Lord Howe Island

Rising from the Pacific a remote 600km from the NSW mainland, little Lord Howe's tropical, World Heritage–listed beauty is surprisingly under the radar given the jaw-dropping spectacle of this former volcano. It looks like a Bond villain's lair, with two lofty mountains overlooking an idyllic lagoon, perfect crescents of beach and a verdant interior criss-crossed with walking trails.

Lord Howe's isolation and comparatively recent appearance – it was formed by hotspot volcanic activity around seven million years ago – lends it a unique ecology, with many plant and insect species found only here. Birds rule the roost, with nesting terns noisily present and the eerie cries of muttonbirds in their burrows punctuating the night. Ongoing ecological projects are seeking to remove introduced species.

The island's restricted accommodation and flight capacity mean that a visit here doesn't come cheap, but relaxation is guaranteed: there's limited internet and no mobile-phone signal.

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