How This Tiny Aussie Island Of 400 People Got On Lonely Planet's Hot List

Locals on the tiny, remote Lord Howe Island were stunned to wake up to the news that their home had been listed as one of the world's hottest travel destinations.

The Pacific Ocean speck of land located about 600 kilometres northeast of Sydney, between Australia and New Zealand -- has been named at number five in the Lonely Planet 'Best In Travel' list for 2020.

The crescent-shaped island -- a UNESCO world heritage site -- measures only 10 kilometres from northern to southern tip, with the 2016 census listing it as home to just 382 people.

A few hotels, a couple of shops, a police station, a handful of restaurants and a narrow airstrip are all the man-made things to be found there, but Lord Howe Island has suddenly found itself named as one of the top destinations of the year.

Lord Howe Island, looking over the lagoon and Ned's Beach towards Mount Gower. Image: Getty

"It's a very special place, but not very well-known," Bill Shead, owner of the Arajilla Retreat on the island's northern edge, told 10 daily.

"It's a unique place in the world, we're very blessed to be here."

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Lonely Planet placed the island in its 'top regions' list, behind the Central Asian silk road, Italy's Le Marche, Tohoku in Japan, and Maine in the United States.

The island is about 600km north-east of Sydney, and so tiny, it barely shows up on this Google Maps view. Image: Google

The travel guide boasts of the island's "instant impact on the senses with its jaw-dropping World Heritage-listed beauty."

Much of the island is covered with dense forest, with 70 percent of the landmass coming under the protected Permanent Park Preserve (LHI PPP).

"Two soaring green mountains overlook a perfect lagoon and the world’s southernmost coral reef; perfect crescents of beach and splendid hiking trails through the lush forest add to brilliant outdoors possibilities," Lonely Planet states.

"This one-time volcano’s isolation makes it a refuge for many endemic species, as well as plentiful birdlife. The island is a shining example of sustainably managed tourism; only 400 visitors are allowed at any time, and you are encouraged to participate in a series of ecological projects."

The island is dotted with palm trees, mountains and beaches. Image: Getty

Indeed, all of the tourism operators and citizens contacted by 10 daily spoke of the island's famously-restricted tourist policy, which allows Lord Howe's population to swell to twice its normal size on popular days each year.

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Shead told 10 daily that resources on the island are limited: "no town water, no endless water supply, we manage our own garbage".

But despite the global spotlight suddenly casting on the Pacific pinprick, the island's locals aren't worried about being suddenly swarmed by selfie-snapping visitors.

"It's not going to happen. That's a bit of a beat-up, but if it happens, we'll see what happens then," Shead said.

Local woman Sharon, who declined to share her surname, echoed this.

No more than 400 people can stay on the island at one time, with most arriving through this tiny airstrip. Image: Getty

"Our beds are restricted to 400 at any one time. There are no more beds available, they can't fill anymore," she told 10 daily.

"I can't imagine we'll be inundated with lots of people wanting to come. In winter, some guest houses close and the bed numbers are even more reduced. I don't see it will be a problem."

Des Thompson, at the Blue Lagoon Lodge, is a sixth-generation Lord Howe Islander. His father, grandfather and more spent their whole lives there. Thompson said he was excited for his home to be exposed to people around the world.

Nearly three-quarters of the island is protected by a Permanent Park Preserve. Image: Getty

"The island is well able to cater for the needs of visitors. You can walk all around the beaches, along the walking trails, and see nobody else," he told 10 daily.

"I can't see any detrimental effects on the island from this. We're very conscious of the environment and the need to keep it pristine."

But while many locals have backed their inclusion on the list, the announcement did come as a surprise to many -- and Lonely Planet admitted they had not consulted with those living in the area before announcing the 2020 'hot list'.

"The selection process is highly confidential, independent, and closely guarded. Our editorial team compile it free from any influences - be that commercial, or community," a Lonely Planet spokesperson told 10 daily.

"We're celebrating Lord Howe Island in 2020 as a shining example of sustainably managed tourism."

Locals are happy about being included on the Lonely Planet list. Image: Getty

NSW's tourism minister, Stuart Ayres, was also excited about the inclusion.

“There’s something special about Lord Howe Island and it’s fantastic that Lonely Planet’s spotlight will encourage the rest of the world to discover this beautiful place too,” he said.

“The natural beauty and charming remoteness of the island make Lord Howe a ‘must visit’ destination for all kinds of travellers including luxury seekers and nature lovers."

Another Lord Howe Island local, Millie, told 10 daily she had only just moved there -- but was already rapt with her new home, and expected little to change with its inclusion on the list.

"Everyone coming here respects the island, everyone takes really good care in looking after the environment," she said.

"It's so beautiful. The people are so calm. I don't think it will change much."