Tourism is certainly the largest industry on the island, but it is not the only one, which becomes apparent very quickly when travelling round the island. Cows rule the roads here, and wander free range both in pastures as well as in common areas across the island. The town centre and almost every property have cattle grids at their entrance to stop wondering herds coming on to their land.
It’s not uncommon for the bus driver to have to swerve around a wondering bovine who’s decided to cross the road just in front of our tour. Wild chickens are just a prevalent and are seen on almost every corner of the island – although pose a significant smaller risk to traffic. Pigs are also raised here – although they are thankfully not given the freedom of the island.
Combined with the local fishing industry – which can be sporadic due to the rough seas when then boats are unable to leave port – provide the vast majority of food for the island.
Due to quarantine restrictions very limited fresh produce is allowed to be brought on the island (only garlic, ginger, potatoes and lettuce I’m told), so virtually all the fresh product need to be grown on the island and while many residents have their small back gardens growing produce, several small cottage industries have established themselves to provide produce to the islands and visitors alike.
While this can create a limited menu – chicken, beef, pork, fish – (as well as egg based dishes such as quiche and savoury tarts also feature heavily), the island has created an almost sustainable, free range (and often organic) lifestyle, which is not only seasonal, but fresh and results in delicious food of consistently high quality.
From local cafes to fine dining restaurants, the food is superb, and while often uncomplicated, fine ingredients don’t need much. While the town centre features many local cafes – offering similar fare to what would be found in any city – many of the restaurants are either attached to the hotels or have popped up around the island – often in stunning locations overlooking the cliffs.
While virtually all dry and canned goods are shipped in, shopping in the local supermarket can seem expensive (with many items reaching twice the cost of those on the mainland) as the restaurants source many of their ingredients locally, the cost is almost comparable to venues of similar quality on the mainland.
The Island Fish Fry is a ‘must do’ experience for any visitor to the island, and is held on a patch of land overlooking the steep cliffs on the west side of the island. Entertainment is provided by a local artist who sings a mix of traditional Norfolk songs, 70s classics, Jimmy Buffet tunes (who was born on the island) and songs he wrote himself.
We feast on (I could say ‘a Bounty’ – but I’m going to avoid that pun here) a selection of salads: greens, potato and rice as well as some island specialties such as Phili – a savoury cake made from green bananas and flour, A’na – mashed sweet potato with coconut cream (I have to resist taking the entire bowl back to my table) and coconut bread; all to accompany the start of the dish, the local fish (Trumpeter) deep fried to crispy perfection. If the all-you-can-eat buffet wasn’t enough, it’s finished off with a sweet coconut pie.
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Words & images by Matt Scott, product manager at Holidays of Australia & the World.