I was there to find out about outdoorsy things to do on this small Australian island, but I didn't expect getting around would be one of them.
|Norfolk Island pines|
where they belong
But I ended up having an Earth Weekend instead, because Norfolk Island is one of the most natural, and naturally beautiful, islands in the South Pacific.
How could you not love a place whose emblem, which flies proudly on its flag, is a tree? None other than the Norfolk Island pine, which is all over the island (the main township is even called Burnt Pine), except on the bits that are rolling green hills.
In fact from the air -- Norfolk is a two-hour flight from Sydney and Brisbane, an hour and a half from Auckland -- it looks like one big dairy farm in the middle of the sea.
|Norfolk Island Tourism's|
earthy media kit
All its fruit and vegetables are grown on the island, which is just 5km by 8km. There's locally caught fish, local beef and fresh milk of course, but also coffee, goat's cheese (from The Hilli Goat), even wine (from Two Chimneys winery).
And everyone drinks rainwater (aka "cloud juice"), which comes straight out of the tap.
Best of all, the island is a nature-lover's playground. Here's my list of the top natural things to do on Norfolk Island:
|Nature's pool at Emily Bay|
2. Breathe fresh air - or buy some. If you're there on a Sunday, head to the craft market outside the Tourist Information Centre where you can buy a tiny corked bottle of fresh island air for a couple of bucks. Priceless.
3. Snorkel Slaughter Bay. It's hard to imagine a less inviting name for this low-tide snorkelling spot on the island's south coast, but this lagoon hemmed in by coral reef has a dazzling array of marine life. I snorkelled there one afternoon with Karlene Christian, a diver and Norfolk Islander (they don't call themselves Australians), who picked "sea grapes" that we ate in a salad of lime-cured kingfish on the beach afterwards. Best post-swim snack ever.
|Norfolk's north coast "apostles"|
seen from the walking track
There's also a half-day guided trek on Phillip Island, 6km off the south coast, said to be amazing, but the seas were too rough to get to the island when I was there.
5. Go surfing. Speaking of rough seas... Norfolk isn't an easy place to surf, there being no surf shops or surf schools. The trick is to find a local who can lend you a board and show you where to paddle out. I found two: Emily (who runs the Hilli Goat Farm) and Zach (a surf photographer), who took me surfing at Bumboras early one morning. The waves were wild, and the board not quite what I'm used to, but it was one of my favourite experiences of the trip, a glimpse of islander life.
|Foraged food by the sea|
7. Go foraging. Food isn't just grown by human hands on Norfolk; it's growing wild by the road, in paddocks, beside streams. I spent a delightful couple of hours with chef-historian Rachel Nebauer-Borg picking guavas, wild spinach and watercress on one of her foraging tours.
|Emily Bay by Adam Jauczius|
9. Watch the sun set over the sea. When you live on the east coast of Australia (or anywhere), seeing the sun set over the sea is a treat. On Norfolk Island you can do that at several spots, but Puppies Point is my pick (see below), a grassy reserve under the pines where it's just you, the cows and the soaring seabirds.
|Orange sky at night, tourist's delight|
(They're called Boomerang Bags because ideally you bring them back to the shop where you got them, on your next visit. It's a worldwide movement that started in Australia; Boomerang Bag HQ is at Burleigh Heads. See boomerangbags.org for more info.)
|Mokes are always ready when you are|
|Natural beauty is a wild hibiscus|
Big thanks to Norfolk Island Tourism and Air New Zealand for a work trip that almost felt like a holiday.