About Norfolk Island

About Norfolk Island


Norfolk Island is a unique and beautiful island located between the east coast of Australia and New Zealand (1610 km east-northeast of Sydney and 1063 km north-northwest of Auckland), lying 29°02′ S latitude and 167°57′ E longitude in the South Pacific Ocean. It is a volcanic outcrop 8 km long and 5 km wide, with an area of 3455 hectares. Two smaller uninhabited islands, Nepean and Phillip, lie to the south of Norfolk Island, at a distance of 1 km and 6 km, respectively. Nepean Island is about 10 hectares in area, while Phillip Island is about 190 hectares.


The Norfolk Island group is situated on the Norfolk Ridge, an elongated submarine rise that extends from New Zealand to New Caledonia. There are no other emergent outcrops in the group, with the closest land being New Caledonia (approximately 800 km to the northwest).

Norfolk and Phillip Islands have similar geology, both being almost completely volcanic in origin. The sporadic volcanic activity that built the islands extended over a period of approximately 700,000 years, beginning about 3 million years ago. The sea has since eroded Norfolk Island to about one-third of its original size, forming a coastline of high cliffs. The volcanic activity generated four distinct rock formations, consisting of fine to medium grained olivine basalts and tuffs (layered volcanic ash). These are the Ball Bay Basalts (the oldest dating to about 3 million years ago), the Duncombe Bay Basalts (2.66–2.69 million years), the Cascade Basalts (2.4 million years) and the Steels Point Basalts (2.33–2.39 million years).

Nepean Island and part of Norfolk Island near Kingston consist of coarse marine calcareous rock (sand, coral and shell fragments cemented with lime) of late Pleistocene origin. The rock was in part deposited by on-shore winds during a period of low sea levels. It was this rock that was quarried for the convict buildings at Kingston.


Norfolk Island is characterised by a mild sub-tropical climate. The weather is under oceanic influence and there are no extremes of heat or cold, although humidity is generally high during the summer months. There is very little variation between day and night temperatures (generally no more than 5–6 C): average maximum temperatures range from 18 C in winter to 25 C in summer; average minimums range from 13 C in winter to 19 C in summer. The average annual rainfall is 1328 mm. May to August are the wettest months (with monthly averages of about 140 to 150 mm), while November to January tend to be the driest (averaging 70 to 90 mm).


English is spoken on the island, but you’ll also hear islanders speak Norfolk, a unique language derived from the speech of the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives and companions who settled Pitcairn Island in 1790. The Pitcairn language was taken to Norfolk in 1856.


In 1774, Captain James Cook discovered the island and named it after Duchess of Norfolk, wife of Edward Howard, 9th Duke of Norfolk. Captain James Cook had set out from England in 1772. He was unaware of her death in 1773, so sadly she was unaware of the honour. Of Norfolk, he wrote ‘it is an island paradise’. In 1788 the ship HMS Supply commanded by Lt P G King arrived with a party of 23 including 15 convicts to settle here. This was the First Settlement. With the arrival of more prisoners the settlement soon boasted a population of 1,000 at which it remained for the next 15 years.

In 1803, the English government gave orders to abandon the settlement and that was finally accomplished in 1813 with the island remaining unoccupied until 1826 when the Second Settlement came about. Norfolk Island was then settled again with convicts and within a few years it became ‘a hell in paradise’. The Second Settlement continued until 1855 when the last of the convicts were transported to Tasmania.

The Third Settlement came about when on 8th June 1856 the people of Pitcairn Island, descendants of the Bounty mutineers, were relocated to Norfolk Island by the British Government after remote Pitcairn Island became unsustainable to the community. People of the Third Settlement became the forebears of the people who reside on Norfolk Island today.

The population of what is considered now to be the Fourth Settlement is made up of approximately 1,750 people. Norfolk today is home to a mixture of mainly Pitcairn descendants, Australians and New Zealanders and others from different parts of the world.

Norfolk Island can boast having some of the best preserved Georgian buildings in the South Pacific region.


Some things on Norfolk Island have changed little over the years. Many of the Islanders preserve their Pitcairn heritage and speak the distinctive traditional language passed down from the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives. Cows still graze under a commonage system and goods from ships are still brought ashore in lighters or long boats, as the Island has no natural harbour. However, meeting the demands of the tourism industry has meant that a wide range of services and most modern comforts are available.


Norfolk Island became a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1914.


Major revenue sources are customs duty, liquor sales, departure fees, and charges for government services such as lighterage, telecommunications and electricity. There is no GST (goods and services tax) applied to Norfolk island.

An Administrator, appointed by the Governor-General, is the senior Commonwealth Government representative in the Territory. The Office of the Administrator is in the New Military Barracks, Kingston. The Administrator resides at Government House.


Norfolk Island immigration rules are now the same as mainland Australia. Visit the Australian Department of Home Affairs website for details.


Norfolk Island is one hour ahead of Australian Eastern Standard Time and one hour behind New Zealand. Norfolk Island does not have daylight saving.


The currency used is the Australian dollar. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the Westpac Banking Corporation have branches on Norfolk Island. After hours Auto-Teller is available and some stores do ‘cashback’. Most major credit cards are acceptable.

Bank hours of business are 9:30 am to 4:00 pm Monday to Thursday, and to 5:00 pm Friday.


Primary and secondary schooling to Higher School Certificate is provided by the Norfolk Island Government. Education is free and compulsory for all children. There are pre-school facilities available.


AS/NZ 240 volts AC, 50 cycles, three-pin plug. As electricity is generated locally by diesel generators, a power surge protection device is advised for electronic equipment, particularly computers.


A current driver’s licence is required. The local speed limit is 50 km/h and 40 km/h in the Burnt Pine shopping precinct unless otherwise signposted. Horses, geese and cattle have right of way. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road the same as Australia and New Zealand..


IDD telephones and facsimile services are available. Public IDD coin and smart card boxes operate 24 hours daily. There is a mobile phone network on the island with pre-paid cards available. Norfolk Telecom and Norfolk Island Data Services both offer a range of internet services and plans. Visitor internet services are available with wireless internet access available at various ‘hotspot’ locations throughout the island.


The 32-bed Norfolk Island hospital includes a dental clinic, pharmacy and emergency service 24 hours daily.


Hospital, police, rescue, fire, ambulance and dental are available for any emergency.