Travel Writing – Norfolk Island, Australia
Norfolk Island, Australia – May 2015
Norfolk is quite the quirky island with fascinating history, beautiful scenery and seaside adventures to discover. Vacant historical buildings from the original penal colony settlement circa 1788 still exist in Kingston — and give the island a bit of a spooky vibe. But the dramatic cliffs above the turquoise water and the rolling green, bucolic hills make up for the spook with beauty and charm.
After two waves of British prisoners settled and then vacated the island, a group of mutineers from the HMS Bounty came over from Pitcairn Island around the turn of the century. You can still sense their presence on the island with the family surnames of Christian, Quintal, Buffet and Warren. Their 18th Century Old English mixed with Tahitian dialect is still spoken and taught in the school. Close to half of the current 1,200 Norfolk Island inhabitants are mutineer descendants.
We stayed in cute, modest villas overlooking a valley and the Pacific Ocean, with Kingston below in the distance. While hard to find without our trusty map, the views are worthy and we could walk down the hill to a beach straight off the balcony stairs. Most of the restaurants on the island are set in homes of locals and serve freshly caught fish. The thin phonebook has islanders phone numbers alphabetized by their nicknames, or in their speak, “Faasfain ‘Salan Bai Dems Nikniem”. Cows rule the right of way on the country roads and drivers give one another a friendly wave as they pass. Veering from the Tourism Board’s itinerary, we stumbled across Bedrock, an al fresco restaurant set high above the ocean on a ragged cliff’s edge with a stunning view — a unique spot to dine and sip spirits.
As the seas and winds were rough, scheduled kayak and boat trip to hike around nearby Philip Island was cancelled. Still seeking adventure, we connected with some locals on the scenic walk around the western tip of the island from the Captain Cook Memorial. They took us down a steep cliff hike with ropes to the ocean’s edge for a swim in a coral rock pool they call “The Chord.” A few kayaks are stored on the shore for anyone to use, so we did. We also swam with a turtle as small fish nibbled at our toes and waves crashed over the rocks into the calm pool. As we dried off on the rocks after swimming, our new islander friends shared some locally grown mandarin oranges and small, flavorful bananas. A whale spouted in the distance and a rainbow appeared on the water’s horizon to perfect our spontaneous afternoon adventure.
After our swim and hike, we met the goats at our friends’ nearby farm and encouraged them in their plans to produce goat cheese and organize ‘farm to table’ style dinners on their property. Along with locally produced cheeses from the Christian Brothers and Norfolk Blue signature beef from the island, we sampled homemade guava jam on our scones in the garden at The Tea Pot, the self proclaimed “best cup of tea on the island.” We also sipped locally grown coffee in our flat whites at the town’s local book shop-café.
The nightlife on a Saturday in Norfolk consisted of mixed drinks in the one bar on the island — Mini Bar, and live country music at The Return Service League. We opted to embrace the idyllic rural life and go to bed early in favor of a sunrise swim in the clear, calm, turquoise water at Emily Bay in Kingston the next morning. Adjacent to the bay, we knocked out a round of golf on the nine-hole course set between the sea and the historic island graveyard as our last activity before departing the sweet and scenic little island of Norfolk.