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ESCAPE

Leah Van Der Mark

follows in the wake of Captain Cook’s discovery of

Norfolk Island, but has an entirely different adventure

Beauty of Norfolk Island is all natural

I

f only Captain Cook could have had the same landing at Norfolk Island

that I did. Poor Captain Cook, he had such trouble getting ashore when

he landed here in 1774 with no natural safe harbour in sight. If only he

had access to this jet he could have flitted from Brisbane to this emerald

isle, 1600 kilometres to the east in the South Pacific Ocean, on a journey

that’s not even long enough to justify a second glass of wine.

However, just like Cook I am instantly struck by this rocky outcrop’s

rugged beauty. Almost immediately the abundance of Norfolk Island pines

on this three-million-year-old volcanic remnant come into focus, looking

as perfectly shaped as if they just tumbled out of a child’s Lego box. No

wonder Cook thought they would be so useful for the masts of large ships.

They make the landscape look more European than South Pacific, and

perpetually Christmassy.

This self-governing territory is anchored east, as the crow flies, of Byron

Bay. Hence, its summer temperatures are similar to that of the northern

NSW town with an average of 25°C and winter is only six degrees cooler.

On my to-do list for a three-day stay are the bare essentials: swim at

Emily Bay, a beach frequently voted among the best in Australia; explore

the convict ruins and buildings at the World Heritage-listed Kingston area;

and visit the cyclorama – a panoramic painting depicting one of the most

notorious mutinies in naval history: the rebellion aboard the Royal Navy

ship HMS Bounty in 1789.

I love the fact that no matter where I am on this 32-square-kilometre

island layers of history unfold before me. The story begins with the

Polynesians who were here 800 years before Cook stepped ashore and

named it after the Duchess of Norfolk.

Then it was used as a penal colony and became known as “hell in the

Pacific”. In 1856, a year after the last prisoners were taken off the island,

Queen Victoria gave it to the descendants of the Bounty mutineers who

had outgrown Pitcairn Island. The Pitcairners now make up about a third

of the 1700-strong population and their plentiful history can be seen in

the myriad Bounty-themed attractions. It can also be heard in the Norf’k

language that blends old English with Tahitian.

Tootling along in my hire car on the way to Kingston I’m reminded

of three places. Lord Howe Island, just 900km to the south west, which

shares a similar topography; Port Arthur in Tasmania which has a

collection of convict era buildings of similar national significance; and

Hawaii where the frangipani-scented air is equally strong and sweet.

At Kingston, I’m tempted to wile away the day relaxing on the beach at

Emily Bay but there are four museums to visit and all of them free.

It’s all so laid back that I – a wound-up city dweller – can’t help but

slow down. On this island, the cows have right of way so you’re not

allowed to drive faster than 50km/h, but it’s more than that. I seem to be

the only one surprised when I lift my hand to wave at friendly locals in

passing cars.

18

| BNE December 2014/January 2015

Fly direct from Brisbane to Norfolk Island with Qantas and Air

New Zealand