North Bay is the Blue Mountains and South Coast in one spot – the place where locals and guests go for a day trip. Sometimes their holiday schedule revolves around a “North Bay day”. And it’s easy to see why. It feels remote, even by Lord Howe standards, but when you arrive, there’s a picnic shed (remember those?), wood fired BBQs and a selection of lovely picnic spots.
The trip to North Bay can be an easy 20 minute crossing of the lagoon by boat, or a more adventurous paddle by kayak. The best way, though, is to walk from Old Settlement over the ridge and down the stairs. When you walk, you feel like you’ve arrived somewhere and you certainly feel like you’ve earned your lunch. For some people, a walk and BBQ lunch is the purpose of a North Bay trip. For others, North Bay is just the base camp for walks to the Gulch, Herring Pools and Mt Eliza.
The Gulch is only 5 minutes away along a flat board walk. In a few hundred metres, you go from the sheltered landscape of North Bay with the idyllic lagoon and view of the mountains to the dramatic north coast of Lord Howe. You could have travelled thousands of kilometres. The sandy beach changes to rocks and boulders surrounded by dramatic cliffs and rugged windswept vegetation. There’s still coral, fish and water that grades from turquoise to cobalt blue (this is something that all iconic Lord Howe spots have in common), but it feels different. Well-known writer, Glenn A Baker, (yes the music guy with the hat) said recently that it reminded him of the high arctic in the subtropics, such was the feeling of being in an untouched pristine landscape.
At low tide, you can hop around the rocks from the Gulch to the Herring Pools – a series of deep rock pools that are flushed out by the high tide. The pools have a diverse population of colourful fish, and you can (in fact, should) jump in and enjoy one of nature’s special experiences. Those with swimming goggles and snorkelling masks have either been there before or received a tip – stick your head under and see what it’s like to swim in an aquarium. You’ll probably have the place to yourself, although if you go in the afternoon you may share it with a fisherman chasing Lord Howe Island kingfish off the rocks, or some local girls sitting in the sun. Last time I took a group of 15 photographers (with large L series lenses) to the Herring pools we stumbled upon three Pinetrees staff girls lazing around in their bikinis. Twenty year old girls in bikinis and middle aged photographers are a somewhat awkward combination, although the girls, to their credit, put on a few poses before retreating back to work.
The highlight of a North Bay trip is the 30 minute climb of Mt Eliza which has probably the most famous photo point on Lord Howe. People with full frame sensors and wide angle lenses can capture one of Australia’s most iconic photos. The photo is equal to those of Uluru at dusk, or the Western Arthurs on a blue sky day. If you time your trip for a moody day with a few passing showers, then you can catch storm clouds, rainbows, patches of saturated light, and blue sky – all in one image. Those people (generally the photographers and bush walkers) who take the risk of a damp stroll are often rewarded with one of the best photos they’ll ever take.