Idyllic beaches, crystal blue water, lush forests and diverse local wildlife all just a two hour flight from Sydney. Most people escape to Lord Howe Island for a week of relaxation and bliss. Not us. Arriving and leaving on the same day, we were determined to cram as much in as we could in an effort to experience all that the island could offer in just five incredible hours.
Time to wake up.
That was a struggle… but it did help knowing that in a few hours my sister and I would be flying over the crystal blue waters of Lord Howe Island lagoon. What lay ahead we didn’t know, but man were we excited to find out.
It was around now that we realised what we were actually doing, as we boarded a plane with just 15 other people. Once the flight attendant (yes, there was just one) began shifting people around to balance the small aircraft we knew that we were destined for an isolated location like none I had ever visited. None of those fancy jets with the four engines, this propeller plane was the real deal.
As everyone else on our flight had a place to stay for the night and someone to pick them up from the airport, we found ourselves walking down the only road towards the city centre, quite awkwardly being passed by mini vans and hotel cars. One friendly lady offered us a lift to the bike hire place which we gratefully accepted. The hiring process took two minutes and before we knew it, we were off to our first stop, Old Settlement Beach. Sadly, we didn’t see any turtles on our snorkel… we were told later that this was probably because it was low tide. “No turtles at low tide, try again tomorrow at high tide…”. We had to just laugh at this.
Quite disappointed with our lack of success and quite aware of the limited time we had remaining, we decided to head straight to Ned’s Beach. We had been told by our friendly driver that this was ‘the place’ to snorkel, and I had read that large schools of fish and even harmless sharks frequent the beach. To say we were keen to see a shark was an understatement… this had been on both of our bucket lists since we were little kids. The ride was short and easy, we were there in under 5 minutes, chatting to a local guy who gave us extra fish food and told us the best place to snorkel.
We weren’t having much success today with our aquatic sightings, no turtles and now, no sharks. We weren’t disappointed though because hand feeding the schools of metre long kingfish just metres from the shore was an experience like no other. Slightly scary and extremely entertaining, this incredible experience alone had made our whirlwind trip worth it. It was here at Ned’s that we did our souvenir shopping… a coral cut for me and a fish bite for my sister, but that’s all part of the fun. Getting hungry, we headed into town, hopeful of finding fish and chips.
We returned our bikes, much to the confusion of the guys at the bike hire, and to their amusement when they found out we were only there for a day. Instead, we headed on foot towards Transit Hill to try to get a view over the island before we had to leave. The walk wasn’t that long, but in the rain and mud (not great conditions for us Converse and boat shoe wearing adventurers) we arrived at the summit drenched, dirty, dripping with sweat and absolutely knackered. Then we remembered we had a plane to catch in an hour. The rain was pretty thick by then and our view out over the island turned out to be a view of a few trees below and then a wall of grey cloud… oh well. When you only have one day to do it all, not everything is going to go to plan.
As we had left the trip so late, probably the reason we could not find a place to stay, we had to catch different planes home, taking the last two seats available on the last two planes of the day. My sister’s flight was at 3:20pm and we had been told by the guys at the bike hire to arrive an hour early, so we continued over the other side of the mountain and down the track towards the airport. Almost sliding down the muddy slope, we got down in no time and emerged from the jungle to a menacing surf beach known as Blinky’s.
Rain still pouring down, we found our way to the road (yes, there is just one on the island) and followed it towards the airport, once again being passed by cars and mini buses filled with dry, freshly cleaned families and couples all prepped and ready for their flight home. Little did they know that these two smelly, exhausted and completely drenched youngsters they were driving past would be joining them. Sorry.
We made it to the airport and soon found out that we were way too early due to the planes being delayed by the weather. We waited as one plane pulled in, unloaded, reloaded and left. How many more would there be until it was our turn? After quite a wait, the time of which we used to change into some dry clothes and lather on the deodorant, my sister boarded her plane, then twenty minutes later, at 4pm, I boarded mine.
Although we came on a cloudy day, didn’t see turtles or a shark, lucked out with the rainy weather, missed out on a view of the island and spent way too much time in that tiny one-room airport than anyone ever should, it was still an incredible day and one totally worth the effort. The greatest thing about it all is that after flying home, I got to sleep in my own bed, feeling like I had been on holiday for a week, thoroughly exhausted and with a memory card full of photographs that I couldn’t wait to explore.