Bounty Day on Norfolk Island

Norfolk Island. Image courtesy of Norfolk Island Tourism.

Norfolk Island shares a special connection with Fletcher Christian, the man who famously led the mutiny on the Bounty. Today, the arrival of the Bounty settlers from Pitcairn is celebrated annually by the islanders, as a unique part of Norfolk’s colourful history.

In 1787, Lieutenant William Bligh, a young British Naval Officer, was commissioned to sail the HMS Bounty to Tahiti, where he would collect breadfruit plants destined for the slave colonies of the Caribbean. The voyage was a difficult one, and was marred by disputes and ill-feeling. On the morning of 28 April 1789, Masters Mate Fletcher Christian, and 12 crew members, staged the now famous mutiny. Capturing the ship, the men set Lt Bligh, and all who remained loyal to him, adrift in the ship’s lifeboat. In an incredible feat of seamanship, Bligh survived and later made it back to England. Several of the mutineers, along with their Tahitian wives and a handful of Tahitian men and women, found sanctuary on Pitcairn, a tiny island of just 450 hectares.

As the Pitcairn colony grew, nearby Norfolk Island was ending its days as a convict colony for the worst of hardened criminals. The 193 descendants of the Bounty crew wrote to the British Government requesting a larger home, and were given the 3455-hectare Norfolk.

By the time the Pitcairners settled on Norfolk, they had already developed their own language and culture – a unique mix of 18th century seafaring English and Tahitian which remains alive as one of the world’s rarest languages.

Norfolk Island heritage. Images courtesy of Norfolk Island Tourism.

Today, roughly a third of Norfolk’s residents are descended from the settlers who arrived on 8 June 1856. Each year, on 8 June, the islanders celebrate Bounty Day. Dressed in traditional period costume, the arrival of the Pitcairners is re-enacted and wreaths are laid to remember the original settlers. Celebrations include family reunions, a grand picnic and traditional sports.

This vibrant heritage is part of what makes Norfolk such a unique Pacific destination, and if you’re planning a Norfolk break, the island culture will be a highlight of your stay. A good way to experience it first-hand is to enjoy a progressive dinner. These visit a variety of island homes and restaurants, meeting the local people and sampling home-cooked fare, and the delicious Island Fish Fry. Theme nights are also popular, and offer a fun-filled way of experiencing the Norfolk Island hospitality, for which the locals are renowned.

Out and About on Norfolk:

  • Fishing
    The clear waters around Norfolk abound with fish, including trumpeter, rock cod, kingfish, trevally, grouper, shark and snapper.
  • Diving
    There are more than 30 dive spots featuring coral, caves, tunnels and chasms, plus a wide variety of marinelife. If you’re not convinced by the prospect of diving, at Emily Bay you can always try a cross between scuba and snorkelling. A special device allows you to breathe underwater in the protected shallows full of colourful corals and fish.
  • Bushwalking
    The Norfolk Island National Park covers 40% of the island and has some great bushwalks – most with seaviews. En route, there are some 50 bird species to see and hear, including Norfolk’s rare green parrot and the boobook owl.
  • Exploring
    Head down to Kingston, where Norfolk Island's fascinating history as a convict settlement lives on. There are fine Georgian buildings to view, plus gruesome tales of the harsh conditions once experienced by the unfortunate convicts. It was said to be a place of such despair that some convicts murdered their guards in order to 'escape'  by being hanged for their crime.
  • Mountain biking
    Cycle to the top of Mount Pitt (316m) for panoramic views over the island, then enjoy the downhill cruise all the way to Kingston Beach.

Useful websites:
Norfolk Island Travel Centre - Package holidays to coincide with the island’s 150th Bounty Day celebrations.
The official Norfolk Island Tourism website
Norfolk Island Travel Guide for hot deals, accommodation and destination features for Norfolk Island.

Norfolk Island. Image courtesy of Norfolk Island Tourism.