What do you picture when you think of an island? Perhaps you imagine a tropical beach packed with tourists, or the white buildings that dot Greece’s shores. Some islands looked like that long ago, but they have since become abandoned. Their old buildings are empty shells that residents of the mainland never see.
Some of these islands harbor dark secrets. Others became deserted because the pub on the island was far too loud! Check out these haunting photos of abandoned islands, and learn why all of their inhabitants left.
Deception Island, Antarctica
Deception Island lies in the South Shetlands Islands archipelago in Antarctica. For years, explorers considered it to be the safest island on the continent. Explorers, whalers, and fur-sealing hunters used the island as their supply base. But not everyone knew that there was an active volcano there threatening to erupt at any moment.
During the 1960s, several countries sought Deception Island for oil mining. But the volcano erupted in both 1967 and 1969, destroying all bases and equipment. Today, the island is only visited by the occasional research base and tourist boat.
Gunkanjima In Nagasaki, Japan
Gunkanjima, which means “Battleship Island,” was once the most densely populated island in the world. Also called Hashima Island, the area was sought-after for its coal mining. When the Mitsubishi Corporation bought the island in 1890, they began building apartments there around 1916.
Families rapidly moved to Gunkanjima for work opportunities. At one point, there were 5,259 people per 16 acres. But as petroleum replaced coal in the 1960s, facilities began to close. The residents left, leaving behind shells of concrete apartment blocks. Today, the island sits abandoned, and tourists can visit part of it.
Poveglia Island In Venice, Italy
Resting between Venice and Lido, Poveglia is one of the most notorious islands in Italy. It was first occupied in 421, and throughout the 1300s it became a quarantine for those with the bubonic plague. If people were discovered with the disease, they were sent to Poveglia to die.
In the late 1800s, Poveglia served another purpose: as a mental institution. The asylum was poorly constructed, and rumors leaked about a doctor who threw a patient off of the bell tower. The island was finally closed in 1975. Today, Poveglia is off-limits to everyone except for those with special permission.
Disney’s Discovery Island In Florida, U.S.A.
If you look closely at the official map of Disney World in Orlando, Florida, you’ll see an unlabeled green mass. This was once Disney’s Discovery Island, which mysteriously closed in 1999. The island served as a pirate-themed break from the hustle and bustle of the park. It featured exotic birds that guests could handle.
Near the turn of the century, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park opened in Orlando. Disney’s Discovery Island was subsequently shut down. Since then, the island has remained untouched and off-limits. But a few YouTubers have gotten in to explore the decade-old ruins.
Brentford Ait In London, England
Brentford Ait is an island in the River Thames. It used to house several trade buildings, including a notorious pub called Three Swans. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the pub would reportedly get so loud that neighbors could hear it on both sides of the river.
By 1812, resident Robert Hunter had had enough. He bought Brentford Ait, closed Three Swans Pubs, and even demolished the house and fishing pond. In the 1920s, people planted trees on the island to conceal its buildings. If you were to see Brentford Ait from London, you would only see trees.
McNab’s Island In Nova Scotia, Canada
As its name implies, McNab’s Island is owned by the McNabs and was abandoned by them. Peter McNab settled on this Canadian island in the 1780s, and his descendants remained there until 1934. During World War II, the military built forts on the island that still remain today.
McNab’s Island has remained empty for decades. However, buildings such as a cholera quarantine area, soda factory, and family cemetery still lay there today. Even the old lighthouse remains on the coast. Today, tourists may visit McNab’s and visit some heritage sites.
Suakin Island In Suakin, Sudan
Suakin Island had been a bustling port city and hub for over 3,000 years. First developed during the tenth century B.C.E., Suakin Island acted as a trade outlet for the Red Sea. In later years, the island became an outlet for Muslims on the pilgrimage to Mecca. But one business became its wrongdoing: the slave trade.
During the 19th century, Suakin Island became a slave trade hub. As the slave trade declined in the 1920s, so too did the island. The area was forgotten for decades. In December 2018, Turkey bought the island for a tourist destination, so its fate is up in the air.
Holland Island In Maryland, U.S.A.
Holland Island in the Chesapeake Bay of Maryland is rapidly eroding. The last house has already disappeared into the sea, and the rest is soon to follow. In the 1600s, the first settlers arrived at the island, and Holland became the most popular Chesapeake island by 1910.
In 1914, however, disaster struck. The wind and tide eroded the land where houses stood. Attempts to build stone walls did not succeed. Hence, most people took their belongings and left. In 2010, the only remaining house on Holland Island (built in 1889) collapsed. The rest is soon to follow.
Spinalonga In Crete, Greece
Near Crete lies the lesser-known Greek island, Spinalonga. Those who learned about Spinalonga may remember it for its dark history. In the 16th century, the island was first ruled by the Venetians until it was taken over by the Cretes in 1878. By the next century, Spinalonga became a leper colony.
As a smaller leper colony, Spinalonga was under-staffed. According to reports, only one doctor stayed on the island at one time. It closed down in 1957 as one of the last leper colonies remaining. Today, Spinalonga is referenced in pop culture, such as Victoria Hislop’s book The Island.
Inishmurray In County Sligo, Ireland
If you were to travel four miles off the course of Donegal Bay, you would see the empty homes and schoolhouses of Inishmurray. This Irish island has a long history of sixth-century monasteries, Viking invasions of the 800s, and abandoned family belongings.
While Inishmurray has gone through many changes, the island received a 100-person population by the 1880s. However, the residents soon favored the mainland over the isolated island. By 1948, Inishmurray was empty. If you decide to visit, you’ll see ancient church ruins and empty homes.
King Island In Nome, Alaska
For almost half of a century, King Island on the Western coast of Alaska has remained abandoned. It was initially inhabited by over 200 Inupiat people who called themselves Aseuluk, or “people of the sea.” They built an incredible town along the cliffside called Stilt Village.
During the mid-1900s, the Bureau of Indian Affairs forcefully relocated the Aseuluk to mainland Alaska. By 1970, King Island was left abandoned. The National Science Foundation funded a project to return the Aseuluk to the island in 2005. The results have yet to be reported.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island In South Andaman, India
Two miles from Port Blair, India is an island that was reclaimed by nature. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island was first settled in 1789, where it was originally named after its surveyor, Daniel Ross. The area was owned by the British and remained that way for almost 200 years.
In 1941, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose experienced an earthquake. Although no one left, there was a struggle as the Freedom Fighters aimed to retake the island. Afterward, no one stayed. The Japanese took the island in 1942, and the Allies reclaimed it in 1945 but then deserted it.
North Brother Island In New York, U.S.A.
North Brother Island hosts one of the darkest histories in New York. The island remained empty until 1885 when it was bought to build the Riverside Hospital. There, doctors quarantined patients with tuberculosis, yellow fever, typhus, and smallpox. The most well-known resident was “Typhoid Mary” Mallon, the first documented carrier of typhoid fever in the U.S.
In 1905, the General Slocum steamship caught fire. Over one thousand people on North Brother Island died. By 1963, the hospital closed, and the island became abandoned. It’s no wonder why North Brother Island is considered haunted.
Ōkunoshima Island In Takehara, Japan
Ōkunoshima Island has remained abandoned since World War II. Only three families lived on the island until 1925 when the Imperial Japanese Army used the site for chemical weapon testing. Researchers produced mustard gas and tear gas for the war there. Today, its only inhabitants are incredibly friendly bunnies.
When the Japanese armed forces were testing their weapons, they used rabbits for their studies. After the war ended, the Allies debated either burning, dumping, or burying Ōkunoshima, but they were told to stay quiet about the experiments. They released all the test rabbits onto the island, where they still live today. Tourists can visit Ōkunoshima to feed the bunnies.
St. Kilda In North Uist, Scotland
St. Kilda is an archipelago, and its biggest island is Hirta. Historians are unclear when St. Kilda was first inhabited, the earliest written records go back to the Late Middle Ages. It became known as a puffin and seabird breeding site, but residents left en masse in 1930.
There are several reasons why St. Kilda was evacuated. An influenza outbreak and crop failures occurred at the same time. Tourism and military occupation ruined the natives’ routines, making them more susceptible to the harsh weather. Today, St. Kilda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a few functional buildings and several ruins.
Antipodes Islands, New Zealand
The Antipodes Islands have never been occupied for long. They was first charted in 1800, and during the latter half of the century, all attempts to live there failed. People tried to establish cattle ranges on the islands, to no avail. In 1893, the Spirit of the Dawn crashed there, and the crew barely survived.
The Antipodes Islands are considered uninhabitable. The harsh winds, little food, and freezing climate make it a less-than-ideal place to live. However, the islands serve as an Important Bird Area for hosting half the world’s population of erect-crested penguins.
Palmyra Atoll In Hawaii, U.S.A.
Palmyra Atoll is part of the Hawaiian Islands, although the nearest land to it is 3,355 miles away. Despite being owned by the U.S., the island is uninhabited. Since the 18th century, sailors have visited Palmyra Atoll to explore and hunt for treasure.
In the 20th century, the U.S. Navy took over Palmyra Atoll. They built airstrips and docks during World War II before they abandoned the island. In the ’80s, the island was in the news for a double-murder that occurred there, which became the basis for the 1991 true crime novel And the Sea Will Tell.
Clipperton Island, Mexico
Travel 670 miles from Mexico, and you’ll find Clipperton Island. However, nobody will be there waiting for you. In the 1700s, Spanish explorers discovered Clipperton before the French quickly overtook it. By the early 20th century, Britain and Mexico occupied the island to build a mining settlement.
However, the settlers struggled on Clipperton. Scurvy broke out, and residents violently fought each other for control of the island. By the end of World War II, no one lived on Clipperton. Occasionally, scientists will visit the island, but otherwise, it is forgotten.
Tree Island In Hainan, Peoples’ Republic Of China
Tree Island is a historic location in the South China Sea. In the 15th century, fishermen visited the island for their daily catch. Evidence indicates that people lived there, since homes and temples still stand today. Little information on the island’s history is readily available, though.
Tree Island is currently open to the public, with an ancient temple from the Ming Dynasty and beach volleyball courts. However, its ownership is currently disputed, as Vietnam and Taiwan claim some ownership rights as well.
Lazzaretto Nuovo In Venice, Italy
If you were to enter Venice’s lagoon on a boat, you’d steer by Lazzaretto Nuovo. The island housed monks and monasteries starting in the 15th century. Around this time, it became a “contumacy” or quarantine for ships arriving in the Mediterranean. They wanted to protect Italy from the plague.
During Napoleon’s reign, Lazzaretto Nuovo became a base for the Italian Army. In 1975, the Army finally abandoned the site. Today, tourists can visit the island and the single museum that stands there. But no permanent residents live there.
Hashima Island Off The Coast Of Nagasaki, Japan
Located off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan, Hashima Island is commonly referred to ask Battleship Island due to its shape being a rough likeness to a ship. The island’s most notable feature is the concrete high-rises built up by the Mitsubishi Corporation during Japan’s rapid industrialization in the 1900s.
And while the island was once booming with people, it is now home to nothing but nature and the surrounding sea. Battleship Islands peak population was in 1959, with inhabitants reaching 5,259. The island was used in a few scenes for the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall.
Poveglia In Italy
Located in the Venetian Lagoon of northern Italy, Poveglia has a bit of a haunting history. Also known as Plague Island, during the late 1700s and early 1800s, victims of the plague would be brought to this island to quarantine. It’s been reported that the island was “home” to hundreds of thousands of victims.
Later in its history, Poveglia was used as a mental hospital, of which closed in 1968. The now-abandoned island has been featured on more than one paranormal show!
North Brother Island In New York
Aside from birds and unruly vegetation, North Brother Island, located on the East River of New York, was once alive with people. In the 1880s, the island was home to the Riverside Hospital, which treated people for numerous contagious diseases, including Small Pox and Typhoid.
One of the most famous patients to be hospitalized on the island was Mary Mallon, better known as “Typhoid Mary.” She is thought to be the first person to carry the bacteria that causes typhoid fever. While the island is off-limits to the public, the old hospital still stands.
Ross Island Located In India
Part of the Andaman Islands in India, the British first attempted to settle on Ross Island back in the 1780s. But with the ever-changing weather that claimed many lives, they abandoned their mission until 1857. They then claimed the land, using it as a base to keep or Indian mutineers.
Through the years, though, the prisoners were moved to various other islands, and superior officers used Ross as administrative headquarters until the 1940s. It was then that they abandoned the island’s churches, residential housing, and power supply, leaving nature to overrun the island.
Pollepel Island Located In New York
Unlike other abandoned islands, the ruins on Pollepel Island, located in New York, were never part of a thriving community, hospital, or prison camp, but rather for one man’s residence and business ventures. Scottish businessman Francis Bannerman made his living by founding a company that sold military equipment.
In the early 1900s, Bannerman bought Pollepel Island as a place to store his stock, building the Scottish-like castle that still stands on the island today. Unfortunately, the castle was never completed, with constructions halting indefinitely when Bannerman passed away in 1918. While tourists are now allowed to tour the island and castle, the island has no permanent residence.
Tetepare Island, Solomon Islands, Located In The South Pacific
Located in the South Pacific, Tetepaer Island of the Solomon Islands was once inhabited by a local tribe. And while not much is known about the tribe, historians believe they had unique costumes, language, and a completely different culture than anything else in the world.
Unfortunately, something happened to the locals around 1860. What that is exactly, remains a mystery. It’s believed they either abandoned the island for some reason, had an outbreak of disease, or were captured. Either way, the island remains uninhabited to this day.
King Island Located In Alaska
Located 40 miles off the coast of mainland Alaska, King Island is characterized as a hostile place. But even its jagged cliffs, rough waters, and freezing temperatures didn’t sway brave people from settling on the island. Locals built a village on the cliffside, Ukivok, hunting marine mammals during the harsh winter months before heading back to the mainland for summer.
Everything changed for the local people when the island’s school shut down. With the harsh conditions, it was difficult for the elders to hunt without the help of the younger tribe members. So, they stopped venturing to King Island, abandoning the village on the cliff.
Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands
While Bikini Atoll looks like paradise, don’t let the beautiful blue water fool you. The Marshall Island has a history that makes it completely inhabitable. People did once live on Bikini Atoll, but they were persuaded to relocate after the Second World War, in 1946, with the promise they’d be able to return. They never got the chance.
Once the locals were removed from Bikini Atoll, the United States used the site for 23 nuclear tests, contaminating the soil and groundwater and making it impossible for anyone to live there. Today, a few caretakers will go to the island. Otherwise, it’s deserted.
Ilha Da Queimada Grande Located In Brazil
Ilha da Queimada Grande Island, located off the coast of Brazil, is better known as Snake Island. It’s no wonder this island is completely abandoned, as it’s home to thousands of the most poisonous snakes in the world, the golden lancehead viper.
It’s rumored that a handful of people once lived on the island and operated the lone lighthouse there. Unfortunately, those same rumors state that the last surviving worker died after being bitten by one of the vipers. Now, the island is only visited by researchers brave enough to venture into viper territory.
San Giorgio In Alga Located In Northern Italy
The island of San Giorgio in Alga is located in Northern Italy and was founded around 1000 AD after a Benedictine monastery was built on its land. After the first monetary was built, more followed, bringing with them a small community. But, in 1717, a fire burnt down a majority of the buildings on the island.
Years later, in 1799, San Giorgio in Alga was used as a political prison. Then again, in 1944, as a secret military base for the German army. But that was the last anyone had “lived” on the island. Today, it is completely abandoned.
Fort Carroll Located Off The Coast Of Maryland
Fort Carroll is an artificial island located off the coast of Baltimore, Maryland. Constructed back in 1847 for the United States War Department, the island’s hexagonal structure was designed to protect the city of Baltimore. But after World War I broke out, all weapons were removed from the fort.
Then, in March 1921, the United States Army officially abandoned Fort Carroll, moving whatever was left in the base to nearby Fort Howard. For $10,000, Benjamin Eisenberg purchased the island in 1958, intending to build a casino on the land. It never happened, and the island’s been vacant ever since.
Ile Moyenne Located Off Mahé, Seychelles
The small Ile Moyenne, located off the coast of Mahé, Seychelles, was purchased back in 1962 for £8,000 by Brendon Grimshaw. After the purchase, he marketed the island as a nature reserve, charging tourists 12 euro to explore the land, hang out on the beach, and dine at the “Jolly Rodger.”
Grimshaw and his friend Rene Antoine Lafortune bought and bred giant tortoises and even planted sixteen thousand trees in order to make Ile Moyenne paradise. In 2013, the island was granted the title of a National Park, with no human inhabitants, aside from a warden, and various wildlife flourishing throughout the land.
Blasket Islands Located Off The Coast Of Ireland
Located off the coast of Ireland, the Blasket Islands were once populated by a completely Irish-speaking population. During its peak, the island was home to 175 residents. Then the population began to decline, with resident numbers dwindling down to 22 by 1953.
Due to the extreme weather of the island that would cut off the remaining people from emergency services, the government evacuated them on November 17, 1953. Today, no one calls Blasket Island home. But day-trippers are able to ferry over to the island and do a bit of exploring, or even camp overnight.
The Island Of Dead Dolls Located South Of Mexico City
Originally owned by Don Julian Santana Barrera, the Island of Dead Dolls located just south of Mexico City, Mexico, is now home to not people, but hundreds of dolls. When he lived on the island in the 1950s, Barrera would hang dolls from the surrounding trees to ward off spirits.
Since Barrera’s death in 2001, no one has lived on the island. Now, it’s a huge tourist attraction, with people traveling to see the dolls, the island’s small museum, and to even leave offerings with Agustinita, Barrera’s favorite doll, in exchange for blessings and miracles.
Fort Drum Located In The Philippines
Built by the United States in 1909, Fort Drum is a heavily fortified island in the Manila Bay. Originally designed as a harbor defense during American colonization, it was captured and occupied by the Japanese during World War II. “The Concrete Battleship” wasn’t in their hands for long, though.
The United States recaptured the fort after dumping gasoline and petroleum throughout its interior, lighting it on fire, and putting it out of permanent commission. Fort Drum and its ruins are now abandoned in the bay.
The Auckland Islands Located In New Zealand
Lying 465 kilometers south of the South Island of New Zealand are the abandoned Auckland Islands. Archeologists believe that the islands were first found by Polynesian voyagers, as traces of a settlement have been found on Enderbury Island, dating back to possibly the 13th century.
Then, in 1806, the island was rediscovered by whalers who set up the base on the islands to hunt seals. Unfortunately, by 1812, so many seals had been killed that people stopped journeying to the islands, leaving them abandoned. Now, the land is mostly used for scientific research with no permanent residents living on the Aukland Islands.
Mu Ko Ang Thong Located In Thailand
Mu Ko Ang Thong is a chain of 42 islands located in the Gulf of Thailand. The limestone islands are teeming with wildlife, thanks to its tropical forests and surrounding warm waters. With “ang thong” translating to bowl of gold, it’s no surprise that the chain is a hot tourist spot.
People come to Mu Ko Ang Thong to snorkel, scuba dive, and even camp overnight. And while no one permanently lives on the Mu Ko Any Thong, local fishermen do work as vendors during tourist season.
Jaco Island Located In The Territory Of East Timor
Located in the territory of East Timor, Jaco Island has never been inhabited by humans. The beautiful Southeast Asian island is thought to be sacred by the locals because of the meeting of the two seas surrounding the island. But just because no one lives on the island doesn’t mean locals don’t shuttle tourists back and forth.
Surrounded by some of the world’s best coral reefs, Jaco Island is a hotspot for day-trippers who want to go snorkeling, scuba diving, or even overnight camping. Local fishermen even work as vendors on the island, although they don’t permanently live there.
Dry Tortugas Located In Key West, Florida
Named by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513, Dry Tortugas has been used for a few different reasons. First utilized as a shipping corridor, the island transformed into Fort Jefferson, the Navy’s anti-piracy fortress. While the fortress was never technically fully operational, it was also used as a prison for Civil War deserters.
After its abandonment in 1874, the fortress was registered as a national monument and Dry Tortugas as a national park consisting of seven of the Florida Keys. While no one lives on the island full-time, tourists are still allowed to visit.
Cumberland Island Located In Georgia
Cumberland Island, located in Georgia, USA, was once home to Native Americans before the Spanish settlers came in to claim the land as their own. Then, when French pirates attacked, they claimed the land in the name of the English, with forts designed to ward off, ironically, the Spanish.
After all of the fightings came to an end, the Carnegie family used Cumberland Island as a holiday retreat, building Dungeness Mansion on the land. Unfortunately, the mansion was burnt down in 1959. While Cumberland Island has since been abandoned, people are still able to visit the remains.