Lord Howe is the kind of place that makes you believe in love at first sight. Flying in over the blue Pacific from Sydney or Brisbane (flight time: about two hours), there it suddenly is, in all its natural glory. The twin peaks of Mt Lidgbird and Mt Gower, real mountains that dominate the island’s southern skyline. Isolated northern beaches accessible only by sea or on foot and inhabited by hundreds of thousands of seabirds. Surf beaches and quiet coves. There’s even a long turquoise lagoon that wouldn’t look out of place in Fiji, encircled by the most southerly coral reef in the world.
Even David Attenborough was so smitten when he visited that he described Lord Howe as “so extraordinary it is almost unbelievable” and said, “Few islands, surely, can be so accessible, so remarkable, yet so unspoilt.”
Just 600km east of Australia, this World Heritage-listed island group is the tip of an extinct marine volcano and an adventure playground for nature-lovers. Snorkel and swim in gin-clear water with tropical fish and corals (the diving here is superb with marine life protected by Lord Howe Island Marine Park), sea kayak or stand-up paddle to seabird colonies on rocky outcrops, go birdwatching on pristine beaches, walk in ancient rainforest and to secret rock pools and up those mountains – climbing the 875m Mt Gower is one of the most challenging day walks in Australia. Best of all, you’ll barely see another soul.
The island is home to just 350 people and has only 400 visitor beds – in about a dozen low-key lodges – so even at peak holiday times it’s uncrowded. There’s no crime either: no room keys, no bike locks, and it’s perfectly safe for children to roam unsupervised and for you to leave your belongings on the beach while you swim or sea kayak. (Island children even attend the local school barefoot; it’s allowed under NSW law, just on Lord Howe.)
Oh, and you can leave your devices at home, or in your suitcase, because there’s no WiFi or mobile reception. It’s a barefoot-and-bicycle kind of place, one that takes you back to simpler, more carefree times and where the modern world seems far, far away. The kind of place that, once you’ve found it, lives in your heart and calls you to return – and just maybe you will.
Start with these Lord Howe Itineraries
Lord Howe for Ocean-Lovers … A week of swimming, kayaking and snorkelling in the Marine Park
Lord Howe Island’s Top Experiences … 10 ways to maximise your nature-time on this World Heritage-listed island
Lord Howe Island is beautiful to visit any time of the year. Sea breezes keep the summers from being too hot, and warm ocean currents make the winters mild.
The most popular time to visit is September to June and although it never gets crowded – thanks to few flights and limited visitor accommodation – summer is the island’s peak period, particularly during NSW and Queensland school holidays, which run from late December to late January.
The most peaceful time to go is winter, while autumn (March-May) is ideal for water-based activities because the sea is at its warmest (up to 24 degrees Celsius). Daytime maximum temperatures range from about 19C in winter to 25C in summer.
Being an island, Lord Howe has a maritime climate, meaning that its weather tends to be less predictable than that on the mainland.
So when you’re packing, make sure to look at the weather forecast for the island and not just for mainland NSW, and always bring a warm top and raincoat as well as a hat, sunglasses and your swimming costume. Oh, and a daypack and comfortable walking shoes.
One of the best things about Lord Howe is that it takes you back to a simpler, less complicated time, so you can leave your devices at home, or in your suitcase. There’s no WiFi or mobile phone reception anyway (although you can get online at the Lord Howe Island Museum and there are a few public phones on the island) and most lodges have no television. If you’re hungry for news, you might find yesterday’s newspaper brought on the daily flight from the mainland. There’s also the local paper, the Lord Howe Island Signal, published fortnightly.
Otherwise enjoy the chance to disconnect from the 21st century and reconnect with nature, yourself and those around you.
Being part of New South Wales, Lord Howe observes all the main Australian public holidays, including:
January 1: New Year’s Day
January 26: Australia Day
March/April: Good Friday and Easter Monday
April 25: Anzac Day
June (second Monday): Queen’s Birthday
December 25: Christmas Day
December 26: Boxing Day
On these days, shops, banks, post offices and liquor outlets may be closed, or open for limited hours.
Lord Howe also commemorates its discovery by the First Fleet in 1788 on 17 February every year, when there are celebrations all over the island, but it’s not a public holiday.
Each state and territory also has additional holidays.
Lord Howe Island is part of New South Wales, but doesn’t exactly have the same time zone. That is, it does in summer when both Lord Howe and mainland NSW have Daylight Saving Time (usually between October and April).
The rest of the year, Lord Howe Island is 30 minutes ahead of mainland NSW – that is, the sun sets 30 minutes later on Lord Howe, which adds to the holiday vibe.
To check the current local time there, click here.
For Australia in general: Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) covers New South Wales (except Lord Howe Island), Victoria, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Tasmania. Central Standard Time (CST) is used in the Northern Territory and South Australia, and Western Standard Time (WST) is the standard in Western Australia. So when it’s noon in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, the ACT and Tasmania, it’s 11:30am in South Australia and the Northern Territory, and 10am in Western Australia.
All states except Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia observe Daylight Saving Time (DST) during spring and summer, typically between October and April.
Daylight Saving Time begins at 2AM on the first Sunday in October when clocks are advanced one hour. It ends on the first Sunday in April at 2AM, when clocks shift back one hour to standard time.
Note: Not all states switch over to daylight saving on the same day or in the same week, so it pays to check if you are travelling at these times.
Lord Howe is not like other holiday islands. There are no resorts, nightclubs, backpacker bars or sun lounges on the beach. Nature is the main event, with creature comforts provided to ensure you eat and sleep well after a day in the outdoors.
Things to know before you go:
– It’s a good idea to book your flights as far in advance as possible and BEFORE you confirm your accommodation. Flights to and from Lord Howe can be sold out months in advance because there are limited flights and the length of the island’s airstrip means that Qantaslink can operate only 36-seater Dash8 aircraft.
– You can’t arrive on the island without having booked your accommodation. Try to book as far in advance as possible. with only 400 visitor beds, to keep the island pristine, they can book out fast, particularly over summer (December-February).
– Lord Howe isn’t a budget destination. There are no campgrounds and there’s no backpacker accommodation. There are a few self-contained accommodation properties, but food at the island’s only supermarket, called the Co-op, tends to be expensive because it has to be shipped or flown in from mainland Australia, so cooking for yourself might not be much cheaper than dining out.
– Accommodation rates tend to be all-inclusive or at least include some meals, giving you the option of dining out some nights. Apart from that your only expenses will be a few tours and perhaps some souvenirs.
– You also won’t need a rental car. Bikes and walking are the best ways to get around on Lord Howe (see Transportation).
– Credit cards are widely accepted, and there’s a Commonwealth Bank of Australia branch on the island. There’s also an ATM, in the Lord Howe Island Bowling Club.
– Lord Howe isn’t just a tourist island. Real people live there. Supplies come by sea every fortnight, supplemented by the catch of the day (usually kingfish), kids go to school barefoot (it’s allowed under NSW law). Return the locals’ friendliness by waving at everyone (even your fellow tourists) as they walk, ride or drive by. It’s the Lord Howe way.
It’s always a good idea to have some idea of what you can expect to pay for various products and services in your destination.
The problem is that prices vary depending on when you travel, special offers and other factors, and we don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become out of date.
So to give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, we’ve indicated throughout this guide, particularly for Points of Interest mentioned, general price ranges you can expect. Following is the key to guide you.
Remember that all price ranges are quoted in Australian dollars. For more on exchange rates and currency, click here.
See & Do (Activities)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $20 per person
$$ => Tickets $21-70 per person
$$$ => Tickets $71 per person
$ => Rooms less than $200 for a double
$$ => Rooms $201-300 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $301 for a double
Eat (Cafes & restaurants)
$ => Up to $20 per meal or for an average main at dinner
$$ => $21-35 per meal or for an average main at dinner
$$$ => $36 per meal or for an average main at dinner
$ => Tickets less than $20 per person
$$ => Tickets $21-$50 per person
$$$ => Tickets $51 per person
Hopefully, your trip to Australia goes without a hitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?
Travel insurance policies can cover unexpected costs and help you when problems arise. The premium you pay is typically based on the cost of the trip, your destination and your age, among other factors.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation: About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Medical expenses: Whether you break a leg or need to be evacuated, your medical expenses are likely to be far more than you might pay at home. Air ambulances alone can cost $15,000 to $30,000.
Trip Interruption: For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Travel Delay: Insurance usually covers incidentals such as meals and accommodation while you wait to travel home.
Baggage: Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies offer policies that allow you to cancel your trip for any reason, but the premium is usually about 10% higher, or more.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip costs more than $4,000, it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are other factors to take into account. Standard medical and travel insurance is advisable for travel to Australia. Divers planning to dive the Great Barrier Reef or other Australian diving destinations should also ensure they have the appropriate insurance.
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework and shop around. The largest insurers in the US include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller, reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates such as Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight, which often underwritten by the above major players.
If you pay for your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with your bank to find out exactly what’s covered, as many of these policies offer “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.
Note: Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
For more information, visit the USTravel Insurance Association.
Australian dollars come in $1 and $2 coins and $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes.
Each note is a different colour so they are easy to tell apart, and they are made of plastic.
Other coins are 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents. The $1 and $2 coins are gold; the others are silver.
Prices sometimes end in a variant of 1 or 2 cents (for example, 52 cents or $1.78), a relic from the days before 1-cent and 2-cent pieces were phased out. In these cases, prices are rounded to the nearest 5 cents, so 52 cents rounds down to 50 cents and 78 cents rounds up to 80 cents.
For current exchange rates between Australian and US dollars, see XE Currency Converter.
Tipping is always appreciated, but is not widely practised or expected in Australia.
How much to tip? Around 10-15% or round up to the nearest $A10 in a restaurant. It’s common to round up to the nearest round figure for taxi rides, but it’s also okay to insist on every bit of change back.
Tipping hotel porters and housemaids is sometimes done, but no-one tips bar staff, barbers, massage therapists, spa employees or hairdressers.
Lord Howe Island is about 600km off the east coast of Australia and on roughly the same latitude as Port Macquarie (which is about four hours’ drive north of Sydney, to put this in perspective).
The only way to reach Lord Howe is by air*. Qantaslink, the only airline that flies there, has daily flights from Sydney, weekend flights from Brisbane and seasonal weekly flights from Port Macquarie (February-June and September-December).
It’s a good idea to book your flight as far in advance as possible; with no competition and small planes (36-seaters), airfares can be expensive.
There’s a baggage limit on all flights to and from Lord Howe: 14kg for checked baggage, 4kg for carry-on bags. Departing passengers are also weighed before boarding. Golf clubs and surfboards are taken on the same flight when possible, or on a later flight the same day or the next day.
*You can also get there by sea – if you have access to a vessel (a cargo ship visits the island every fortnight, but doesn’t carry passengers). Yachts often stop at Lord Howe – it takes about a week to sail there from Australia’s east coast – and sometimes there are yacht races to Lord Howe from Sydney and other ports on the east coast.
One of the joys of Lord Howe is that there are few cars – and there’s no need for one.
On arrival, you’ll be picked up at the small airport by your accommodation host. After that you’ll be walking or riding a bicycle everywhere you need to go. Bikes can be rented for $8 a day from Wilson’s Hire Service – ask at your lodge for directions. Don’t worry if you haven’t ridden a bike in a while; Lord Howe’s roads are quiet and the speed limit is 25kph. (Small cars can be rented if necessary – ask at your accommodation for rates and where to rent them.)
Some restaurants provide a complimentary drive-home service if you’ve had one too many glasses of fine wine with dinner to find your way back to your lodge on foot or by bike.
Riding the island’s quiet roads, you’ll soon notice a local custom: everyone waves at everyone else, whether you’re on foot, riding a bike or driving, and whether you’re a tourist or a local, which has the delightful effect of making you feel as if you’ve lived there all your life.
A word about bicycle helmets: Bike helmets are required by law in NSW, and there are stiff fines for cyclists who dare to ride with the wind in their hair – even on a little island in the South Pacific. Don’t take your chances; the island’s only police officer might be just around the corner…
Capella Lodge provides its guests with golf carts because it is situated a bit further from town than other properties, and at the top of a steep hill!