Norfolk Island is situated 1676 kilometres northeast of Sydney, at 167°57'E, 29°02'S. The Territory of Norfolk Island comprises Norfolk, Phillip and Nepean Islands, with an overall area of just over 37 square kilometres. Most of the island is a plateau formed from horizontal sheets of basalt. The highest point rises to 319 metres above sea level at Mount Bates. The island is a mountain top remnant of an elongated shield volcano. The shelf around Norfolk and surrounding islands is 95 kilometres long, north to south, and, 35 kilometres wide, east to west.
Captain James Cook first landed on the island in 1774 and within the following 26 years, 40 per cent of the island's natural vegetation was cleared. Today, only five per cent of the native forest remains undisturbed. The Norfolk pine, which has become the island's icon, may reach heights of more than 60 metres, sometimes with a girth of 11 metres.
A large proportion of the natural vegetation on Phillip Island was lost when rabbits were introduced with the island ending up a virtual desert. However, soon after trapping the rabbits started and the last was caught in 1986, regeneration of the native vegetation began. The regrowth is now occurring rapidly.