A helpful travel guide to Lord Howe Island with information on how to get there, things to do, accommodations, and personal experiences.
Lord Howe Island, named after the British Admiral Richard Howe, was discovered by Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball in 1788 while travelling from Sydney to Norfolk Island. Its isolation led to the development of unique flora and fauna, with many species found nowhere else on Earth, earning it the nickname “The Last Paradise.”
The island was permanently settled in the mid-19th century, and its community initially grew through a mixture of farming, fishing, and selling the palm seeds of the native Kentia and curly palms.
Interestingly, the supply ship only arrived a few times a year, so the island remained largely self-sufficient. In 1982, UNESCO declared Lord Howe Island a World Heritage Site due to its beauty and biodiversity.
It includes some of the world’s southernmost coral reefs and the critically endangered Lord Howe Island stick insect, thought extinct for decades until its rediscovery in the early 2000s.
Join us as we explore everything this island gem has to offer, from its historical secrets and conservation efforts to the best activities, accommodations, and local cuisine in this Lord Howe Island travel guide.
📍 Where is Lord Howe Island?
Lord Howe Island is between Australia and New Zealand in the Tasman Sea. It’s about 600 km (372 miles) directly east of mainland Port Macquarie, 780 km (485 miles) northeast of Sydney, and about 900 km (559 miles) southwest of Norfolk Island.
It’s part of the state of New South Wales in Australia. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its stunning natural beauty.
🙋 What is special about Lord Howe Island?
Lord Howe Island is a unique and breathtaking destination with a special place among the world’s most pristine natural environments.
Located in the Tasman Sea, about 600 kilometres off the eastern coast of Australia, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed paradise boasts an unparalleled combination of lush rainforests, crystal-clear waters, and dramatic volcanic peaks.
Its isolation has led to the development of a rich and diverse ecosystem, with many endemic species of flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth.
The island is also home to the world’s southernmost coral reef, which teems with marine life and offers exceptional opportunities for snorkeling and diving.
Lord Howe Island’s limited number of visitors – only 400 at any given time – ensures that it remains unspoiled, offering a serene and tranquil escape for those seeking a genuine connection with nature.
The warm and welcoming local community and the range of eco-friendly accommodations and activities make Lord Howe Island an exceptional and unforgettable travel experience.
🗺️ Lord Howe Island Map
✈️ Flights to Lord Howe Island
Qantas is the main airline that operates flights to Lord Howe Island. Flights are available from Sydney and Brisbane, and seasonal flights are available from Port Macquarie.
Sydney to Lord Howe Island
Flights generally operate daily and the flight duration is approximately 2 hours. A round trip economy ticket typically costs around $800 AUD ($600 USD), but prices can vary significantly depending on the season, how far in advance you book, and current travel restrictions or promotions.
Brisbane to Lord Howe Island
Flights are typically available on weekends. The flight duration is approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes. A round trip economy ticket typically costs around $900 AUD ($675 USD), but prices can vary.
Port Macquarie to Lord Howe Island
Seasonal flights are typically available from February to June and September to December. The flight duration is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. A round-trip economy ticket typically costs around $700 AUD ($525 USD).
🛥️ Cruises to Lord Howe Island
Occasionally, cruises will stop at Lord Howe Island as part of their itinerary. This option is less consistent and reliable than flying, as it depends on the cruise line and specific cruise itinerary.
Prices can vary significantly based on the length of the cruise, the type of cabin, and the other destinations included in the itinerary.
It’s also important to note that due to the island’s World Heritage status, there are strict regulations on the number of visitors allowed on the island at any given time, which may affect whether cruises can stop there.
⛵ Private yachts and charters to Lord Howe Island
You can also reach the island by private yacht or charter boat, although this option is less common. The island has a small harbor, but visiting yachts must obtain a permit from the Lord Howe Island Board in advance.
The cost of this option can vary widely depending on the length of the journey, the type of boat, and other factors.
Remember, booking your transportation to and from the island well in advance is important, as visitor numbers are restricted to protect the island’s unique and fragile ecosystem.
Also, be aware that all prices are subject to change, and the actual cost may vary due to factors like seasonal demand, fuel surcharges, and other fees. The exchange rate between AUD and USD can also fluctuate, so the USD prices are approximations.
Better to educate yourself about the AUD currency before planning your trip to Lord Howe Island.
📅 Best time to visit Lord Howe Island
- January: January sees the warmest weather on Lord Howe Island, with average high temperatures reaching around 25°C (77°F). The lows hover around 21°C (70°F). The island receives significant rainfall and high humidity, often exceeding 80%.
- February: February is another warm month, with average highs around 25°C (77°F) and lows around 21°C (70°F). Rainfall remains high, and humidity levels are typically over 80%, making it feel quite warm and humid.
- March: The temperature in March begins to decrease slightly, with highs around 24°C (75°F) and lows around 20°C (68°F). Rainfall also starts to reduce, but humidity remains high.
- April: In April, the temperature averages between 19°C (66°F) and 22°C (72°F). Rainfall continues to decrease, and the humidity begins to drop, providing a more comfortable climate.
- May: May marks the onset of cooler weather. Average highs are around 20°C (68°F) and lows around 16°C (61°F). Rainfall is lower than the summer months, and humidity also decreases.
- June: June is the start of winter, with average highs reaching around 18°C (64°F) and lows around 13°C (55°F). Rainfall is minimal, and humidity is at its lowest in the year.
- July: July is the coldest month on Lord Howe Island. Average high temperatures reach around 17°C (63°F), and lows can drop to around 12°C (54°F). Rainfall is low, and humidity remains relatively low.
- August: August temperatures are similar to July, with highs around 17°C (63°F) and lows around 12°C (54°F). Rainfall begins to increase slightly, and humidity starts to climb.
- September: In September, the weather starts to warm up with highs around 18°C (64°F) and lows around 13°C (55°F). Rainfall increases compared to the winter months, and humidity also rises.
- October: October sees a significant increase in temperature, with highs around 20°C (68°F) and lows around 15°C (59°F). Rainfall continues to increase, and humidity levels rise as well.
- November: In November, the weather continues to warm, with average high temperatures reaching around 22°C (72°F) and lows around 17°C (63°F). Rainfall remains high, and humidity levels continue to climb.
- December: December is the beginning of the summer season. The average high temperature reaches around 24°C (75°F), and the lows hover around 19°C (66°F). December sees high rainfall and humidity levels, similar to January and February.
🧭 Things to do on Lord Howe Island
Hiking Mount Gower
This challenging hike is a must for any outdoor enthusiast. It’s an 8-hour return trek with a licensed guide, taking you to the top of the island’s highest mountain.
The views from the summit are incredible, encompassing the island and the surrounding ocean. The trail also offers a chance to see many of the island’s unique plant and bird species.
Snorkeling and Diving in the Lord Howe Island Marine Park
This protected area is home to a diverse range of marine life, including over 500 species of fish and 90 species of coral. You can snorkel right off the beach in the lagoon, or take a boat to some of the offshore dive sites. The visibility is excellent, and the water temperature is comfortable year-round.
Lord Howe Island is a birdwatcher’s paradise with many endemic and migratory bird species. You can see species like the Lord Howe Island Woodhen and the Lord Howe Island Silvereye. The Mutton Bird Point offers a fantastic place to observe thousands of Shearwaters returning to their burrows at sunset.
Biking Around the Island
Given the island’s small size and low speed limits, cycling is a great way to get around. Most accommodations provide bicycles for their guests, and there’s a network of roads and trails that take you past beautiful beaches, through lush forests, and into the charming village.
Visiting the Lord Howe Island Museum
This museum offers a wealth of information about the island’s natural and cultural history. There are exhibits on the island’s unique flora and fauna, its geology, and the history of human settlement. The museum also runs natural history and birdwatching tours.
🛏️ Accommodations and hotels on Lord Howe Island
This luxurious boutique lodge provides stunning views of the ocean and mountains. Its suites are elegantly designed and include private decks and plunge pools.
The lodge also has a restaurant that serves locally sourced gourmet meals. Prices start at around $1,200 AUD per night ($900 USD).
Located in a tranquil forest setting, this retreat offers all-inclusive packages that include meals, selected wines and beers, and some activities. Accommodations range from suites to a two-bedroom house, all with a private deck. Prices start at around $1,000 AUD per night ($750 USD).
One of the oldest family businesses in Australia, this lodge offers a range of accommodations from rooms to cottages. It’s known for its excellent service, delicious meals, and a range of inclusive activities. Prices start at around $450 AUD per night ($340 USD).
For those seeking a self-catered option, these secluded apartments are a great choice. Each one-bedroom apartment has a full kitchen and private balcony. The beach is just a short walk away through a private track. Prices start at around $350 AUD per night ($260 USD).
Offering a range of self-catering units, this is a more budget-friendly option. It’s set in spacious gardens and is conveniently located close to shops and restaurants. Prices start at around $180 AUD per night ($135 USD).
✨ Travel tips for Lord Howe Island
Visitor Limit: Lord Howe Island has a strict limit of only 400 visitors at a time to protect its delicate ecosystem. This means you should book your accommodation and flights well in advance.
No Mobile Coverage: There’s no mobile phone coverage on the island. While this can be a bit of a shock at first, many visitors find it’s a great opportunity to disconnect and fully immerse themselves in the island’s natural beauty.
Internet Access: Although there’s no mobile coverage, there is limited Wi-Fi available at most accommodations and at the island’s Visitor Centre. Keep in mind that it might not be as fast or reliable as you’re used to.
Walking and Biking: The island is small enough that you can get around easily on foot or by bike. In fact, there are very few cars on the island and speed limits are low. Most accommodations provide bicycles for guests to use.
Bring Binoculars: Lord Howe Island is a bird watcher’s paradise, with many rare and endemic species. You’ll want to have a good pair of binoculars on hand.
Packing: Pack for all weather conditions. Even if you’re visiting in summer, it can get chilly in the evenings. Also, remember to bring sturdy walking shoes, as you’ll likely be doing a lot of hiking.
Hiking Mount Gower: If you plan to hike Mount Gower, it’s worth noting that it’s a challenging 8-hour return hike and can only be undertaken with a licensed guide. Be sure to book your guide in advance, as spots can fill up quickly.
Marine Park Rules: Lord Howe Island’s waters are part of a protected marine park. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the rules before doing any fishing, snorkeling, or diving.
Limited Shopping: There are only a few shops on the island, and they have limited stock. It’s a good idea to bring any essentials with you, especially if you have specific dietary requirements.
Wildlife Interactions: Remember to respect the wildlife. This includes not feeding birds or fish, as it can disrupt their natural behavior and diet. Also, while the island’s endemic Lord Howe Island stick insects are an incredible sight, touching or handling them is prohibited to protect their population.
⁉️ FAQ: Lord Howe Island Travel Guide
Is Lord Howe Island worth visiting?
Yes, Lord Howe Island is definitely worth visiting. Located in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed island offers a unique blend of pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and diverse marine life.
What is the best time of year to go to Lord Howe Island?
The best time of year to visit Lord Howe Island depends on your preferences and interests. Generally, the most popular time to visit is during the warmer months from September to May, when the weather is more favorable for outdoor activities.
- Spring (September – November): This is a great time for nature lovers, as the island comes alive with blooming flowers and migrating birds. The weather is mild, with average temperatures ranging from 18-23°C (64-73°F).
- Summer (December – February): This is the peak season for tourists, offering warm temperatures ranging from 22-26°C (72-79°F) and ideal conditions for swimming, snorkeling, and other water-based activities. Expect more crowds during this time.
- Autumn (March – May): The weather starts to cool down, with average temperatures ranging between 20-24°C (68-75°F). This is still a pleasant time to visit, with fewer crowds and good conditions for hiking and exploring the island.
- Winter (June – August): This is the coolest and wettest time of the year, with average temperatures between 13-18°C (55-64°F). While it’s not the best time for beach activities, it can be a quieter and more peaceful time to visit, perfect for those who enjoy solitude and cooler weather.
Remember that Lord Howe Island has a subtropical climate so the weather can be unpredictable at times. Always check the weather forecast before planning your trip and pack accordingly.
Do you need a car on Lord Howe?
No, not really. A car is not necessary when visiting Lord Howe Island, as the island is relatively small, measuring just 11 kilometers in length and 2.8 kilometers at its widest point. Most visitors prefer to explore this idyllic paradise on foot or by bicycle, which allows them to appreciate the stunning natural beauty and serene atmosphere fully.
Cycling is a popular transportation mode among tourists and locals, with several rental shops available for visitors to hire bikes. Limited motorised vehicles are also permitted on the island, ensuring that the tranquility and pristine environment are preserved.
If needed, a small number of shuttle services can transport you to various points of interest around the island. Overall, Lord Howe Island’s relaxed pace and intimate scale make it a perfect destination to explore without a car.
Can you buy food on Lord Howe Island?
Yes, you can buy food on Lord Howe Island. The island has a few small stores and shops where visitors can purchase groceries, fresh produce, and other essential items. These shops typically offer a range of basic supplies, including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat, and canned goods.
However, it’s important to note that the selection may be more limited than what you would find in larger supermarkets on the mainland. Prices can be higher due to the remote location and transportation costs.
In addition to grocery stores, Lord Howe Island has a handful of cafes and restaurants serving delicious meals prepared from local ingredients. These dining establishments offer a variety of cuisines, from casual fare to fine dining experiences.
Given the island’s focus on sustainability and supporting local businesses, many of these eateries source their ingredients from local farmers and fishermen, ensuring fresh and flavorful dishes.
It is recommended that visitors plan their meals and shopping needs ahead of time, considering the availability of supplies and the operating hours of the island’s shops and eateries.
Some visitors may also bring non-perishable food items, particularly if they have specific dietary requirements or preferences.
Do mobile phones work on Lord Howe Island?
Mobile phone coverage on Lord Howe Island is limited, and service availability largely depends on your carrier. Currently, Telstra provides mobile coverage on the island, while other carriers, such as Optus and Vodafone, do not have a network presence there.
Even with Telstra, the signal strength can vary depending on your location on the island, and there may be areas with little to no reception.
It’s essential to remember that the remote nature of Lord Howe Island is part of its charm, offering visitors a chance to disconnect from the outside world and immerse themselves in the island’s pristine environment.
Most accommodations offer Wi-Fi services for those who require internet access during their stay, though it might be slower than what you’re accustomed to on the mainland.
A few public Wi-Fi hotspots are also available at select locations on the island, such as the local visitor center. It’s always a good idea to check with your accommodation provider about the availability of phone and internet services before you travel.
How long is the ferry ride to Howe Island?
There is no ferry service available to Lord Howe Island. The primary mode of transportation to the island is via air travel. QantasLink operates regular flights from Sydney, Brisbane, and Port Macquarie on the Australian mainland to Lord Howe Island Airport.
Flight duration varies depending on the departure city, with Sydney being approximately a 2-hour flight, Brisbane around 1 hour and 45 minutes, and Port Macquarie about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Due to the island’s remote location and focus on preserving its fragile ecosystem, the number of visitors allowed at any given time is limited. Booking your flights well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, is essential to secure a spot and avoid disappointment.
How long should you stay on Lord Howe Island?
A stay of 5-7 days is recommended to fully experience the island’s natural beauty and engage in various activities without feeling rushed.
During a week-long stay, you can explore the island’s diverse landscapes, including its rainforests, beaches, and dramatic volcanic peaks. This duration also allows ample time for activities such as snorkeling or diving in the crystal-clear waters, hiking the numerous trails, birdwatching, and discovering the island’s unique flora and fauna.
Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the relaxed pace of island life, unwind, and truly appreciate the serenity of this pristine environment.
Do you need cash on Lord Howe Island?
While most businesses on Lord Howe Island accept credit and debit cards, it is still a good idea to bring some cash with you for smaller purchases or in case you encounter a business that does not accept cards. Additionally, having cash on hand can be useful for tipping, bike rentals, or other incidental expenses.
It’s important to note that there are no ATMs or banks on the island, and cash withdrawals or currency exchange services are not available. Therefore, it is recommended to bring enough Australian dollars with you before arriving on the island to cover any anticipated cash expenses during your stay. If you’re unsure about how much cash to bring, consider your planned activities, dining choices, and any potential emergency expenses to help estimate your needs.
Do you need an Australian passport to go to Lord Howe Island?
As Lord Howe Island is an Australian territory, you do not need an Australian passport to visit if you are an Australian citizen. Australian citizens can travel to the island using a valid form of identification, such as a driver’s license.
However, if you are not an Australian citizen, you will need a valid passport and, depending on your nationality, an appropriate visa or travel authority to enter Australia. The visa requirements are the same as those for visiting mainland Australia.
Make sure to check the specific entry requirements for your country of citizenship before planning your trip and ensure that your passport has adequate validity for the duration of your stay.
Born and raised in Australia, Noah is a professional content creator and expert in Australia travel. He currently resides in Melbourne, where he shares everything you need about his home.