Norfolk Island

Travel Guide Oceania Melanesia Norfolk Island



Norfolk Island is a pristine island, populated by not only the descendants of the "Bounty" mutineers who left the Pitcairn Islands for more space, as well as Australians (35%) and New Zealanders (30%) and is a great destination for visitors to unwind.

Although getting to Norfolk Island is not cheap, expenses on the island are minimal and visitors to Norfolk Island will enjoy a tranquillity and peace that only this level of isolation can provide. Activities on the island include bush walking, mountain biking, golf, scuba diving and low-tax shopping.



Brief History

The first European known to have sighted the island was Captain James Cook, in 1774, on his second voyage to the South Pacific on HMS Resolution. He named it after the Duchess of Norfolk, wife of Edward Howard, 9th Duke of Norfolk (1685-1777). The Duchess was dead at the time of the island's sighting by Cook, but Cook had set out from England in 1772 and could not have known of her May 1773 death. In 1786 the British Government included Norfolk Island as an auxiliary settlement, as proposed by John Call, in its plan for colonization of New South Wales. During the 18th and 19th century, it was used as a penal settlement just like Australia before. Norfolk Island has the unenviable history in these first two settlements of Norfolk Island: featuring the most cruel and harsh punishment inflicted on Convicts in early Australia history.
On 8 June 1856, the next settlement began on Norfolk Island. These were the descendants of Tahitians and the Bounty mutineers, resettled from the Pitcairn Islands, which had become too small for their growing population. The British government had permitted the transfer of the Pitcairners to Norfolk, which was thus established as a colony separate from New South Wales but under the administration of that colony's governor. They left Pitcairn Islands on 3 May 1856 and arrived with 194 persons on 8 June, and were given land grants representing about a third of the land avialable on the Island at the time. Although some families decided to return to Pitcairn in 1858 and 1863, the island's population continued to slowly grow as the island accepted settlers, often arriving with whaling fleets. After the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, Norfolk Island was placed under the authority of the new Commonwealth government to be administered as an external territory. During World War II, the island became a key airbase and refuelling depot between Australia and New Zealand, and New Zealand and the Solomon Islands. In the late 1960's a mini-invasion by British ex-pats followed after the island was featured on a BBC television documentary presented by Alan Whicker. Fifty families decided to emigrate from the United Kingdom to Norfolk Island as a result of the programme. In 1979, Norfolk was granted limited self-government by Australia, under which the island elects a government that runs most of the island's affairs. As such, residents of Norfolk Island are not represented in the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia, making them the only group of residents of an Australian state or territory not represented there.
As of the beginning of August 2014. it would seem that the local government is unable to fiscally manage the island affairs, and soon the Australian Federal Government will legislate to bring Norfolk Island under 'mainland' control and regulation.




Norfolk Island is located 1610 kilometres northeast of Sydney, Australia and 1,063 kilometres north-west of Auckland, New Zealand. It is a 8 by 5 kilometre volcanic outcrop totalling roughly 3,855 hectares. Two smaller uninhabited islands, Nepean and Phillip, lie to the south at a distance of 1 kilometre and 6 kilometres respectively. The island's highest point is Mount Bates (319 metres above sea level), located in the northwest quadrant of the island. The majority of the terrain is suitable for farming and other agricultural uses. Phillip Island, the second largest island of the territory, is located seven kilometres south of the main island. The coastline of Norfolk Island consists, to varying degrees, of cliff faces. A downward slope exists towards Slaughter Bay and Emily Bay, the site of the original colonial settlement of Kingston. There are no safe harbour facilities on Norfolk Island, with loading jetties existing at Kingston and Cascade Bay. All goods not domestically produced are brought in by ship, usually to Cascade Bay. Emily Bay, protected from the Pacific Ocean by a small coral reef, is the only safe area for recreational swimming, although surfing waves can be found at Anson and Ball Bays. The area surrounding Mount Bates is preserved as the Norfolk Island National Park. The park, covering around 10% of the land of the island, contains remnants of the forests which originally covered the island, including stands of subtropical rainforest. The park also includes the two smaller islands to the south of Norfolk Island, Nepean Island and Phillip Island. The vegetation of Phillip Island was devastated due to the introduction during the penal era of pest animals such as pigs and rabbits, giving it a red-brown colour as viewed from Norfolk; however, pest control and remediation work by park staff has recently brought some improvement to the Phillip Island environment.




  • Norfolk Island is the main island and by far the largest
  • Philip Island and Nepean Island are both outlying islands




  • Burnt Pine is the major settlement on Norfolk Island.
  • Kingston is the capital. Government House and other government buildings including the court are located there.



Sights and Activities

Diving and snorkelling

One of the best activities on Norfolk Island is diving. The waters around Norfolk and the smaller islands of Nepean and Philip offer over 30 world-class dive sites, offering caves, tunnels, chasms and chimneys with a wide variety of fish and marine algae. Visibility is at least 20 metres but usually more and the temperature of the water hoovers around 18 to 20 at least, more in summer. Snorkelling is popular at the reef near Emily and Slaughter Bays at low tide. There is abundance of fish, coral and sea life. In Emily Bay, you can also joing boat tours with glass-bottom boats.


Apart from the great nature and marine life there is actually som fascinating history which is very important to the local population. Prove of this you will find in its restored historic buildings, museums and cemeteries. Probably the most popular place and definately the highlight is the historic settlement of Kingston which was built by convicts from the second penal colony established on the island. Also the old cemetery at the eastern end of Quality Row is worth a visit.

Norfolk Island National Park and Botanic Gardens

The lovely Norfolk Island National Park and the adjacent Botanic Gardens offer some great walking trails. On the way, you will enjoy the fantastic views from the top of Mount Bates (321 metres) and Mount Pitt (320 metres). You can also visit the Museum of Natural History in this park. Much of the island can be explored on foot by walking one of many bush and coastal tracks which are all well signposted.

Other sights and activities

  • Fishing - great waters for fishing, but only when the tide and weather are both ok
  • Birdwatching - try spotting the rare Norfolk Island Green Parrot
  • Meet descendants of Pitcairn people - Much of the population are descendants of Fletcher Christian and the Bounty mutineers



Events and Festivals

Norfolk Island Country Music Festival

Fans say there’s a reason they keep coming back to Norfolk Island. The island is petite and the Country Music experience is up close and personal. Throughout the week there’s plenty of opportunity to mix and mingle with performers including a special platinum pass lunch with a performer hosting your table. The relaxed island vibe is nothing short of enchanting for fans and headliners alike.

Norfolk Island Ballroom Dancing Festival

The Norfolk Island Ballroom Dancing Committee and the Norfolk Island Travel Centre sponsor Ballroom Dancing instructors to travel to this small island in the middle of the South Pacific. Visitors travel far and wide from Australia and New Zealand to learn the latest dances from this year’s winning England Inventive Sequence Dances, no less. As serious as this all sounds the festival is strictly social. Dancers meet on Norfolk Island to enjoy a week of dancing and a holiday on beautiful Norfolk Island. Regular attendees catch up over a waltz and first time dancers are warmly welcomed.

Norfolk Island Food Festival

Norfolk Island is very fortunate in the fact that it doesn't take very long for our produce to leave the paddock and reach our plate! Come & experience the delights of fresh seasonal fruits & vegetables, fresh fish from our surrounding ocean and tasty local beef & pork. The Norfolk Island Food Festival - "Taste Norfolk Island" is set to showcase our talented local chefs and some of the freshest produce you are likely to experience. Savour the flavours from numerous food exhibits offering mouthwatering Norfolk Island creations. Mingle with the locals in the relaxed island atmosphere, enjoy live entertainment & cooking demonstrations.

Bounty Day

Anniversary (Bounty) Day on the 8th of June 2016 will mark the 160th anniversary of the arrival of the Pitcairn Islanders to Norfolk Island. The Pitcairners were of course, the descendants of the infamous English sailors of mutiny on the Bounty fame and the Tahitian women who, under their leader Fletcher Christian began a new life on isolated Pitcairn Island. After outgrowing tiny Pitcairn the community, made up of eight family groupings, relocated to Norfolk Island where their descendants live today. This is now their ‘National’ day and always a highlight for visitors who are always welcomed to take part. It offers a wonderful opportunity to absorb the Norf’k culture, embodied through the local language (a mix of Tahitian and old English), food, crafts and customs.




Norfolk's climate is subtropical with an average rainfall of 1,328 mm per year. Summer days range from 24 °C - 28 °C, with nights around 19 °C - 21 °C. In winter temperatures drop to around 19 °C during the day and 12 °C at night.



Getting There

By Plane

Norfolk Island Airport (IATA: NLK, ICAO: YSNF) is the only airport on Norfolk Island. Air New Zealand flies here several times a week from Auckland, Brisbane and Sydney. A $30 departure fee is payable at the airport on day of departure. Travel times are:

  • Sydney - Norfolk Island : 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Brisbane - Norfolk Island : 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Auckland - Norfolk Island : 1 hours 45 minutes
  • Newcastle - Norfolk Island : 2 hours 30 minutes

By Boat

Around 3 or 4 cruise ships per year call at Norfolk Island. The local shipping agent, Transam Argosy, lists details of cruise ships calling at Norfolk Island. All passengers are tendered ashore, weather permitting. If you are tendered into Kingston, and only have a few hours on the island, you shouldn't be in a rush to get to Burnt Pine - unless you are desperate for a good cappuccino. Kingston is the unique and picturesque part of the island. Spend your time walking along the cost to Emily Bay and the Cemetery. Call into the Golf Club, and give the queues for the shuttle bus a miss.

There is no regular passenger service to Norfolk Island by sea, but there is a regular freighter service for goods, etc.



Getting Around

There is no public transport system on Norfolk Island. The hilly terrain and distance between attractions makes getting around on foot impractical for most visitors. Independent travellers tend to hire a car. There are a variety of tours available daily.

It costs about $45 a day to hire a car, $20 a day for a scooter and A$15 a day for a bicycle. It is usual, when booking accommodation or a package that a hire car can be included in the tariff. Basic insurance is sometimes included, but excess reduction, petrol and additional drivers can be extra. You can pick up a car from the tourist information for a single day for $90 with insurance and petrol all included - if you just feel like a day-trip around the island.

Driving is on the left, with a speed limit outside Burnt Pine of 50 km/h and inside Burnt Pine of 40 km/h (30 km/h in the school zone). When driving outside of the town, remember that cows and other animals have right of way. Also remember to watch out for the "Norfolk Wave", a wave (ranging from a raised index finger off the steering wheel through to an enthusiastic movement of the arm) used by all locals to greet all passing traffic and pedestrians.

Like everything on the island, planning ahead is a good idea. If they aren't expecting any business you can find the car hire places reducing their already short trading hours.

  • Eldoo Hire Cars, Taylors Road, ☎ +672-324355, e-mail: [email protected].
  • Aloha Rent-a-Car, New Cascade Road, ☎ +672-322510.

There are two taxi services operating on the island. Call Andrew on 50485 or Phil on 50371.

You can also hire bicycles, but you'd want to like hill-climbing.



Red Tape

Norfolk Island is an external Australian territory. So, you must meet the visa requirements for Australia to visit. Travel between mainland Australia and Norfolk Island is domestic travel, but flights leave from the International Terminals in Sydney and Brisbane.

Because you're travelling through the International terminal, you will need to allow longer to pass through immigration and customs and you will need a passport or other photo identification. You can't use the automatic gates and you'll need to queue to see a person. If you have a passport, it's probably easiest to take it with you. If you don't then make sure you have suitable government issued photo identification.

You are entitled to duty free goods in line with your normal Australia allowances. Typically duty free liquor is cheaper on Norfolk than in Sydney or Brisbane. If you want to take advantage of duty free allowances you will need a passport.

There are quarantine restrictions on the movement of many items of food, including meat and fresh fruit, between the island and the mainland. The restrictions are not the same in both directions.




See also Money Matters

Norfolk Island uses the Australian Dollar (AUD). Australian Dollar notes come in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 and coins come in 5¢, 10¢, 20¢, 50¢, $1 and $2.

There are two ATMs on Norfolk Island.




It is relatively easy to live and work on Norfolk Island, although you do have to adhere to some strict entry guidelines.




The official language of Norfolk Island is English and all the islanders speak it. However, among themselves they often use Norfolk, a language derived from the English spoken by the Bounty Mutineers and the Tahitian spoken by their wives. Norfolk is not readily comprehensible by speakers of any variety of English, including Australian English.




Norfolk Island, unsurprisingly, is famous for its seafood, which is generally caught fresh by most of the restaurants on the island. The local trumpeter is a particular delicacy.

There is a wide range of other food available on the island, including both Italian and Chinese cuisine with plans afoot for an Indian restaurant to open shortly.

Local specialities also exist and are generally based on traditional Polynesian dishes. While some of these are served in the restaurants, tourists are often recommended to try a local progressive dinner at the homes of various islanders in order to experience most of these dishes.

Restaurant bookings can be made by telephone or by writing your name in the book generally located at the front door of the establishment.

Be aware that most restaurants are closed at least one night per week.




Apartments and Villas

Guest Houses





  • Cascade Soft Drinks and the Norfolk Island Distillery - Norfolk Island produces some fantastic soft drinks incorporating natural products. In the days where most soft drinks made around the world use 'nature identical' concentrates, Cascade Soft Drinks uses the real thing, from recipes inherited over 70 years old. Visit the local distillery, where you can sample some world class liqueurs (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 2:00-5:00pm) made on the premises. Address: 66 Cascade Road, Norfolk Island




See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Norfolk Island. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Norfolk Island) where that disease is widely prevalent.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Norfolk Island. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid. Vaccination against hepatitis B is also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccinations, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.




See also Travel Safety

Crime on Norfolk Island is very low and many islanders leave their houses and cars unlocked. Still, crime is not unheard off but usually is nothing more than petty theft.

Emily Bay, located near Kingston, is the only safe location to swim on Norfolk as it is protected by a natural coral reef. All other bays are unpatrolled and have unpredictable conditions. A Norfolk tradition is that of the "Seventh Wave", the unpredictable rising in wave height which can sweep unwary swimmers out to sea.



Keep Connected


There are 2 internet cafés in Taylors Road and wireless broadband is now available across large portions of the island.


See also International Telephone Calls


Quick Facts

Norfolk Island flag

Map of Norfolk Island


Territory under the authority of Australia
Christianity (Protestant, Catholic)
English, Pitcairn-Norfolk
Calling Code
Local name
Norfolk Island


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This is version 39. Last edited at 11:55 on May 8, 19 by Utrecht. 11 articles link to this page.

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