Best known as a far-flung South Pacific island once home to a harsh penal colony, Norfolk Island isn't an obvious wellness destination, say like Byron Bay or Bali. Smoothies and acai bowls are not de rigueur, nor will you find yoga and Pilates studios on every street corner.
But what I hadn't counted on was the effect the island's slower pace of life and arresting natural beauty would have on this wound-up urbanite. Here, every passing car gives you the "Norfolk Wave" (a one finger salute to the uninitiated). People stand outside homes and shops and talk to each other. Chickens roam, cows have right of way on roads, everyone grows their own food. It makes life back home look positively harried.
Home for five precious days is the historic homestead at Tintoela over a lush valley that looks more like Hawaii than Australia. Tintoela is where Hunky Evans, master builder and direct descendent of the Bounty Mutineers, chose to build his dream home with his Canadian sweetheart, Laurie. I sleep in the master bedroom with its wood fire and French doors opening onto a deck. Each night the setting sun bathes the valley in pink and gold.
And every day is like waking up in heaven. After tea on the deck listening to birds calling and watching chickens peck Tintoela's lawns, we drive to the World Heritage-listed Kingston with its historic buildings, ruins and archaeological sites dating back to the 1700s.
Enroute we wind down the car windows to say good morning to cows grazing beside the road. At Emily Bay, my 78-year-old mum takes a seat beneath the towering Norfolk pines while I dive in to the protected lagoon – both of us drinking in the spectacular beauty. On the rare occasion someone else is on the beach, we exchange smiles and say, "How lucky are we!"
Local Tania Anderson says visitors switch to island time the moment they arrive: breathing in fresh air and taking in the natural beauty of rugged cliffs, blue ocean and majestic namesake Norfolk pines. "You'll always find a peaceful spot to meditate or sit and read a book."
Tania explains that Norfolk's lifestyle strives to be self-sustainable and physically, locals are kept busy gardening, playing sport and helping out others. "Island life is about growing your own fruit and vegies and therefore the food is amazingly fresh. When there's a glut you share with family and friends, eat in season and don't waste anything. There are tanks to catch rainwater and we've always got fresh fish to eat."
In terms of wellness the island offers bush walking in National Parks and beneath majestic Moreton Bay fig trees, guided treks to the offshore Phillip Island, yoga classes, a local gym that welcomes visitors, cycling, swimming, snorkelling, surfing, tai chi classes and a couple of day spas.
With no pollution, no traffic, no fast food chains and no rush to do anything, Norfolk Island is in fact an ideal destination to disconnect from busy lives. "We really do live in paradise and enjoy sharing our island with visitors," Tania says proudly.
Enjoy a round of golf on a World Heritage course, go deep sea fishing or take a bush walk through the island's National Parks. Order a cheese board from Picnic in Paradise to enjoy from Puppies Point at sunset; book in for a treatment at the gorgeous Serenity Spa and take a yoga or mindfulness class. See picnicinparadise2899.com and serenityspabeauty.com.au
Tintoela offers luxury self-contained accommodation from $485 per night including rental car, airport meet and greet, Wi-Fi and generous fruit bowl. See tintoela.com
Air New Zealand flies to Norfolk Island from Sydney on Mondays, Fridays and selected summer Sundays, and from Brisbane twice weekly. See airnewzealand.com.au
Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of Norfolk Island Tourism, Air New Zealand and Tintoela.