Norfolk Island – Former British Penal Settlement and Home to World Heritage Convict Ruins

Norfolk Island was part of Australian territory, but had been granted limited self-government until July 2016. The island’s unspoiled nature and beautiful scenery attracts more than 20,000 visitors each year. At first glance, it may be hard to believe it was ever a penal colony. Despite being featured in the classic film, “Mutiny on the Bounty”, Norfolk Island isn’t that well known in Japan. So, we set off to explore what this beautiful island has to offer. The ccTLD for Norfolk Island is “.nf“.

♦Where is Norfolk Island?

The island lies east of Australia at latitude 29°02 South and longitude 167°57 East. It is situated between Australia, New Caledonia and New Zealand. In 1774, Captain James Cook sighted and landed on Norfolk Island, naming it after the Duke of Norfolk. The island has an area of 34.6 km2 and a population of 2,210 (as of 2014). The currency used is the Australian Dollar (AUD). Norfolk is also the name of a city in southeastern Virginia and a county of eastern England.
* As of June 2023

= Table of Contents =

◆Norfolk Pine – Another Kind of Christmas Tree

◆Unique Museum with the World’s Only Phonebook Listing People by Nickname

◆World Heritage Australian Convict Sites

◆Norfolk Island Cuisine

◆Hiking to Beautiful Secret Beach

◆Sea of Green Handprints & Miscellaneous Norfolk Island Information

◆Finding “.nf” Around Town

◆How to Purchase a SIM & Test the Internet Speed


◆Norfolk Pine – Another Kind of Christmas Tree

The Norfolk pine is a native evergreen tree that has become the local icon. It’s even depicted on the flag.

We flew to Norfolk Island from Brisbane airport in Australia. It took about two hours. As you come in to land, you can see lots of Norfolk pines from the window.

We arrive at Norfolk Island Airport. There really wasn’t anyone there, apart from the airport staff.

The tiny airport looks like a couple of cute cottages.

We also saw many Norfolk pines around the airport. The Norfolk pine can be used as a Christmas tree because of its beautiful conical shape, characteristic of conifers. Unusually, it’s also a popular and easy to care for houseplant.

Get up close and you’ll be impressed by its size. They can reach up to 60 meters. That’s the height of a 20-story building!

While these pine trees are found all over the island, there is one in particular that has become famous. It’s known as the “Lone Pine” and is often mentioned in tourist guidebooks and other publications. Standing conspicuously in a world heritage area called Point Hunter, this lone figure has managed to survive for centuries.

If you view it from Emily Bay, you’ll feel the full impact of just how solitary it is.

Emily Bay is also a great spot for swimming.


◆Unique Museum with the World’s Only Phonebook Listing People by Nickname

We next visit the Bounty Museum to learn more about the history of Norfolk Island. It’s about a 5-minute drive from the tourist information center in Kingston.

It’s open daily from 10:00am to 4:00pm. There are no closed days. Five rooms display historical items and collections dating back to 1788.

It costs $15 AUD to enter. You can then visit as many times as you like during your trip. There’s also WiFi.

After paying the admission fee, the museum staff will give you a brief introduction to the museum. They also showed us the Pitcairn Islands flag and told us that descendants of the Bounty mutineers moved here from the Pitcairn Islands in 1856 and became primary residents of Norfolk Island from that time onwards.

Bounty Museum also broadcasts a FM radio station.

We go inside. Wow! We were blown away by the size and number of exhibits!

It would be impossible to see it all in one visit. I guess that’s why they let you come back as many times as you like.

Model of the ship “Bounty”, famous for the Mutiny on the Bounty. Also, there are many different items that are part of the Mutiny collection.

In the late 1780’s, Britain started exiling convicts to such places as Australia and Norfolk Island. Many prisons and barracks were built here on the island. Exhibitions show us the inhumane conditions the convicts were kept in.

Convicts weren’t only men. There were also women and children. A number of indigenous Australians were also forced into hard labor. You can even touch and hold the same chains prisoners were once chained to.

Severe penalties were imposed on prisoners for a variety of reasons:

  • For having a pipe
  • For not walking fast enough
  • For doing up shoelaces when muster was called
  • For having tobacco – later gagged for complaining
  • For having tobacco – later gagged for complaining
  • For asking a Gaoler for a chew of tobacco
  • For having a tamed bird
  • For saying “Oh my God” while on the chain
  • For smiling while on the chain
  • For having some raveling from old pair of trousers
  • For walking across the prison yard to make an enquiry
  • For singing a song

These violations could be punished with 50 or more lashes and 10 days imprisonment, and in some cases, they were confined to a cell with 13 other prisoners, with only enough space to stand.

Tools used for whaling and photos from that time period were also on display.

A booth displaying audio equipment and cameras once used on the island.

Here’s a Sony radio. Looks like it’s in pretty good condition.

This old cinematography camera was used on Pitcairn Island many times.

This is a telephone directory. Phone numbers are listed next to names such as Beef, Cane Toad, Carrots, Dar Bizziebee, Duck, Grin Lettuce Leaf, Moose, Moonie, Onion, Hunky and Boo.

This is the “world’s only telephone directory to list people by nickname”. In most cases, while we know their nickname, their real name is unknown.

Fun facts about Norfolk Island:

  1. 1Norfolk Island has the NSW post code of 2899 but is not part of New South Wales.
  2. Norfolk Island votes in the Canberra electorate of Bean, but is not part of the Australian Capital Territory.
  3. Norfolk Islands’ health and education is provided by QLD but it is not part of Queensland.
  4. Norfolk Island’s television stations are broadcast from Alice Springs but it is not part of the Northern Territory.
  5. Norfolk Island’s phone country code is 672 (Antarctica) yet it is not part of Antarctica.
  6. Norfolk Island is an external Territory of Australia, yet it has no direct shipping service to or from Australia.
  7. Norfolk Island’s official airline is not the Australian registered flag carrier Qantas, but Air New Zealand.

As we leave the museum, we suddenly come across a cow and her calf. They weren’t there when we arrived. The calf was eagerly drinking milk from its mom. I hope you grow big and strong, little calf.

World Heritage Australian Convict Sites

Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area (KAVHA) was once a convict settlement during the period of convict transportation to Eastern Australia from 1788 to 1855. On July 31st, 2010, it became one of 11 Australian World Heritage Convict Sites. The registered area covers 225 hectares. That’s about the same as 48 Tokyo Domes!

As we walk through the area, we happen upon a small, free resource center called “The R.E.O”. Let’s take a look inside.

Various items related to the convict site are on display.

There is quite a number of norfolkislandmuseums scattered throughout the large historic area. There is also a tour bus available that goes around to each museum, but we didn’t go on it this time.

Site of the original prison complex.

These are the ruins of a three-story building, which began construction in 1829 and after its completion in 1835, housed around 973 prisoners.

As it is a world heritage site, the area is kept tidy and free from any rubbish. We got the impression that the entire area is very well looked after. This green building was a public restroom.

An observatory built on a slightly elevated hill. Queen Elizabeth II visited on February 11, 1974, during a visit to Norfolk Island.

Nearby there was a bench built in memory of Ian Kenny, a Norfolk Island businessman heavily involved in the tourist industry, who died in 2009.


◆Norfolk Island Cuisine

・Bounty Bar & Grill

When we asked at the hotel where the best places to eat are, they first recommended Bounty Bar & Grill. They went ahead and made a reservation for us. The staff here at the hotel are Russian, but have spent most of their lives on Norfolk Island.

It’s already getting pretty dark. With so few street lights, it was a little difficult to find the restaurant, but in the end, we found it.

The atmosphere in this early 1900’s building was very quaint and relaxed.

There were some really gorgeous pieces of antique furniture.

We ordered the steak and grilled fish, which came with plenty of local produce. It was the owner’s recommendation. The steak came with lots of butter.

After our meal, we had dessert and Irish coffee. Everything we had was delicious and the restaurant was cosy and comfortable.

The friendly owner who was happy to have their picture taken.

After paying the bill and just as we were about to leave, the owner invited us to take a look at the kitchen. The friendly and welcoming chefs are originally from Fiji.


・The Olive Cafe

We had breakfast at The Olive Cafe.

As soon as you enter, you’ll notice the Specials of the Day.

It was empty when we first arrived, but it was soon filled with locals and tourists.

A corner selling miscellaneous goods.

It’s a very stylish cafe.

Nice big portions, too.


Latte art.

You can read The Norfolk Islander if you’d like.

It includes the puzzle game, sudoku.


・Hilli restaurant cafe

Hilli Restaurant & Cafe is relatively new and includes an art gallery and some other facilities.

Everything looks so good on the lunch menu that we had a hard time choosing.

In the end, we ordered the lunch plate.


The hamburger was thick and juicy. The word “Hilli” is the Norfuk word for sleepy or lazy. In other words, it’s a cafe-restaurant where you can relax and eat until you’re full and maybe a bit sleepy. Our experience was exactly as the name suggests.


◆Hiking to Beautiful Secret Beach

At Anson Bay, there is a beach that is a well-kept secret. We didn’t realize until we arrived there, but the beach is actually under the cliffs. You can only get there on foot. There’s not long until sunset so we’d better get going.


We follow the signs as we go down.

The path twists and turns so it’s not such a steep decent. It’s relatively easy. The walk back up is probably going to be tough, but we try not to think about it for now.

The path is closed beyond this point due to a land slip. We keep going, using a different route that has a slight incline.

The path travels along the bare hillside.

We’re getting closer to the beach now. But it’s still some distance away.

We stop and take a break on this bench.

Finally, we reach the beach! It’s the perfect spot to watch the sun set so it’s become a popular tourist spot on the island. But today, there was nobody but us.


◆Sea of Green Handprints & Miscellaneous Norfolk Island Information

We stayed at Aloha Apartments, which is long-term accommodation with kitchens and other facilities. The kitchen is equipped with all the dishes and utensils you could ever need. A lot of accommodation is like this on the island.

Living room.

Bedroom. There’s no air-conditioning unit, same as the living room.

Why not? According to information provided, air-conditioning is not permitted on Norfolk Island. The average maximum temperature in February, the hottest month on the island, is 25°C, and the average minimum temperature in August, the coldest month, is 15°C. It certainly seems possible to live here without a/c. We fell asleep with the window open and ended up getting really cold!

While strolling the streets of Kingston, we came across a live jazz band.

On this trip we decided to rent a car. Arrangements can be made through ‘Aloha Rent-a-Car’, an affiliate of Aloha Apartments, where we are staying. An international driver’s license isn’t needed as they accept Japanese licenses.

You will be able to choose where you want to return the car. We decided to return the car at the airport carpark. Helpfully, each Aloha Apartment comes with its own parking space.

You’ll need to be careful of cows while driving. We saw a car waiting for a cow to cross the street.

Some buildings have cattle grids to prevent cows from entering.

Cattle roam freely on the island. Cars drive on the left side of the road, the same as in Japan. If you ever find yourself having to drive around Norfolk Island, just be sure to take it easy.

Near the Norfolk Shopping mall, we saw a large number of handprints. There were so many!

If you look closely, you’ll see there is a name written with each green handprint. What does it mean?

It’s a display for “Hands Up for Democracy”, a group of residents fighting against Australian rule and calling for a return to self-rule.


 ◆Finding “.nf” Around Town

Unfortunately, we didn’t see “.nf” at many places around town. A company run by local artists who design jewelry and other items. Their e-mail address uses “.nf”.

Company van for a local bakery.


◆How to Purchase a SIM & Test the Internet Speed

SIM cards from mainland Australia cannot be used on Norfolk Island, so you will need to purchase one locally. There is just one telecommunication carrier, Norfolk Telecom. We popped in to Norfolk Telecom (close to 9 New Cascade Rd), which we had looked up beforehand, but found they had relocated to the Bicentennial Complex, near the information center.

We head to the tourist information center. We can’t see anywhere that looks like Norfolk Telecom. We decide to check out the green building, and as it happens, it’s where Norfolk Telecom has relocated to.

There is only one SIM card plan for travelers. That keeps things simple. It cost $30 AUD (Aprox. 2,820 JPY), $10 AUD (aprox 940 JPY) of which goes towards the SIM card. It gives you 2GB, valid for 21 days.

A measurement we took near the information center showed 6.2 Mbps.


■List of Places Visited

■For access to Norfolk Island here

■For “.nf” domain details here

■For “” domain details here

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