15 Islands You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
You may think you know the globe pretty well, but it’s highly likely there’s an island or two — maybe even 15 — that you managed to gloss over the last time you were checking out a world map. With 71 percent of the earth’s surface covered in water, who could blame you, though? There’s bound to be far-flung islands that are impossibly difficult to get to that you’ve never heard of — it’s just a fact.
Luckily, I specialize in handing out useless information, brief and sometimes amusing snippets about tiny tracts of land that you’ll probably never come in contact with included. On the off chance you’re ever looking to travel to a small rock very far away that may only be accessible by boat, here’s more than a few ideas:
1. Isla Socorro
The largest of the four islands of the Revillagigedo Archipelago, Isla Socorro lies just under 300 miles south of Cabo San Lucas in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. The island, rising sharply out of the sea up to 3,440 feet at its highest elevation, is home only to a naval station with a staff of 45 people, but scuba divers will often visit by catching a live-aboard vessel from the mainland.
2. Isla Clarión
Situated 195 miles west of Socorro is Isla Clarión, the second-largest but most remote of the islands making up the Revillagigedo Archipelago. Here, there is only a permanent population of nine, they being the nine men that man what has to be the smallest military garrison in the world. It’s possible to visit Clarión on longer diving trips, but few make the trek.
Surrounded by all kinds of other islands in the South Pacific, Niue is an independent island nation that likes to consider itself pretty good buddies with New Zealand, which sits about 1,500 miles to the west. Commonly referred to as “The Rock,” the country is home to a population of about 1,600 Polynesian people, around half of which speak the Niuean language exclusively. If you’re looking to get here, flying from New Zealand is your best bet.
4. Île Amsterdam
Part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, which all sit in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Île Amsterdam sports a population of just 25. Discovered by a Spanish explorer in 1522, the island went unnamed for more than 100 years before a Dutch dude came along and named it after his ship. The only way to get to this 21-square-mile chunk of change is by hopping aboard the Marion Dufresne II, a vessel that regularly delivers supplies to this and the other French territories down this way.
5. Midway atoll
Smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the tiny islets making up Midway Atoll are part of the Hawaiian archipelago, but remain separate from the state of Hawaii itself. The name of the atoll refers to its position roughly halfway between Asia and North America, and about 40 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel and other various contract workers live there. There is an airport on Midway’s Sand Island, but the atoll’s visitor program hasn’t been in operation since 2012, so the best you can do is take this virtual tour.
6. Pitcairn Islands
All right, you may have heard of these, but only because I was telling you all about them back in this 2017 post. The Pitcairn Islands are more than 3,400 miles southeast of Hawaii's Big Island; more than 3,600 miles west of Santiago, Chile; and more than 3,300 miles east of Auckland, New Zealand. In other words: they are super isolated. If you feel the urge to get out there and meet the less than 60 people that reside in Adamstown, the only settlement on the only inhabited island, however, they are only two or three flights and a 32-hour boat ride away, though.
7. Kerguelen Islands
Another of France’s possessions way out there in the Indian Ocean, the Kerguelen Islands are collectively known as the “Desolation Islands.” Considering they sit a little over 2,000 miles to the southeast of Madagascar, it’s not difficult to see why. The population of researchers living on Grand Terre, the main island, fluctuates between 45 in the winter and around 110 in the summer. As with Île Amsterdam and the next set of islands on this list, the only way to get down to these sub-Antarctic lands is with the help of our good pal, Marion Dufresne.
8. Crozet Islands
Consisting of six islands and about 135 square miles of land in total, the Crozet Islands form the westernmost group of the French Southern and Arctic Lands below the Tropic of Capricorn (which you can think of as the Equator of the Southern Hemisphere, if you like). To get a better picture of this, imagine that the Crozets comprise the upper left corner of an upside down triangle, while Île Amsterdam (and some other islands) makes the upper right and the Kerguelen Islands form the bottom point.
9. Keeling Islands
Also known as the Cocos, the Keeling Islands are actually probably one of the most accessible destinations listed here, and also one of the most attractive as they are home to white-sand beaches, palm trees and plenty of blue lagoons. Unlike other entries, they aren’t isolated in the middle of a massive ocean or impossibly difficult to get to; rather, they lie a mere 700 miles or so southwest of Indonesia. Though the flight from Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, probably wouldn’t be very long, it doesn’t exist. That’s because the only way to fly to this Australian possession is by way of Australia itself. All flights to the Cocos include a layover on nearby Christmas Island, as well.
10. Tristan da Cunha
Located smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic, this British overseas territory is home to one of the most awesome place names in the history of place names: Edinburgh of the Seven Seas. Adding to its awesome sauce is the fact that the village of about 260 people holds the title of most remote permanent settlement on earth, as the next closest human settlement is approximately 1,350 miles to the north. Tristan da Cunha is only accessible by boat. If you’re prone to sea sickness, the six-day voyage from Cape Town, South Africa, probably wouldn’t be your cup of tea.
11. Inaccessible Island
Evidently, they weren’t playing around when they named this one. Inaccessible Island, an extinct volcano that hasn’t been active for a whopping six million years, sits just 28 miles southwest of Tristan da Cunha. Despite its name, the island *is accessible to locals and tourists alike, but not many choose to travel there. If you already sat on a boat for six days to get to Tristan da Cunha, what’s the harm in finding a local guide and making your way over to Inaccessible Island, though, am I right?
12. Bouvet Island
If you were looking for the exact opposite of the Keeling (Cocos) Islands, look no further than Bouvet Island. Uninhabited except for occasional research expeditions, this Norwegian territory in the South Atlantic Ocean is little more than a block of ice. And while Tristan da Cunha’s Edinburgh of the Seven Seas lays claim to the most remote permanent settlement on earth, Bouvet is literally the most remote island in the world, sitting over 1,000 miles from the nearest land mass in Antarctica.
13. Macquarie Island
On Macquarie Island, the seabirds far outweigh the humans, that ratio sitting at 87,500 to 1 on a good day. The island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks in part to those seabirds, lies over 600 miles off the coast of New Zealand, out there in the frigid Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica. If you like penguins, the island has about a million. Expeditions start as low as $7,000 per person!
14. Wrangel Island
Moving north to the Arctic Ocean, we have the sole Russian entry on this list: Wrangel Island. Though not as inconspicuous as some of the other islands we’ve been talking about here (its 2,900 square miles of land are fairly easy to spot on a map), Wrangel deserves a mention as an island you’ve probably never heard of because 1) there’s a good chance that’s true, and 2) it is possibly the last place on earth that the wooly mammoth roamed. Unfortunately, you’d be hard pressed to walk in their furry footsteps, as Russia classified the island and its surrounding waters as a nature reserve in 1976 and only researchers and scientists are allowed to visit.
15. Raoul Island
Uninhabited and anvil-shaped Raoul Island is characterized by its rocky cliffs and, at its center, lush palm forests. Containing only 11 square miles of land, Raoul is the only island in the Kermadec group large enough to support a settlement, but safe harbor is pretty difficult to come by unless the waters are calm enough. New Zealand has placed rangers on the island, which is protected by the country’s Department of Conservation, since 1937. Making a trip of your own requires jumping through a few hoops, including a 30-day application processing period, so be sure to plan ahead, my friend.