ALL is fresh and fabulous on this green and pleasant isle.
A Saturday-morning tradition for most Norfolk Islanders is a jaunt to the Farmers’ Market, but don’t expect big and busy. A handful of stalls occupy the patch of green beside the Visitor Information Centre in Taylors Road. What the market lacks in size it makes up for in quality — Norfolk Island is almost self-sufficient, growing all but a few necessities that must be imported — and the day I visit there are three trucks parked on the grass selling seafood, smoked meat, and fruit and vegetables. Another stall is packed with baked goodies, most deliciously sweet but gluten free, while the stallholder tending a cluster of tables below a big umbrella serves fresh juice and smoothies as well as salads and yet more baked delights. More: norfolkisland.com.au.
LASHINGS OF HISTORY
Two significant episodes define Norfolk Island — first there was the penal settlement considered to be the world’s most cruel for its three decades of operation from 1825; and then the 1856 arrival of the Pitcairners, descendants of Bounty mutineers. An unhurried wander through the sleepy Kingston and Arthurs Vale Historic Area is an agreeable way to discover these stories. The precinct was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010; its convict-built structures, in various stages of rot and repair, are scattered across an impossibly green landscape on the island’s southern shore. While its four museums — the Pier Store, HMS Sirius Museum, Commissariat Store and Georgian House at 10 Quality Row, built for the settlement’s Foreman of Works — are worth a visit, be sure to stroll past all the buildings that housed convicts and their masters before the keys were handed over to the relocating Pitcairners. More: norfolkislandmuseum.com.au.
The island’s cemetery is worth special attention: what initially looks like a paddock packed with old and new headstones is actually a one-of-a-kind graveyard where convicts, soldiers and free settlers rest together. The garden of stone stretches back from the beach at Cemetery Bay with the oldest graves near the sand, the first Pitcairners towards the middle, and the most recently departed in the corner near the golf course; headstones tell stories of the destination and its people.
When Norfolk Air ceased flying in 2012, flight attendant Emily Ryves was looking for something to keep her busy and, after watching a television documentary on a boutique Australian business making goat’s cheese, this mother of a young son found her calling and The Hilli Goat was born. Today Emily’s goats have the run of the Anson Bay farm that three generations of her family continue to share and visitors are invited to join sustainable-living tours scheduled around milking; sample the homemade cheese alongside gourmet goodies made from farm produce. More: facebook.com/HillyGoat.
LIFE’S A PICNIC
Norfolk Island is home to a thriving dining scene — try Norfolk Blue Restaurant, The Blue Bull Cafe, The Olive Café, Dino’s at Bumboras and Hilli Restaurant. But a picnic is perfect when the sun shines and there isn’t a cloud in the flawless blue dome stretching above. You haven’t had a salad sandwich until you’ve eaten Norfolk Island’s version, bursting with layers of homegrown vegetables, so buy lunch from one of the cafes on Taylors Road and retreat to a picnic table above spectacular Anson Bay; peer through the Norfolk pines to the waves crashing on honey-coloured sand below. If alfresco eating strikes a chord, drive the length of the island (the trip takes 20 minutes) to a walking track around the national park before taking a seat on the monument dedicated to Captain Cook; gaze across the deep blue while dining on wholesome takeaway treats.
BODY AND SOUL
A cliffside house high above the wild north coast is where Heidi Adams selected to put down roots and, while she and husband Byron serve pure paddock-to-plate meals with a view at Bedrock Cafe (locals rave about the seafood chowder), this is also the place to go if a dose of healing is in order. Heidi is a massage therapist taking a holistic approach to her craft. Rest assured that a blissful treatment above the churning water, with the wind whispering through the pines, will leave even the most tightly-coiled body springs feeling rejuvenated.
MUTINY IN THE ROUND
Christian Fletcher’s Mutiny Cyclorama, which sits on land that’s been home to six generations of Bounty mutiny ringleader Christian’s family, is a circular room featuring a 360-degree mural painted by artists Tracey Yager and Sue Draper. It tells the story of the 1789 episode when a band of British mariners committed what is now maritime history’s most infamous mutiny. More: norfolkcyclorama.nlk.nf.
SURF’S (NOT ALWAYS) UP
While this Pacific Ocean paradise boasts 32km of dramatic coastline, there are very few spots for out-of-towners to swim as some of the most scenic locations — Crystal Pool, Anson Bay and Bumboras Bay — are out of bounds because of unpredictable currents that can sweep the uninitiated away in moments. When the weather is warm, and a dip is in order, head to the convict quarter and beautiful Emily Beach (the location routinely appears on lists ranking Australia’s top strips of sand) or grab goggles and a snorkel to explore Slaughter Bay’s coral and colourful fish.
Two Chimneys Wine is the island’s only vineyard, but there’s more reason to visit this idyllic estate, owned by Noelene (a relative of English Bounty crewman John Buffett) and Roderick McAlpine, than a hillside block of grapes. The couple, who met when Roderick was dispatched to Norfolk to serve as a “bank boy’’, can answer any question about life on this unique plot of land and Noelene creates the most glorious tasting plates to savour while sampling the Two Chimneys reds and whites. More: twochimneywines.nlk.nf.
Until a few months ago, The Front Row at Shearwater Villas (pictured) was one of Norfolk Island’s most magnificent private homes, with the modern two-bedroom dwelling perched on a cliff above Bumboras Reserve to frame a 180-degree view that stretches from Kingston’s convict enclave to distant Phillip Island. But the home’s owner has decided it’s time for new adventures and is offering the dwelling to visitors seeking a sophisticated, self-contained stay. More: shearwater.nf.
Sarah Nicholson was a guest of Norfolk Island Tourism and Oxley Travel.
THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE AUSTRALIAN ON SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2015