By Graeme Kemlo

Historic Norfolk Island 1600 km off our east coast is touting its historical and cultural attraction. But more pragmatic in pandemic times, it’s the way to: “Go overseas on a domestic flight.”

Largely a leisure tourism destination, the island is perfect for small conventions, incentives and executive retreats according to the administrator, Eric Hutchinson.

The majestic Norfolk pine, now popular on the mainland, first drew Captain Cook to Norfolk in 1774. He abandoned the island when the pines did not prove useful as ship masts. But it was settled as a British penal colony just weeks after the First Fleet landed in Sydney in March 1788.

Eric says: “It is very much part of Australia’s history… apart from a very brutal penal settlement, it has a patchwork history.”

One member of his own family arrived there in 1791 as deputy commissary.

But it was first occupied by Polynesians at least 700 to 800 years ago, in 1856 Pitcairn Islanders – descended from the infamous Bounty mutineers – arrived with their Tahitian wives.

“So that very much has characterised the culture, the look and feel of the island that is certainly very different.”

About half the islanders today are descended from the Pitcairn crew.

Before COVID struck he said they had managed to get Norfolk on the cruise ship calendar, but because there is no deep water wharf, passengers had to come aboard on smaller passenger vessels.  So it was best suited to expedition class ships, but the international visitors loved their day on Norfolk and he hopes it can be resurrected.

“It is a beautiful place, very peaceful and perfectly suited to small scale conventions and executive retreats… a place where big ideas can be hatched that you might not be able to achieve in some of our bigger cities,” he said, citing the pace of life, beautiful climate, great food and a range of leisure activities including fishing, golf, or walking around the 5km by 3km island to admire its Georgian architecture or its national park.

There are meeting spaces for up to 180 and a range of accommodation options. At its peak up to 800 visitors can be accommodated on the island which is usually served by flights up to three times a week from both Sydney and Brisbane.