Pinetrees Lodge review, Lord Howe Island: Weekend away

Our rating

5 out of 5

THE LOCATION

Pinetrees, Lord Howe's oldest and largest lodge, nestles in a grove of towering Norfolk pines on the sheltered western side of the island Sir David Attenborough once declared to be "so extraordinary it is almost unbelievable" for its unspoilt natural beauty. Across the road is the Boatshed – where guests gather every evening for sunset drinks and views of Lord Howe's twin peaks, Gower and Lidgbird – and the island's turquoise lagoon, which doubles as Pinetrees' (six-kilometre-long) swimming pool.

THE SPACE

Pinetrees has just completed stage one of a once-in-a-generation renovation. Thirteen of the 32 rooms, as well as the main "house" (the original guesthouse in the 1870s, now the indoor-outdoor restaurant, bar, lounge and a new pool room), have had a complete makeover; 17 other rooms have new carpet, curtains, beds and artworks, and freshly painted white walls, and will get their new bathrooms, louvre windows, french doors and  blackbutt timber decks and boardwalks this winter. The two-, three- and four-bedroom family cottages will be renovated last, in August 2016. 

THE KIT

The look in my renovated room is clean, simple and chic: white walls and bed linen offset by leaf and coral-print cushions and splashes of aquamarine (on some cushions and the striped beach towels), a white Eames chair and desk, and white bathrobes. The fawn marble bathroom has Natural Earth toiletries made with New Zealand Manuka honey, and a hairdryer. There's a small fridge, a kettle with tea bags and instant coffee (or make yourself a Nespresso at the restaurant) and a glass jug to fill with rainwater from an outside tap (bore water is used in the bathrooms). In keeping with Pinetrees' eco-ethic, there are louvre windows and ceiling fans instead of airconditioning; and there are no room keys, because Lord Howe is crime-free.

COMFORT 

Pinetrees is not a "pillow menu" sort of place, but the new beds (and pillows) are so sublimely comfortable, you'll probably have the best sleep of your life, every night. It is, however, unplugged: there's no Wi-Fi, mobile reception or television, not even in the lounge, but there are magazines and books, and newspapers delivered daily by Qantas (weather permitting). 

FOOD

Avoid eating for a week before you visit; four gourmet meals a day (including an informal, and popular, afternoon tea) are included in the tariff and guests often report leaving the island "fitter, but fatter". Breakfast is a buffet plus cooked options such as bacon-and-egg burritos or chocolate pancakes. For lunch, the lodge will pack you a picnic or deliver a barbecue hamper (almost) anywhere on the island, so you can walk or ride a bike there; you can also have a buffet lunch at the lodge. Then there's the four-course dinner featuring local fish such as kingfish and hapuka, fine Australian wines and desserts. Riesling-poached pears with candied walnuts and rosewater, anyone? 

STEPPING OUT 

Lord Howe was World Heritage listed in 1982 and is heaven for nature-lovers. Activities include self-guided and guided walks (the most challenging is the all-day climb up Mount Gower, the island's highest peak, at 875 metres), leisurely bike rides (rental bikes cost $8 a day), swimming and snorkelling at one of the 11 beaches, hand-feeding giant trevally and silver drummer at Ned's Beach, sea kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, birdwatching, diving, fishing and cruising around the island or out to the surreal rock pinnacle of Ball's Pyramid, 23 kilometres away. 

THE VERDICT

Pinetrees guests should be issued with a warning on arrival: "Beware, we're going to look after you so well, and so warmly, you'll fall in love with this place, never want to leave and vow to return." (Confession: this was my fourth visit.) 

HOW TO GET THERE

Qantaslink flies to Lord Howe Island in just under two hours from Sydney, and from Brisbane on weekends. There are seasonal weekly flights from Port Macquarie between February and June, and between September and December. See qantas.com.au

ESSENTIALS

All-inclusive stays at Pinetrees Lodge cost from $254 a person twin share for an early bird seven-night package ($1780 a person for seven nights). Five-night "bed and breakfast" packages from $1140 a person ($228 a night). See pinetrees.com.au, lordhoweisland.info

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The writer was a guest of Pinetrees Lodge.