There's more to Norfolk Island There's more to Norfolk Island

I've got to come clean before I go any further. A few weeks ago I knew almost nothing about Norfolk Island. I was aware it was out in the ocean 'somewhere' east of Australia, but there's zero chance I would have been able to point it out on a map. I knew it had something to do with the Mutiny on the Bounty and was dotted with convict ruins – ho hum. I also knew it was something of a cultural oddity, a far-flung slice of Ye Olde England serving up Devonshire teas in the Pacific. Norfolk Island, it seemed, was a magnet for older travellers and history nerds, but not for the likes of cosmopolitan, latte-lovin' me.

​Back in 'normal' times, Norfolk Island was not the kind of destination I'd look twice at, but when hubby was recently invited over for a three-week photographic assignment, I jumped at the chance to tag along. The never-ending rounds of lockdown and limited overseas travel options had turned my well-travelled itchy feet into a full-blown rash that was climbing past my knees! So, with few expectations beyond tea, scones and some ruins, I packed a half dozen books, downloaded 1O seasons of Walking Dead and headed for a nearly deserted Brisbane airport.

​What I discovered on arrival was a total surprise package, a destination that felt like the perfect mashup of all the things I love about Tassie and Byron Bay, and more. Norfolk Island serves up jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches, incredible forests, an exciting paddock-to-plate food scene and some of the most welcoming locals you could ever hope to meet. With each passing day on 'The Rock' (as locals affectionately call their home), my half-baked assumptions were quietly and humbly tossed overboard. I also came to the conclusion that Norfolk Island might just be the perfect holiday haven for our troubled times. 

Here are a few reasons why:

Splendid Isolation. With over 1000 kilometres of ocean separating their island from Australia's East Coast, Norfolk Islanders are the experts at isolation. And with a thorough application and health check process required before booking, you can rest assured that Norfolk is about as COVID-safe as any place could possibly be.

Ocean Fresh. Hand sani is great for hands, but Norfolk's fresh, salty sea air, and warm South Pacific sunshine helps keep everything feeling wonderfully squeaky clean and germ free.

Room to Roam. With its small population and capped visitor numbers, social distancing just wasn't an issue during our visit. Even at the island's most popular beach, Emily Bay, we often shared the sand with only a handful of families.

Unplugged and Reconnected. As one dreamy day slipped into another, I found myself glancing at my phone less and less. At first it was my self-consciousness about looking like a stressed-out city slicker, but soon it was the island's incredible scenic beauty that distracted me from the electronic moment-thief in my pocket. Within days I had completely disconnected from the news cycle and reconnected with things that I've not really appreciated for years: the sound of the wind; the feel of sea spray; the far-off sound of a rooster crowing at sunrise; the stars…omg, the stars!

Slow, Soul Food. Norfolk's food scene was a huge surprise too! After months of mindless, comfort eating in front of the TV, what a revelation to taste real, organic food again. The island's new generation of growers and chefs blend old island traditions with fresh ideas to make the most of the island's bountiful soils, pastures and waters. The flavours of just one simple tomato brought tears to my eyes; I hadn't tasted a tomato like that since I was a child. Seriously, the food on Norfolk is worth the trip alone.

Being Seen. Locals in big-ticket travel destinations often numb-out to visitors, or even worse, see tourists as little more than wallets on legs. Not so on Norfolk Island, where every passing driver waves, and where locals seem to have the uncanny knack for remembering your name. If there could be a model for community life after lockdown, surely this is it. 

Hellish History. There's nothing like a little history to put your worries into perspective. In convict times Norfolk Island was a place so god-forsaken and cruel it was known as The Hell of the Pacific. Explore the inscriptions on the headstones of Kingston Cemetery, and as you drive back to your accommodation you'll realise that despite our current troubles, life in the 21st century isn't so bad.

Smaller is Better. In a world where our horizons are continually expanded via social media, it's easy to feel overwhelmed with FOMO. If you've ever spent your holidays in a destination rushing from attraction to attraction without ever getting to discover the true spirit of a place, compact Norfolk Island makes a welcome change. On Norfolk, even though there are 101 things to see and do, each attraction is never more than a stress-free 15-minute drive away.

Devonshire Teas. Yes, you read right, I'm now a convert. There is something wonderfully comforting about a good pot of tea, fresh baked scones and lashings of island cream. It feels like a reassuring hug from your nana, and in troubled times, sometimes that's just what we all need.

Sandra and Ian Wilkinson recently visited Norfolk Island on a three-week photographic assignment. They didn't watch a single episode of Walking Dead during their stay. 

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