Along Lord Howe’s northeastern coast sits the locally-famous Ned’s Beach, a picturesque cove with a truly special, underwater community. Although undoubtedly the island’s most popular beach, there wasn’t a time when we saw more than a couple dozen beachgoers scattered about the shoreline. There was no crowded sea of colored towels and beach umbrellas, rather just a few folks enjoying the brilliant surroundings.
Standing on a grassy knoll along Ned’s white sands, ‘The Shed’ is a small, unadorned pavilion where guests can enjoy a little shade, or rent snorkeling or paddleboarding equipment using the time-honored honesty box. Most importantly, though, along the back wall of the The Shed stands a coin-operated gumball machine with a few small, cracked, plastic cups stacked atop the yellow, metal lid. Here, a one-dollar piece will not buy a brightly-colored piece of candy, but rather a few dozen pellets of ‘healthy fish food,’ stocked habitually by the locals. The beach is a unique spot on the island, certified for feeding the schools of fish that inhabit the shallow reef just a few meters offshore. As soon as you wade out a meter or two into the crystal-clear water, swarms of eager, scaly friends welcome you to their neighborhood, swimming frantically around your legs and torso. Sand mullet, trevally, trumpeters, and silver drummer congregate by the dozens, fluttering their fins and flapping their mouths enthusiastically for a couple pellets.
During our stay, we made repeated visits to Ned’s Beach for some fish feeding, as it instantly became our favorite spot. In fact, one of the first things I did when we arrived on the island was photograph the tide table hanging on the post office bulletin board, so I could be adequately armed with healthy pellets precisely at low tide. Although every part of Lord Howe Island was a happy place, this was by far my most happy place.[Note: The following video is aptly titled Kris’ Nightmare. And yes… it really is that long. If I had it my way, though, I would have posted the uncut, two-hour version.]
In addition to the one-of-a-kind fish feeding, Ned’s is also home to some incredible snorkeling that has to be some of the most accessible of its kind in the world. From the shallow sandbar, a sandy channel leads out into the bay, flanked on either side by colorful coral reefs, teeming with tropical fish, urchins, and anemone, as well as the occasional reef shark or sea turtle. You don’t have to swim out more than 10 meters to reach the edge of the shallow reef, and following the channel to deeper water only improves the stunning undersea landscape.