Nature on Lord Howe Island
Lord Howe Island is breathtaking in its natural beauty – from its famous twin peaks and unique plants and animals to its vivid coral reefs. The best way to experience the UNESCO World Heritage natural attractions is to immerse yourself in it: walk, hike, snorkel, dive and swim.
Scientists discovered Lord Howe Island is a remnant of a now-extinct shield volcano dating back 7 million years that has eroded to one fortieth of its original size. First discovered in 1788, the island chain’s isolation plus tropical and temperate waters created what UNESCO says is the 'world’s most southerly true coral reef'.
Lord Howe Island is an important seabird breeding ground and paradise for birdwatchers. It's home to the flightless Lord Howe woodhen, once regarded as one of the world’s rarest birds. There are palms and ferns found nowhere else on the Earth, and the world’s largest stick insect lives on the world’s tallest sea stack, Ball’s Pyramid.
A delight for walkers, the main island is 11km long and 2.8km wide. The enchanting Little Island trail hugs the south-western shoreline through ancient Banyan trees and Kentia palms. You can spot rare Providence petrels flying around the basalt peaks of 875m-high Mount Gower and 777m-high Mount Lidgbird from March through September.
For the famous hike to Mount Gower, you’ll need to join tours such as Sea to Summit Expeditions or Lord Howe Environmental Tours. The 14km return day trek to the summit is considered one of Australia’s great walks. At the summit is the aptly named Gnarled Mossy Cloud Forest, a gnarly moss-covered twist of trees and palms.
There are many more beautiful trails, such as the Malabar Hill walk where you will find red-tailed tropicbirds, known for their spectacular airborne courting displays. The two-hour return walk takes in breathtaking views over the twin peaks to the south and Admiralty Islands to the north – a popular scuba diving location.
The Valley of the Shadows is incredible. You’ll walk through towering Kentia palms and massive Banyan trees that look as if they’re striding across the forest floor like sentinels. Those who take a walk up to Transit Hill in the centre of the island will be rewarded with a wonderful panorama. The return walk is about an hour.
The Lord Howe Island Marine Park is teeming with sea life, from hawksbill turtles to 90 coral species, dolphins, sea lions, Ballina angelfish and Galapagos sharks. Loggerhead and leatherback turtles migrate through the park and you can explore abundant marine life in the crystal-clear lagoon in a glass-bottom boat.
The coral reef protects the lagoon, making it suitable for swimming, snorkelling and other water sports with Reef N Beyond Eco Tours. Lord Howe has some of the best diving in the world and Pro Dive offers a range of tours. Ball’s Pyramid is home to a coral wall where huge coral fans gently sway like hula skirts with the tide.