KINGSTON is the place to come for a taste of Norfolk Island history. This is the site of the second settlement penal colony and is now Norfolk's administrative centre, with the Legislative Assembly meeting in the military barracks, and the old colonial Government House now home to the island's Administrator. There's an excellent view from the Queen Elizabeth Lookout over the Kingston and Arthur's Vale Historic Area and the poignant seafront cemetery, containing a number of graves from the brutal second settlement.
A string of lovely houses known as Quality Row bears some of the world's most impressive examples of Georgian military architecture; looking at the buildings now, it's difficult to imagine the suffering that took place behind their walls. Enter No. 10 Quality Row (daily 11am–3pm; $10) to see the interior. Further west, the basement of the 1835 former Commissariat Store (Mon– Sat 11am–3pm; $10) contains an archeological museum and an extensive collection of colonial-era china. Over by the wharf, the Pier Store (Mon– Sat 11am–3pm; $10) contains various artefacts recovered from the 1790 wreck of the Sirius, including its huge anchor, but more compelling is the Bounty-related paraphernalia brought here by Pitcairners, including the ship's cannon and even the kettle that was used on Pitcairn Island for everything from fermenting liquor to boiling sea water for salt. No. 10 Quality Row, the Commissariat Store and the Pier Store are all part of the Norfolk Island Museum (www.museums.gov.nf), which offers a joint ticket for $25 allowing multiple access over several days.
The Kingston area is also the site of the island's main swimming beaches. In front of the walls of the ruined barracks is Slaughter Bay, which has a sandy beach dotted with interestingly gnarled basalt rock formations; the hard-coral reef is excellent for snorkelling. At low tide you can take a glass-bottomed boat cruise ($30) from nearby Emily Bay, which is also a beautiful swimming area backed by a large pine forest.
In Bumbora Reserve, just west, reached by car via Bumbora Road, you can see the natural regrowth of Norfolk pines; from the reserve you can walk down to Bumbora Beach, where you'll find some safe pools for children to swim in at low tide.