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.

Magdalen Islands

Quebec, Canada

Unknown islands might conjure up images of Tom Hanks battling the elements in a tattered bit of old cloth, which isn’t exactly an ideal getaway, but how about taking a road trip around an archipelago of islands all 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 the haul of freshly caught seafood (they have lobster in abundance), 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.

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, while 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 into exploring.

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, USA. As well as the berries, there are rich pickings along the coastline, including clams, crab, mussels and lobster – though you may need help from the local fishermen to walk away with a few of those. If you prefer your seafood served hot, visit Calders Clam Shack for the freshest and finest feasting on the island. Book a couple of nights in the Chebeague Island Inn where you can enjoy the area without the distraction of television or telephones. Take a book, switch off your cell phone and experience a real escape.

Elba

Tuscany, Italy

The third largest of Italy’s islands, Elba, gets very little attention compared to its larger cousins, Sicily and Sardinia. In history class you may remember it as the island Napoleon was exiled to 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.

Cyclades

Greece

Whatever you thought of the film/sing-a-long phenomenon/nightmare that was Mamma Mia, you couldn’t fail to be impressed by the idyllic Greek setting which showcased the traditional stone white washed houses, azure seas and cloudless skies. The Cyclades is made up of over 220 islands, the most popular and well known of which include Santorini and Mykonos, but there are a wealth of others, like Keros and Iraklia, well worth turning your attention to. They all boast the Mamma Mia scenery, but you’re highly unlikely to stumble upon Pierce Brosnan singing along to ABBA. Thank heavens.

Cíes Islands

Galicia, Spain

Nicknamed the ‘Spanish Caribbean’, the Cíes Islands are an archipelago on the north-west coast of Spain. Part of the Galician Atlantic Islands National Park, there’s a conservation plan in place to preserve the land and surrounding seas which limits visitors to only 2,200 a day. There are also no hotels, cars or even bikes, though camping is allowed. There is still plenty for avid hikers to explore on foot including trails, Bronze Age settlements, birdwatching and stunning views over 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.

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 weather 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, as the caves are full of naturally formed ice sculptures. The lake ice itself is impressive alone, but the icicles and frosty stalactites turn the caves into a winter wonderland you’ll be glad you braved the chill for.

IMAGE CREDITS

Featured image – Maragret Shear

Magdalen – Raymond Brow / Aitutaki – Christina Spicuzza /  Chebeague – sharon_k / Elba – nontelodiromai /

Cyclades – Jaume Escofet / Cies Islands – Jaime González / Apostle Islands – Justin Meissen