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Pines, prisons and plovers : Norfolk Island


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@gnu gnu and @farin and I set off for the airport to fly from Hobart to Norfolk Island via Sydney on the 10th February. I pulled this trip together in about 30 minutes to replace our long anticipated trip to Western Australia that was cancelled with less than 24 hour’s notice when the WA Premier abandoned long anticipated plans to re-open on 5 February.


I was lucky to find delightful cliff top accommodation at Rainbows End whilst our wonderful travel agent Karen at RACT Hobart re-booked our flights - what could go wrong? The flight to Sydney was fine and accommodation at the Airport Stamford was comfortable. The following day we arrived at the airport at 0730 and had a smooth passage through checkin, security and immigration and were therefore very surprised to see the flight was cancelled as we walked to the gate lounge. There had been some talk of a cyclone and some rain and windy weather on Norfolk, however this came as quite a shock and my first thought was that our negative PCR test would be out of date. The flight was postponed for 2 days which was very disappointing, however we took in the sights of down town Sydney, caught a ferry to Manly  and spent a few hours  debating options for our next African Safari, whenever and wherever that might be.


56009512_816-HarbourBridge1.JPG.34dcaf8f64979e64ae9f98dc5f3c4c1e.JPGSydney Harbour Bridge (aka the coathanger)


933209164_811-Operahouse1.JPG.b8ff514983a122ae9ddd1319a127702f.JPG     Sydney Opera House


240777020_827-LunaPark2.JPG.6d2e59b569e2d32f661cf9d4af2bdb8a.JPG      Luna Park


We bought more RAT tests at Manly and had lunch at the beach. The ferry sailed past a yacht race, the Opera House and Fort Denison on the return to Circular Quay.







1793106517_829-FortDenison1.JPG.1fba5e4a34f43505ff9c9dbc14a40eb1.JPG   Fort Denison


The ubiquitous Sacred Ibis mingled with visitors at Circular Quay, this one caught the eyes of a photographer and sketch artist.






Next day we made our way hopefully to Sydney airport for the flight to Norfolk Island via Brisbane. Fortunately, this went without a hitch and we landed on time and were collected by Juliet and driven to our accommodation at Rainbows End. Rainbows End sits on a cliff top overlooking Cemetery Bay and the former convict settlement at Kingston.




The house is built on 3 Levels with 3 king en-suite rooms - perfect for 3 girls on a getaway. White Terns and snowy capped Black Noddys roost in the Norfolk Island pines below the house. White Terns are renowned for laying eggs in grooves and depressions on tree branches rather than in conventional nests. These graceful birds wheel and glide between the dark green Norfolk Pine below the house before settling at a favourite roost. The Terns “growl” at other birds that approach the perch and during the night we heard the eerie call of the Wedge-tailed Shearwater. 



Norfolk Island has a colourful history that began with the first of two penal settlements between 1788-1814 and 1824-1856. After the convicts left in 1856 the island was re-settled by 193 Tahitians and the descendents of the Bounty mutineers from Pitcairn Island. The new arrivals occupied the remaining convict buildings and pursued traditional farming and whaling from the island. During World War 2 the island was a key airbase and refuelling depot between Australia, New Zealand and the Solomon Islands that was manned by US, Australian and New Zealand troops.

Edited by Treepol
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Looking forward to hearing more, I'm considering if Norfolk Island needs to go onto the wish list

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oh dear so sorry to hear 2 days was lost from the norfolk sojourn. 


hope the rest of the trip more than made up for it. 

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@shazdwnI would think that Norfolk is a definite candidate for the wishlist. I would like to go back and do some of the tours and activities that we missed due to being delayed by the storm, and then there is the shopping. Its a good chance to freshen up the wardrobe and pick up some duty free.


@Kitsafariwe spent most of our time exploring the island, I feel as though I have seen a lot of the island but don't know much about it. The marine tour around Nepean and Phillip Islands is an opportunity to see some of the shore birds not easily seen on the island but we ran out of time and couldn't see all that the island has to offer. 


Our first morning at Rainbow’s End is grey and overcast and Cemetery Bay is filled with surf after the storm. The terns and noddies are gliding between the trees, landing to preen and socialise. Other birds seen were Crimson Rosella and a Grey Warbler behaving like a treecreeper. We drove down to the convict built Bloody Bridge (surrounded by graceful Norfolk Pines) where a Sacred Kingfisher perched before we moved into the commercial centre at Burnt Pine to check out a couple of duty free shops and have lunch at the Olive Café.




This afternoon we are exploring the northern corner of the island and see the  first of many cliff top farms that fall away to steep cliffs and the roiling ocean. A colony of Masked Boobies shared a no-mans land between farm land and steep cliffs.





Picturesque Anson’s Bay has a rare stretch of golden sand. Pacific Emerald Doves, White Terns and free range cattle are highlights of the drive.








Norfolk Island NP stretches along the coast and inland, covering both coastal and forest habitats. These butterflies were near the picnic area above even more coastal scenery.








Great Frigate birds and Sooty Terns rested on a rocky stack below the Lookout. The Norfolk Pines around the car park are festooned with lichen called old man’s beard.





This White Tern chick had fallen off nest branch, hopefully the parents had found it and were bringing food.






We stopped at Puppy Point where Californian Quail picked through the grass and a graceful White Tern preened in a Norfolk Island Pine.






Closer to town, St Barnabus Church is a reminder of the colonial past.




Edited by Treepol
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Intriguing island! Norfolk is definitely one of those islands I've looked up when I saw the dot on a world map.

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Today was another day of exploring, this time the western side of the island. First up was a stop at the Visitors Centre then a walk around the maze at the strawberry farm that was alive with Golden Orb spiders many of which lived in "webby" condominiums.









We saw one with a kill that was being carefully wrapped for the larder whilst others were tending egg sacs.








Here is an interesting comparison of the size of the male and female Golden Orbs - I wonder if those diminutive males feel safe? The webs are anchored between trees, hedges and plants by strong Golden filaments that support the delicate web.






There was more dramatic cliff top scenery with Norfolk Pines at Headstone Point and a cool walk under the trees in the Hundred Acres Reserve where an Emerald Dove foraged amongst the dry leaves and the White Terns and Black Noddys flew overhead.









A Norfolk Island Fantail posed for a photo at the gate.




This avenue of Curtin Fig Trees was very impressive.




We returned to the Olive Cafe for lunch and visited one of the duty free shops at Burnt Pine. We then briefly explored around the southern part of the island where a stand of Kentia Palms was protected from the local bush rats by metal caps placed low on the trunk. The rats like to eat the kentia nuts and will demolish a crop if they get a chance. Kentia palms are a popular indoor/outdoor palm and used to be a valuable export for the island. 






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Beautiful scenery!

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@michael-ibkNorfolk Island sure has a lot of scenic coastline per kilometre!



This morning we are up early for breakfast at the Golden Orb Café and to meet Margaret Christian for a half day bird tour. The first activity is a walk along the Mt Bates Track in search of the Red-fronted parrot. We found the fruits the bird feasts on but no bird. However we did see the Norfolk Island Golden Whistler and Norfolk Island Robin.




A Norfolk Island Fantail also showed briefly and the ubiquitous White Terns glided overhead. We then went to Margaret’s cliff top home where a colony of Masked Boobies had some large fluffy chicks.






Margaret explained the Norfolk Pines watering system - the older trees have branches that dip downwards to distribute water to plants growing within its radius. The younger trees have raised branches that drain water down the trunk to the base of the tree.

These older trees were growing in front of our accommodation and were ding a good job watering the new growth below them.






The slow growing Norfolk Island Pine is a popular garden plant in Australia and frequently doubles as a Christmas Tree in many homes. Old established seaside towns often have beachside rows of Norfolk Pines that when combined with band rotundas and antique metal-framed seats lend a Victorian ambience to their waterfront.


Driving back to Kingston Margaret stopped to show us a vagrant Australian Shelduck that blew in with the storm that delayed our arrival.




Pacific Golden Plovers identified by their distinctive upright stance gather on the grassy verges at the airport.




A number of Crested Terns had also blown in but these were nowhere around the Cascade Jetty this afternoon. A pair of Ruddy Turnstones fluttered between the rockpools and the jetty.




Late this afternoon we returned to Kingston to check out the convict heritage and found another Golden Plover near the shore.





Peaceful Emily Bay makes it into most tourist brochures promoting Norfolk Island, late this afternoon it is blissfully deserted.



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Today is our last full day so we had an early start with breakfast at the Olive Cafe and then a short drive into the national park in search of the Norfolk Island Green Parrot. We walked the Palm Glen trail where the parrots favourite food was hanging undiscovered from the palm trees.




The palm fruits take 12 months to ripen, here is next year's crop.




A very confiding young Norfolk Grey Fantail landed on a palm frond next to me and politely waited for photos, modelling a beaut fan tail.






A young Norfolk Island Robin flew in to see what was happening whilst Crimson Rosellas were seen along the lower paths.





View from Palm Glen track


We returned to the Mt Bates Track to see if the parrots were feeding at the site Margaret showed us yesterday, but no luck there. A quick photo stop further up at the Mt Bates Lookout and we drove down the mountain to the Botanical Gardens that are thick with tropical vegetation.




Birds seen here were more Grey Fantails, a Song Thrush and a pair of ethereal White Terns.







Closer to the exit this fledgling White Tern chick waited for its parents to return with food.




Now it was time for shopping! Norfolk Island is well known as a duty free haven - I stocked up on Clarins skincare, imported knitwear and shoes. The day seemed to go very quickly and we returned home mid-afternoon and enjoyed a beer and the view from the shady deck.






Late in the afternoon I went looking for birds and found the resident Sacred Kingfisher perched in a Norfolk Island Pine and Californian Quail at Bloody Bridge. A Pacific Emerald Dove fossicked in the dry leaves next door.








We sat outside again this evening, our last night on the island.

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Beautiful scenery and birds.

Laying eggs and rearing chicks on a narrow branch seems such a strange strategy, but I presume it works:D

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Great to see you out exploring again! Love the White Terns, it was a bird I most wanted to see and we were fortunate enough to see them a few weeks ago in Hawaii (Oahu.) So strange the way they nest on the branch, we were quite worried for some of the chicks we saw when the parent was away looking for food. 


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@TonyQthe White Tern nesting system seems to work quite well (except in rough weather) as there is a healthy population on the island. The island is quite small, however we saw white terns flying through the inland valleys around Mt Bates.


@janzinI thought I would have to go to Lord Howe Island to see White Terns however they were numerous on Norfolk Island and were visible any time of the day from our deck as they liked to roost in the Norfolk Pines below. The locals said that a lot of chicks had died in the storm that delayed our arrival.  I do hope that this doesn't reduce the upcoming generation too much.




Island impressions



Norfolk Island is memorable for many things - the scenery, Norfolk Pines, a laid back lifestyle and a colourful history. Whilst we only had 5 days on the
island these are my take-away impressions.

The island is neat and tidy, almost manicured in some places.








The colonial and convict periods left an architectural legacy of grand buildings.


2120709034_989-GovernmentHouse.JPG.b74ccf7a0b05b724c25c81b076b29dea.JPGGovernment House



1563246697_984-RoyalEngineersOffice.JPG.7ccaafd435ab315322da22558c89cfe4.JPGRoyal Engineer's Office





Kei trucks, a small practical runabout are the vehicle of choice for tradies, but double as runabouts for cyclists and beach-goers.






The island has a unique number plate system with up to 4 digits on a mini-sized Norfolk Island number plate - we saw Norfolk Island 2 around Burnt Pine.


Phone numbers are also on the short side with just 5 digits for local calls. We were given 1GB of wi-fi which was plenty for checking email and checking Safaritalk. Extra GBs could be purchased locally if needed. Australian mobile phones didn’t work on the island and we were given a mobile to use for local calls.


High quality local produce is sold in roadside stalls whilst surplus is shared with passers-by. 









There seemed to be a strong royalist sentiment on the island with the Queen’s platinum anniversary being eagerly anticipated. The silver jubilee is remembered by an impressive hedge along a main road into Burnt Pine and the Social Independents fly the Union Jack and Norfolk Island flags. Their island billboards express displeasure with the current government structure.


















Norfolk Island was a good choice for a last minute destination and one more place ticked off the bucket list. I would return for a relaxing holiday and the duty free shopping sometime in the future. We were unlucky to be detained in Sydney for 2 days which limited our “on island” time. It would have been good to have time to do more of the walks, a marine tour around nearby Nepean and Philip Islands and learn more about the convict history at the museum and research centre. Next time.


Edited by Treepol
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thanks for sharing @Treepol. it looks like a lovely place with a chill-out factor and lovely birds - the white terns are enchanting! sorry you couldn't see the green parrot on your last day. 

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  • 1 month later...

You crafted all this in 30 minutes?  That's an amazing feat!  So much good stuff.  The pair of white terns with the purple blossoms (morning glories?) is precious.

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@Atravelynnnot such an amazing feat really. A quick check of the bucket list, ask the travel agent to re-book the flights and a lucky search on booking.com and we were there. The hire car was organised by the property and the island is quite small so its easy to plan days out and about. Norfolk Island is a great destination and one I would like to re-visit in the future.

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On 5/5/2022 at 6:58 AM, Treepol said:

@Atravelynnnot such an amazing feat really. A quick check of the bucket list, ask the travel agent to re-book the flights and a lucky search on booking.com and we were there. The hire car was organised by the property and the island is quite small so its easy to plan days out and about. Norfolk Island is a great destination and one I would like to re-visit in the future.

Very decisive!

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