Norfolk Island, 1,120 km northwest of Auckland, 800 km south of Nouméa, and 1,400 km east of Brisbane, measures eight km by five km and is 3,455 hectares in area.
When Captain Cook discovered this uninhabited island in 1774 it was tightly packed with tall, straight pine trees, which he incorrectly judged would make fine masts for sailing ships.
In 1788 the British government set up a penal colony here, but the island was abandoned in 1814. Fears that Norfolk might be occupied by a rival power led the British to reestablish their penal colony in 1825, but this facility gained notoriety through reports of wanton cruelty, and in 1855 the remaining prisoners were transferred to Tasmania, Australia.
In 1856, the existing prison infrastructure of staff quarters and farms was used to resettle the Pitcairn Islanders, and today more than a third of the 2,000 island residents have Pitcairn names.
The Melanesian Mission established its headquarters on Norfolk in 1866, and until 1921 it had a college there used to train Solomon Islanders and others as pastors. The mission church and burial ground remain.
Whaling was practiced by the islanders from the 1850s until 1962, but the event that changed Norfolk forever was the building of a wartime airport in 1944.
Today the island is a favorite vacation spot for middle-aged or retired Australians and New Zealanders who come for a quiet holiday. A small national park with hiking trails, the convict settlement, and lovely coastal scenery are the main attractions. The Pitcairn connection is heavily exploited by the local tourist industry, and there are Pitcairn museums, shows, film evenings, tours, and souvenirs.
Norfolk Island is a self-governing territory under Australian authority. Visitors other than citizens of Australia and New Zealand require an Australian visa for a stay of 30 days. There are scheduled flights to Norfolk Island from Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle, and Sydney. An airport tax is collected upon departure.
Tourism is tightly controlled by Norfolk Island Tourism and only persons with prepaid accommodations are allowed entry (you must book your room prior to arrival). Camping, youth hostels, and most other forms of independent budget travel are banned. There are over 60 official places to stay on the island and prices are reasonable for a couple of nights. Just be sure to get something with cooking facilities and perhaps a rental car included. Four or five days on the island should be enough.