meat and fresh fruit, between the island and the mainland. The restrictions are not the same in both directions.
There is no public transport system on Norfolk Island. The hilly terrain and distance between attractions makes getting around on foot impractical for most visitors. Independent travellers tend to hire a car. There are a variety of tours available daily.
It costs about $45 a day to hire a car, $20 a day for a scooter and A$15 a day for a bicycle. It is usual, when booking accommodation or a package that a hire car can be included in the tariff. Basic insurance is sometimes included, but excess reduction, petrol and additional drivers can be extra. You can pick up a car from the tourist information for a single day for $90 with insurance and petrol all included - if you just feel like a day-trip around the island.
Driving is on the left, with a speed limit outside Burnt Pine of 50 km/h and inside Burnt Pine of 40 km/h (30 km/h in the school zone). When driving outside of the town, remember that cows and other animals have right of way. Also remember to watch out for the "Norfolk Wave", a wave (ranging from a raised index finger off the steering wheel through to an enthusiastic movement of the arm) used by all locals to greet all passing traffic and pedestrians.
Like everything on the island, planning ahead is a good idea. If they aren't expecting any business you can find the car hire places reducing their already short trading hours.
Eldoo Hire Cars, Taylors Road, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
Aloha Rent-a-Car, New Cascade Road, ☎ .
There are two taxi services operating on the island. Call Andrew on 50485 or Phil on 50371.
You can also hire bicycles, but you'd want to like hill-climbing.
The official language of Norfolk Island is English and all the islanders speak it. However, among themselves they often use Norfuk, a language derived from the English spoken by the Bounty Mutineers and the Tahitian spoken by their wives. Norfuk is not readily comprehensible by speakers of any variety of English, including Australian or British English — though it's similar to (and, in fact, sometimes considered to be the same language as) Pitkern, spoken on the Pitcairn Islands by fellow descendants of the Bounty Mutineers.
History and Kingston ruins
The Australian convict sites are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. You can wander through many of the ruins at your leisure. They mostly date from the second settlement, and many have plaques that describe their function and history. The two gaols, the hospital, and the salt house are just some of the structures that you are free to explore. Some of the buildings house museums that charge admission.
The other part of Kingston is the houses of Quality Row. These were built for use by the military officers of the penal settlement, and were then used as residences by the Pitcairn settlers after the closure of the penal settlement. Most of these old houses are restored to some degree, with one even functioning as a church with regular worship services.
- Cemetery. There is also a cemetery with graves dating back to the earliest penal times, right through to more recent deaths. There is a weekly tour run by the museums.
There are four museums in Kingston. You can buy a combined pass to all four for $25. They are all open M-Sa from 11AM until 3PM with the exception of the Pier Store that's also open Sundays. On weekdays and Saturdays at 9:30AM you can join a tag-along guide, who will show you through two of the four museums. Alternating by day. Meet at the REO.
- 1 Commissariat Store, Kingston (Basement of the All Saints church.). M-Sa 11AM-3PM. Archeological artefacts from the four settlements. $10.
- 2 HMS Sirius Museum, Kingston. M-Sa 11AM-3PM. The Sirius was wrecked off the reef at Kingston under the command of Hunter. Artifacts remaining in the 1980s were brought to the surface and are on display here. Highlights are the cannon and anchor. There are also some pebbles from England used as ballast. This is a unique display of items from the flagship of the First Fleet that sailed to New South Wales, and it a integral part of the British Colonial history of the revion. $10.
- 3 House Museum (No. 10 Quality Row), 10 Quality Row, Kingston. M-Sa 11AM-3PM. Restored home one of the army officers from the second settlement. This house was also occupied by the Pitcairners but has been restored to how it was during the second settlement. $10.
- 4 Pier Store (by the pier in Kingston). Daily 11AM-3PM. The Pier Store was the original store building for the second settlement, but abandoned after it was flooded. The displays in the museum today show the history of the Bounty and the mutiny on the lower floor. European settlement of Norfolk on the upper floor. $10.
Norfolk is a beautiful island, and some of the vistas are simply breathtaking. Take some time to explore the island's bays and headlands, and don't forget your camera.
- 5 Anson Bay. One of the most scenic locations on the island. The reserve on the clifftop offers great views down to the turquoise bay below. The track down to the beach starts by the carpark entrance. The tour companies offer barbecue breakfast at this location, and you can see why. If you choose to do a barbecue lunch you should have the place to yourself. There are strong rips at the beach and swimming isn't recommended.
- 6 Captain Cook's Monument. The most spectacular views of the coastline with rock formations and birdlife around a few small islets. You can see down to the point where Captain Cook stepped ashore on his second voyage around the world. This is where the Bridle track starts. It's a very well maintained site with a lookout, boardwalk and toilets.
- Flagstaff Hill. take the steps from near the surgeon's residence in Kingston to the too of the hill where the shipping flags were raised. Great views over Kingston and Arthur's Vale
- Mount Pitt. You can drive to the top of the second tallest peak. There is a viewpoint and picnic facilities
- 7 Government House, Kingston. 1PM-3:30PM one Wednesday per month. Once a month, the Government House is open to the public. All proceeds go to local charities. $15.
- Island Fish Fry together with local Polynesian entertainment.
- Mutiny on the Bounty Show (Salty Theatre).
- Trial of the 15.
- (Emily Bay). 9:30AM or 2:30PM (depending on day and tides).. The glass bottom boat trips leave from Emily Bay and travel out to the reef edge. Either turn up at the right time down the bay, or book in advance at one of the tour offices in Burnt Pine. If you are confident in the water, and the tides are good, you can swim out as far as the boat goes. $50/$25.
- Snorkelling. Emily Bay and neighbouring Slaughter Bay offer easy snorkelling off the beach with coral formations and tropical fish. There are sea snakes to see also. Avoid the reef cutting to the left of Emily Bay by the lone pine.
- Land and Sea. Snorkel hire in Burnt Pine.
- Swimming. Kingston is also the site of Emily Bay, the only safe swimming beach on the island. Protected from the Pacific surf by a natural coral reef, Emily Bay is a social location for locals.
- 1 Botanic garden. There are several marked walks through the Botanic Gardens, from a wheelchair/stroller friendly walk on the upper levels to a rainforest walk all the way into the gully.
- 2 Bridle Track. Starting from Captain Cook's monument, this walk follows the cliff edge and rainforest along the coast. Short diversions to the viewpoints over Bird Rock. Allow a couple of hours for this one.
- 3 Bumbora Reserve walk. Easy boardwalk leading to a beautiful bay.
- 4 Hundred Acres walk. An amazing sight as seabirds nest and dodge around Rocky Point. Also large Moreton Bay Figs.
- Mount Pitt to Mount Bates. Starting from the top of Mount Pitt, this well developed walk goes follows the ridge line for about 1km to the top of island's highest point. It's marked as an easy trail, but you'll want full mobility to climb the last stretch to the top of Mount Bates.
- 5 Phillip Island. Call Dave Bigg to make a booking as soon as you arrive since it depends on weather. $160 per person (4 people minimum).
- Norfolk Island Golf Club, Kingston. With a clubhouse housed in a converted Quality Row house, this 9-hole course is famous for having the largest water hazard on earth - the Pacific Ocean, a real risk of taking any balls sliced off the fourth tee. There are frequent competitions for locals and tourists alike, and players of all abilities are welcome to pay the nominal fees to hire clubs and have a social round. Although there are 9-holes there are 18 tees, with the fairways criss-crossing the course. An 18-hole game will involve playing to each hole twice along a fairway. The clubhouse also servers drinks and meals.
- Squash (Leagues Club).
Kingston also boasts the oldest cricket pitch in the Southern Hemisphere - and one which is still used regularly by the islanders.
- Foundation Day. The arrival of Philip Gidley King on 6 March 1788 with a party settlers, military and convicts of Norfolk's first settlement.
- Bounty Day. Celebrated on the 8th June, Bounty Day celebrates the arrival of the Bounty descendants on Norfolk.
- Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on Norfolk, due to the influence to the American sealers and whalers on the island.
- Opera in Paradise. 17th to 24th March. One of the most unique and successful Festival is 'OPERA in Paradise' which features a week of large-scale opera concerts, more intimate matinees,champagne afternoon concerts and a traditional Island banquet and launch. Singers and classical musicians are brought in from Australia and New Zealand by boutique opera company, OPERATIF. This festival attracts hundreds of patrons each February primarily from Australia and New Zealand, but also from the USA, UK and SE Asia.
Exchange rates for Australian dollar
As of May 2018:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
Norfolk Island only uses the Australian dollar. You'll have great difficulty using other currency on the island. The banks will convert currency during business hours. There is a single ATM on the island at the Commonwealth Bank in Burnt Pine. Given this level of redundancy, you shouldn't let your cash supply dwindle too far. Almost all shops and restaurants on the island accept credit cards, but you'll find an occasional one that is cash only.
The main street of Burnt Pine is lined on both sides with shops selling local arts and crafts, shoes and clothes, toys and books. There are some bargains to be had, especially on shoes.
A number of shops are described as "department stores", which can seem rather quaint to visitors from big cities, as these shops are often no larger than the others. The difference lies in the slightly wider range of merchandise available. One of the true delights of shopping on Norfolk Island is that in many shops you simply have no idea what will be for sale.
There are markets on Saturday morning from 7:30am and Sunday from 8:30am.
- Saturday Morning Farmers' market, Burnt Pine (Rawson Park, next to the tourist information centre.). Sa 7:30AM-11AM. local vegetables in season. Preserves and jams. Some baked goods. Usually only a handful of stalls that can be covered in 29 minutes or so.
- Sunday Morning market, Burnt Pine (Next to the tourist information centre.). Su 8:30AM-1PM. By far the most interesting and diverse market of the two weekend markets. In fact you'll probably find the handful of stalls that are at the Saturday market back for the Sunday market. Prices are comparable to those found in the shops, but some retailers choose only to sell at the market. Expect to find local souvenirs, local produce, baked goods, coffee.
Locally produced items are for sale on Norfolk Island's. Homemade preserves being a particular specialty. The ubiquitous Norfolk Island Pine is turned into woodwork items, and also into keyrings, magnets and other trinkets. Norfolk Pine products are normally quite safe to import to Australia or New Zealand, but always make it known to the seller where you're intending to take the product you've just bought, since it never hurts to be sure.
There is locally produced quality artwork. Some novelty soaps and make-up are made on-island.
There are books to purchase on the local Norfuk language. Most are for readers with only a casual interest, but if you are interested in scholarship on the language Speak Norfolk Today, by Alice Inez Buffett is the best source. There are audio CDs of songs written in Norfuk.
There is also a wide range of fictional and non-fictional books on Norfolk and the South Pacific in general available at most shops. The island's bookshop is The Golden Orb, which contains a section devoted to Norfolk and South Pacific literature.
Many speciality shops have limited opening hours. Most of these shops start closing around 3PM and many don't open until 10 or 11AM. Many are closed Saturday afternoons and Sunday.
Burnt Pine also has all of Norfolk's service industries. Three fuel stations, a few mini-markets and a supermarket. Supplies can occasionally run low of certain items until the next ships arrives to restock.
- 1 Foodland (in Norfolk Mall). The island's biggest supermarket.
Norfolk Island, unsurprisingly, is famous for its seafood, which is generally caught fresh by most of the restaurants on the island. The local trumpeter is commonly available. There is a wide range of other food available on the island.
You can take a local progressive dinner tour at the homes of various islanders in order to experience various specialities based on traditional Polynesian dishes. Book at the tour booking agencies in Burnt Pine.
Vegetarians are catered for by most restaurants, with most having at least one dish on the menu. Vegans have limited options, and may need to self-cater. Kosher and Halal meals are impossible to find. Travellers with food allergies may be catered for at some restaurants. Gluten free (the latest trend) is widely available.
As with everything on Norfolk Island, some advance planning is necessary to avoid going hungry. Cafes and restaurants serving lunch generally close between 2PM and 3PM in the afternoon - and their kitchens may close before that. Bookings are not necessary for breakfast and lunch. Dinner usually starts at 5:30PM and is finished by 8PM. Bookings are necessary in all restaurants and hotel restaurants. You don't need to book for the club bistros, but they also observe the same opening hours. After 9pm even the mini-marts will be closed. Numbers are limited by capacity. An available table won't guarantee a meal without a booking. Booking a day in advance is usually sufficient.
- Have a BBQ. There are wood barbecues and picnic tables scattered all over the island. You'll never have a problem finding one if you are in a reserve or at Kingston.
- Self-catering. The Norfolk Mall has a supermarket, bakery and a butcher. While many products are flown in from Australia or New Zealand, local produce sold here represents the cheapest self-catering option on the island. The range is limited. Potatoes, sweet-potatoes, but bananas, figs and avocados are all grown locally and are relatively cheap in season.
- Golden Orb Cafe. Cafe open for lunch. Also doubles as a bookstore.
- Norfolk Pizza. serves a variety of pizzas and some pasta dishes, with the pizzas at least being able to be taken away
- The Olive Cafe. Early opener for breakfast and lunch. The Olive has forsaken the 1970s feel of some other establishments, for a modern vibe. With lacquered pine furniture, freshly baked muffins, full lunches, and campos coffee. full breakfast $18.
- Woodfired Pizza Pizza. offers a selection of gourmet woodfired pizzas and breads from around the world.
- Wrap and Roll. 8AM-8PM. Burgers and wraps. One of the only places to serve fresh and hot food throughout the afternoon - also open for dinner. Burger and chips $18.
- Barney Duffy's Charcoal Grill. Duffy's bills itself as "Norfolk's Best Steakhouse". While the competition for this title is not particularly strong, the steaks are of a very high standard indeed. Fare here is of the steakhouse variety, with various fish dishes available as well. The restaurant is named for the famous convict Barney Duffy and plays up on this link
- Dino's (located at Bumboras near Kingston ( the other side of the airport to most accommodation)). This is probably the nicest restaurant on the island, it is a high-quality Italian restaurant in a quirky homestyle setting. Book early, as it is not open every night of the week and the tables go very quickly. $40 main.
- Hilii's. Upscale dining in a garden setting. More convenient to most accommodation and Burnt Pine than Dinos. dinner $40/main; lunch $20/main.
The local distillery, Norfolk Island Liquors P/L, is found on Cascade Road and produces various liqueurs and spirits. Free sampling is available M Tu Th F from 2PM-5PM.
Also on the same premises is Cascade Soft Drinks, who manufacture produce a range of traditional soft drinks with old fashioned flavours, ranging from orange and lime flavours to pineapple and plum cola varieties.
Although there is a Winery on the island, it is currently importing wines from New South Wales under the Two Chimney's wine label whilst it is developing its vines for manufacture. As of 2015, they have been producing on-island a single variety of red for 3 years and have two other varieties of whites coming up soon. You can sample their wine at their cellar door on Two Chimneys Road or at Hilli's and Norfolk Blue.
- 1 Golf Club. Licensed premises and also sells the usual range of soft drinks and coffee.
- 2 Rumours, Burnt Pine. Fully licensed cafe.
- Burnt Pine clubs. The RSL club, Bowling Club and leagues Club are all in the main street of Burnt Pine and all welcome visitors.
There is a myriad of options for accommodation, ranging from basic one- or two-person rooms through to resort-style establishments with restaurants attached hosting seafood buffets. The commercial hub of the island, Burnt Pine, has a number of well-situated guesthouses central to most shops, while accommodation elsewhere is designed to capitalize on views and proximity to nature.
- Norfolk Island Holiday Homes, Taylors Road, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A collection of 10 individual self-catered properties spread out in various private locations across the island.
- Cascade Garden Apartments (New Cascade Road), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Set in almost one acre of grounds, the extensive and colourful gardens feature hibiscus, kentia palms and Norfolk pines. $130.
- 1 Fletcher Christian Apartments. 3½-star AAA rated. Rooms serviced daily. Centrally located in spacious, park-like grounds of subtropical landscaping. Shops, cafes, restaurants, clubs and visitor facilities are all within short walking distance.
- 2 Hibiscus Crown Apartments, 75 New Cascade Road (New Cascade Road, just past the Police station and Library), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-out: 10AM. Self-catered facility
- Cumberland Resort and Spa. 4-star hotel, central location in tranquil garden setting, within 2 minutes of cafes, restaurants and shops, and 5 minutes from the beach golf, national park and historical area. Heated swim spa pool and sauna, free rental car, airport transfers, cable tv, tennis, etc. Package deals including airline and accommodation specials.
- Endeavour Lodge. Self-catering serviced apartments with ocean views from all apartments. Environmentally Friendly property. AAA Tourism 4 Star & Green Star AAA rated
- Forrester Court Clifftop Cottages. Is the only AAA 5 star-rated property on the island.
- 3 Hideaway Retreat, Code George Hunn Nobbs Rd, Kingston. Comfortable and affordable self-contained accommodation property, nestled in amongst sub-tropical rainforest.
- Poinciana Cottages. Located on the edge of town and is rated four stars by AAA rating
- Shiralee Executive Cottages. 4½-star self contained cottages with the hire of convertibles included in the tariff.
If you have work rights in Australia, you may be able to find seasonable work in hospitality on the island.
Crime on Norfolk Island is very low, though not unknown. Most islanders leave their houses and cars unlocked with windows down. Always remember to exercise commonsense when doing this, though, as most criminals are opportunists and it is not unknown for criminals to take "working vacations" too.
Emily Bay and Slaughter Bay in Kingston are the only safe locations to swim on Norfolk as they are protected by a natural coral reef. All other bays are not patrolled and have unpredictable conditions. A Norfolk tradition is that of the "Seventh Wave", the unpredictable rising in wave height which can sweep unwary swimmers out to sea.
Norfolk Island has its own hospital, and it is now incorporated into the Australian health system. International visitors should ensure that they have sufficient insurance, as a medivac to the mainland comes at a very high cost. A required evacuation to the mainland would be covered by Australian Medicare for Australian citizens.
Tap water is safe to drink from the tap, but bottled and filtered water is also available. Two drips is the local bottled water.
Some islanders are descended from the Bounty mutineers. Therefore, one must realize that some information can contain a certain 'spin' to align with the local mythology. If you're looking for a lighthearted way to engage with the story, you can lead with whether Marlon Brandon or Mel Gibson were the better Fletcher Christian in the 1965 and 1984 movies. Everyone has seen both movies.
There are convict ruins dotted around the island, and you're generally free to wander where you want. But remember these are a valuable part of Australia's history, and avoid climbing or unnecessarily touching the ruins and artefacts.
The island mobile telephone network is really only useful for phone calls, and that's the common way to communicate on island. Your smartphone won't seem so smart with a local SIM card. But it's very useful for restaurant bookings, etc. All phone numbers are five digits and those beginning with a '5' are mobile numbers.
For data. Norfolk Telecom operates a network of WiFi hotspots that have extensive coverage of tourist areas, restaurants and accommodation. You can pick up top-up cards to access this for $10 for 1GB.
Australian Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have roaming agreements. But again, only useful for phone calls. And roaming is expensive. No other overseas networks roam on Norfolk Island.
Only a few hotels offer their own Wi-Fi service. Most cafes and accommodation have the Norfolk Telecom Wi-Fi. Free cafe Wi-Fi is not available anywhere.