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Adventure on Lord Howe Island


Outdoor recently caught up with Luke Hanson from Lord Howe Island's Pinetrees Lodge to find out more about a festival that's set to include yoga, guided adventure activities, adventure races, cooking master classes, wine tastings, long picnic lunches, amazing dinners and live music. Truly a celebration of, well... everything.

Lord Howe Island, a watery Atlantis-like community in the sea, is renowned the world over for its majestic prominence in the Pacific.

A sea-mount surrounded by deep ocean, it's nearly 500 miles east of Sydney, with towering cone-like Mt Gower rising dramatically from the flatness of the surrounding sea to more than 800m on the southern promontory.

To the north, crescent moon-shaped lowlands cradle an idyllic lagoon, before gently rising again to 200m. A banana-shaped saddle in the sea. It strikes deep into the private romantic ruminations of most, like some sort of epic fantasy land that time forgot.

In Outdoor’s opinion, it’s the type of place Baloo sings about in Bare Necessities during Disney’s 1967 version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.


Awesome cloud formations on the peaks

Nestled in the lowlands centre of the crescent moon, or banana in the sea, is the all important airport, connecting it to mainland Australia and the world beyond.

Airfares to the island aren’t cheap, and accommodation, too, is up there on the price scale, but this is a reflection on the scarcity of available options rather than inflation for the sake of it. 

Basically the airlines can’t really go full budget-air-travel on the Lord Howe route, like they can to Bali, because every trip is, more or less, like a specialised charter booking. The plane flies there and back again. The route is its own with no other nearby connecting hub or ongoing destination.

“It does cost a bit more to come to Lord Howe, and that’s something we can’t really control,” Luke tells Outdoor. “We do liaise regularly with the airlines and our fortnightly shipping merchant and make it as easy as possible for them, but our passengers and all our day-to-day cargo are subjected to the vagaries of the international fuel, shipping and air travel economies.”

It’s not an easy place to get to, but really – has it ever been easy to get to Lord Howe Island? There are logistical hurdles to overcome and the island is restricted to a maximum of 400 guests at any one time, so if you do want to visit, you’re advised to book early.


Taking on the challenging slopes of Lord Howe Island to be rewarded with amazing views

The Summer Festival will run from 27 January to 2 February 2019. Here is what you can expect:

- Intimate evening performances from multiple ARIA award winner, Jeff Lang, described by Rolling Stone Magazine as, “Australia’s best roots-music musician” (from 27-30 January inclusive).

- Morning group yoga classes with yoga-guru to the stars, Charlotte Dodson (and options for private classes during the day).

- Afternoon cooking master classes and wine tastings with Tom Kime, a protégé of Rick Stein, Ruth Rogers and David Thompson, and author of six excellent cookbooks - you'll taste at least five amazing dishes in each class.

- An invitation to compete in the inaugural Three Peaks Adventure Race - a test of endurance, strength and navigation skills - for a chance to win a free stay at Pinetrees in 2020, with a friend, to defend your title.

- Guided snorkelling, diving, kayaking, fishing and hiking (additional costs apply).

- Six-nights’ accommodation at TripAdvisor’s No.1 Hotel in Australia for 2017 & 2018.

- Full breakfasts.

- Lunches (either at Pinetrees, gourmet BBQ hamper or picnic lunch).

- Afternoon teas.

- Four course dinners (and Tom Kime’s five course festival dinner).

- Island airport transfers.

Competitors in the Three Peaks Adventure Race will cover 12-15km over 750 vertical metres. Most of the route will be along single tracks and spectacular volcanic ridges. Competitors will need to lodge their best current times for a 10km walk and a 5km run to help officials determine the fairest handicap start times. The winner will be invited back to Pinetrees Lodge, free-of-charge for seven nights, with a friend, to defend their title in 2020 (conditions apply).

Additionally, there'll be the Pinetrees Pentathlon, or ‘PP’: a team relay event that tests intellect, speed, endurance, skill and teamwork. The inaugural PP in 2018 was one of the funniest days of the year, but don’t let the fancy dress fool you – it was serious!

If this sounds like your sort of getaway, contact Pinetrees Travel on (02) 9262 6585 or check out:


Storytelling with a beer after a memorable day on the island

Luke and Dani, sixth-generation Lord Howe Islanders, run Pinetrees, one the oldest family businesses in Australia.

“If people make the effort to come here, naturally we want to help them engage with the special qualities of Lord Howe as much as possible,” Luke says.

“The island is relatively small compared to the mainland, but there's loads to do, if you choose – trekking, exploring and climbing the seven island peaks or swimming and snorkelling in the lagoon, all without the hindrance of signal receiving devices – there’s no WiFi on Lord Howe because of its isolation.”

And it’s the isolation, Luke feels, that sets Lord Howe apart from many of its contemporaries.

“We are a small community, and when people come here and unplug, they quickly get a solid sense of what a true community lifestyle is all about,” he says.

It seems obvious, but compelling guests to look beyond the faux urgency dictated by email inbox notifications and other similarly needless highly-strung internet-related anxieties is a huge calling card if you ask us at Outdoor.

Lord Howe Island is crisscrossed with walking tracks, all with spectacular views

“Organising an adventure festival that involves good music and tasty food is pretty standard fare, but ours also involves a challenging physical dynamic which fits well with the Lord Howe culture,” Luke says.

“Our guests come together as a group, experience the same things as a group, interact with and get through everything as a group and at the end of it, share the same sense of achievement with a cold beer in our beach bar by the lagoon.”

There’s a real joy that comes with communicating with people the old fashioned way. Doing something or achieving something noteworthy and then regaling all within earshot of the adventure, while it is still fresh in the memory, blow-by-blow, is all part of the rich tapestry of life.

More than this, it’s psychologically crucial. Without acknowledging achievements by storytelling within community groups, we run the risk of forgetting a key aspect of what it means to be happy humans.

“Exploring and investigating the art of relaxation is a big part of the festival,” Luke says. “The art of recreation, expunging technology addiction – or whatever you want to call it – often takes a few days to realise.”

“Ultimately, the goal of the festival is to help guests realise as quickly as possible.”


Lord Howe escape

Diving in Lord Howe