Norfolk Island was first settled by the Polynesians around 400 AD.

No one knows what happened to them or why they left the island, but it is believed to have remained unpopulated until settled by the British – just weeks after the First Fleet arrived in Australia 1788.

It’s a small island, about 8km long and 5km wide, located 1400km directly east of Evans Head.

Access from the sea is difficult but everything must be shipped in and transfered by barge to one of two ports.

Norfolk lost its political autonomy in July last year is now part of mainland Australia, much to the ire of local residents the majority of whom would have preferred to have remained independent.

The capital is Kingston and the 1800 or so inhabitants live scattered across the island.

Breathtaking scenery hides a brutal convict past.

The British wanted to make sure the French did not get their hands on the island and thought they could use its pine trees and flax plants to build spars and produce sails and ropes for their ships.

Unfortunately neither worked.

The island twice served as a penal settlement from March 6, 1788 until May 5, 1855, with an 11-year period in between when it lay abandoned.

Then on June 8, 1856, it became home to the 200 descendants of the famous Bounty mutineers who had outgrown tiny Pitcairn Island way out in the Pacific.

In 1914 the UK handed Norfolk Island over to Australia to administer as an external territory.

The evergreen Norfolk Island pine that grows in abundance is a symbol of the island and pictured on its flag.

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.