Top Ten Activities - Lord Howe Island
Lord Howe Island is an idyllic sub-tropical paradise found in the Tasman Sea, just hours away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. With just over 380 permanent residents and only 400 visitors allowed at any one time, it’s an (almost) untouched pristine haven. Golden beaches, crystal-clear waters and lush green rainforests speak to the natural beauty of this oft-forgotten holiday destination, which we were lucky enough to visit recently. Upon return, we decided to list the top ten activities to do on this unique eco-wonderland. For a more in-depth look at what Lord Howe Island has to offer, check out our Journey To The Lost World – Lord Howe Island.
1. Hike Mount Gower
Hiking Mount Gower is arguably the premier activity on Lord Howe Island. Rated as one of Australia’s best – and toughest – day walks, the 8-hour return-trip will take you on an epic 4.5-kilometre (one-way) adventure across the island’s vast natural landscapes. The trek is challenging and often along unmarked tracks, but the hard work is worth it when you’ve ascended the 875-metre summit. You’ll be greeted with spectacular views and a likely encounter with the famous providence petrels that appear to fall from the sky. Note that the trek must be booked in advance and completed with a licenced guide. Head to Sea to Summit Expeditions or Lord Howe Environmental Tours for more information.
There are plenty of options for those less experienced hikers still wanting some time outdoors. The island’s walking trails snake through forests and along coastlines, with some of the more popular trails including:
- Transit Hill – easy, 1.2km one-way
- Max Nichols Memorial Track to North Bay – moderate; 1.5km one-way
- Old Gulch – easy; 300m one-way
- Malabar Hill to Dawsons Point Ridge – moderate, 1.5km one-way
- Goat House Cave – difficult; 2.1km one-way
- Intermediate Hill – moderate; 1km one-way
- Little Island – easy; 3km return
The 14km, 8-10hr return trek of Mount Gower is considered one of the best - and most challenging - day walks in Australia.
The awesome panoramic views from the top make every step worthwhile.
2. Day Trip To Ball's Pyramid
Ball’s Pyramid is the world’s largest volcanic sea stack. Standing 551 metres in height and jutting out of the ocean approximately 23 kilometres south-east of the island, it is a diver’s mecca, being home to an incredibly diverse and dense array of marine life (more than 90 species of coral and 500 species of fish have been identified in the area). Weather permitting, take a day trip to see the huge schools of Violet Sweep, Rainbow Runners and Amberjack below the surface, but for the more adventurous, suit up in some scuba gear and check out the trenches, caves, and drop-offs to find marlin, dolphin, turtles and Wahoo. You may also be lucky enough to see some rare species such as Spanish Dancers and Galapagos Whalers. One of around 60 dive sites in the marine park, it is sure to amaze and delight. Mountain Designs Fun Fact: Company founder Rick White was the first person to complete a solo ascent of Ball’s Pyramid. He completed the climb in 1979, unroped and in approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. Recreational climbing on the site is now prohibited. Visit Pro Dive Lord Howe Island, Reef N Beyond Eco Tours, or Sea Lord Howe for more information.
Glass-bottomed boat tours are the best way to get to Ball's Pyramid, offering an amazing look into the incredibly diverse marine life below.
Company founder Rick White posing during his solo ascent up the 875-metre monolithic sea stack in 1979.
3. Ned's Beach To Hand-Feed Fish
One of the island’s highlights is hand-feeding the masses of sand mullet, kingfish and brightly-coloured wrasse that congregate at Ned’s Beach. There’s a coin-fed fish food dispenser so bring some gold coins along. This pristine spot also showcases the amazing diversity of coral, fish and other marine life found in the area, so snorkelling is hugely popular here too. There is equipment available to ‘hire’ with a small contribution to the honesty box, and it is common to see turtles and Galapagos whalers amongst the sea life. The calm waters of the lagoon make conditions perfect for a variety of other water sports too – paddle boarding, kayaking and kite-surfing to name a few. Whatever your kick, it is impossible to visit Lord Howe Island without being drawn to the sparkling waters that lap the white sands of the shoreline.
Hand-feeding swarms of fish is a tradition down at Ned's Beach.
The range of water sports at Lord Howe Island is second-to-none.
4. Snorkelling At Erscott's Hole
There are heaps of great dive sites around Lord Howe Island but if you don’t want to go all out with the scuba gear, grab your snorkel and head to Erscott’s Hole. Just a five-minute boat ride inside the lagoon, a garden of Staghorn coral plays home to large numbers of Bluefish, Doubleheader Wrasse, Spangled Emperors and Neon Damsels. You may also see some rare species such as the Coleman’s Pigmy Seahorse, Foster’s Hawkfish, Spotted Snake Eel and Beaked Leatherjacket. Beautiful crystal-clear waters make this site an underwater photographer’s dream. Glass-bottomed boat tours provide another unique way to experience the marine life within the lagoon. Visit Islander Cruises, Lord Howe Environmental Tours or Marine Adventures for more information.
Sparkling blue waters and over 500 species of fish make the island a snorkelling paradise.
5. Cycling The Island
Often the best way to immerse yourself in a new location is to get around on foot or by two wheels. This holds true for Lord Howe Island, where taking in the flourishing green rainforests and awe-inspiring blue coastlines is best done on a bike. And with only 13km of road - and given that the island spans just 11km in length and 2.8km in width - it makes perfect sense that the main mode of transport is cycling. Visit Wilson's Bike Hire for more information.
Bikes are the primary mode of transport on Lord Howe Island so saddle up and get exploring.
Lord Howe Island is one of Australia’s best-kept secrets for birdwatching, being home to approximately 200 recorded land and sea bird species. Check out the Lord Howe Island Nature Calendar for specifics, but as a starting point, you will see red-tailed tropicbirds, shearwaters, sooty terns and masked boobies at various times throughout the year. Make the journey to the top of Mount Gower from March to September and you’ll have the providence petrel responding to loud bird-calling by landing at your feet. Also keep a look out for the endemic woodhen, a species that was on the brink of extinction but due to a sustained conservation effort has since been re-established. While you’re at it, there are approximately 240 species of indigenous plants (of which around 47% can’t be found elsewhere in the world), and more than 1,600 terrestrial insects (around 60% found nowhere else in the world).
7. LHI Museum
Learn about the rich history of the island at the Lord Howe Island Museum. With an interesting collection of archives, photographs and records, you can find out more on the discovery of the island in 1788 by the HMS Supply, early settlement, conservation programs, and of course the incredible bird, marine and plant life. The Lord Howe Island Visitor Centre is in the museum foyer and provides information you may need on accommodation, activities and events, and you can also check out the Coral Café and Gift Shop. Open weekdays from 9am to 3pm, and weekends from 10am to 2pm.
8. Sunrise & Surf At Blinky Beach
There are a number of beach and reef breaks on the island that serve up some quality waves but Blinky Beach may be the pick. Located on the island's east side and locally dubbed 'Champagne Surf', when the conditions are right, it is the most popular place to catch a ride. Blinky Beach is also a magnificent spot to take in a sunrise or enjoy a relaxing picnic, with white sands and turquoise waters adding to the picturesque vista.
9. Dining Options
Lord Howe Island offers some impressive dining cuisine amongst its culinary options. Some of the favourite places for a meal include:
- Coral Café, located at the LHI Museum and fully licensed, so you can enjoy a glass of wine or a beer with your meal in a peaceful, relaxed atmosphere;
- Arajilla Restaurant, set amongst the forest and surrounded by timber decks, for international-style cuisine with a seafood emphasis;
- Anchorage, the only restaurant on the island open every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner with an ever-changing menu of modern Australian fare;
- Capella Lodge Restaurant & Bar, for a Pacific-themed menu that changes daily with the seasons, and spectacular views up to Mount Gower;
- Pinetrees, for exceptional home-style cooking with locally-sourced produce;
- Sunset Bar & Grill, at the Lord Howe Island Golf Club, for dinner and drinks after a casual 18 holes; and
- Beach House on the Moon Restaurant, Milky Way’s licensed venue that is open two nights a week and offers a famous fish fry buffet.
Make sure you check dining regulations at each venue, as some are only available for in-house guests, and at certain times on certain days of the week. For something outside in nature that is always available to you, why not pack a picnic and head to one of the communal BBQ locations for a beachfront BBQ? The locals ensure each BBQ is stacked with wood every day so you’re ready to go.
There are plenty of dining options to choose from, including beachfront BBQs for a sunset dinner amongst nature.
10. LHI Summer Festival
If you get your timing right, head over to Lord Howe Island during the height of summer for their annual Summer Festival. Hosted at Pinetrees, it includes activities such as cooking classes, wine tastings and live music. If you want some adventure, test yourself in the annual Five Peaks Adventure Race or the Pinetrees Pentathlon. Lasting a week, the Summer Festival is a great way to celebrate summer.
Keep An Eye Out For...
The shed at Ned’s Beach. Located on the beach, you'll find masks, fins and snorkels that you can ‘hire’ for a spot of snorkelling. Just be sure to leave some money in the honesty box.
The local flora and fauna. Some of the animals and plants on Lord Howe Island can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Keep your eyes peeled for the Lord Howe Island woodhen, an endemic bird that narrowly avoided extinction some years ago. Another spectacular resident is the Lord Howe Island phasmid, a large stick insect also thought to be extinct, but rediscovered in recent years on Ball’s Pyramid. A breeding program at Taronga Zoo is underway to help re-establish their numbers.