Norfolk Island is a foodie’s paradise

Peta McCartney
(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 dr