A Holiday on Earth

Lord Howe Island


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Lord Howe Island, located some 600km east of the Australian mainland at the same latitude as Port Macquarie, is the remnants of an ancient shield volcano that erupted from the seabed some seven million years ago. Wave action has eroded much of what was once above water, leaving only the crescent-shaped land mass comprising a ridge along the northern edge, the two peaks of Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower in the south and a narrow sandy isthmus joining the two.

Lord Howe Island has the world's most southerly coral reef, thanks to ocean currents carrying polyp embryos south-east from the Great Barrier Reef. The reef extends from Mount Eliza in the north to Mount Lidgbird in the south, creating a sheltered lagoon with numerous sandy beaches. On the eastern side of the island are ocean-facing beaches at Middle Beach and Blinky Beach, as well as the semi-sheltered north-facing Neds Beach.

Due to its isolation, the island has many unique plant and animal species. The Kentia palms are harvested for seeds and exported across the world. The Lord Howe woodhen, a small flightless bird, was almost driven to extinction by introduced pigs that found the chicks and eggs palatable, with the last remaining colony retreating to the top of Mount Gower, but the eradication of pigs, goats and, more recently, rats has seen their numbers swell and they've now repopulated most of the island. A large stick insect, the phasmid, was believed to have become extinct, but in 2001 live specimens were found on Balls Pyramid, a volcanic pinnacle 20 kilometres south of the island. With the successful eradication of rats in 2020, it's planned to release them back onto the main island.

The island's permanent population is about 400, with the number of visitors at any one time also limited to 400. The island has a public school where bare feet are the norm, as well as a hospital, police station, post office, bakery, museum and several general stores. With tourism the main industry, the island has 21 resorts ranging from luxury lodges to apartments and villas. Boat tours and guided climbs to the summit of Mount Gower are provided by several operators.

While there are a small number of motor vehicles available to hire, the dominant mode of transport on the island is bicycles, with a bike hire shop located opposite the lagoon. The speed limit on the island is 25 kilometres per hour.

The main access to the island is by air, using the small landing strip set diagonally across the central isthmus. There are several flights daily from Sydney as well as a weekly service from Port Macquarie, but the short runway limits aircraft size to small prop-driven planes.