A speck in the South Pacific

That’s tiny Phillip Island at the front and Norfolk Island behind it

We had a fascinating, memorable Christmas on Norfolk Island in 2017 and enjoyed it so much we went again in 2018. While we’d been with a group in 2017, in 2018 we did our own thing, visiting places we hadn’t reached the previous year, or re-visiting places where we would have liked a bit more time. We stayed in the same hotel but this time we had a penthouse with views of the island’s highest peak, Mt Pitt – and lots of lovely windows we could open to let in the breeze. There’s no air conditioning on the island. We were provided with a hire car to get around, together with a paper map. There’s no GPS covering the island roads. It’s all very last century but on an island that’s 8 km by 5 km, it’s really not that difficult.

We stayed in the main township, Burnt Pine. The convict remians are in Kingston at the bottom of the island on this map.

Getting there was a tiny bit thrilling. This time we stayed two nights at our friends’ house on Mt Tamborine south of Brisbane, where we witnessed the first of a number of storms that smashed the Gold Coast – but not up where we were. We drove to the airport, hoping we’d get an undercover parking spot this time. More storms were forecast, with hail the size of golf balls. Last year, though we’d paid online for undercover parking, we’d had to park outside in the elements, leaving the car to the mercy of the weather gods for over a week. This time, we were lucky, snaring a park on the top floor under the roof.

Although Norfolk Island is an Australian territory which has been managed from Australia for the past two years, we left from the international terminal. At least we don’t have to fill out departure cards anymore. After all, all the information you had to write down was already on your ticket. The flight to Norfolk left from one of the furthest extremities of Brisbane airport. It’s nowhere near the biggest in the world but it’s still a long walk to the gate without those moving travelators. And then there’s the several hours of waiting…

Proof of ID is required before you leave Australia. The Powers That Be prefer a passport but you can use a driver’s licence or other form of photo ID along with a proof of identity form that you can get from Australia Post. Once in the air we also had to fill in a landing form. (Just a moment while I roll my eyes.) Travelling to Norfolk is like flying from the mainland to Tasmania, for goodness sake. And this landing form is identical to the one you fill out when coming back from REAL overseas (eg Europe) into Australia. The cabin crew have to explain that yes, the form asks for your home address, but what it really wants is where you’ll be staying on Norfolk. Etc. We talked to a local in a shop, who told us that if she goes over to Oz, coming home she puts her name and address and nothing else. The immigration people know she’s a local.

We got off the ground on time for the two-hour flight to Norfolk. Pete had the window seat and his trusty tablet to take photos. Norfolk Island is a speck in the ocean and that’s so clear from the air (see above). Pete took pictures as we approached, coming down with historic Kingston clearly visible.

The wheels had hit the deck and the brakes were on, pushing us back into our seats. Then suddenly the brakes were off, the engines powered up and we lifted off again. When training pilots it’s called a touch and go – but I suspected this wasn’t a training run. After several minutes the captain came on to explain the aircraft had been hit by a cross-wind and he’d decided prudence was wisest. As a result, we got a fly-around of the island. Peter wasn’t the only one taking pictures before the plane finally landed.

The whole island. The high bit is Mt Pitt, surrounded by national park.

That’s Kingston below. The reef protects Emily Bay and Slaughter Bay, with the jetty where goods are landed just across from the large rectangle that is the remains of the prison. Evidence of Polynesian visitors in the mid-fifteenth century is in the grove of Norfolk Island pines around Emily Bay. The trees would not have been there then.

I’m not going to talk about Norfolk’s extraordinary history in this series of posts, though I’m sure it’ll get a mention in passing. You can read all about that in last year’s trip here. You’ll find posts about the brutal penal colony and how the descendants of Fletcher Christian and the other mutineers involved in the mutiny on the Bounty came to move from Pitcairn Island to Norfolk Island. But this time we travelled at our own gentle pace, interspersed with an hour or two of test match cricket (which we won’t talk about).

If you’re interested in more information this is a useful website.

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