Lord Howe Island is, simply put, the most magical island I’ve ever visited.
It’s no wonder it has earned a spot on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel list for Top Regions in 2020!
Over several days this island completely stole a piece of my heart!
Lord Howe Island quickly became an old friend, the way she invited us in with crystal clear waters, friendly locals, and her tropical charm.
She showed us all of her beauty and I hope to share it with you!
Without further ado, here’s my ultimate guide to Lord Howe Island, complete with 30 things to do on the island and answers to some frequently asked questions!
30 Things to Do on Lord Howe Island
From water activities and land activities to places to eat and where to stay, there are a lot of great things to do and places to see on Lord Howe Island!
1. Feed the fish at Ned’s Beach
There are quite a few things that make Lord Howe Island unique, and this is definitely one of them!
At Ned’s Beach, you can buy a cup of fish food and feed it to the many fish that hang out right by the shore!
As you walk into the crystal clear waters, you’ll spot the fish instantly!
Be prepared for them to come right up to you- some may even graze your legs! It’s such a funny feeling and such a cool nature encounter!
2. Kayak to Rabbit Island
There are multiple boat shops on the island where you can easily rent a kayak.
We kayaked to Blackburn Island- also known as Rabbit Island- where we did a short hike to the top for a neat view of Lord Howe Island.
It’s locally known as Rabbit Island because the people who named it thought that there were a bunch of rabbit burrows on the island.
But turns out, they are actually birds nests!
In terms of timing, it took us about 20 minutes to kayak to Rabbit Island, and we are by no means pro-kayakers.
3. Boat ride and dive around Ball’s Pyramid
Ball’s Pyramid is the world’s largest sea stack and it’s right off of Lord Howe Island! Just check out its gorgeous peak rising 551 meters out of the water!
You’ll see Ball’s Pyramid from the airplane as you fly into Lord Howe (everyone sitting on the right hand side of the plane saw it, at least!).
It’s actually a bit of a trek from Lord Howe Island, but offers incredible snorkeling, scuba diving, and bird watching!
To get there, you can sign up for a boat tour; this Reef N Beyond tour costs $170 AUD per person.
Note: There are different tours that go to Ball’s Pyramid; just make sure the one you choose offers the activity you want to do, as not all tours offer scuba diving.
Also, make sure you build in enough time, as a boat tour can take up to 6 hours.
For a relaxing way to see Lord Howe Island, rent a paddle board at one of the multiple boat shacks and get out on the water!
It’s best to go in the morning while the waters are calmer- I actually fell off my paddle board getting this shot in the afternoon!
5. Deep dive around the Admiralty Islands
This is something I didn’t experience (unfortunately I am not diving certified), but have heard is quite popular.
The Admiralty Islands are rock formations off of the north coast of Lord Howe Island, and they are some of Australia’s best diving spots!
Lord Howe Island formed out of an extinct volcano that last erupted over 7 million years ago. As a result, the sea floor has many drop offs, trenches, and caves, which helps make it a diver’s paradise.
You can get a boat charter to take you out to these rocks known for their rich marine life.
It only takes you 15 minutes to get there by boat and there are roughly 60 world-class dive sites in the area!
Once you arrive, expect to dive anywhere from 15 to 40 meters deep!
6. Snorkel through coral reefs
Lord Howe Island is located on the world’s southernmost coral reef, and you can bet that snorkeling here is pretty epic!
Because of its almost-crescent shape, the coral reef and lagoon are protected and preserved, making this a snorkeler’s dream.
Lord Howe Island is located at the intersection of 5 major ocean currents, and its prime location brings a surplus of marine diversity to the area.
The reef contains over 90 species of coral and 500 tropical, sub-tropical and temperate fish species, many of which are endemic to the island (source).
We got to snorkel with sea turtles, sting rays, and all sorts of colorful fish!
Without a boat tour, I recommend snorkeling off of Upper Settlement Beach; at first you might not have good visibility, but when you get out far enough it’ll become crystal clear on a sunny day!
7. Scout for sea turtles at Upper Settlement Beach
Upper Settlement Beach is also famous for its Sea Turtles that visit shallow waters about an hour before high tide.
They’re quite curious and sometimes swim right up to you!
8. Do a glass bottom boat tour with Marine Adventures Turtle Tours
A really neat way to explore the waters around Lord Howe Island is through a glass bottom boat tour.
It is literally what it sounds like- there’s a glass panel at the bottom of the boat so that you can see everything underneath you.
Since the waters around Lord Howe Island have such high visibility, a glass bottom boat is a perfect way to see the marine life.
You move along at a leisurely pace so that you can really soak it all in.
We went with Marine Adventures and saw several sea turtles, a lot of coral, and plenty of fish!
With Marine Adventures Turtle Tours, they make it a point to find sea turtles and they know all of the best spots to find them.
Once our captain, Anthony, had located them, we all got off the boat and snorkeled with a few of these magical creatures!
9. Circle the island with Reef N Tours boat adventures
Reef N Tours Island Adventure Cruise is another great way to see the island.
This cruise circles the entire island, so you get to see it from all sides!
It also takes you right up to stunning sea cliffs, bringing you up close and personal with areas of Lord Howe Island you wouldn’t otherwise see.
Be prepared- you do go quite fast, so if you’re prone to sea-sickness, bring some motion sickness tablets or ginger candies along with you!
There’s also an opportunity to jump into the water, so bring a bathing suit with you!
10. Explore sea caves & sea arches
The photo above is actually from our Reef N Tours cruise around Lord Howe Island.
There are sea caves and sea arches around the island; some caves you can hike to, while others require a boat to get to (like the sea caves and sea arch in the Admiralty Islands).
11. Float around and just relax- you’re on an island after all!
This water activity hopefully goes without saying!
Be sure to take time to soak in this gorgeous island and all it has to offer!
12. Ride your bike around the island
The most common way to get around the island is by bike!
Actually, when we were there, there were only 6 cars for hire on the island!
Your lodge most likely has bikes that you can use, and if not, there are bike rental shops.
The island is long and narrow with one main road (Lagoon Road), which means it’s easy to know where you are at all times!
13. Enjoy a game of golf
There is a 9-hole golf course on the island, and it might just be the prettiest golf course I’ve ever seen!
With a dramatic backdrop and gorgeous views, if you’re a golfer you’ll definitely want to do a round of golf here!
14. Stargaze and see the Milky Way and other galaxies
Lord Howe Island has the most stars I’ve ever seen, hands down. The island is so dark at night that the stars shine brighter than anywhere else I’ve traveled to!
You can see the milky way with the naked eye; in the above photo it is just beginning on the right hand side.
This photo is pretty close to what you actually see with the naked eye.
Once I returned to the states, I asked my star expert friends about the two star clusters you can see from Lord Howe Island (and in the photo above).
Many birds call Lord Howe Island their home, from Sooty Terns (pictured above) and Masked-eye Boobies to the endemic Lord Howe Island Woodhen and Lord Howe Island Silvereye.
Actually, you can find over 130 species of bird on this island!
Whether you’re hiking up to Kim’s Lookout or walking along the airport beach, you’ll want to watch where you’re stepping! Not only are the birds often on the ground, but their nests and eggs are too!
These birds aren’t afraid of humans, you can actually go right up to them.
When you go to the Lagoon right by the airport, you’ll find a bunch of Sooty Terns that stubbornly won’t move out of your way! It’s quite cute, really.
And one morning when we did a sunrise hike and as we were driving to the trail head, someone actually had to get out if the van, pick up a Flesh-footed Shearwater, and move it out from in front of the car.
The Shearwaters make very distinct noises, too; sort of like a squeaky toy (you can’t miss it!).
16. Watch the sunrise and the sunset
One of the great things about being on an island is you can witness a great sunrise and a great sunset!
We hiked up to Malabar Hill for this view of the sunrise, and it took us about 25 minutes to get there.
17. Get to know the locals
There are only about 340 locals that live on the island.
Get to know a few- some are island born and raised, and some are recent transplants. Either way, you know there are some great stories to be shared!
Fun fact: with so few locals, you’ll find just one school on Lord Howe Island, and shoes are optional for the kids!
And a funny personal story: the man who runs the Coral Cafe is from Malaysia, and shares the same surname as my mom’s side of the family from Singapore. It’s not a common last name, so there’s a good chance we’re somehow related!
18. Learn about the island’s history at the museum
Lord Howe Island may be small, but she has a fascinating history.
You can learn all about it at the Lord Howe Island museum, from its discovery to shipwrecks.
Due to Lord Howe Island’s location and rock formations (the island formed out of an ancient volcano), there have been several shipwrecks recorded since the 1800s.
Wolf Rock, off the east coast of Lord Howe Island, is a typically submerged rock that stands 9 feet out of the water at low tide.
Its name comes from the ship that originally was wrecked on it in 1837, and it is to blame for quite a few wrecks, including one that happened as recently as 2002!
19. Discover the island’s endemic stick bug, the Lord Howe Island Phasmid
The Lord Howe Island Phasmid (Dryococelus australis) is endemic to the island and was thought to be extinct for over 80 years, until it was rediscovered on Ball’s Pyramid in the early 2000’s.
These bugs are quite large (I can see why they’re known as “land lobsters”) and don’t bite. When they walk across your hand they do latch on a bit with their feet, like velcro!
The phasmid is flightless and nocturnal, and is actually known as one of the world’s rarest insects!
At one point, the whole population- 24 to 40 stick insects- lived on one single bush on Ball’s Pyramid (source).
20. Hike Mt. Gower
Mount Gower, the right of the two mountains pictured above (the left is Mount Lidgbird), is rated one of Austrailia’s best day walks.
It contains one of the tallest sea cliffs in Australia, towering 875 meters out of the sea.
Mount Gower is covered with rainforest.
Towards the summit you’ll actually walk through a cloud forest, which contains most of Lord Howe’s endemic plants.
You are required to hike with a guide; Jack Shick is the local guide, and he has summited Mount Gower over 1800 times!
There are usually two hikes that go out each week, on Mondays and Thursdays.
Bring food and water on this 8.5 hour hike. Though no special climbing skills are needed, you should expect narrow passages with ropes to hold on to for some additional safety.
This 14km hike is considered medium to hard, but due to the amount of time you’ll be hiking, only do the hike if you’re healthy and have no knee or back issues.
It costs $100AUS per person, you can book your hike and check latest pricing here.
21. Hike to Malabar Hill
Malabar Hill is a relatively short hike from the trail head (it takes about 25 minutes to get to the top) but you can easily extend this hike to do a multiple-hour loop.
I recommend this hike for sunrise or sunset because you don’t have to hike too long in the dark before sunrise or after the sun sets.
To get to Malabar Hill, you’ll basically be ascending on an incline the whole way, essentially climbing up a huge hill to get to the top.
22. Hike to Kim’s Lookout
You can hike to Kim’s Lookout from the base or as a continuation from Malabar Hill.
If you’re hiking from Malabar, the hike to Kim’s Lookout is less steep as you traverse the top section of the hills.
You’ll have stunning views for the majority of this hike.
Several bird species call this are their home, and it is rather spectacular to see them flying in the sky!
23. Hike to Goat House Cave
I didn’t actually do this hike, but two others from our team did and came back with some incredible photos of the view from the top! One of them, Macca, took the above photo during his trek up the mountain.
This 5km hike takes you 450 meters up Mount Lidgbird, the mountain right next to Mount Gower.
Note that some of the way requires you to depend on ropes (that are already in position) so that you don’t fall off!
Leave 3-4 hours for this hike and bring a lunch to eat along the way, as well as plenty of water.
24. Go to a fish fry at the Golf Club
While on an island, you simply must have some fresh-caught fish! And a fish fry at the Golf Club is the perfect way to try the local seafood!
We enjoyed a fish fry with many of the locals and it was such a treat!
25. Bring a picnic to throw on the barbie at Cobby’s Corner
There are a few places for a great barbecue on Lord Howe Island- Cobby’s Corner is particularly appealing as it has a picnic bench already set up!
You can either buy provisions for a barbecue or see if your lodging can provide it for you.
(We stayed at Arajilla Lodge, and they offered a takeaway barbecue lunch.)
26. Taste some Lord Howe Island Gin
Made with wild lemon and hibiscus from the island, Lord Howe Island gin is absolutely delicious!!
We did a tasting at the Golf Club one evening during the first week of its unveiling!
I usually don’t like gin, but our gin & tonics tasted more like mojitos to me! Light and crisp, with citrus and floral undertones, this drink is perfect for the island!
The gin is actually made on main land Australia due to financial reasons, but the lemons and hibiscus are 100% from Lord Howe Island! It is also created by a Lord Howe Island local, Anthony, with local artwork on the label.
Anthony and his team created the gin so that people can have a taste of Lord Howe Island even after they leave, and with it, a reminder of the island’s sweet soul.
27. Enjoy lunch at the Coral Cafe
The Coral Cafe is located in the island museum and cooks up some delicious dishes.
My favorite was the catch of the day- fried and served with a tasty salad.
Get a thick shake while you’re there, too! It’s the equivalent of an American milkshake (which, as I understand it, is not the same as a milkshake in Europe!).
Some other things to note when ordering food if you’re an American:
- If you order lemonade, you’ll be served a sprite
- Coffee and cream gets you thick cream (yogurt-like clotted cream). A flat white is most likely what you want to order
- Chips are fries, not American chips
- Cilantro is known as coriander (I hate cilantro, so had to keep asking if dishes contained coriander!)
- Avo=avocado (but arvo=afternoon), brekkie=breakfast, barbie=barbecue
28. Plunge into a pool with a view at Cappella Lodge
There are exactly 400 tourists allowed on Lord Howe Island at any given time- meaning that accommodations are limited.
You have to book your accommodation before getting your flight, and there are gorgeous lodges to choose from!
Note that many of the accommodations on Lord Howe Island provide meals, but if they don’t, they’ll have a kitchen where you can buy groceries and cook for yourself. Alternatively, you can visit one of the restaurants on the island as well.
That brings me to Cappella Lodge: a lurxurious, 5-star resort at the southern end of the island.
This is actually the only lodge that has a plunge pool, and each room actually has a hot tub!
How incredible is this view from the lobby’s plunge pool?
29. Relax at Arajilla Lodge
Haley and I stayed in a perfect two bedroom bungalow at Arajilla Retreat and absolutely loved our stay!
You get fresh cookies in your room each day, there is a washing machine, and meals are absolutely delicious!
My favorite touch was the glass and pitcher of water placed on our nightstands each night with the turn down service!
Breakfast, a light lunch, and a hearty dinner are provided with your stay.
Here are some other things that are provided:
- Turn down service
- Fresh beach towels every day
- Snorkeling masks and fins
- Backpacks to take with you on your island activities
- Bikes to use around the island
- A to-go lunch if you need one
- Beach chairs
The kind waitstaff knew our names and did everything they could to make our time at Arajilla worth every one of its five stars!
There is also a spa on-site if you want to get even more relaxed with a spa treatment.
30. Live among the pines at Pine Trees
The other lodge that I got familiar with was Pine Trees, which is more affordable, bigger, and has more rooms than Capella and Arajilla.
Pine Trees is equipped with tennis courts, billiards, and surrounded by beautiful pine trees- hence the name.
Just a few steps from Lagoon Beach, Pine Trees is in a prime location.
It actually has been rated one of the best hotels in Australia on TripAdvisor for three years straight!
For some even more budget-friendly hotels on Lord Howe Island, visit these hotels:
Keep in mind that accommodations are limited, so you’ll want to book your stay as soon as you lock down your dates!
FAQ & what to expect
Where is Lord Howe Island?
Lord Howe Island is an island 375 miles off the southeast coast of New South Wales, Australia.
How far is Lord Howe Island from Sydney?
Lord Howe Island is about an hour and a half flight from Sydney.
How big is the island?
The island is 10 kilometers long (or about 6.2 miles). It is narrow and crescent-shaped with beaches on both sides of the island.
A UNESCO world heritage site, the southern portion of the island is all wildlife, with no lodging allowed in this area.
How do you get to Lord Howe Island?
There are usually 2 or more Qantas flights each day that go between Sydney and Lord Howe Island.
Alternatively, if you have a boat, you can sail to Lord Howe Island, which takes a few days.
Does Lord Howe Island have internet/WiFi?
Yes and no.
Your lodging should have WiFi, but it will most likely be limited.
At Arajilla, we were able to get on Instagram (for the most part- my Instagram direct messages would never load) but our other apps didn’t work.
If you go to the musuem or Coral Cafe, there is WiFi that you can pay for.
Other than that, there’s pretty much no WiFi, so get ready to go offline and soak in the island life!
How much does it cost to fly to Lord Howe Island?
Flights to Lord Howe Island are typically between $800-1200AUS round trip.
How many people live on Lord Howe Island?
There are only around 340 people on Lord Howe Island, and only 400 tourists are allowed on the island at any given time.
What makes Lord Howe Island a UNESCO world heritage site?
Lord Howe Island gets its UNESCO world heritage site designation in 1982 due to its incredible biodiversity.
It’s considered the Galapagos of Australia, and rightfully so!
It is a beautiful island with 75% of the island undisturbed. Lord Howe Island contains 241 species of indigenous plants, 47% of which are found nowhere else in the world (source)!
Beyond its incredible wildlife and marine life, its sustainability and eco-tourism driven approach maintain the island’s pristine nature.
What to pack for Lord Howe Island?
You can find most of the gear you’ll need for water activities on the island.
There’s a very strict weight restriction on the Qantas flight to the island. You can bring one bag that is under 7kg, and check one bag that is under 14kg.
Here are some things to remember:
- Reef-safe sunscreen
- A hat and sunglasses
- A sweater and warm clothes if you’re visiting anytime that isn’t summer
- Swimsuits (more than one so you can alternate while the other dries)
- Camera (there is so much to see here! Note that you can try to bring your drone but there might be flight restrictions. Our team members who brought drones never got to fly them, unfortunately! It’s a very drone-worthy island!)
- Go-pro for underwater photography
- Both sandals and hiking shoes (Tip: wear the hiking shoes on the plane so that they don’t count against you on the weight restrictions!)
Can I do Lord Howe Island on a budget?
Yes, you can!
The only non-budget friendly thing that you can’t work around is the plane ticket, but once you have that, you can visit Lord Howe Island on a budget.
- There is no camping allowed, but you can find one of the lower-cost accommodations. (And no, Air BNB does not exist on Lord Howe Island).
- Buy and prepare your own food from the grocery store
- The views are free! 🙂
What is the weather like on Lord Howe Island?
Since the island has such a mild climate, you can go during any part of the year, even in winter (June, July, and August).
Granted, the most popular time of year is between September-May, since you’ll find warmer weather, with a maximum temperature usually hovering around 25 degrees Celsius/77 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In Australia’s spring and fall (September-November; March-May), expect cooler temperatures and perfect weather when the sun comes out!
- In Australia’s summer time (December-February), expect slightly hotter temperatures and typically less rain (8 days compared to 15 in the winter).
- Wintertime (June-August) averages a high of 18 degrees Celcius and a low of 13 degrees Celcius (high 66F/low 56F).
When it rains, it typically rains in brief increments. It’s definitely a micro-climate on Lord Howe Island, so when the clouds come in, there’s a good chance they’ll move back out in an hour or so.
Is Lord Howe Island worth visiting?
Yes, yes, yes!!
From the stunning coral and marine wildlife to the spectacular views and crystal-clear water, this island is truly paradise!
Don’t just take my word for it- it’s a UNESCO world heritage site and won spot #5 in Lonely Planet’s 2020 Best in Travel for top regions!
My new friend Macca from An Adventurous World made a wonderful video during our time on Lord Howe Island. I think it sums up our trip quite nicely!
You can also head to my Lord Howe Island article on Magnificent World for a bit more of my thoughts on the island!
If you have already visited, or if you have any questions about Lord Howe Island, comment below!
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