The Road Ahead : December 2011
WWW.ROADAHEAD.COM.AU THE ROAD AHEAD DEC 2011/JAN 2012 30 TRAVEL DEPARTURE NATIONAL FOR SUCH A small place, it is surprising just how much history has been packed into the 200-plus years since Captain Cook 'discovered' Norfolk Island in 1774 -- an agricultural settlement only six weeks after the landing at Sydney Cove in 1788, two periods as a penitentiary, the sinking of the HMS Sirius (a flagship of the First Fleet), and the connection with the infamous Mutiny on the Bounty. Volcanic in origin, Norfolk Island is about 8 km by 5 km (3455 hectares) of undulating country, rising at its highest point to 318 m at Mt Bates. Sheer cliffs surround most of the island, plunging into clear waters that are a fisherman's paradise. A coral reef on the southern shore protects Slaughter Bay and Emily Bay, with the nearby pier the main source of access for goods brought to the island by ship and transferred ashore by open boats, sometimes two or three 'strapped' together. Watching this delicate operation is an attraction for locals and tourists alike, especially when a large bus or truck is unloaded. The original settlement that lasted until 1814 was on the flat area close to the pier, now known as Kingston. On a sunny day the ancient walls of the penitentiary look pleasant enough, but they obscure the fact that conditions during the times of penal settlement were terrible and Norfolk Island was a place of 'infamy and dread'. Close to the pier, a group of buildings that were originally the Royal Engineer's office, guard house and pier store now house a craft and information office, tearooms and the Social History Museum, which displays material covering all periods of settlement on the island, including artefacts from the HMS Sirius. Standing alone in the grassy sward of the Kingston historic area and surrounded by many mature Norfolk Island pines is Government House, dating from 1828, one of the earliest and most intact such buildings in Australia. Since 1913, it has been the home of the Administrator, in recent years a post held by 'retired' Australian politicians. Although Norfolk Island uses Australian currency, it has its own nine member assembly, customs and immigration laws and stamps and you need to take your Australian passport. At the far end of the Kingston area is the local cemetery, a history of the island in itself. The early headstones provide evidence of the causes of death of the first men, women and children -- many were drowned at sea or succumbed to disease. The more recent graves date from the time of the return to Norfolk Island in 1856 of the descendants of the On Norfolk Island, an external territory of Australia some 1600 km north-east of Sydney, history is everywhere. TRAVEL OFFER: RACQ Travel is offering 10 percent off an escorted group tour of Norfolk Island. The eight day Norfolk Island, History and Ghosts Tour includes seven nights' accommodation, local tour escort, sightseeing and entrance fees, 14 meals with five fantastic themed dinner shows plus four tours including an introductory tour of the island, historic convict Kingston tour and breakfast rainforest walk. Priced from $1396 pp twin share and available throughout 2012. For further information, contact one of our award winning consultants on 1300 888 449 or travel@racq. com.au. through the past darkly STORY | PHOTOS ROGER ALLNUTT MAIN IMAGE: ST BARNABAS CHURCH. INSET: ONE OF HEADSTONES AT OLD CEMETERY, KINGSTON. NEXT PAGE: BIRD AND ELEPHANT ISLAND.
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