Despite my inclination for home and hearth occasionally I must hoist myself out of the lounge and into the big wide world to give my children experiences beyond their small hometown and away from the digital activities that seem to control their free-time.
Lord Howe is a spectacularly beautiful island, off the mainland of Australia. It’s one of only four island groups in the world possessing World Heritage status and is packed with rare plants, birdlife and marine creatures.
Our Lord Howe Island adventure occurred a few years ago now, but it is one the children still speak about with great fondness.
There are only 370 residents on the island, and at any one time there is a maximum of 400 visitors. The island itself is only 10 km long and 2 km wide yet there is so much to do in that space.
The typical mode of transport is bicycle. It’s been many, many years since my bum graced the seat of a bicycle and even the lady at the bike hire shop was looking concerned as I made a shakey getaway down the drive. I seriously thought I was going to die as I gained speed going downhill, but KNEW I was gasping for my last breaths on the uphill run.
Nevertheless I persisted, my children took embarrassing photos (which you won’t see here) and maybe I was even a little bit fitter at the end of our seven day stay.
One of our first stops was Ned’s Beach. Here hungry mullet, wrasse, garfish, silver drummer and metre-long kingfish swim up to you to be fed. They tickle your feet as they nibble on the bread you are madly throwing into the sea.
Lord Howe’s lagoon is protected by the world’s southern most coral reef. We took a turtle watching tour to the reef in a glass bottomed boat. It’s an amazing experience watching these giant creatures slowly moving through the ocean, while brilliantly coloured fish flit between the coral. The area is a protected Marine Park and home to 500 species of fish and 90 different forms of coral.
We were able to go snorkelling which my family enjoyed. Me, not so much, the weather wasn’t perfect, a bit rainy and windy, I took ages to squeeze into a wetsuit, get fitted out with flippers, mask and snorkel, lumbered into the sea, got bashed against the side of the boat, swam to the back and reboarded, a total of about 3 minutes actually in the water. I warned you about my lack of adventurous spirit.
I didn’t think we were going to be able to get Hippie Child back to the boat, she disappeared out to sea, happily bobbing up and down. Taking shots with her new underwater camera she realised she had lost her family but figured snorkeling was too much fun too worry about the old fogies.
We also spent a day at Old Gulch catching a boat ride to a magnificent spot where we swam on a deserted beach, bushwalked and enjoyed a picnic lunch. The rocky scenery here was mindblowing.
There is plenty to do for the active holiday maker – surfing, scuba diving, windsurfing. My husband and daughters hired a kayak and paddled from the main part of the island to Old Settlement Beach. I followed, with the assortment of accessories a family of four requires for a day at the beach, on my bicycle, with which we have already determined I had a love/hate relationship. By the time I got to the beach the family was on a pontoon some distance from the shore. I’d cycled, lugged all the paraphenalia onto the sand and now stood exhausted, wondering how the hell I was now going to swim out to them. It was my own personal triathalon. (Husband says I must explain here that I have a tendency to exaggeration and my idea of long way/difficult task must be countered with the knowledge that I do NOTHING of a physical nature EVER).
However, as I stood deflated on the beach I was to experience the most magical moment of the entire holiday. A green sea turtle, sensing my unhappiness, swam up and spent the next thirty minutes peacefully swimming around me. It was calm and surreal. I tried to silently signal to the family to come in, they thought I was drowning, although didn’t seem in too much of rush to rescue me, but when they did get there the girls too were thrilled at the chance to swim with a turtle. For my birthday that year Hippie Child bought me a necklace with a little silver turtle on it to remember our special holiday highlight.
There is so much to do, seven days were not nearly enough to enjoy all the natural attractions. There are countless bushwalks to take including a trek up Mt Gower. This is an iconic peak at the southern end of Lord Howe Island, rising 875m from sea level. The walk is around 14km return and takes about 8.5 hours to complete, so you need to be in good health but given it’s one of the top 20 day walks in Australia I am told it is well worth the effort. Yes, you guessed it I didn’t actually do it.
On one bushwalk my husband and Hippie Child had a great time exploring the giant Banyan trees which dominate the island. These huge plants tower over humans and create an intricate link of roots and branches winding in and out of nearby foliage.
The trip provided an old-fashioned style break, riding bikes, jumping off jetties, swimming, far removed from the theme parks, and computer generated activities that so often draw the attention of families. We dream about returning.