Dennis and Rosamund Knill visit one of the smallest islands in the South Pacific to relax and enjoy great tastes.
Our itinerary makes it sound blissfully easy, perhaps too easy. Maybe something a little more challenging is called for which is why we are here.
We’re on Norfolk Island for a week of relaxation and to taste some of the island’s great produce. Each November, this South Pacific gem kicks up its heels with a five-day food festival — and the food is just for starters.
Stepping off the plane, we’re greeted by a cloudless sky. You can sense the atmosphere from the beginning, a sort of unpretentious charm with the ability to delight the most blasé of tourists.
The island is small, there are no traffic lights and navigating the only roundabout is about as stressful as it gets. Despite the accommodation being scattered around the island you’re only a few minutes from Burnt Pine to shop or enjoy their café culture.
Norfolk is knee-deep in history, it’s as intriguing as it is horrifying. The first Europeans arrived in 1788 to establish a penal colony only to be abandoned in 1814. In 1825 a second settlement of hardened criminals was established that became ‘a place of extreme punishment short of death’ so shocking that many convicts craved for death as a form of escape.
After the second settlement was shut down a third wave of settlers arrived from Pitcairn Island previously home to the Bounty mutineers. Facing starvation and overcrowding, Queen Victoria granted them a new haven to live in and the beginning of a new chapter at Kingston. The Georgian limestone buildings have been restored to their former glory. Little has changed from the days when bakers, blacksmiths, masons and shingle splitters carried out their trades.
Wandering among the crumbling graves, the sand-blasted headstones from the blustery sea is like walking among the ghosts of the penal days. Today, Norfolk Islanders are still buried just metres from their ancestors.
The descendants constitute the backbone of the island’s declining population. Surnames such as Christian, Evans, Quintal, McCoy, Buffet, Adams, Nobbs, and Young are commonplace. With so many sharing the same surnames, the telephone directory unveils a selection of pseudonyms like Moose, Pinky, Knuckles, Coon, Skeeters, and Bugs to eliminate any confusion.
We check into Shearwater Scenic Villas. The setting is idyllic. Stately Norfolk pines throw shadows over a sweeping landscape that drops away to a crescent bay drained by the intensity of dramatic waves crashing in from the vastness of ocean.
The festival begins with a cocktail party. Bartenders are busy blending cocktails and serving canopies that keep palates alive. We mingle with other foodies that we will meet and greet again over the next four days at various mouth-watering events.
Day two draws the biggest crowd with local restaurants lined up under canvas in the old world charm of Kingston prison. Seating is set up on the lawns for an enthusiastic food-loving audience. There’s a real community buzz and at this time of the year it’s a chef’s paradise for fresh produce. Enjoying a glass of wine with some like-minded people, the soft sounds of the dance band make myriad reasons to stay for what becomes a long night.
The next morning we move quarters to a clifftop cottage at Forrester’s Court. Staying in a five-star luxury cottage is always a treat but how many are secluded with stunning sea views? From a steep sloping hillside the vista skims over the manicured lawns to take in the blue sheen of the Pacific Ocean.
Afterwards we sit down with 60 other devoted foodies in the grounds at Bounty Lodge for the official luncheon. After pleasant conversation we’re treated to a smorgasbord of traditional Norfolk cuisine.
But it doesn’t end there. If you’re still not grounded, the following night is the official five-course dinner. Anticipation grows as we’re seated for a gastronomic feast of fresh local produce.
It’s almost a relief after so much food to find ourselves at breakfast for the final festival event with a long table set up on the foreshore at Emily Bay. An important part of any meal is the view, the rolling vista of a dramatic coastline fringed by a picture perfect beach. A full English breakfast with a selection of pastries, fresh fruit, yogurt and cereals harmonised by a musical duet.
It’s the perfect end to a perfect week. And yes we haven’t lost any weight. But wasn’t that our aim?