Published: 05 May 2014 by: Amy Cooper

Image: Norfolk Island Tourism

It resides at Norfolk Island Museum and here, in the atmospheric 1825 Pier Store building, you can discover how this single object sealed the bonds of forbidden love for history's famous Bounty mutineers.

It's a story best heard in the company of your own loved one; how the mutineers, whose descendents settled on Norfolk Island in 1856, had just one ring between them when they landed on Pitcairn Island, their first home, in 1790. One by one, they used this ring to wed their Tahitian sweethearts. The ring married the next generation, too, then vanished until 1941, when it was dug up in a Pitcairn vegie patch and brought to Norfolk for a well-earned retirement.

Islands tend to have romantic pasts, but none more so than Norfolk. Those original ties between British sailors and Tahitian women – ties so strong the men gave up their former lives - built the society that exists on the island today.

And while Norfolk also has its sad ghosts from previous years as a penal colony, it's the romance that survives most; in the sweeping, rugged coastline, the surrounding vast blue ocean, the fiery sunsets and tranquillity of endless secluded beaches, hilltops and green oases.

Life here has a soothing rhythm and the pace slows as you step out of the small airport into Norfolk's 3455 hectares of pristine landscape. The best place from which to first survey your island playground is Mount Bates, the highest point at 319 metres above sea level, in Norfolk Island National Park. From here, you can gaze out at a rare, 360 degree view of the horizon. Encircled by blue and intoxicated by the pure ocean air, many have made this their proposal place.

Image: Norfolk Island Tourism

Norfolk Island's position in the Pacific, 1400 km east of Australia and with the nearest land 767 km to the north in New Caledonia, is made for gazing at sea, sky and – best of all – ocean sunsets. If you're east coast dwellers as we are, there are few opportunities at home to see the sun sink to the surf.

But on Norfolk Island, at Puppy's Point on the west coast, it's a nightly spectacle. Join locals for a clifftop fish fry, or choose a night when there's just you two and the breathtaking view.

Even at high season (November to February), the island never feels crowded. Just 1900 people live here and the total population can reach 3500 in peak tourist season. Beyond the central township of Burnt Pines, with its pretty cafes, galleries and stores, there's enough lush forest, golden beach and dramatic clifftop for everyone.

Nature underlines every experience here. Weddings take place on the sands, the grassy slopes or even within the natural pagoda of a banyan tree, with the soundtrack of birdsong and waves. Norfolk's fertile land produces food bursting with flavour.

'The fruit and vegetables here," one local tells us, "taste good enough to make you weep." She's right. One bite of a Norfolk Island tomato and it's hard to settle for anything else. The avocados, in season when we visited, were the best we've ever had.

There are more than 35 restaurants and cafes on the island, each perfect for an intimate dinner. We loved Dino's Restaurant, run by couple Helen Bartholomew and Dean Bosley in their 1880s homestead surrounded by beautiful gardens and decorated with art collected from their travels. The menu is a showcase of Norfolk's fresh produce, sourced daily from the island's growers, fishermen and farmers. Dining in someone's home is the ultimate in hospitality, and Dean and Helen are warm hosts.

Image: Norfolk Island Tourism

At Two Chimneys Winery, also run by a couple, Rod and Noelene McAlpine, you can sample wines made on Norfolk (the 2009 Durif is a standout) and feast on a platter of local produce that's as stunning as it is delicious. Noelene makes these with the best available ingredients, and each is unique.

If you stay in one of Norfolk's self-catering properties, a private chef can come to you and cook up a super-private romantic feast. At picturesque Christian's of Bucks Point, a lovely 4.5 star heritage cottage overlooking Ball Bay, it's $130 per person for a three-course spectacular all made from the finest local produce.

We sampled a private chef service at The Tin Sheds, Norfolk's newest five-star accommodation, and vote it the most romantic way to dine; no hassle, no cleaning up, just pure enjoyment and all your attention saved for each other.

Chat to Norfolk locals, more than a third of whom are descended from the Bounty mutineers, and you'll discover romance still brings many to these shores. We met several adopted islanders who fell for the person and then the place too. There's so much to enchant: the beauty, the serenity, the privacy, the rich history and the edible delights. Go to Norfolk for all of these, but most of all go there together, for love.


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