(Australian Associated Press)
Sydneysider Romina Aquinchay was 14 years old when a travel article caught her eye and she fell in love with Norfolk Island.
It was a place she always wanted to visit, but it would take her 30 years to fulfil her dream, sparked, in fact, by another travel article about the island’s inaugural food festival in 2014.
“I read a travel magazine article about Norfolk Island when I was 14 years old and always wanted to visit,” she said at the island’s historic Kingston Compound, where the fourth annual Taste Norfolk Island’s Bounty Festival is taking place under the stars.
The walled enclosure – originally the prisoners’ barracks during the island’s time as a penal settlement – is filled with music, fairy lights and dozens of food stalls, bringing together almost the entire population of 1700 in celebration of the island’s natural produce.
“It took me 30 years, but I finally came here for the second food festival,” Aquinchay says of her 2015 visit, and she has been back every year since.
Her sentiments echo those of Canberran Denise Tompsett who continues to visit the island with her husband Rowley for the jazz festival in December, but this year added another week to their usual week-long getaway to enjoy the food festival. “One week wasn’t long enough, so we thought ‘why not come to the food festival and make it two weeks?'”
We meet over freshly caught yellowtail kingfish, prepared sashimi-style for one of the festival’s optional “experiences” – The Blue Kingfisher food van at Kingston Pier.
Owner-operator Carli Christian, a descendant of Bounty mutineer Fletcher Christian, runs the funky kitchen on wheels alongside her business partner Scott, who supplies the fresh fish as well as taking fishing tours with his Greenwoods Fishing Adventures.
If you’ve never tasted yellowtail kingfish, you’ll have to visit Norfolk. The fish is not caught commercially, but it’s sweet, delicate flesh is worth travelling the 1200km from Australia’s east coast to try.
What motivates people to return to Norfolk Island once they’ve had a taste is tangible; the glossy brochures may sell the initial interest, but there is so much to keep people coming back.
The people are open, friendly and welcoming and the pace of life is that of a bygone era, where people have time to stop and chat and wave to each other as they pass in their vehicles.
The weather is very kind; with temperatures from 18C in winter and the high 20s-30C in summer, the extremes are easy to live without.
There is hardly an aspect on Norfolk Island that is not rich in beauty; everywhere the famous Norfolk Pines welcome you, and from the peak of Mount Pitt to the safe, sandy beaches of Emily and Slaughter bays, the eyes have any number of pleasant vistas on which to feast.
There’s so much history to explore since Captain James Cook discovered the island in 1774 and it was then gifted to the descendants of the Bounty mutineers by Queen Victoria in 1856.
Those looking for adventure and those seeking relaxation are catered for in equal measure, with a nine-hole golf course, fishing, biking, walking, tennis, snorkelling, swimming, festivals and dining on offer. Or you can just lie around with a book and drink in the island.
Such is the lifestyle, Norfolk continues to attract new residents from Australia keen for a sea change.
Naomi Thompson did just that seven years ago when her father suggested they buy The Olive cafe in the centre of Burnt Pine after they noticed the cafe was up for sale during a week-long holiday.
After several months, “Nomes” as she is now affectionately known locally, started a fresh life and she hasn’t looked back, playing golf regularly after the cafe closes at 3.30pm.
The slow pace will rewire your brain.
With good food, good company and a good life on offer, the chance to escape the hectic pace of life is appealing after spending just a few days here.
Maybe it’s time for another mutiny.
* The writer travelled as a guest of Norfolk Island Tourism.
GETTING THERE: Air New Zealand operate flights from Sydney every Friday and Monday, and from Brisbane every Saturday and Tuesday.
Norfolk Island Airlines operate flights every Saturday from Brisbane.
STAYING THERE: A range of accommodation is available. South Pacific Resort’s Superior room with a queen and single bed starts at $160.
PLAYING THERE: Norfolk Island Food Festival which has a range of set events and optional extras, runs late November to early December and includes a welcome cocktail party, Thanksgiving Day lunch, sunset cinema and a final celebration dinner, as well as a range of hands-on foodie options.
These include visits to The Blue Kingfisher, Pods Pickle Factory, a walking tour of 100 Acre Farm, The Shed market garden or practical lessons from Seriously Chocolate or Norfolk Blue sausage making.
See www.norfolkislandfoodfestival.com or www.norfolkisland.com.au for more details.
The writer travelled as a guest of Norfolk Island Tourism.