Australia continues to be one of the hottest destinations in the world. Between the cities (Melbourne, Sydney), the coast (Brisbane to Cape Tribulation), the Red Center, and the even more-remote spots (Darwin, Margaret River), there’s something for everyone on the world’s largest island. So where do the Aussies go—besides deeper into the Outback—now that travelers have found all of their cool getaways?
Lord Howe Island is located in the Tasman Sea in between Australia and New Zealand. It’s considered an unincorporated part of New South Wales. The crescent-shaped island is the eroded remains of a seven-million-year-old shield volcano. Most of the island—70 percent of it—is a Permanent Park Preserve; the whole thing is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since so many of its plants and animals aren’t found anywhere else. Plus, only 400 people are allowed to visit the island at one time.
Mount Gower, the highest peak, sits along the southern coast. It’s separated from Mount Lidgbird by the Erskine Valley. A sandy lagoon, sheltered by the world’s southernmost coral reef, lies to the west. Secluded beaches dot the entire coastline. Gorgeous sailboats are anchored just offshore. Tall kentia palms fill the interior. A few luxury lodges pamper guests. While you never have to worry about crowds.
Spend your first day on Lord Howe Island hiking Mount Gower. On the eight-hour hike, you pass moss-covered logs, gnarled branches, rare orchids, and Lord Howe woodhens as you ascend through the dense rainforest. The path is slippery and quite narrow at times. As you get closer and closer to the top, a summit cloud forest surrounds you. It cools you off, at least for a minute. Then amazing, 360-degree views await you at the peak. You stare at Mount Lidgbird, Ball’s Pyramid, Little Island, and the endless blue sea. No wonder it’s considered one of Australia’s best day hikes.
After staring at the crystal blue water on your hike, you’re ready to spend the next day along the shore. Start the morning by surfing or boogie boarding at Blinky Beach. It’s known for its golden sand, “champagne surf,” and perfect breaks. Go on a bushwalk through the Valley of the Shadows, where the roots of massive banyan trees grow down from the branches. Wade into the water and feed meter-long kingfish at Ned’s Beach. Snorkel among The Favourite, a 1965 wreck off North Bay. Scuba dive among stingrays, painted mokis, and silver drummers at Comets Hole. Kayak through the lagoon as the sun starts to set. Then join a low-key barbecue featuring the best catches of the day. Just don’t share this Aussie secret.