Just 2 hours flight from Sydney, Lord Howe Island is a bushwalker’s paradise. There’s lots of great opportunities for day hikes throughout the tiny 14 square kilometre island, from self guided ascents of Mt Eliza in the north, to the challenging Mt Gower in the South, which must be completed with a guide.
The Goat House via Intermediate Hill with Rocky Run
If you’re looking for a self-guided full day on the track, with astounding views, diverse ecosystems and a good physical workout, I truly believe that this variation of the (class 4) Goat House Track is the best day hike on Lord Howe Island.
You’ll need to have a head for heights, along with packing all you need for a full day out, such as food, water, first aid kit and wearing good hiking shoes or boots. Oh and don’t forget to tell someone at your guest house where you’re going as one of the joys of Lord Howe Island is that there’s no mobile phone coverage. Pure bliss.
The usual route that people take to The Goat House, is to start at the track head near Kings Beach (off Lagoon Road) on the western side of the island. However, if you’re a fit and experienced bushwalker, I reckon that this circuit-like route will offer you more variation and a solid day out.
Start at the South End of the Airport
Leave your bike at the trail head at the south end of the airport (near Cobby’s Corner) and cross the stile (cleaning your boots) to begin. This is the track to Intermediate Hill and leads you up through cow paddocks along a well defined foot pad and track.
Ascend Intermediate Hill
Keep to the nose of the ridge as it climbs and enters the trees, leading you through dry forest towards Intermediate Hill. This track rises steadily over the first kilometre or so from sea level to 250m – a good warm up in anyone’s book! The forest breaks as you arrive at the viewing platform (thanks for the donation Dick Smith!) that lifts you above the trees for one of the best 360 views on the island. A great spot for morning tea.
Continuing along, the track descends to bring you into the saddle and the junction of Smoking Tree Ridge Track and Rocky Run Track. This is the point you’ll come back to after visiting The Goat House. Continue straight ahead (south) to begin The Goat House Track along Smoking Tree Ridge Track.
Ascend The Goat House Track
You’ll lose about 100m of elevation descending from Intermediate Hill and as soon as you pass through the saddle at the junction, the track starts rising again towards The Goat House Cave at 432m above sea level.
As you progress, you’ll notice the well defined earthen single track through dry forest, becomes more about uneven and damp rocks, vines and tree roots through lush rainforest. As the canopy shields you from the sky above and you continue ascending, the first of several roped hand-lines begin to appear. You may also need to keep a keen eye out for where the track leads, with several old red paint markings on trees showing the way.
Finally, you break through the rainforest and find yourself hugging the base of a cliff line, with low level shrubs. The track leads along to the left (east) and you will be guided by more hand lines. The final roped pinch into The Goat House cave makes for a spectacular lunch spot and you’ll be thankful you brought a jacket along as it can get chilly!
Return to Smoking Tree Ridge Track Junction
After enjoying lunch and taking in the majesty of it all, return by the same route, descending back through the rainforest to the junction of Smoking Tree Ridge Track and Rocky Run Track. There is a good signpost here with a small map printed on it. Turn right (east) and begin the next stage of the walk towards Rocky Run.
Head east to Rocky Run
You’ve now lost most of the height from the day and the sound of the ocean will begin to draw you towards the eastern coast of the island. This section of the track takes you through a spectacular forest of prop-rooted pandanus trees. Within a kilometre, you’ll come to another (more subtle) junction, where you can take a side trip to Rocky Run, a creek which spills into the ocean in a delightful, tiny, rocky bay. It’s a nice spot for afternoon tea, with an unusual view of Mt Lidgbird, where you can look up towards the Goat House or explore the nooks and crannies of the surrounding rock pools.
Continue towards Mutton Bird Point
Return to the main Rocky Run Track and continue north towards Mutton Bird Point as it traverses the hillside 70m above the ocean below. If time permits (and definitely if you’re a keen birder), take the side trip to Mutton Bird Point for spotting the large colony of Masked Boobies who call it home.
Finish where you began…
The further you progress along this track towards the start, you’ll notice the quality of the single track improve, indicating the relative popularity of the route the closer you get to the cow paddocks, back at the end of the airport.
- Grade: Class 4 Walking Track
- Distance: Approximately 10.5 kms
- Total Ascent: 610 metres
- Total Descent: 597 metres
- Time: Allow a full day with breaks
- No: Snakes on Lord Howe Island
I travelled courtesy of Lord Howe Island Tourism and enjoyed my stay at Somerset Apartments. If you’d like to do the walk above (or others), but would feel more confident with a guide, I can thoroughly recommend Dean from Lord Howe Island Environmental Tours.
Tips for Lord Howe Island
If you have felt that Lord Howe might be out of your price range, the best tip is to travel in the off season. I went during winter when average temps are 14-19 degrees and I still enjoyed snorkelling and swimming. The visitor numbers are lower (even in peak season there’s never more than 400 people) and many of the guest houses take advantage of the quiet season for renovations or their own holiday.
Take advantage of the free BBQ’s which are found at blissful spots throughout the island and are stocked with timber by the locals ready to use.
Dress is casual and easy going, so leave the glad-rags at home and pack smart and light (the baggage allowance is a strict 14kgs + 7kg carry on) so you can bring some food staples for breakfasts and lunches, saving your money for some delicious dinners. This could be anything from a $20 pizza at the Bowling Club to a fine dining treat at Arajilla Restaurant.