‘For newly weds or nearly deads’: not exactly the catch phrase of tourism commission dreams. It is hard to believe this was once Lord Howe Island’s (unofficial) slogan, before the island became the coveted destination it is today. But is Lord Howe Island worth the spend?
What makes Lord Howe Island so popular and so exclusive comes down to a blend of economics and environment. While this may sound like a good thing, it is something our family has found increasingly upsetting. These days it is virtually impossible for us (and many other travellers) to afford to visit Lord Howe Island. The biggest restriction on visiting comes down to the Lord Howe Island flights which are operated exclusively by QANTAS using Dash 8 aircraft.
How to get to Lord Howe Island
With a capacity for only 36 passengers and limited daily flights flying into Lord Howe Island airport, getting to Lord Howe Island can be eye wateringly expensive. It costs around $1,500 per person to fly return from Sydney, a two hour flight within New South Wales.
In comparison, it will set you back $300 less to fly from Sydney to LA with flights available for around $1,200 return. We used to get around the cost of Lord Howe Island flights by booking QANTAS Frequent Flyer seats 6-12 months in advance. However, this is no longer a viable option. With the recent changes to the QANTAS Frequent Flyer program, the good news is you can usually get a seat using Frequent Flyer points. The bad news is these can cost upwards of 80,000 points one way, almost 30,000 more points than flying from Sydney to London direct.
It’s hard to justify booking a two hour domestic flight that requires more points than flying to the other side of the world. While limited minimum points Frequent Flyer seats are still available, they are usually released at short notice these days. Even if you can get these flights, most of the more affordable Lord Howe Island accommodation options are already sold out. Lord Howe Island is only licensed to sleep a maximum of around 400 tourists which is one of the things about the island which makes it so special. Lord Howe Island accommodation ranges from 50s-style guesthouses costing around $200 a night to luxury lodges. These lodges cost upwards of $1,500 per room per night. Even if a couple stays at very simple accommodation, they are unlikely to get any change from $5,000 for a seven night trip including airfares. And that is if they’re willing to visit in winter when it’s too cold to swim.
Prices during peak season can be triple the amount above. It is even more expensive for families as many of the cheaper accommodation options on Lord Howe Island only sleep two. On the plus side, there are plenty of things to do on Lord Howe Island which don’t cost much. Is Lord Howe Island worth it? It is something our family has been talking about a lot lately. My husband and I were married on the island more than 25 years ago and have visited around half a dozen times since then, as a couple and later with our son who is now a teenager.
We love Lord Howe Island with all our hearts. From the picturesque lagoon to the stunning secret beaches, around the rocky inlet at Old Gulch, down to Ned’s Beach to feed the fish, and up to the top of Mount Gower, this island is our favourite place in the world to visit. Should we save up and go there again? Our hearts say yes but the holiday budget keeps saying no. It is difficult to justify such a big spend when other destinations (even international ones) are so much cheaper. Is Lord Howe Island worth it? Absolutely! If you can afford it, you will love it. In the meantime, if anyone knows of a budget friendly way to visit Lord Howe Island, please let us know.
Disclosure: The writer’s love of Lord Howe Island is much larger than her holiday budget.
We’ve also written about Australia’s most exclusive islands if you are seeking a fabulous island holiday but don’t have your heart set on visiting Lord Howe Island.