The world has over 100,000 islands, and most have been explored. But some remain a mystery to most of the outside world. Some islands are so dangerous, exclusive, or top-secret that only a few people can step foot on them.
Although some people can see islands from their homes, many do not allow visitors. Some are inhospitable, while others are privately owned. Even some Hawaiian islands and UNESCO Heritage sites are off-limits to the public. Cross these islands off of your vacation list because you can’t visit them.
Only Snakes Live On This Island
Ninety-three miles off the coast of São Paulo is the Brazilian island, Ilha da Queimada Grande. But most people know it as Snake Island. Humans cannot travel there because the island is covered with snakes–between one and five snakes per meter, researchers say.
These aren’t small, harmless snakes, either. They are a unique type of pit viper called golden lancehead. Lanceheads are poisonous and cause 90% of Brazil’s snakebite fatalities. As a result, the Brazilian Navy forbids any human from stepping on the island except for select researchers.
These Residents Don’t Allow Visitors
North Sentinel Island lies in the archipelago of the Bay of Bengal. It is home to the Sentinelese, a civilization that is mostly untouched by modern civilization. Over the past 200 years, many people have tried to visit North Sentinel Island. But they have been kicked off–often violently.
The Sentinelese do not allow visitors on their islands. When tourists arrive in boats and helicopters, the Sentinelese attack them with spears, knives, bows, and arrows. Experts know little to nothing about this civilization. We can’t even understand their language.
The Smallest Island In The World, Bishop Rock
Thirty miles southwest of Britain, in the Isles of Sicily, lies Bishop Rock. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the smallest island in the word with a building on it. That building is a lighthouse that marked an end of the North Atlantic shipping route.
In 1992, the lighthouse became fully automated, and no one stepped on the island anymore. Cruises can navigate around Bishop Rock, but don’t expect to explore the lighthouse. You can only gaze upon it from afar.
The World Heritage Site You’ll Never See
Macquarie Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site between New Zealand and Antarctica. Despite being such a famous island, few people step foot on it. Tourists can see it only a few times a year, on a tour of the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands. But what makes Macquarie so special?
Unlike other restricted islands, Macquarie isn’t covered with snakes or sharks–but penguins. Macquarie hosts the largest penguin breeding sites in the world, and its species are protected. Only 40 people can live on Macquarie at a time to preserve the wildlife population.
The One Island In The Bahamas That You Can’t Visit
Most islands in the Bahamas are available for tourists, but one isn’t. The private island Little Halls Pond Cay is owned by Johnny Depp. In 2004, the actor paid $3.6 million for the 45-acre island. Obviously, you can only travel to Little Halls if Johnny Depp invites you.
Reporters have snapped aerial views of Little Halls, but they have not stepped foot on the private island. In 2009, Depp told Vanity Fair, “I don’t think I’d ever seen any place so pure and beautiful.” Unfortunately, few other people will see it.
The Shark-Infested Waters Of Réunion Island
Réunion Island used to be one of France’s best surfing spots. But in 2011, shark attacks skyrocketed. Experts believe that the growing fish population in the nearby marine reserve attracted dangerous sharks like tiger sharks. In 2015, the issue got so bad that the French Surfing Federation closed off the island.
Swimmers and surfers are now banned from Réunion Island. In the meantime, the Ciguatera-Program has been hunting off the population. This decision has faced controversy over the years, but the fatal shark attacks continue to scare people away.
Few New Yorkers Have Visited This Island
Although many New York City residents see North Brother Island on East River, few have visited it. The island has a long, dark history–from a smallpox quarantine to a veteran hospital to a drug rehabilitation center. In 2007, New York City purchased the island, but no one can visit it without permission.
North Brother Island is also a bird sanctuary. The state protects many bird species there. The 25 buildings that remain pose an enormous hazard, as they can fall apart at any time. Unless you’re a researcher, you will likely never see North Brother Island.
Poveglia Island Contains Italy’s Darkest Secrets
Poveglia, a small island between Venice and Lido, Italy, has a dark past. For centuries, Poveglia quarantined people who became ill. In 1776, Italians began shipping people to Poveglia when they became infected with certain diseases. Later, a mental hospital also opened there, which closed in 1968.
Despite being featured on many paranormal shows, Poveglia is closed to visitors. The only way to see the island is through the pictures from some photographers that were let in. Some ancient buildings, including a bell tower from the 12th century, still exist there today.
The Hawaiian Island That Doesn’t Allow Tourists
The Hawaiian islands receive over ten million tourists every year. But one island, Ni’ihau, is not open to visitors. The “Forbidden Island” has been privately owned since 1864, when Elizabeth Sinclair bought it from King Kamehameha V.
Despite being privately owned, residents still lived on Ni’ihau. But that changed in 1952 when a polio epidemic swept through the island. Today, few people live on Ni’ihau, and even fewer people can visit it. The island’s current owners are the brothers Keith and Bruce Robinson, and people can only visit when they’re invited.
Enewetak Atoll Is Radioactive
Five thousand miles off the coast of Los Angeles lies the Marshall Islands. Since World War II, one of the island chains–Enewetak Atoll–became closed to visitors. Between 1946 and 1958, the U.S. performed 43 nuclear tests there. Enewetak Atoll is too dangerous to visit, even today.
Between 1977 and 1980, the U.S. decontaminated the islands, but tourists are still discouraged from going there. One of the islands, Runit Island, is home to The Dome, a concrete area the size of a football field. Inside the Dome lies 85,000 cubic meters of toxic waste. It’s no vacation site.
The Secret U.S. Military Island In The United Kingdom
Diego Garcia is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom which is located in the central Indian Ocean. It holds a secret American military base because Britain lent the island to the United States. Between 1968 and 1973, hundreds of residents were evicted from Diego Garcia to make room for the base.
In recent years, however, Diego Garcia’s solidarity has been vague. The United Nations have been working to settle who owns the island. Until more information comes out, visitors cannot see the base on Diego Garcia.
Clouds Constantly Cover Heard Island
You can’t visit Heard Island Volcano in Australia, but you would hardly see it even if you could. The island is constantly covered dense clouds. It holds Australia’s highest mountain–a 9,000-foot-high volcano surrounded by raging waters.
Despite hosting an active volcano, Heard Island is covered in ice. The volcano, Big Ben, oozes lava onto the ice, which creates more land. Only researchers can visit the island to study how landmasses form. The only other inhabitants are seals and penguins who hang around the glaciers.
The Devil’s Teeth: Farallon Islands
The four Farallon Islands lie just outside of San Francisco, California. Some tourists take boat trips around the islands, but few step foot on them. Mariners call them the Devil’s Teeth Islands because of how dangerous they are. Between 1946 and 1970, 47,500 55-gallon drums of radioactive waste were dumped there.
Despite being clean, the Farallon Islands still have dangerous weather and wildlife. Orcas and elephant seals use the site as a breeding ground. Although most people can’t visit, the California Academy of Sciences offers a live webcam for students to watch the islands.
Bouvet Island, The Loneliest Place On Earth
Bouvet Island is the most isolated island in the world. Even though there are many inhabited islands across the planet, Bouvet stands out. A glacier covers Ninety-three percent of the island. Although Norway owns Bouvet, it’s closer to the arctic.
The 7% of the island that isn’t ice is an inactive volcano. Although Bouvet was discovered in 1739, no one has lived there. At least, we don’t think that anyone lived there. In 1964, an abandoned lifeboat was discovered on Bouvet, and that has been the only visitor since.
Surtsey Island Is Less Than 100 Years Old
Surtsey Island, which lies 20 miles off the coast of Iceland, has not been occupied since its birth. The island formed in the 1960s after volcanoes erupted 430 feet below sea level. Scientists jumped at the chance to observe how ocean currents bring bacteria and fungi to create an island. As a result, Surtsey is highly protected and prohibited to visitors.
Surtsey is a UNESCO World Heritage site that most people will never see up-close. Today, the island is formed enough to host marine life and birds. Boating, swimming, and construction are not allowed near Surtsey.
No One Lives On Bear Island For More Than A Few Years
Bear Island is a Norwegian landmass off of the Svalbard archipelago. Despite its remote location, Bear Island has housed some residents and businesses. But no one stays there beyond a few years. Why? Because it’s so dangerous and unpredictable.
Bear Island has steep cliffs, turbulent weather, and rough waves. Some ocean expeditions can visit, but there’s no guarantee that they will be able to land on the island. It’s so dangerous that most sailors prefer not to visit. If you go there, the only thing you’ll see is a wildlife reserve.
New Zealand’s Most Inhospitable Islands
If there’s one word to describe the Antipodes Islands, it’s “inhospitable.” These islands lie 540 miles southeast of New Zealand, in the subantarctic waters. Antipodes has active volcanoes, vicious winds, and dangerous rains. The islands have caused many shipwrecks throughout the centuries.
According to the New Zealand Department of Conservation, visitors can see the Antipodes Islands, but they must have a permit and join a guided tour. Sailors used to go sealing there in the 19th century. But today, people only go there for research–and they risk their lives doing so.
Robins Island Has Been Privately Owned For 400 Years
For almost four hundred years, Robins Island has been privately owned. In 1636, King Charles I handed a deed to William Alexander, and it has transferred ownership since then. The island lies between Little Peconic Bay and Great Peconic Bay off of New Suffolk, New York.
Today, Robins Island is owned by Wall Street billionaire Louis Bacon. Bacon bought the island in 1993 for $11 million. He spent much more money restoring the island, replacing non-native grasses, and harvesting trees. Although Robins Island is beautiful and has the largest turtle population in New York, you can’t visit it.
No One Can Live On Clipperton Island
Clipperton Island is so remote and inhospitable, that it’s impossible to support life. Treacherous reefs surround the island, and there is no freshwater. Technically, you can travel there–but you’d have to swim, and you’d have nowhere to stay.
Despite being inhospitable, British and Mexican interest groups attempted to colonize Clipperton in 1906. One hundred people lived on the island and received supplies from the mainland. When the Mexican Civil War interrupted the shipments, the residents had to leave or starve. If you don’t want to struggle through that, don’t visit Clipperton Island.
The Most Valuable Land In British Columbia
James Island is one of the most valuable properties in British Columbia. In 1994, American billionaire Craig McCaw bought the island for $19 million. Today, it is worth at least $56 million. Although James Island has six guest homes, you have to be invited to visit it.
McCaw built a golf course, airstrip, and yacht moorage. Although it’s private now, an Arizona company is reportedly building residential communities on the island. People might be able to tour or live on James Island in the future.