Norfolk Island, by Ted Cookson

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by Ted Cookson
Published in June 2007

Landing on Norfolk Island in a Boeing 737, 43-second video clip
Norfolk Island and Phillip Island view from Mt. Pitt, 23-second video clip
View from Captain Cook monument, 26-second video clip
View from near the Captain Cook monument, 39-second video clip
View of Anson Bay, 35-second video clip
Norfolk Island in 1928 Ford truck, 47-second video clip
View of Emily Bay, 45-second video clip
Takeoff from Norfolk Island in a Boeing 737, 25-second video clip

People sometimes ask me which is my favorite place in the world.  Without hesitation I usually reply that Norfolk Island is my favorite spot.  Not only is the island extremely scenic, but its history is fascinating, being intertwined with the Mutiny on the Bounty saga.

Situated between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, beautiful 34.6-kilometer-square (13.3-mile-square) Norfolk Island is a self-governing territory of Australia.  In the fifteenth century Polynesian settlers remained on the island for perhaps a century and then departed mysteriously.  Banana trees, stone tools and the Polynesian rat provide evidence for their presence.

Captain James Cook, the European discoverer of Norfolk Island, landed on the island in 1774 during his second voyage to the South Pacific.  Cook was under the impression that the native Norfolk Island pine trees would provide excellent masts for ships of the Royal Navy, and he thought that the island's flax plants would yield material for ships' sails.  Unfortunately, history proved Cook wrong.  The Norfolk Island pines had too many knots to make strong masts, and it was too difficult to prepare the flax plants for manufacturing.

In order to foil possible French settlement of Norfolk Island, the island's first European settlers were sent in March 1788.  This was only three months after the British settlement of Australia in January 1788.  The original party of 15 convicts and seven free men was later supplemented with additional convicts, and the island's grain and vegetables were sent back to Sydney in order to relieve the conditions of starvation there.

By 1792, after successive waves of convict setlement on Norfolk Island, the island's population exceeded 1,000.  Some of these were convicts who elected to stay on as free farmers after serving out their sentences.  However, due to its remoteness and the absence of a safe harbor, almost all of the population was transferred to Tasmania by 1813. 

In 1825 Norfolk Island was repopulated with convicts who had been convicted of further crimes after arriving in Australia.  During this 30-year second penal settlement, Norfolk Island's remoteness was viewed as a plus as Norfolk was then the ultimate punishment short only of death.  Living and working conditions were horrifying, food was scarce, and even trivial infractions were punished excessively.  The last convicts were transported to Tasmania finally in May 1855.

Little more than a year later, June 1856 marked the arrival of the residents of an overpopulated Pitcairn Island.  All were descendants of the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives.  Although some of these families elected to return to Pitcairn in 1858 and 1863, even today roughly half of Norfolk's population of about 1,900 is descended from those Pitcairn Island immigrants. Norfolk Island's population also grew in the nineteenth century as whalers stayed on when their ships called at the island to resuppply.

The New Zealand army garrisoned Norfolk Island during World War II, and an airbase was built on the island.  Fortunately, Norfolk was never attacked during the war.

Norfolk Island has been self-governing since 1979.  Australia controls the island's foreign affairs.  Sponsorship by a current resident is necessary in order to obtain residency.  Alternatively, one can apply for residency by investing in an island business.  Although the government is run from Kingston, Burnt Pine is the main commercial center.  Education is available only through secondary school.

English is the main language on Norfolk.  However, the islanders also speak Norfuk, which is a Creole consisting of eighteenth-century English and the Tahitian language.

There is air service to Norfolk Island from Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland.  Some 80 km (50 miles) of roads exist on Norfolk.  A number of interesting historical and cultural tours are run by local tour operators.  Most visitors arrive from Australia and New Zealand on one-week package tours.  The importation of fresh fruit and vegetables to Norfolk Island is prohibited.  Also, interestingly, non-Australian visitors who come to Norfolk Island from Australia require a multiple entry visa in order to return to Australia! 



ABOUT TED COOKSON:  Egypt's most widely-traveled travel agent, Ted has been to every country in the world!  He has also visited 307 of the 315 destinations on the list of the Travelers' Century Club (visit and refer to World Travel Club).  A travel agent in Cairo since 1986, Ted manages EGYPT PANORAMA TOURS, a full-service travel agency, at 4 Road 79 (between Roads 9 and 10, near the "El Maadi" metro station) in Maadi.  Contact Egypt Panorama Tours (open 7 days a week 9 AM-5 PM) at:  Tels. 2359-0200, 2358-5880, 2359-1301.  Fax 2359-1199.  E-mail:  Web site:

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