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The Last Paradise

Lord Howe Island

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The inhabitants of Lord Howe Island are fond of calling it ‘the last paradise’. Whether or not it’s the last one is open to debate, but a paradise it certainly is. Lying in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, this tiny island – about eight miles long by a mile wide – has a lot going for it. It is free of pollution, the population is tiny and it enjoys an abundance of natural wonders.

The island is sometimes visited by cruise ships plying the routes between the Australian coastal cities and New Zealand. If you’re one of the lucky cruisers who visits the island, don’t expect to walk straight off your ship on to the quay side: the island does not have the port facilities or depth of water to handle modern cruise ships, so the chances are you’ll be ferried ashore by boat or helicopter. Only four hundred tourists are allowed on the island at any one time.

This may be awkward – and expensive – but it’s worth it. And once you get ashore there’s an astonishing range of things to do. For starters, hiking and mountain biking are very popular on the island, and particularly well catered for in terms of guides and hiring facilities. However, if time is a little short there are plenty of other options open to you. If you feel like some exercise, there’s a lot of scope for kayaking in the shallows immediately offshore. Lord Howe Island has the world’s most southerly coral reef, which wraps itself around the island to form a still and peaceful lagoon. What better place to learn your kayak rolls and rescues in the calm, warm waters of this tropical heaven? In a similar vein, great surfing is to be had on the waves of Blinkie Beach.

If full immersion is your thing, there are a number of fully qualified dive masters on the island who will take you exploring the reef and other areas of interest – there’s a whole network of underwater trenches, caves and volcanic drop offs to look around.

If you want to take to the waves without getting your head wet why not take a trip in a glass-bottomed boat? A journey over the reef allows you to inspect the beautiful coral formations and their exotic fishy inhabitants at close range. At shallow points (your captain will tell you) you can even hop over the side and wade around for yourself.

For those who like to watch rather than do, there’s a wealth of natural wonders here to observe. Lord Howe Island is one of the world’s premier bird watching destinations, and ‘twitchers’ come here from all over the world to admire the fourteen species of rare seabirds that inhabit the island and its shorelines. Inland you might be lucky enough to see a Lord Howe Woodhen – having evolved separate from the mainland of Australia, this is the only place in the world where they can be found!

If you like nature but you haven’t patience or knowledge to sit in a hedge waiting for a rare bird to come along, you can feed some fish. This may sound pretty dull, but in fact it’s anything but: visit Ned’s Beach to hand feed some of the beautiful Pelagic fish that arrive and congregate in the area every afternoon – to hop back aboard a glass bottomed boat and feed the coral fish. This is a great activity for kids who can’t get enough of Finding Nemo!

If you want to explore the less wet parts of the island, you can spend a day climbing Mount Gower – reputedly the best one day mountain hike in Australia. At just under three thousand feet, Gower is a stiff climb without being intimidating and huge. From the summit you can appreciate just how tiny Lord Howe Island really is – it seems entirely lost in the great sweep of the Tasman Sea, with neither Australia nor New Zealand even remotely visible on the distant horizon. If you’re going to take this hike, make sure you’ve hired one of the local guides – he or she will help you to hire the gear that you need. Walking on the mountain is generally safe, but the presence of a guide is considered essential for strangers to the island, as the peak drops off sharply on three sides. You wouldn’t want to take a wrong turning!

Getting to Lord Howe Island isn’t easy, and few cruise itineraries take it in. But if you get the chance, seize it: this really is one of the most beautiful, peaceful, remote and lovely places on the entire planet.

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