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Bounteous Isle, that's Norfolk Island

by:
Christine Roberts

There's a small island in the South Pacific that is noted for its clear skies and absence of even a single traffic light! Home to descendants of the infamous Bounty mutineers, it is located 1 600 km north east of Sydney and 1 056 km from Auckland. Its population of around 1 800 is substantially increased by the annual arrival of 30 000 visitors.

Like many islands, it has volcanic origins, measuring 8 km by 5 km in length, a third being national parks and reserves.

Discovered by Captain James Cook in 1774 - he named it Norfolk Island after a noble English family - this former penal settlement until 1914 was placed under the jurisdiction of 
Australia.

In 1979, a locally elected Legislative Assembly approved and appointed an Administrator, while today, a nine-member parliament governs the island. 

Passion fruit, palm seeds and bananas were once this island's main exports. Nowadays, tourism is booming and there are more jobs than residents to fill them! In fact, guest workers are granted 1-3 year permits just to supplement the workforce.

Crowds on the island are confined to the teeming, brightly colored fish which snorklers can observe among the turquoise coral reefs.

Tourist drawcards include the magnificent, tall, stately Norfolk Pines - many transplanted worldwide - wholesome food, beautiful scenery, golf, tax-free shopping and bush walks.

Accommodation is in self-contained apartments and hotels, and free car hire is often included in holiday packages. Costs are around AS$80 per person per day in a double room with breakfast.

Taxis, motorcycles and hired cars are plentiful but the speed limit is a maximum of 50 kph.

English and Norfolk are spoken, the latter sounding rather like a curious mix of Tahitian and old English, introduced by Piticairn descendants. 

Some of the mutineers and Tahitian women who sailed on "The Bounty" with Captain Bligh had gone to Pitcairn Island and were later transferred to Norfolk due to overcrowding.

Signs and documents on Norfolk frequently are in English but comments, jokes and political observations, seldom so!

A reminder of the island's historical past is evident from names in their local telephone directory such as McCoy, Christian, Adams and Quintal. 


Debt-free since 1856, the island collects interest on its investments and burial is free. So is dental care for pregnant women, and children.

Other claims to fame are the island's postage stamps which are much-sought after by stamp collectors. Native plants number 178 species with forty unique to the island. 

If you visit the island, you may be lucky enough to spot the rare Norfolk Island Green Parrot or the Boobook Owl!

Among the island's more unusual tourist events are "a night as a convict" dinner, the "Mutiny on the Bounty" show (sound and light) and a progressive dinner tour.

Further information from your nearest ATC (Australian Tourist Commission) office. 

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Email:  Christine Roberts

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