WHEN COVID-19 struck, Norfolk Island decided it would close its doors to the outside world.
It was a tough call given that 90% of the island's economy relies on tourism. But the decision to impose an eight-month travel ban on all but essential travel by its residents was the right one, particularly given that the average of residents on the island is much higher than the mainland.
Norfolk Island, permanent population 1700, remained virus-free throughout the pandemic.
Today the island has the "open for business" shingle out once more with regular flights to the sub-tropical island, 1600 kilometres off the east coast, operating from both Brisbane and Sydney with Air New Zealand.
After being deprived of outside contact for so long, Norfolk Islanders are unashamedly eager to welcome people again to their 8km x 5km gem in the Pacific.
In fact, only one outside visitor was permitted during the long period of isolation. The island's administrator, Eric Hutchinson, posted a tongue-in-cheek decree on an official letterhead advising children that a special "Eggs-Exemption" would apply in recognition of the importance and essential services of the Easter Bunny.
He is in his second term overseeing an island he has grown to love. "Here it's all about the people, it's all about the lifestyle," he said.
The former Tasmanian MP concedes the island is the perfect place to mix work with pleasure.
"I've been seen down at the golf course once or twice, and the fishing is something to behold... it should be described as catching, not fishing."
Despite 2020's setback, the island's tourism industry has not been idle. Feverish planning has seen 2021 fill up with a calendar of events that would put much larger places to shame.
Events for clay shooters, lawn bowlers, golfers, ukulele players, line dancers and archers join popular annual events such as Foundation Day, Bounty Day, Thanksgiving and the Taste of Norfolk Island Food Festival.
If you haven't been to the island for a while, its emergence as a hot foodie destination will be new to you.
The rich volcanic soil produces a bounty of amazing produce that you can buy at the Farmers Market if you're self-catering or enjoy at restaurants like The Homestead, loved for its fresh kingfish and home-baked sourdough. Either way, you will be bound to eat until you burst.
Former flight attendant Emily Ryves traded in the high life for 6am milking at the farm where she makes and sells goats cheese. Her Hilli Goat Farm tours on the family's cliff-top property at Anson Bay are a hit with visitors who enjoy a platter of cheese and other edible delights from the farm gardens after the tour.
"Well, the goats themselves are the biggest hit but the cheese comes a close second," she laughed.
Accommodation is plentiful, with hotels, cottages, houses and units to choose from.
Tintoela was the first luxury accommodation on the island. Guests stay in the original family home set amid expansive, tranquil gardens, with stunning ocean views. It has six bedrooms, ideal for multigenerational family holidays or groups of friends, and a one- and two-bedroom cottages.
Seventh-generation islander Tania Anderson has worked for Norfolk Island Tourism for 20 years and has seen the island go through many changes. But one thing remains the same: "When people leave, they feel like they have become part of the Norfolk Island family".
IF YOU GO...
An entry pass is required for all travel to Norfolk Island and you must submit an application 24-72 hours before departure. Be sure to refer to the current travel requirements and restrictions at www.norfolkisland.gov.nf, clicking on "Covid Update". Travel insurance is recommended. Medicare does apply but limited medical facilities mean serious illness or injury require a medivac evacuation.