When travellers say their holiday was a trek, you usually imagine the worst. But on Lord Howe Island, nothing could be better.
You don’t expect a lot of company on a 5am walk. A couple of other early risers, maybe? But the scene’s different on Lord Howe Island, where the main population – 130 permanent and migratory bird species – are your chaperones on every walk around this UNESCO World Heritage-listed isle.
From sunrise to sunset, Lord Howe Island remains a natural beauty. (Image: Mark Fitz)
Easy Lord Howe Island walks
It’s not a heart-starter, but the Foreshore Walk along Lagoon Beach is definitely a magical start for the heart. It’s a short 500-metre stroll with a sweet view of Mt Gower; if you’re an early bird, you can meet and greet thousands of white terns then snag freshly baked pastries in town before most people have even left their nests.
Spot the White Tern in its natural habitat. (Image: Destination NSW)
On the opposite side of Lagoon Road, Stevens Reserve is home to a lovely 1200-metre loop. From Middle Beach there’s another easy stroll through palm forest to the Clear Place, with a short diversion to the Valley of the Shadows.
At the end of Lagoon Road there’s Little Island walk, a three-kilometre track through forests of ancient banyan trees and Lord Howe’s world-famous kentia palms, which are endemic to the island.
Start the walk to Transit Hill from beautiful Blinky Beach. (Image: tom-archer.com)
Transit Hill’s name says it all: this track, up to the town’s lookout, has traffic. The good news? You’ll pass half a dozen walkers at most.
You can start opposite the Administration Office or from Blinky Beach, then use your ‘library voice’ if you want to spot some of Lord Howe’s rare birds, like the golden whistler or emerald ground dove. Even if you miss them, the 360-degree view is worth every step.
One other must-see? Sunrise overlooking Ned’s Beach is a scene you’ll have on memory repeat forever.
Watching the sunrise over Ned’s Beach is a must do. (Image: Mark Fitz)
Moderate Lord Howe Island walks
All walks on Lord Howe have breathtaking views. Add red-tailed tropicbirds to the trail and you’re in extraordinary territory.
The climb up Malabar Hill is a two-hour-return hike along cliffs renowned for being the world’s largest nesting ground of these unique birds – watch for their fabulous tail feathers trailing like party streamers in the breeze.
Enjoy sweeping views out to Mount Gower from the top of Malabar Hill. (Image: tom-archer.com)
White terns also love this place and they hover in their thousands, posing fearlessly for photos and Insta reels.
When it’s time to refuel, enjoy a barbecue at Old Settlement Beach, home to resident green and hawksbill sea turtles. You’ll find them close to shore as the tide starts coming in, or hanging out near the coral at Sylph’s Hole, a small sanctuary zone 50 metres from shore.
Bring your own snorkel or join a tour with Islander Cruises or Marine Adventures.
Take a snorkel break to cool off and even spot turtles. (Image: Mark Fitzpatrick)
Guided Lord Howe Island walks
Few know Lord Howe better than Ian Hutton, the resident naturalist, biologist, conservationist, bird expert, museum curator and owner of Lord Howe Nature Tours. You’ve missed an experience if you don’t go walky-talkies with him; there are half and full-day excursions available for all levels.
Spot the thousands of native birds that call Lord Howe Island home. (Image: Rian Cope)
Looking for something different? Peter and Janine Phillipps from Chase ‘N’ Thyme run guided tours that tell the story of Lord Howe Island from past to present. They’ll pick you up in their bus and take you to some fabulous lookouts.
Meanwhile, Wildside Walks’ Jae De Clouett will customise a walk depending on your interests, covering the island’s history and occupation, photography, birdlife and geology.
Hiking to Mt Gower
Got eight hours and a brave heart? Mt Gower is lauded as one of the most spectacular day hikes in the world. You’ll hike 14 kilometres of rugged terrain, stare down dizzying drops and scramble along rope climbs to get to the top.
Hiking Mt Gower isn’t for the faint of hard, but the views are rewarding. (Image: Rian Cope)
It’s 875 metres high and your mountain-top reward is a unique mossy-cloud forest with plants not found anywhere else in the world, great views the length of the island and seabirds galore.
You must climb with a guide from Lord Howe Environmental Tours or Sea to Summit.
You can do the hike to Goat House Cave alone – it’s a five-kilometre round-trip through rainforest on the side of Mt Lidgbird. While steep, it’s the best lunch spot you’ll ever see.
Lord Howe Island Accommodation
With daily visitor numbers capped at 400, island accommodation is highly sought after and often booked over a year in advance, so plan ahead.
Live like a celebrity at Capella Lodge. (Image: Tom Archer)
There’s everything from guesthouses and self-contained apartments to exclusive luxury lodges.
If you want to live like the Hemsworths, book Island House; equally beautiful are Capella Lodge and Arajilla Retreat.
Milky Way offers a sweet retreat just a short walk from Old Settlement Beach, where a swim could have you in the company of turtles munching on the beds of seagrass.
Milky Way’s villa room is just one option on Lord Howe Island. (Image: Mark Fitz)
Where to eat on Lord Howe Island
For a good meal with an awesome view, Lord Howe Island Golf Club at sunset is a must do – Mt Gower glows and the atmosphere is friendly.
Anchorage Restaurant has renowned chef David Chlumsky cooking freshly caught seafood, while up the road in a jungle of banyan trees The Lord Howe Island Brewery serves wood-fired pizza, smoked meat rolls and fresh salads (all home-grown) – and, of course, beer, made from endemic species.
Sink a few cold ones with dinner at The Lord Howe Island Brewery.
In the mood for Southeast Asian-inspired cuisine? Check out the tasty treats at Driftwood Bar & Restaurant.
Other ways to explore
If you’re not hiking, you’re biking. Cycling is Lord Howe’s main form of transportation; cars are limited to 25 kilometres per hour, so two wheels are often faster than four. Many of the walking tracks are great for bikes too.
Get on your bike for another way to explore. (Image: Mark Fitz)
The lagoon calls like a siren: swim, snorkel or dive in the world’s most southern coral reef.
You can also swim with the world’s happiest fish at Ned’s Beach, a marine sanctuary where you can hand-feed mullet, wrasse, garfish, silver drummer, spangled emperor and kingfish.
Lord Howe Island is also the only place in Australia where one can see the Galapagos whaler shark. Join Dive Lord Howe to swim with these curious creatures – as a bonus, any photos you take will help scientists collect data for their research.
Grab a SUP board for a change of pace at Ned’s Beach. (Image: Destination NSW)
If staying dry is more your thing, take a half-day boat trip with Reef N Beyond Eco Tours to marvel at Ball’s Pyramid, the world’s tallest sea stack, or stay in the lagoon for a glass-bottomed boat trip with Lord Howe Island Environmental Tours.
Learn more and plan your next holiday to Lord Howe Island.