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Unless readers have lived or traveled Down Under, Lord Howe Island may be a relatively unheard-of destination. The tiny island sits off the East Coast of Australia in the Tasman Sea, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) northeast of Sydney. Teeming with incredible bio-diversity both on land and in the sea, crystal-clear waters, jaw-dropping landscapes, and only a few hundred residents, it's easy to see why Lord Howe Island is often referred to as the 'last paradise.'

Don't be fooled by its small size and low profile; Lord Howe Island is a truly spectacular place to visit. National Geographic has even named the heavenly island one of the world's best destinations. See why Lord Howe Island deserves a spot on every nature lover's bucket list!

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What Makes Lord Howe Island So Special?

Lord Howe Island is a unique and spectacular destination for many reasons. Even the most seasoned travelers will be awe-struck by its sheer beauty. The striking turquoise waters illuminating the pristine coral reef below are surrounded by the virgin, white sand beaches. Twin volcanic peaks and a lush green landscape provide a dramatic backdrop.

The island itself was formed by an underwater volcanic eruption over seven million years ago. World Heritage-listed since 1982, Lord Howe Island is home to unparalleled biodiversity, including upwards of 500 different species of fish and a vast array of endemic plant and animal species. There is even a Kentia palm nursery; this palm originates on Lord Howe Island, and its seeds and seedlings are exported all over the world.

Another distinctive characteristic of Lord Howe Island is that there is a maximum of only 400 visitors allowed at any given time. Strict measures have been put in place to protect and preserve the natural environment and ecosystems of the island, both on land and under the sea. There is no record of Indigenous Australians ever having lived on the island, so it was uninhabited for millions of years.

What to Do On Lord Howe Island

As it's easy to see by now, Lord Howe Island is a nature lover's dream come true. Unsurprisingly, there are tons of outdoor activities to enjoy, or guests can simply relax and soak up the sun on one of the 11 beautiful beaches.

Hiking and Biking

There are very few cars on the island, and bicycles are one of the best modes of both transportation and sightseeing. The island is so small that it only takes about half-hour to ride from one end to the other, but there are lots of paved and off-road paths to explore.

  • Bike rentals: available all around the island and cost less than $20 AUD ($14 USD) per day.

Regardless of age and fitness level, there are dozens of suitable hikes for visitors to enjoy. Here are a few favorites:

  • Mount Gower: a challenging 8-hour trek that has been rated one of the best single-day hikes in the world. A licensed guide is necessary. Appropriate footwear and clothing are also required.
  • Intermediate HIll: as the name implies, this is a moderate-level hike. There are excellent panoramic views from the summit platform.
  • Valley of the Shadows: a mellow walk starting along the beach before winding through Banyan trees and Kentia palms.

Bird Watching

Lord Howe Island isn't only famous for marine life; there are also over 130 different species of both sea and land birds. They have little fear of humans, so visitors can often get very close, but please do not feed them.

Feed the Fish

Ned's Beach Sanctuary and Special Purpose zone are not to be missed. Here visitors can stand in shallow water (less than waist-deep) while hand-feeding schools of hungry fish all around them! It's also a great snorkeling spot.

  • Ned's Beach is a no-take zone, so please do not collect shells or any other materials from the shore.
  • Only feed fish with the food provided at the designated dispenser (no bread, human food scraps, or anything else).

World-class Diving and Snorkeling

Lord Howe Island is home to the world's southernmost coral reef. There are over 60 official scuba diving sites of varying depths within the Lord Howe Island Marine Park, and snorkeling can even be enjoyed directly off of the beach. Divers will be greeted by tropical fish, colorful coral, sea turtles, rays, and more. Those who prefer to stay above the surface can go along and spectate from glass-bottom boats.

Water Sports

Depending on the season and conditions, Lord Howe Island can be excellent for both surfing and windsurfing. Visitors can also enjoy stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), kayaking, and deep sea sport fishing (only in designated areas).

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How To Get To Lord Howe Island

The quickest and most common way to travel to Lord Howe Island is by plane from the Australian mainland. Its small airport services daily direct flights from Sydney, Australia, but there are also some departures from Brisbane, Newcastle, and Port Macquarie. Flights from all of these east coast cities are only about two hours.

The alternative to flying is to go to Lord Howe Island via boat, but as there are no commercial options, this is a bit more complicated without your own yacht. Experienced and certified seaman can set off on a multi-day sail from Sydney or Port Macquarie (or adventurous travelers can arrange a charter). There are only 16 public moorings on the island, so be sure to check availability and reserve ahead of time.

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Lord Howe Island?

With its subtropical climate, the weather is pleasant for visiting Lord Howe Island all year round. The peak travel period falls between September and May when the water is warm, and there is less rainfall, but visiting in winter has its perks too. There can be significant pricing discounts during this time and more accommodation options to choose from as there are fewer travelers. The weather is often still inviting, and there is less humidity.

Other Logistical Considerations

There is no mobile phone service on Lord Howe Island, so visitors will really feel like they've stepped into another world. There are public phones available for urgent matters, but be sure to let friends, family, or employers know ahead of time that you will be out of reach.

There are various accommodation options available, ranging from luxury lodges to humble guest houses. Licensing is strictly limited to 400 beds, though, so be sure to book accommodation ahead of time and correspond with flights. Do not expect to simply find something upon arrival.

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Tread Lightly And Leave No Trace

By now, it is pretty clear that the protection and preservation of this island sanctuary are of utmost importance. 75% of Lord Howe Island is a protected park preserve, and the majority of the island's few hundred year-round residents are there working in fields like conservation or marine biology.

Travelers to Lord Howe Island should familiarize themselves with and practice all the leave no trace principles during their visit. Please be sure to read and obey signs in no-take zones, no fishing zones, etc., and ensure that their presence in paradise is a positive one!