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Norfolk Island vs Lord Howe Island

An Island Holiday Comparison

Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island are both popular holiday destinations for Australians looking for a quick island getaway. They both tick many of the boxes – short flight time, no passport, stunning scenery, fresh air and a laid-back vibe – making it difficult to pick which destination to explore first.

In this article, we’ve outlined some of the key differences between the two islands, providing a comparison to help you decide where to travel on your next island escape.

Getting Around:

Being a pristine world heritage site, Lord Howe Island is all about walking and pedal power. Bicycles are the preferred method of transport, and car hire options are quite limited. Norfolk Island on the other hand, has very hilly terrain and if you want to explore all corners of the Island, you’ll definitely need to consider car hire.

Culture & History:

After being settled in 1788, Norfolk Island was used as a convict settlement until 1855, with a brief period of abandonment from 1814 to 1825. After Pitcairn Island became overpopulated, their population consisting of ancestors to the mutineers of HMS Bounty, relocated to Norfolk Island in 1856, shortly after the last convicts left the island. This rich history means that there are plenty of museums and historical sites to visit during your stay on Norfolk.

Lord Howe Island was also discovered in 1788 and from the 1790s to the 1870s, it was a major whaling station for British and American whaling vessels, who populated the island with cattle. In the early 1830s, Lord Howe Island was settled and by this time, many of the native birds had been hunted to extinction. Tourism slowly became Lord Howe Island’s major industry, and by 1974, an airstrip was placed on the island, boosting travel to the island.


Of course, the part you want to know most about: What are the beaches like? Fortunately, Norfolk and Lord Howe both offer some of the most amazing, pristine waters in the world. Norfolk Island is perfect for those who want to explore and find their own way. There are hidden coves, beaches and troves of nature everywhere you turn, with beaches for those seeking both adventure and relaxation. Among our favourites are Emily Bay and the secluded Anson Bay, both spectacular beaches suited to families and surfers, respectively.

Lord Howe Island also hosts a range of beautiful white sand beaches. We recommend Neds Beach for families and barbeques, as its calm waters host a beautiful array of different fish to feed, including Mullet, Kingfish, Emperor and Silver-Drummers. Blinky Beach is every surfer’s and kite-surfer’s dream and locals have dubbed the experience “Champagne Surf”. Or head to North Bay, a secluded beach accessible only by foot or water, where you can watch migratory seabirds and find dome amazing snorkelling exploring the wreck of the “Favourite”.

World Heritage Listing:

Norfolk Island plays host to the Kingston and Arthurs Vale Historic Area, a relic of Norfolk Island’s rich history as a penal colony, and also where the original settlers, mutineers from HMS Bounty lived after re-locating from Pitcairn Island in 1856. On this heritage site, there’s a plethora of leftover facilities from when convicts lived on the island, including the Norfolk Island Gaol.

The entirety of Lord Howe Island and its surrounding areas, including Balls Pyramid, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Due to this status, and in an attempt to maintain their rich array of flora and fauna, only 400 tourists are allowed on the island at any given time. 

Local Industry:

Norfolk Island has a lot of small businesses on the island, and you’ll definitely want to bring back some of their amazing liqueurs, honeys and cheeses once you’ve tried them. We recommend a visit to the Sunday morning markets located near the visitor centre to discover all of Norfolk’s amazing produce.  

Due to Lord Howe Island being a world heritage site, there’s not much that can be grown at a sustainable level. As such, while you’ll still be treated to amazing wining and dining everywhere you go, the majority of the food that you consume is actually flown in from New South Wales.

Getting There:

Norfolk Island is relatively easy to get to, with commercial jets departing Australia from the international terminal in Brisbane and Sydney. No passport is required when travelling direct from Australia, however, it is easier to be processed through customs if you do have one. Lord Howe Island is a domestic flight only but is a bit trickier to get to, and large parties should plan well in advance as flights are not as regular as those to Norfolk, and you’ll be flying in a small Dash-8 airplane. Similarly, Lord Howe Island has a maximum tourist population of 400 at any one time, so early bookings are essential.

Book Your Island Escape:

Check out our current package deals for Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island, inclusive of airfares and accommodation, and give us a call on 1800 800 722 if you’ve got any questions about the two islands or want help deciding which one best suits your interests and requirements.

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