Norfolk Island is an island in the South Pacific Ocean and an Australian territory for histroical reasons even though it is much closer to New Zealand. It is 1600km (1000 mi) east of Sydney and Brisbane but only 1000km (620 mi) northwest of Auckland.
Norfolk Island was a penal colony for the British colony of New South Wales during the periods 1788–1814 and 1825–1855. In 1856 it was settled by former inhabitants of the second largest of the Pitcairn Islands. The Pitcairn Islanders were descendants of Fletcher Christian and Bounty mutineers, together with Tahitian women. Pitcairn Island was unable to support 200 inhabitants, and Queen Victoria offered them land grants equivalent to a third of the then available land on Norfolk Island.
Approximately one third of the permanent residents of Norfolk Island are descendants of Pitcairn Islanders, with the remainder split between people originating from Australia and New Zealand. The permanent population of the island is about 1500 people.
Norfolk Island's immigration control is separate from Australian immigration control and the island imposes extra restrictions on visitors above those imposed by Australia.
Australian citizens must either have a passport or get a Document of Identity from the Australian passport authority in order to travel to Norfolk Island. Citizens of other countries must have a passport. All visitors must hold a return airline ticket and have accommodation information to provide to immigration staff.
Citizens of Australia and New Zealand normally automatically receive 30-day visitors' visas upon landing. Other international visitors must obtain a visa for entry to Australia. It must be valid for 30 days after you intend to leave the island and it must be a multi-entry visa, since leaving for and returning from Norfolk Island will be considered as a separate entry to Australia. See the Australia article for information on Australian visas. If you're not an NZ or Australian passport holder and are flying round-trip from NZ to Norfolk you'll be asked for an onward ticket at the airport. Be sure you bring it with you or, if you don't have one, be given the option to purchase a fully refundable ticket (refundable once you arrive back in NZ). Juliette from the Burnt Pine Travel office is especially helpful in this situation.
As with Australia, Norfolk Island bans the importation of many items of food, including but not limited to meat and fresh fruit. These restrictions apply to visitors arriving from the Australian mainland, and the customs requirements are not exactly the same as Australian requirements. See the Norfolk Island Customs page.
Norfolk Island has a single airport (IATA: NLK) occupying much of the south-west of the island and south-west of Burnt Pine, the island's commercial centre.
Air New Zealand operates direct flights from Auckland (Sunday), Sydney (Monday, Friday) and Brisbane (Tuesday, Saturday).
Flying time is 1h45 from Auckland, 2h15 from Brisbane and 2h30 from Sydney.
There is no regular passenger service to Norfolk Island by sea.
Cruise Ships occasionally call at Norfolk Island. The local shipping Agent, Transam Argosy, lists details of cruise ships calling at Norfolk Island.
All passengers are ferried ashore using either the Ships Tenders or Zodiac inflatables - weather permitting.
There is no public transport system on Norfolk Island. While it is possible to walk the length and breadth of it, most visitors hire a car. In recent years, a taxi service has begun operation on the island. However, the viability of such a service on a small island is questionable.
It costs about $45 a day to hire a car, $20 a day for a scooter and $15 a day for a bicycle. Hiring a bicycle is an excellent way to get around the island as distances are not great. Hadyn Bell at the local garage hires bicycles, and he's a connoisseur who'll tailor a bicycle to your needs. The island has many hills so a reasonable fitness level is recommended. Potholes and livestock are other dangers, especially at night.
It is usual, when booking accommodation or a package that a hire car is included in the tariff. Petrol and daily insurance is an extra cost payable on arrival. There are three petrol stations on the island, all in Burnt Pine.
If you don't have a bicycle, scooter, or hire car, walking is a great way to explore the island. Be aware that although Norfolk Island is only 8 km by 5 km, it seems much bigger than it is! Walking from place to place can take hours longer than you'd expect! Hitchhiking is very easy and nearly everyone will pick you up; it's also a great way to meet locals
The official language of Norfolk Island is English and all the islanders speak it. However, among themselves they often use Norfuk, a dialect of the Pitkern language found in the Pitcairn Islands, which is in turn derived from the English spoken by the Bounty Mutineers and the Tahitian spoken by their wives. Norfuk is not readily comprehensible by speakers of any variety of English, including Australian or British English.
Norfolk Island's currency is the Australian dollar, and the currency symbol is $. Norfolk Island is not subject to Australian taxation. There is only one ATM, at the Commonwealth Bank.
See Australia for more on the Australian dollar.
As a result of the lack of many taxes and duties, Norfolk Island has acquired a reputation as a "shopper's paradise". The main (and only) street of Burnt Pine is lined on both sides with shops selling everything from clothes to toys to books, and shop assistants will always be forthcoming about exactly how much you stand to save over "mainland prices" (both Australian and New Zealand prices).
A number of shops are described as "department stores", which can seem rather quaint to visitors from big cities, as these shops are often no larger than the others. The difference lies in the slightly wider range of merchandise available. One of the true delights of shopping on Norfolk Island is that in many shops you simply have no idea what will be for sale.
On Sunday mornings, an open-air market is held in the carpark of the post office. Prices are comparable to those found in the shops, but some retailers choose only to sell at the market.
Locally produced items are beginning to form a reasonable sector of Norfolk Island's retail market, with homemade preserves being a particular specialty. Additionally, the Norfolk Island Pine can be found in keyrings, magnets and other trinkets. Pine products are normally quite safe to import to Australia or New Zealand, but always make it known to the seller where you're intending to take the product you've just bought, since it never hurts to be sure.
The distinctive Norfolk language is also the source of some retail value, with books being written on the structure and vocabulary, as well as audio CDs of songs written in Norfolk. Many books are shamelessly pitched at tourists, but the work containing the most scholarship on the language itself is Speak Norfolk Today, by Alice Inez Buffett.
There is also a wide range of fictional and non-fictional books on Norfolk and the South Pacific in general available at most shops. The island's bookshop is The Golden Orb, which contains a section devoted to Norfolk and South Pacific literature.
Be aware that most shops are closed on Wednesday afternoons and also that those operated by Seventh Day Adventists are closed all day Saturday. and Sunday
Norfolk Island, unsurprisingly, is famous for its seafood, which is generally caught fresh by most of the restaurants on the island. The local trumpeter is a particular delicacy.
There is a wide range of other food available on the island, including both Italian and Chinese cuisine with plans afoot for an Indian restaurant to open shortly.
Local specialities also exist and are generally based on traditional Polynesian dishes. While some of these are served in the restaurants, tourists are often recommended to try a local progressive dinner at the homes of various islanders in order to experience most of these dishes.
Restaurant bookings can be made by telephone or by writing your name in the book generally located at the front door of the establishment.
Be aware that most restaurants are closed at least one night per week.
Special Dietary Requirements: Vegetarians can generally find palatable food at most restaurants, but are not specifically catered for anywhere. Vegans are not catered for anywhere. Kosher and Halal meals will be impossible to find, as there is no Jewish or Muslim presence on the island. Travellers with food allergies may be catered for at some restaurants, but this is not guaranteed.
The local distillery, Norfolk Island Liquors P/L, is found on Cascade Road and produces various liqueurs and spirits. Free sampling is available Monday,Tuesday,Thursday and Friday from 2.00pm - 5.00pm Also on the same premises is Cascade Soft Drinks, who manufacture produce a range of traditional soft drinks with old fashioned flavours, ranging from orange and lime flavours to pineapple and plum cola varieties.
Although there is a 'Winery' on the island, it is currently importing wines from New South Wales under the 'Two Chimney's wine'label whilst it is developing its vines for manufacture.
As the island's economy is based around tourism, there are many options for accommodation, ranging from basic one- or two-person rooms through to resort-style establishments with restaurants attached hosting seafood buffets. The commercial hub of the island, Burnt Pine, has a number of well-situated guesthouses central to most shops, while accommodation elsewhere is designed to capitalize on views and proximity to nature. Note that there is no budget accommodation and camping is not permitted on the island. Those on shoestring budgets are limited to staying with friends or local contacts.
Anyone other than Norfolk Island residents will have to apply for a working visa which has be to supported by a Norfolk Island resident or workplace.
Crime on Norfolk Island is very low, though not unknown. Most islanders think nothing of leaving their houses and cars unlocked. Always remember to exercise commonsense when doing this, though, as most criminals are opportunists and it is not unknown for criminals to take "working vacations" too.
Driving is on the left, with a speed limit outside Burnt Pine of 50km/h and inside Burnt Pine of 40km/h (30km/h in the school zone). Seatbelts, while fitted to all cars, are rarely used and rarely necessary. When driving outside of the town, remember that cows and other animals have right of way; be especially careful of this at night as there is no street lighting and cows are often brown or black. Also remember to watch out for the "Norfolk Wave", a wave (ranging from a raised index finger off the steering wheel through to an enthusiastic movement of the arm) used by all locals to greet passing traffic.
Emily Bay, located near Kingston, is the only safe location to swim on Norfolk as it is protected by a natural coral reef. All other bays are un-patrolled and have unpredictable conditions. A Norfolk tradition is that of the "Seventh Wave", the unpredictable rising in wave height which can sweep unwary swimmers out to sea.
There are no specific health warnings for the traveller to Norfolk Island, aside from a general one not to overindulge at meals (which can very easily be done).
Surfers and swimmers anywhere but Emily Bay should be very careful about the currents and wave heights. Neither activity is actually advisable.
All visitors including Australian citizens should purchase international travel insurance.
As a general rule, always remember that almost half of the islanders are descended from the Bounty mutineers. Therefore, one must realize that some information can contain a certain 'spin' to promote localized fiction.
Whilst most locals are extremely friendly and hospitable, refrain from engaging in political discussions unless they initiate the conversation. Norfolk's relationship with Australia is very touchy, and some locals show verbal hostility toward mainland Australians. To say that Norfolk Islanders are essentially Australians is very likely cause offence.
Despite the general hostility towards mainland Australia, the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 passed the Australian Parliament on 14 May 2015, abolishing self-government on Norfolk Island and transferring Norfolk Island into a council as part of New South Wales law. This means that from the 1st of July 2016, Norfolk Island legislation will be transferred to New South Wales and subject to NSW legislation. Tensions run very high regarding this matter.
There are convict ruins dotted around the island, but resist the temptation to explore if the ruin is off-limits in any way, as there are periodic restoration attempts.
Norfolk Island remains one of the world's most expensive places to call. From Skype, count on $1.25 per minute! Most accommodation options have wifi though free wifi is limited to around 100 MB. Internet cards are sold at 100 MB for $9 in various shops. There's one internet cafe near King Tut's Tomb at $5 for 30 minutes. The internet on Norfolk Island is notoriously slow, so if you're spending a week on Norfolk it's best to think of it as being off the grid.
Norfolk Telecom SIM cards cost $20 (with $10 of credit included). If you're spending more than a few days on Norfolk it's handy, although you can only call within the island. Calls to landlines are slightly cheaper than to mobiles. Landline to landline calls are free. Calling off the island (even to Australia) is horrifically expensive, especially from a hotel!