Forgotten Escapes: 7 Overlooked Islands

From Quebec to the Cook Islands, we’ve found seven secret havens you’ll want to explore before the rest of the world gets wind of them.

  • 1. Magdalen Islands

    Quebec, Canada
    Unknown islands might conjure up images of Tom Hanks in "Cast Away" battling the elements in a tattered bit of old cloth. That's not an ideal getaway. But how about taking a road trip around an archipelago connected by Quebec’s Route 199? Take your car by ferry from Souris (Prince Edward Island) to the Îles de la Madeleine and start your adventure. Fly giant kites, feast on a haul of freshly caught seafood (they have an abundance of lobster), ride horses on the beach or discover the island’s rich local culture. Whatever you decide to do, Route 199 will take you on a holiday of a lifetime.
  • 2. Aitutaki

    Cook Islands, South Pacific
    You might be put off visiting Aitutaki when you learn that a series of the American TV show "Survivor" was filmed here. Fear not, however, as the island has something for everyone — even those predisposed to appearing on reality TV. Mesmerising scenery, crystal clear lagoons, a golf course and upscale spas and resorts sit side by side. The island’s barrier reef makes it an ideal spot for snorkelling and spotting colourful tropical fish. An island paradise surrounded by untouched smaller islands, you’ll want to dive right in to exploring.
  • 3. Chebeague

    Maine, USA
    Forage wild blueberries and take a break from city life on this 3-mile-long island just off the coast of Maine, United States. As well as berries, the coastline provides clams, crabs, mussels and lobsters — though you may need help from local fishermen to walk away with those. If you prefer your seafood served hot, visit Calder's Clam Shack for the freshest and finest feasting on the island. For a real escape, book a couple of nights in the Chebeague Island Inn where you can enjoy the area without the distraction of television or telephones.
  • 4. Elba

    Tuscany, Italy
    The third largest of Italy’s islands, Elba gets very little attention compared to its larger cousins, Sicily and Sardinia. You might remember it as the island where Napoleon was exiled and, subsequently, was quite keen to leave. But it rarely pops up on top travel destination lists. Nestled just 6 miles off the Tuscan west coast of Italy, Elba is one of the most beautiful Mediterranean islands and easy to access by ferry from Piombino. With over 150 beaches, craggy mountain faces embedded with naturally occurring crystals and stunning turquoise ocean views, it really could be Italy’s best kept secret.
  • 5. Cyclades


    Whatever you thought of the film and singalong phenomenon that was "Mamma Mia," you couldn’t help but be impressed by the idyllic Greek setting that showcased traditional whitewashed stone houses, azure seas and cloudless skies.

    The Cyclades is made up of over 220 islands, the most popular and well known include Santorini and Mykonos, but there are a wealth of others, such as Keros and Iraklia, that are worth visiting. They all boast the "Mamma Mia" scenery, and you’re highly unlikely to stumble upon Pierce Brosnan singing along to ABBA. Thank heavens.

  • 6. Cíes Islands

    Galicia, Spain
    Nicknamed the "Galician Caribbean," the Cíes Islands are an archipelago on the north-west coast of Spain. As part of Galician Atlantic Islands National Park, there’s a conservation plan in place to preserve the land and surrounding seas. Only 2,200 visitors are permitted each day, and there are no hotels, cars or bikes, though camping is allowed. Avid hikers can explore trails, Bronze Age settlements, birds and stunning views of the sea. For adventurous swimmers with luck on their side, there’s also a chance of an ocean encounter with "arroaces" — a small local species of dolphin.
  • 7. Apostle Islands

    Lake Superior, Wisconsin, USA
    Unlike the other islands on this list, the big draw of the Apostles is the icy climate in winter. When the temperture is cold enough, the edge of Lake Superior freezes, allowing intrepid adventurers a chance to walk over the frozen water to reach the Bayfield Peninsula Ice Caves. The mile-long walk across the ice is worth the trek because the caves are full of naturally formed ice sculptures. The lake ice itself is impressive, but the icicles and frosty stalactites turn the caves into a winter wonderland you’ll be glad you explored.