About 900km south of New Caledonia and 800km north west of New Zealand, Norfolk Island is a place of beauty, history, and the occasional ‘Plan B’.


It’s the 17th of April 1789.

Somewhere out in the vast South Pacific Ocean, the British Royal Navy vessel HMAS Bounty is making its way between Tahiti and the West Indies to deliver its cargo of breadfruit.

The evening silence is broken by the uproar of mutiny – the captain, Lieutenant William Bligh is pulled from his bed, his hands roughly bound and forced up on to the deck.

Shortly after, Bligh and 18 other ‘loyalists’ were sent adrift in a small ‘jolly boat’, whilst the mutineers commandeered the HMAS Bounty under the leadership of master’s mate Fletcher Christian.


Walking Norfolk Island – A Tiny Landmass in the South Pacific Ocean, Jason Reeve


Their subsequent journey would lead to an eventual settlement on the remote Pitcairn Islands, before murder, suicide, accidents, and disease would all but obliterate the group. Although the British dispatched ships to search for the mutineers, their fate would remain an enduring mystery for many years.

In 1808 the American sealer ship ‘Topaz’ would eventually discover the survivors on Pitcairn Island by chance – just one mutineer, nine Polynesian women and 23 children (descendants of the mutineers & their wives) would be all that remained by that time.

These survivors would go on to form the communities of both Pitcairn Island and Norfolk Island.

Walking Norfolk Island – A Tiny Landmass in the South Pacific Ocean, Jason Reeve

Settling Norfolk – Farming, Convicts, and Survivors.

Although survivors from HMAS Bounty did ultimately end up on Norfolk Island, they weren’t the first to settle there. The islands capital Kingston was founded in March 1788, just five weeks after the First Fleet arrived in Sydney. Captain Cook had previously charted the island and chose it for settlement due to the large Norfolk pines, thinking these would make ideal ship masts – in reality, the composition of the pine ultimately made them unsuitable for that purpose.

The island’s soil however was fertile and farming became the primary focus, with Norfolk Island often referred to as ‘Sydney’s food bowl’ during the establishment of the new colony. But in 1814 the island was abandoned due to isolation and waning need from the colony.


Walking Norfolk Island – A Tiny Landmass in the South Pacific Ocean, Jason Reeve


It wasn’t until 1825 when the island began its next chapter as Australia’s infamously harsh convict prison. Built as a place of ‘banishment’ for several hundred of the worst re-offenders, the prison had a well-earned reputation for inflicting punishments verging on the inhumane.

After about 30 years, the prison was closed and the resulting ruins are now a UNESCO World Heritage site that you can freely explore.


Walking Norfolk Island – A Tiny Landmass in the South Pacific Ocean, Jason Reeve


That brings us back to the mutineers.

By 1856, the descendants of the mutineers, now Pitcairn Islanders, have outgrown their small island and with the help of the crown, they relocated to Norfolk Island. Since that time, some have chosen to return to Pitcairn and others have moved away entirely – but many of the folks you meet on Norfolk Island today will either be, or related to, a descendant of those Bounty mutineers.

Visiting Norfolk Island Today

Getting to Norfolk Island is both easy… and a little difficult.

Recently Qantas began regular flights to Norfolk Island, which certainly helps, but times are few and the cost can be challenging. My flight over was quick – just two hours or so and really no different to a New Zealand flight.

Things are a little different when you hit the ground though. The island has just one taxi, so if you’re wanting to avoid using your own two feet, then you’ll either want to book that taxi or arrange collection with your hotel (most are well-equipped to do this).

That being said you needn’t worry too much, the island is only 34.6km² – or 8km by 5km. So, for anyone that’s happy with a wander you’ll find the island well within your capabilities.


Walking Norfolk Island – A Tiny Landmass in the South Pacific Ocean, Jason Reeve


You’ll also notice no data. None – no international roaming here.

Don’t fret my data loving friends, the island has its own network called ‘Norfolk Telecom’ which does thankfully provide sim and data packs for visitors.

If you’re thinking you’d forgo that and hunt down some WiFi, you’ll also find yourself in trouble since WiFi is scarce. The hotels on the island will sell you WiFi access but the packages are small, so you’ll need to use your data wisely.

Given the remoteness of the island, you’ll also be reliant on the supply ship arriving on schedule. During my visit, the island hadn’t received a supply ship in three months – leading to the requirement of a ‘Plan B’ on a few occasions where food or certain business were unavailable or closed as a result.


Walking Norfolk Island – A Tiny Landmass in the South Pacific Ocean, Jason Reeve


Another element you’ll soon notice is that although the island population speaks English, the locals also speak a language called Norfuk. Norfuk, Norf’k or Pitcairn-Norfolk is a blend of 18th-century English and Tahitian, originally introduced by Pitkern-speaking settlers from the Pitcairn Islands.

Last but certainly not least, there are a number of tour operators on Norfolk Island who are ready to help make your visit as comfortable and informative as possible – Norfolk Island Travel Centre or Pinetree Tours are worth a look.

Walking Norfolk Island – A Tiny Landmass in the South Pacific Ocean, Jason Reeve

Exploring the Island by Foot

I visited Norfolk Island as part of a work trip and the whole trip itself was about two and a half days – so my time was extremely limited. But as always, I take what little free time I can squeeze out of a trip and use it to explore – even if that means walking home in the dark.

Over the two and a half days I was on the island, I managed to squeeze in about 40km of walking in the mornings and evenings around work. Those 40km saw me explore a good portion of the island, with only the east coast remaining out of my reach due to time.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!


Walking Norfolk Island – A Tiny Landmass in the South Pacific Ocean, Jason Reeve


The island itself felt like a mixture of New South Wales, New Zealand, and a good sprinkling of New Caledonia. The red earth and bright green pines, next to the Pacific blue is reminiscent of my trip to Noumea a few years back and it made for an exotic vibe – the palm trees certainly helped that too.

I went for two main walks while on the island, a loop down to Kingston and Bumbora Beach, then another larger loop which included the Cockpit Waterfall, Bridle Track, Captain Cook’s Lookout, Anson Bay, and Mt Pitt Lookout. If I was to make a list of the places I’d recommend, that list from my walk would be a big part of it – mark those on your map.


Walking Norfolk Island – A Tiny Landmass in the South Pacific Ocean, Jason Reeve


The Bridle Track in particular is one worth calling out as it falls within the Norfolk Island National Park. The national park has several trails to explore, and at least from my experience, the paths were wide, clear and well maintained. The park is on the north western side of the island and it’s here you’ll find Captain Cook’s Lookout as well as several other coastal views.

Aside from those outdoor hotspots, I’d also recommend the Cyclorama 360º artwork which depicts the Bounty story. No photographs allowed, so I cannot show you that one, but trust me when I say it’s worth a look.

a single, defining moment that birthed a mystery, a community and an enduring legacy

The really evident and interesting element of the island is the connection and pride that the local people have for their heritage – their inclusion by descent in that single, defining moment that shaped the land that they now live upon.


Walking Norfolk Island – A Tiny Landmass in the South Pacific Ocean, Jason Reeve


Knowing that their ancestors shared in a frightfully dangerous, but also seriously courageous endeavour creates a uniquely bonded community.

Those historic surnames from the mutiny event (Adams, Christian, McCoy, Quintal, and Young) are still present and proudly worn by folks on Norfolk Island today.

If you’re like me and love a good little slice of history whilst enjoying the outdoors, then Norfolk Island is truly a unique, beautiful island to wander upon.