July

LORD HOWE ISLAND

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Off the coast of NSW is a quiet island that we could keep coming back to, again, and again, and again. Actually, maybe we ought to just not leave. Lord Howe Island is just a skip, hop and an ocean away from the east coast. More specifically it’s 600 km and a two-hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane. The small island, made of volcanic rock that juts from the Pacific Ocean, feels as though it’s in the middle of nowhere, because essentially it is.

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed island is home to a huge range of indigenous plant and animal species that can be found nowhere else in the world. Two thirds of the island remain off limits to anyone not on foot as a permanent park preserve, while the remaining third boasts very few cars giving way to cyclists and walkers. Almost all activity on the island is nature-based, with some truly awesome diving, snorkeling and kayaking to be found in the surrounding marine park waterways.

The southern end of the island is fringed with two lush subtropical mountains whose heads seem never to emerge from the clouds; Mt Lidgbird and Mt Gower. At 875 m, Mt Gower is the tallest vertical climb in Australia and a renowned and picturesque guided day walk.

Only 350 residents live on the island, and 400 visitors are allowed at one time. When given the option of a mobile reception tower on the island, the residents collectively refused. You can’t help but think that Lord Howe has stopped the island at a point in time that we wish the rest of us did.

People wave in passing, locals offer to cover you at the general store checkout if you fall short a few dollars, and trust between strangers pervades. Cars, bikes and homes are left unlocked, even our accommodation at Pinetrees Lodge was minus any locks on the doors.

If there’s anywhere that will give you a sense of life like the locals, it’s staying with the very friendly couple who run Pinetree Lodge, Luke Hanson and 6th generation islander Dani Rourke. Family owned and run for the last 120 years, the property was bought for the measly sum of two tonnes of potatoes 160 years ago. Dani and Luke moved back from Sydney in 2011 to take over the family property, and if you ask Luke kindly there’s a good chance he’ll be happy to take you to his home at some stage to check out his vegetable garden, flourishing thanks to volcanic soils and Luke’s background as an agricultural ecologist. And he’ll no doubt happily share a wine with you on the deck of their boatshed that looks out over the calm ocean.

These two, along with the of 348 other locals will ensure you won’t make your way down a palm-laden path without receiving a smile and a wave – that’s if you even come across anyone at all. And though the island is packed with perks, that’s all the reason we need to get back there again.

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theslowpoke_lordhoweisland19Photos: Emma Bowen // Location: Lord Howe Island // Accommodation: Pinetrees Lodge

 

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