Howea forsteriana, a palm native to Lord Howe Island

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Lord Howe Island is an irregularly crescent-shaped volcanic remnant in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, 600 kilometres (370 mi) directly east of mainland Port Macquarie, and about 900 kilometres (560 mi) from Norfolk Island. The island is about 10 km long and between 2.0 km and 0.3 km wide with an area of 14.55 km2, "of which only 398 hectares is in the lowland settled area". Along the west coast there is a sandy semi-enclosed sheltered coral reef lagoon. Most of the population lives in the north, while the south is dominated by forested hills rising to the highest point on the island, Mount Gower (875 m or 2,871 ft). The Lord Howe Island Group of islands comprises 28 islands, islets and rocks. Apart from Lord Howe Island itself the most notable of these is the volcanic and uninhabited Ball's Pyramid about 23 km to the south-east. To the north there is the Admiralty Group, a cluster of seven small uninhabited islands.

The first reported sighting of Lord Howe Island was on 17 February 1788 when Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball, commander of the Armed Tender HMS Supply was on its way from Botany Bay to found a penal settlement on Norfolk Island. On the return journey Ball sent a party ashore on Lord Howe Island to claim it as a British possession. It subsequently became a provisioning port for the whaling industry, and was permanently settled in June 1834. When whaling declined, the worldwide export of the endemic kentia palms began in the 1880s, which remains a key component of the Island's economy. The other continuing industry, tourism, began after World War II.

The Lord Howe Island Group is part of the state of New South Wales that, for legal purposes, is regarded as an unincorporated area administered by the Lord Howe Island Board which reports to the New South Wales Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Water. The island's standard time zone is UTC+10:30, or UTC+11 when daylight saving time applies. The currency is the Australian dollar. Commuter airlines are linked to Sydney, Brisbane, Port Macquarie and Norfolk Island.
The Lord Howe Island Group is recorded by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site of global natural significance. Most of the island is virtually untouched forest with many of the plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Other natural attractions include the diversity of its landscapes, the variety of upper mantle and oceanic basalts, the world's southernmost barrier coral reef, nesting seabirds, and its rich historical and cultural heritage. The Lord Howe Island Act of 1981 established a "Permanent Park Preserve" (covering approximately 70 per cent of the island). The surrounding waters are a protected region designated the Lord Howe Island Marine Park.

To relieve pressure on the small island environment only 400 tourists are permitted at any one time. The island is reached by plane from Sydney or Brisbane in less than two hours. The Permanent Park Preserve declared in 1981 has similar management guidelines to a National Park.

With fewer than 800 people on the island at any time, facilities are limited; they include a bakery, butcher, general store, liquor store, restaurants, post office, museum and information centre, a police officer, a ranger and an ATM at the bowling club. Stores are shipped to the island fortnightly by the Island Trader from Port Macquarie. There is a small four-bed hospital and dispensary. A small botanic garden displays labelled local plants in its grounds. Diesel-generated power is 240 V AC, as on the mainland. There is no public transport nor mobile phone coverage, but there are public telephones, fax facilities and internet access as well as a local radio station and newsletter, The Signal.

Tourist accommodation ranges from luxury lodges to apartments and villa units. The currency is Australian dollars and there are two banks. There are no camping facilities on the island and remote-area camping is not permitted. To protect the fragile environment of Balls Pyramid (which carries the last remaining wild population of the endangered Howe Island stick insect), recreational climbing there is prohibited. No pets are allowed without permission from the Board. Islanders use tanked rainwater, supplemented by bore water for showers and washing clothes.

As distances to sites of interest are short, cycling is the main means of transport on the island. Tourist activities include golf (9-hole), lawn bowls, tennis, fishing (including deep-sea game fishing), yachting, windsurfing, kite surfing, kayaking, and boat trips (including glass-bottom tours of the lagoon). Swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving are also popular in the lagoon, as well as off Tenth of June Island, a small rocky outcrop in the Admiralty group where an underwater plateau drops 36 metres to reveal extensive gorgonia and black corals growing on the vertical walls. Other diving sites are found off Balls Pyramid, 26 km away, where there are trenches, caves and volcanic drop-offs.

Bushwalking, natural history tours, talks, and guided walks take place along the many tracks, the most challenging being the eight-hour guided hike to the top of Mount Gower. There are 11 beaches and hand-feeding the metre-long Kingfish (Rexea solandri) and large wrasse at Ned's Beach is very popular. Walking tracks cover the island with difficulty graded from 1-5, they include – in the north: Transit Hill 2 hours return, 2 km; Clear Place, 1–2 hours return; Stevens Reserve; North Bay, 4 hours return, 4 km; Mt Eliza; Old Gulch, 20 minutes return, 300 m; Malabar Hill and Kims Lookout, 3 hours, or 5 hours return, 7 km and – in the south: Goat House Cave, 5 hours return, 6 km; Mount Gower, 8 hours return, 14 km; Rocky Run and Boat Harbour; Intermediate Hill, 45 minutes return, 1 km; Little Island, 40 minutes return, 3 km. Recreational climbers must obtain permission from the Lord Howe Island Board.
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