There are plenty of family-friendly islands and resorts around the world like the favorite Beaches brand in Turks and Caicos, among other thriving island brands. But there are scores of lesser-known islands that welcome your family to their pristine wonders and a quiet afternoon of hiking, swimming and birding without ever seeing a car or group of tourists walking by.
To get off the beaten path, here are five hidden islands for your family to explore.
A family vacation to Canada may not conjure up images of island relaxation, but Cape Breton Island is one of the country’s hidden treasures. Perfect for hiking families, Cape Breton Highlands features 26 hiking trails in its national park, ranging from strolls to challenges and envelopes visitors in panoramic views. Kids will love the hike to the lighthouse winding through wetlands and the coast where soldiers protected Louisbourg Harbour.
You may have heard of some of the islands off of Georgia like Tybee Island, but the barrier island of Sapelo Island tends to go unnoticed. The island is only accessible by small aircraft or boat and guests must be pre-registered. Guests can stay overnight at the historic R.J. Reynolds Mansion that also operates a public beach campground at Cabretta.
Sandön has been described as “the island for the soul” and is short on entertainment and big on getting your family back outdoors. Kids love its legends of pirates invading it during the Middle Ages. Hiking and bird-watching are plentiful and cars are off limit on this hidden island. Grab a coffee and sit at the picnic table outside the historic Bourgström’s cabin to take in sweeping views of the sea and look for fragments of shipwrecks below.
Maine is big on tourism, but scores of summer visitors bypass its Great Diamond Island in Casco Bay altogether. Situated off of Portland, Diamond Island is a short ferry ride away and its main mode of transportation are golf carts and bicycles for a kid-friendly experience. But only guests of The Inn at Diamond Cove and property owners are allowed to visit the island and explore its quiet beaches. Take a short hike through the forest and to one of the beaches before grabbing a snack at the General Store.
Tucked away in the Tasman Sea off Australia, Lord Howe Island in New South Wales, Australia, is a haven for snorkeling and scuba diving families. The calm lagoon is ideal for kids and features colorful coral just offshore. Scuba divers will quickly understand why Lord Howe earned a spot on UNESCO’s World Heritage list for its natural beauty and heritage. Divers come from around the world to see rare species like Spanish Dancers and Galapagos whalers.
Visiting a hidden island isn’t just a way to see more of the world, it’s also a unique bonding experience for the family looking to get off their devices and back into nature. Get your kids involved and dive into the history of the islands before you pay a visit. But don’t say “no” to the smartphones just yet. Let your kids fire up their smartphone to snag photos and videos to create a digital scrapbook to show to friends.