A love affair with Lord Howe Island

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott learns the art of meditation and explores the beauty of Lord Howe Island with Mr NQN.

I am the world’s worst meditator. Alas it’s simply a skill that has until now, completely eluded me. It seems ironic that after all these years, meditation should suddenly come to me. I am sitting on a balcony, with a landscape of Kentia palm trees and blue water facing me. The weather is a pitch perfect 23 degrees Celsius and a gentle breeze is blowing the branches and leaves of the trees in faint orchestral background. It’s hypnotising and every time the breeze blows, I angle my cheek to receive a caress. I sat there for at least a good ten minutes in silence and couldn’t even contemplate getting up. And I suddenly realise that this is what a meditative state is.

lord howe island

There’s a knock at the door as a member of Capella Lodge’s seamless staff enters, carrying a bottle of Petaluma Croser, and that’s the only thing that breaks my reverie. We’re in the Catalina room at Capella Lodge on Lord Howe Island. The island is two hours by plane from Sydney and with a total of 300 to 400 residents including staff, it’s a popular destination for honeymooners. Or first time meditators ;)

Lord Howe Island, Australia’s first World Heritage listed island, is eleven kilometres in length and two kilometres wide. It was created seven million years ago when a large shield volcano erupted from the floor of the Tasman sea and was then forty times larger than its current size. My first impression is that it reminds me of the lush green-ness of Hawaii and in fact, two thirds of the island is covered in forest.

There are no holiday homes on Lord Howe Island and any homeowners must live on the island – this is to encourage a vibrant community there. At any one time, they can only have a maximum of 400 visitors to the island. The speed limit on the roads is 25 kilometres per hour and the island has one policeman. There are cars but the preferred mode of transport is bicycle. There is one hospital and one doctor on call. There is no mobile phone reception at all on the island and internet is intermittent and slow, which frustrates locals more than holiday makers.

Capella Lodge is on the southern side or "spiritual side” of Lord Howe Island and is situated just above Lover’s Bay, near to Mount Gower and Mount Lidgbird, the two volcanic mountains that dramatically face the lodge. The luxury lodge is part of the Baillie family property portfolio which also includes its "big sister” property, Southern Ocean Lodge. Nine suites make up this private couples-only luxury lodge that is as well known for its personalised and accommodating service as it is for its expansive views and luxurious suites.

We were picked up at the airport by Libby who, along with her gregarious husband Mark, manages Capella Lodge. In a synchronised fashion, she gives us a cheerful mini-tour of the island in the car on the way to the lodge, while Mark takes care of the bags, that arrive in our suite in time for our arrival.

Once you arrive, the first order of the day is to relax. There are no distractions – apart from the view – and when they bring you a welcome tea and some nibblies, all you can do is surrender to island time.

capella lodge lord howe island

Our suite is a lagoon loft, which has a lounge area below and a bedroom upstairs. Both levels have a balcony to make the most of the view. The bottom floor features a long L-shaped lounge, a BOSE music system, a large flat screen television, complimentary soft drinks and a mini-bar with a range of gourmet snacks. Teas are by T-bar and there is an extensive range of loose leaf teas that can be provided to suit your taste. A plate of mini lemon meringue tarts awaits and the balcony beckons. And that’s where I got lost for a while…

Upstairs, the mezzanine bedroom with the king sized bed sits in front of stunning water and mountain views. The sheets are silky smooth and the bed temptingly comfortable. There are a range of goose and duck down pillows along with a pillow menu and it is the perfect place to lie down and watch the palms dance, or you can plonk yourself down on one of the chairs on the mezzanine balcony and sip the sparkling wine.

The bathroom downstairs is modern and all dark colours in basalt stone. There is a large, modern shower with two shower heads: a monsoon and a massage head but no bath (water is from rainwater tanks). I’m pleased to see that they have their own house body products, which we tried at Southern Ocean Lodge. From a vanilla ginger lily shampoo, jojoba conditioner, lime cassis body wash and a soap, hand wash and body lotion, all superb products that are made especially for them. There are also cotton tips and pads, shower caps and a loofah tucked away in the drawers.

Luxurious bathrobes, low-rise pillows, leather slippers and a safe are in the cupboard. The resort is keyless but there is a lock if you want to lock the doors from the inside. Backpacks and bikes are provided as guests are encouraged to explore the island during the day and breakfasts and dinners are included in the tariff. The lodge gets up to 50 per cent of its water from collected rainwater tanks and uses solar power for the hot water systems.

After a bit of time enjoying the room (and tell me, do you enjoy staying in a hotel room as much as I do?), we go downstairs to the main building to have pre-dinner drinks that start every evening at six pm. On the way, we spot some of their protected Woodhens, who make a lovely little squeaking noise. There’s a family of them at Capella and they are all tagged and are surprisingly tame.

Each evening, "the girls” – who are the team of wonderful all female lodge staff that are gentle and intuitive – design a new cocktail. This evening is a hazelnut cocktail with the distinct, rich and sweet aroma of hazelnuts. Each guest is known to the staff and everyone is on a first name basis...

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My wife and I have holidayed on Lord Howe Island about 6 times (my wife even more) and adore the place - the absolute beauty of the surroundings, the amount of pleasures you can partake, the relaxed atmosphere and the friendly locals. We consider it the World's best holiday destination (with Santorini, Greece). (A love affair with Lord Howe Island, January 25.)
We have never stayed at Capella Lodge,perhaps because of the price - you forgot to mention the price!
By the way, we were original financial supporters of the endangered Lord Howe Island Woodhens when they were down to the last 6 pairs - glad to find they are now quite common.