World Heritage-listed LORD HOWE ISLAND is a kind of Australian Galapagos, and a favourite destination for ecotourists attracted by its rugged beauty. It is 700km northeast of Sydney, on the same latitude as Port Macquarie, and is technically a part of New South Wales, despite its distance from the mainland. Its nearest neighbour is Norfolk Island, 900km further northeast. Just 11km long and 2.8km across at its widest point, two-thirds of the crescent-shaped island is designated as Permanent Park Reserve. As you fly in, you’ll get a stunning view of the whole of the volcanic island: the towering summits of rainforest-clad Mount Gower (875m) and Mount Lidgbird (777m) at the southern end; the narrow centre with its idyllic lagoon and a coral reef extending about 6km along the west coast; and a group of tiny islets off the lower northern end of the island providing sanctuary for the prolific birdlife. Much of the surrounding waters and islands fall within Lord Howe’s protective marine park.

The emphasis here is on tranquillity and most of the four hundred visitors allowed at any one time are couples and families. Though it’s expensive to get to the island, once here you’ll find that cruises, activities and bike rental are all relatively affordable. The island’s climate is subtropical, with temperatures rising from a mild 19°C in winter to 26°C in the summer, and an annual rainfall of 1650mm. It’s cheaper to visit in the winter, though some places are closed.

Brief history

Lord Howe Island was discovered in 1788 by Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball (who named the island after the British admiral Richard Howe), commander of the First Fleet ship Supply, during a journey from Sydney to found a penal colony on Norfolk Island. The island wasn’t inhabited for another 55 years, however; the first settlers came in 1833, and others followed in the 1840s. In 1853 two white men arrived with three women from the Gilbert Islands in the central Pacific, and it is from this small group that many of Lord Howe’s present population are descended. In the 1840s and 1850s the island served as a stopover for whaling ships from the US and Britain, with as many as fifty ships a year passing through.

With the decline of whaling, economic salvation came in the form of the kentia palm, which was in demand as a house plant, making its seeds a lucrative export. Tourism later became the mainstay – Lord Howe was a popular cruise-ship stopover before World War II, and after the war it began to be visited by holiday-makers from Sydney, who came by seaplane.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Australia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

A Rough Guide to: visiting Australia's Great Barrier Reef

A Rough Guide to: visiting Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders – it’s the largest structure ever built by living things and is even visib…

25 Oct 2017 • Penny Walker insert_drive_file Article
The best aerial views in the world

The best aerial views in the world

Got a head for heights? If you're craving a new perspective on your travels, the best thing to do is get up high. From mountain-top panoramas to cityscapes, her…

17 Oct 2017 • Olivia Rawes camera_alt Gallery
Undiscovered Australia: 7 places to get off the tourist trail

Undiscovered Australia: 7 places to get off the tourist trail

Australia is a vast country, though most visitors stay on the same tried and tested track, ticking off well-touristed pitstops along the way. But, of course, …

07 Aug 2017 • Helen Ochyra insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook