At first glance, it’s hard to believe that vibrant Norfolk Island could have a dark past. Yet during the 19th century, the now-peaceful Australian retreat was a convict colony, home to criminals who’d been banished into exile. Today, the archaeological remains of the penal colony have UNESCO World Heritage status and are revered for their historical significance. You can visit the settlement’s remains, an eerie yet beautiful collection that includes a jail, a cemetery, lumbar yard and salt house.
Restaurants in Norfolk Island
5 based on 671 reviews
Emily Bay is the only easily accessible beach on Norkolf Island. It has stunning white sand and the waters are several shades of blue and cyrstal clear. This is the spot were the early settlers landed and settled. The water was very refreshing. As you can see you can sometimes be the only one on the beach. There are reefs at the entry and to the south of the bay for snorkelling and a pontoon in the middle of the bay to swim out to to sit and relax or dive from. My favourite spot on Norfolk Island.
5 based on 200 reviews
No trip to Norfolk is complete without at least a day spent in Kingston, the most feared penal colony of the British Empire and the second oldest town in Australia. Even if you don’t visit the museums it’s worth going to imbibe the history and for the spectacular views and stunning Beaches (some of the southernmost reefs in Australia and hence sandy despite the island being volcanic).
The UNESCO World Heritage Kingston features a number of ruins, restored buildings, museums and a fascinating cemetery (the oldest headstones are located closest to the sea and are well worth investigating). Like Port Arthur in Tasmania, the surroundings are picturesque and belie the horrors that were endured here.
Options include self-guided or guided tours; paying for each museum separately (A$10 per adult per museum) or buying (at the visitor centre in Burnt Pine or on site) the multi-day pass at A$25 per adult which enables you to enter all four museums (the research centre is an extra A$5) as often as you like for as long as you are on the island. In addition, two guided tours are offered on alternate days, both starting at 9.30 and lasting just over an hour. One centres on the Mutineer on the Bounty and wreck of the Sirius and the other on the island’s convict history. They are well worth attending, but if you miss them, then the various museums offer plenty of additional information, from exhibits to films.
All the members of staff were knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. Many thanks to our lovely lady (whose name I unfortunately never learnt) for helping to fill in the gaps and offering an impromptu mini tour when we missed the convict tour.
Tip: Stop at Queen Elizabeth’s Lookout for the best vistas over Kingston and Phillip Island beyond. Take your swimming and snorkelling gear and cool off at Emily’s Bay (picturesque and shark-free) afterwards. Don’t forget to visit the cemetery whose headstones date back to settler time and offer an insight into life and death in those days.
4.5 based on 543 reviews
Completed in 1880 and built as a memorial to Bishop Patteson killed by Solomon Island natives some nine years earlier, this Mission church is definitely worth a stop. Whether religious or not, you are bound to appreciate the history, beauty and peacefulness of the place. There’s also a weekly service held on Sunday mornings at 8.30.
We visited St Barnabas as part of an excellent half day tour with Pinetree. Our guide, Max, a fount of local knowledge, explained that a Mission had operated here from 1867 to 1920, training thousands of students from all over the Pacific, after which it was moved to the Solomon Islands.
Saint Barnabas is somewhat ungainly from the outside and was marred by some scaffolding when we visited in mid February, but the setting is peaceful. Built from coarse local sandstone sourced from the old goal, the squat walls are topped with wood and although the original design incorporated a bell tower, the latter now stands on its own to one side.
Inside is much prettier. The stained glass windows are beautiful and delicate. Those in the apse, designed by Burne-Jones, depict Christ and the four evangelists while the large rose window above the door is from William Morris and is quite stunningly beautiful. The pews, arranged in choir fashion and intricately carved from kauri, set with mother-of-pearl, face each other across the black marble of the aisle which originates from Devonshire and has been polished smooth by many feet. At the entrance stands the imposing but delicate red and black marble font, facing the reredos, carved from black walnut at the opposite end. The 350 Willis pipe organ still plays faultlessly according to our guide. From the inside, the ceiling resembles the hull of a ship, which is not surprising as it was crafted by shipbuilders out of local Norfolk pine and kauri imported from New Zealand. It’s all the more impressive when you know it has been assembled without nails.
The chapel is never locked. Apart from donations, maintenance funds are raised from a number of items for sale, from bookmarks to CDs of hymns recorded in the chapel. Well worth chipping in to preserve such a special monument.
It’s located at the junction between Headstone Road and Douglas Drive, on the west side of the island not far from the airport runway.
5 based on 332 reviews
A lovely wind swept place with so much history. Graves from all of the settlements of the island. 1st settlement, 2nd settlement and Pitcairn settlers along with current islanders. Visit the grave of Colleen McCulloch.
4.5 based on 365 reviews
A fabulous place to spend a couple of hours soaking up the breathtaking views, ocean breezes and swooping birds. Toilets, generous parkings and a boardwalk are available. It’s worth walking down past the end of the boardwalk to the lookout (with seating) for the best views.
For the more energetically inclined, the Bridle Track starts shortly before the lookout and joins the network of paths within the National Park. As with all NP property, this one is beautifully maintained and the entrance is free.
Seabirds abound, including great frigatebirds, tropicbirds, terns, petrels and boobies.
Well worth the longish drive to the end of the Duncombe Bay Road for anyone interested in birds, walks and ocean views.
4.5 based on 650 reviews
This amazing 360° panoramic painting lets you discover how the world's most famous mutiny created the Norfolk Island community.
I had previously never experienced a cyclorama before, so I did not know what to expect. I ended up being pleasantly surprised. Being fully surrounded by art and sound effects made it an immersive experience. The paintings are incredibly well done with impeccable detail. Would recommend going when there are very few people, as I felt that my pace was dictated by the couples on either side of me and wished I could take it a little slower without feeling pressured. All in all, a very good experience for those interested in history, art, or a different type of tourist experience.
4.5 based on 125 reviews
We have been here often on our visits to Norfolk Island over the years & have many happy memories of barbecues with friends. Twenty-five years ago we walked down to the beach but not this time as old age has caught up with us!! So we just enjoyed the wonderful view from the cliff top.
4.5 based on 341 reviews
The eponymous access road is steep (but tarmacked and accessible by car), the summit isn’t that scenic (thanks to an unsightly antenna) and it’s not the highest point on Norfolk (Mount Bates beats it by a whole metre), but Mount Pitt is the best viewpoint on the island, though the views aren’t quite 360° thanks to the aforementioned antenna and the weather might not always cooperate. Definitely don’t go if conditions aren’t good as you won't see anything or want to sit at the picnic tables provided.
However Mount Pitt is located at the heart of the National Park, the entrance is free and there are a number of hikes you can do in the vicinity on which you will spot many endemic plants and birds. One such hike is the pleasant, easy 500m summit walk along a mostly grassy path which starts behind the antenna and leads to Norfolk’s highest peak, Mount Bates, where more views await, along with WWII remains. It’s a 30 minute leisurely walk there and back and well worth the effort. The track is beautifully maintained and annotated.
For the less mobile, Mount Pitt offers up a few parking spots, a pleasant lawned mound topped with a handful picnic tables (they seem to fill up fast), usually cooler and breezier (sometimes downright windy) conditions and uninterrupted views over the runway. I didn't spot any toilets and you'll need to bring your picnic with you as there most certainly aren't any dispensers.
Tip: time your trip to coincide with the arrival or departure of the Air New Zealand flight (it’s impressive) and hike to Mount Bates which is the highest point and much prettier and less crowded though the views aren’t as sweeping.
4.5 based on 228 reviews
Another lovely spot to stop and enjoy the scenic beauty of Norfolk Island. We took a picnic (or takeaway fish and chips would only be 10 minutes away). Enjoy.
5 based on 79 reviews
One of the best in town. Had amazing guides, one lady in particular, name unknown. The house, Gardens, history, truck ride. Don’t miss this one. Very highly recommended.
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