The world is a big place, with over 200 countries, each of these countries made up of dozens of regions, and each of these regions made up of hundreds of destinations.
This means there’s an absolute surplus of places to experience, each vying for your attention. In such an environment a destination needs to convincingly distinguish itself to make the cut that you opt to experience in your lifetime.
That’s particularly true of any island 600 kilometres from the mainland of Australia. The distance involved, and the consequent logistical challenge in getting there, require a weighty counterbalance to tip the scales in the island’s favour.
Under such pressure, with its fate hanging in the balance, Lord Howe Island stays cool and composed – without succumbing to desperately pleading for attention, which would be very inner-city and not islander at all.
It can afford to stay calm. It carries enough weight as an outdoor mecca to not only outweigh the logistical hurdle, but to break the scales completely.
DISCONNECT TO RECONNECT
We’re emotional beings, and the real meaning and importance of an experience is in how it makes us feel. Lord Howe is a winner on this front, says Luke Hanson of Pinetrees Lodge.
Not just because of the events, fine-tuned for enjoyment and memory, that this lodge facilitates – it’s equally about simply being on the island, away from phone reception, digging the friendly island culture and connecting with people in a way most of us haven’t in a long time. So although, technically speaking, there could be WiFi, Pinetrees have decided to abandon it to enhance the experience further – a move prompted by popular demand.
“What we find on Lord Howe, because we don’t have any mobile phone service and because we don’t have any WiFi at the lodge, it just means people actually figure out, they remind themselves what it’s like to do stuff with other people and not have every second person at your table on a phone,” Luke says.
“And so all of a sudden they start doing, you know, adventurous things together and friendships come out of that. At the end of any of our adventure weeks that we do, there’s lots of hugs and kisses goodbye, and swapping of emails and phone numbers. It’s a different, old school way of interacting, but people forget just how good it is.”
The fact that bikes are the means of getting around helps too: “When you’re in the outdoors all day, you just kind of feel connected to the place – whereas if you get in the car, and shut the door, turn the air con on, turn the radio on, you’re kind of in this little bubble.”
Okay, so that’s what goes on on the island – you refocus on what’s important and engage with adventure among newly made friends. That’s a solid building block towards great experiences, but the setting you find yourself in is equally important. No problems there...
On Lord Howe, the eye first of all turns to the towering peaks jutting out of ocean. Initially it’s their suddenness that catches your eye, and then it’s their dense tree cover, and next – once your curiosity has driven you to hike up their ridges – it’s the vantage point they give you over the ocean below.
Looking down from these peaks, some of which rise more than 700 or 800 metres from the flat oceanic surrounds, you can see the turtles and the fish swimming with unusual clarity. Which turns a screw in your mind. Unlike some shorelines and surfaces, which signal a defined boundary to adventure, the shoreline of Lord Howe is a portal into another realm.
That’s what drove ocean photographer Jordan Robins there for 10 days in late January. He captured some radical pictures, which you can see at his website (jordanrobins.com.au) and on his Instagram (@jordan_robins).
A while ago, Jordan heard whispers of the island’s quality from family friends, before taking a family trip in 2018; on the back of that, there was no choice:
“I fell in love with it, and definitely had to book a trip back,” he says. “I think you can’t just go there once – you get hooked and you go again and again and again. You fall in love with the place.”
Entering the ocean was something else: “The marine life here is out of this world; it’s the southernmost reef in the entire world and you get this crazy mixture of all the tropical species and temperate species all sort of fused together as one. It was definitely the most healthy, vibrant coral that I’ve ever seen in my life.”
It’s open, any time, as well: “Basically, being an island, no matter what the swell or wind is doing, you’re always going to have somewhere that’s protected from the shore.”
Overall, Jordan was thrilled with the photographic potential of the island, and he captured a lot of classics during his 10 day stint. One, in particular, stood out for him, one that managed to capture the diversity of the settings you find yourself among on the island:
“My favourite shot [from this trip] is one that’s called ‘Mount Gower To The Sea’. It’s basically the over/under shot where you can see above and below the water, and it’s got Mount Gower and Mount Lidgbird in the top of the photo, and then below the water you’ve got the coral garden and a double headed wrasse.”
ISLAND VIBING IT
The scales lay broken in the dirt, but there’s a lot left in the bank; the culture, the mountains and the ocean only form the tip of the iceberg with Lord Howe. That’s despite the island being just over 10 kilometres long and two wide at most.
Ultimately, Lord Howe is proof that exploration doesn’t need to expand outwards, endlessly over grand distances, petering out in a range of shallow experiences. You can explore this place, inwards, in finer and finer detail – bringing about a depth of experience that, in 2019, is rather precious.
A FEW WAYS TO EXPERIENCE THE ISLAND WITH PINETREES
ALL-INCLUSIVE FIVE NIGHT PACKAGE
- Full breakfasts, lunches, afternoon teas and four course dinners
- Free coral viewing cruise
- Use of all lodge facilities and island airport transfers
- Five nights’ accommodation
SEVEN PEAKS WALK
- Five days guided walking through Lord Howe’s World Heritage wilderness, including the opportunity to explore off the beaten track
- Optional climb of Mount Gower
- Guided boat and/or snorkelling trips through the southernmost coral reef in the Pacific
- Full breakfasts, lunches, afternoon teas, and four course dinners
- Six nights’ accommodation
WALKING AND PHOTOGRAPHY WEEKS
- Guided walks to Mount Eliza, Boat Harbour and Kims Lookout with photographic advice and ecosystem explanation, as well as guided walks to rarely visited parts of the island
- Prizes for the winners of daily ‘best photo’ competition
- Full breakfasts, lunches, afternoon teas and four course dinners
- Seven nights’ accommodation