Car-free islands: here are the most beautiful ones to visit in the world

A list of the best laid-back islands where cars are not allowed

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By Alex

Discover all the car-free islands, to take a vacation away from it all, on a semi-deserted island, possibly with no Internet connection so you can rest, cleanse and not be reached by anyone. In a sustainable manner and away from pollution. Experiencing where few people live in a community where cars are banned. In short, no noise, no traffic, no deafening horns, no parking stress, and above all, no smog and pollution! Just greenery and silence, the undertow of the sea, the occasional wind blowing and, at most, the hum of a few bicycles.

Contrary to what many people may believe, there is a number of places in the world where motor vehicles are banned. They can be found in Greece, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Brazil and the Seychelles. But also in the United States, in China, in the United Kingdom.

These are usually small islands not yet taken by storm by mass tourism, where the few inhabitants move around on foot, by boat or by bicycle. In some cases there are even carts pulled by horses and oxen. Sometimes, the only vehicles you will find are electric scooters, golf carts or small electric cars.

Spending a vacation on an island like this, or even going to live there, means taking a real break from stress, noise and polluted air. And making a small contribution to the environment. A way to protect the Planet and protect small, still unspoiled corners of paradise.

Car-free islands in Greece

Many Greek islands have barred cars and the roads are only dirt roads. Especially the more remote and smaller ones in the Cyclades and the Dodecanese in the Sporades. Let’s look at the most interesting ones.

  • Island of Hydra. Nestled in the heart of the Aegean Sea, it is the chicest in Greece. About 20 km long, it is a jewel of small beaches and crystal clear waters, also dotted with charming, small fishing villages and ancient monasteries. Not forgetting the characteristic paths and mule tracks from which breathtaking views can be admired. Among the many, the beautiful beaches of Vlichos and Agiòs Nikolaos, both covered with white pebbles, are noteworthy. Wild panoramas to be discovered on foot or, ala maximum, by mule.
Islands without cars
Hydra Island
  • Chalki Island. This is the smallest permanently inhabited Dodecanese island in the entire archipelago. Very similar in conformation to Rhodes, Chalki is characterized by arid, rocky and mountainous terrain. With fantastic beaches and clear waters, it is a peaceful and quiet little paradise. A road, partly cemented, connects some places, but cars or motorcycles are forbidden to non-residents. There are only a cab and a minibus to reach the beaches and the main sights.
  • Telendos Island. An incredible volcanic island in the Dodecanese, almost embraced by Kalymnos, of which it was part until an eruption in ancient times. Very spartan and lonely, it is a favorite destination for independent and curious travelers. It is generally loved by those who wish to stay in direct contact with the sea. There is only one village, consisting of a handful of hovels, located on the pier.
car-free islands
Telendos Island
  • Kato Kaufonissi Island. Located in the Lesser Cyclades, it is inhabited by only 1 shepherd and a single tavern. It can be reached by boat from the nearby island of Ano Kaufonissi, which has as many as 300 inhabitants. Deserted beaches, great silence and peace, crystal clear sea.
  • Khytira Island. It may be because the boat that connects it from Athens that takes forever, it may be because no one knows it, but it is one of the most remote and little-visited islands of the Peloponnese. Simple and rough, it is inhabited by fishermen and farmers and hosts a festival that from its name alone is a whole program: the feast of the hotelier.
  • Island of Antipaxos. Located about 3 kilometres to the south of Paxos, it’s an island that many people generally visit on a day trip from there. Antipaxos is inhabited year-round by only a couple of families who live from sheep farming and, in summer in taverns.
Car-free islands
Antipaxos Island

Car-free islands in Croatia

There are several car-free islands in Croatia. Here, the most convenient and preferred means of transportation is by boat, while for the best way to explore the interior is by walking. Let’s look at some of them.

  • Lopud (Mezzo) Island. One of 13 islands in the Elaphite archipelago in the Dubrovnik Region. It owes its name to the fact that it lies right in the middle in relation to two other islands, Kolocep and Sipan. Very small (barely 4.6 km), it is famous for one beach in particular, that of Sunj, characterized by very fine white sand and surrounded by green hills and vegetation that create an enchanting contrast with the blue sky and sea. Of course, cars are not allowed to circulate, a fact that enhances its unspoiled paradise charm.
  • Sipan Island. The largest of the Elaphites, it used to be a traditional summer retreat of Dubrovnik’s aristocrats. The ideal destination for history lovers, rich in villas, palaces and military towers, this island features long beaches and a sea rich in fish.
Islands without cars
Sipan Island
  • Kolocep Island. Also in the Elaphite Islands archipelago, near beautiful Dubrovnik, this island has the distinctive shape of a seagull. It is just over half a mile from the mainland and is pedestrian friendly. Nonresidents are not allowed to move around by car. Kolocep is nicknamed ‘the island of churches.’
  • Zlarin Island. Nicknamed ‘the island of corals,’ it is the most populated of the Sibenik archipelago. Cars are also banned here. In fact, the area’s slogan is quite explicit and reads as follows: ‘The Mediterranean as it once was.’ The western coast of the island is high and rocky, while the eastern part is gentler and more articulated.
islands without cars
Zlarin Island
  • Kaprije Island. In the heart of the Sibenik archipelago, this hilly island is furrowed by valleys and deep inlets where boats can find safe harbor. The name refers to the goats that have inhabited it for centuries, even endangering its vegetation. Today, in fact, only non-native olive trees and vines thrive. There is only one village on the island: located on the southwest coast, it has about 200 inhabitants devoted to fishing and agriculture.
  • Olib Island, near Pag, this 9-km-long limestone island narrows in the central part to measure no more than 1400 m. Covered with typical Mediterranean macchia, this island is also rich in archaeological sites, among which are the remains of a Roman settlement.
  • Prvic Island. It is tiny, barely 2 square kilometers! There are only two villages, Porto and Seporine, and they are 1 km apart. Cars are forbidden and one moves around on foot.
car-free islands
Prvic Island
  • Susak Island. In northern Croatia’s Kvarner region, it is part of the Cres and Lošinj archipelago, and can be reached by boat from the port of Mali Lošinj. It has no roads, only beaten paths that allow exploring every corner of it in total relaxation. Due to the composition of the soil – two layers of sand mixed with shells and resting on a limestone base – Susak is nicknamed ‘sand island.’
  • Ilovik Island. Covered with sage, thyme, rosemary and oregano bushes, also in Kvarner, it boasts sandy seabeds and waters rich in fish and shellfish. Car traffic is also not allowed here: to reach it, you must leave your car in Mali Lošinj and embark.
car-free islands
Ilovik Island
  • Rava Island. Located in the Zadar archipelago, near Dugi Otok. Irregularly shaped, it is home to two villages, Mala Rava and Vela Rava. All year round it is sparsely inhabited. It comes alive only in summer, when the fun is spending quiet hours relaxing in the pine forests, or fishing or walking in search of the perfect bay.
  • Silba Island. A true pearl of the Zadar archipelago. Except for small tractors for transporting goods and the letter carrier’s moped, no other vehicles circulate here. You can’t even bring bicycles! In the running to become a protected Nature Park, it features wooded coastlines, bays and coves, sandy inlets and a pristine sea.
car-free islands
Silba Island
  • Unije and Srakane Islands. They belong to the archipelago of Cres and Losinj. Tiny, mountainous, olive-covered islets. Walking from bay to bay, it is not uncommon to encounter free-range animals.
car-free islands
Unije Island
  • Lavdara Island is located off Sali, the capital of Dugi Otok. Uninhabited for most of the year, it has bare and rather rugged shores. In summer it is an ideal destination for those tourists eager for Robinson-like vacations who come here precisely to relax away from civilization.

Car-free islands in Italy

Even in Italy there are islands where it is not possible to disembark by car.

  • Marettimo Island. The tiny pearl of the Egadi Islands retains its priceless charm. Only residents are allowed to have motor vehicles. It is easily visited on foot or by bicycle. It was originally called Hierà Nésos, meaning ‘sacred island.’ It was then the Romans who renamed it Marettimo because of the abundant presence of wild thyme. In addition to a spectacular blue sea, it offers to those who visit them a wild and unspoiled nature.
Islands without cars
Marettimo Island
  • Burano. The Venetian lagoon boasts one of the most beautiful car-free islands in Italy. It has characteristic brightly colored fishermen’s cottages and is easy to visit on foot. Take your time to admire the typical dwellings, browse in the small lace stores and stop at a few informal restaurants to enjoy fish specialties from the lagoon.
car-free islands
Burano Island
  • Gorgona Island. Located in the Tuscan archipelago, this island is mostly known for its high security prison (welll… Where to escape?), but it has beautiful beaches and a crystal clear sea, rich in unspoiled fauna and flora due to the fact that it is a national park. That’s why tourists are restricted: no more than 100 per day. It can be reached by boat from Leghorn and is permanently inhabited by about 70 fishermen in the ancient village.
  • Capraia Island. Still part of the Tuscan archipelago, it is the farthest from Italy and is closest to Corsica. It can be reached after a 3-hour ferry ride from Leghorn and also from Elba in summer. Some 200 people live in its two villages. It has only one 800 m road. Perfect for snorkeling and open water open water swimming, it has established the Blue Mile, an 1100 m corridor bordered by buoys around which sailing, anchoring and mooring are prohibited.

Car-free islands in UK

Even in the English Channel there are car-free islands, although everyone thinks of the remote Orkney Islands.

  • Herm Island. Almost completely deserted, Herm has just 2 sq km in area and is the smallest of the Channel Islands, an archipelago not far from London. Cars and motorcycles are banned. On the contrary, quads and tractors are allowed. Only 60 people live there permanently: some of them work at the local hotel ar at the two pubs. The views, however, are spectacular. The high cliffs drop rapidly to give way to large sandy beaches, of which, the most famous is Shell Beach, so named for the shells that the Gulf Stream lays there. The ideal place for those who enjoy walking and cycling.
car-free islands
Herm Island
  • Ilse of Sark. Another island in the English Channel where cars are banned. The inhabitants themselves (who number about 600) get around on foot, by bicycles, tractors, battery-powered vehicles or horse-drawn vehicles. There are also no artificial lights. To get around on the streets, torches are used. That is why Sark is the ideal place to admire the stars. Precisely for this reason, the first observatory was inaugurated here; it is nothing more than a simple telescope installed inside a small wooden building in the middle of a field.
car-free islands
Sark Island

Car-free islands in France

Not only the world-famous Mont Saint Michel with its flamboyant Gothic monastery and long bridge that allows access in defiance of the tides, two other French islands are also car free.

  • Porquerolles Island. France’s second largest island (after Corsica) has only 200 inhabitants who live mainly from tourism. Sitting just a few kilometers from the excesses of the Côte d’Azur, Porquerolles is an unspoiled paradise thanks to the absence of cars and the small number of facilities where they can stay. When darkness falls, the island in fact empties out. The main activities are walks and bike rides to overlook the cliffs, as well as reaching unique beaches such as Notre Dame. In 1971 the French state bought 80 percent of the island’s property to protect it from overdevelopment and possible building exploitation.
  • Ouessant Island. Eight kilometers long and 4 kilometers wide, this perennially windswept island has remained almost the same as in the past, when sheep farmers, fishermen and sailors were its only inhabitants.Now artists and vacationers eager to leave the world behind are joining it. It is traveled by bike or on foot, visiting lighthouses, its vertiginous cliffs, hidden beaches, and a unique landscape. It can be reached by ferry from Brest or Le Conquet or from the small island of Molène.
car-free islands
Ouessant Island
  • Saint Honorat Island. Set in the beautiful sea in front of Cannes, it is home to a Cistercian monastery that produces excellent wine, and is the ideal place for a gourmet lunch, a tasting of the monks’ wines or a walk through the vineyards next to the ancient fortress. It has several semi-deserted beaches, although boats of vacationers anchor offshore. There is a restaurant, but you can’t stay over unless you organize a 3-day contemplative retreat with the monks of the Abbaye de Lérins. Ferries leave every hour all year round from the Vieux Port in Cannes and take you to the island in 20 minutes.
Car-free islands
Saint Honorat Island

Car-free islands in Spain

A car-free paradise is also in Spain.

  • Isla La Graciosa. In the Canary Islands there is a delightful little island, which can already be admired from afar, from the Mirador del Rio, the northernmost point of Lanzarote. This volcanic islet represents the hidden pearl of the Canaries. One can move only on foot or by bicycle. There are only two villages: Pedro Barba and Caleta del Sebo. Otherwise, the land consists of desert and wonderful beaches, including La Concha, which owes its name to the presence of hundreds of shells.
    The island is part of the Chinijo Archipelago Marine Reserve, which, with its 70,000 hectares of territory, is the largest marine reserve in Europe and constitutes an invaluable landscape heritage.
    Every year, the Canarias Surf Film festival, the first international film festival of films dedicated to surfing, takes place here.
Car-free islands
Isla La Graciosa

Car-free islands outside Europe

Paradises where access by motor vehicles is not possible can also be found outside Europe. Let’s look at them below.

Car-free islands in the Indian Ocean

Here are some of the best-known car-free islands in the Indian Ocean:

  • La Digue Island. It is the fourth largest uninhabited island in the Seychelles and among the most photographed for its pink sand and granite rocks. Here one moves only by foot, bicycle or oxcarts, traditional carts pulled by oxen or horses. Because of the concomitance of all these factors, La Digue remains a corner of paradise where it is possible to find maximum tranquility.
car-free islands
La Digue Island
  • Maldives. With the exception of the Senu and Malé atolls, where cars, mopeds and traffic lights can be found, the rest of the Maldives is absolutely car-free, a guarantee of a relaxing vacation without traffic or smog.

Car-free islands in the U.S.A.

Some of the most interesting car-free islands are:

  • Mackinac Island. Located in the middle of Lake Huron, Michigan, it has been car-free since 1898. Surrounded by the turquoise waters of the lake, it makes an ideal summer retreat for many tourists who want to take a dip back in time. The best way to explore its many wonders is to rely on one of the beautiful gigs.
  • Fire Island. It can be reached by ferry in about an hour and a half from New York and then, once you disembark, you find yourself catapulted into a place that has preserved all its authentic wild air. Indeed, there are no cars on the island, so people get around on foot, by bike or by cart, among the many deer that roam in total freedom. Throughout the year, about 400 people live there, which during vacations or vacation periods becomes as many as 20,000. In the 1970s, Fire Island was a magical place where the gay community gathered to live free of prejudice among sand dunes and pine forests.
car-free islands
Fire Island
  • Bald Head Island. It is a picturesque island in North Carolina (USA) popular with tourists who have a passion for playing golf. Cars are banned here and one can only move around by foot, bicycle and electric cars. Many will recognize some corners of this place as this is where most of the scenes of the famous movie “Weekend at Bernie’s” were filmed.

Car-free islands in Australia

Car-free islands can also be found in Australia. The most well-known ones:

  • Maria Island. It’s one of Tasmania’s 5 islands, located along the east coast. It has a very distinctive figure-eight shape. There are no paved roads here, only dirt roads, traveled by rangers’ jeeps or tourists’ bicycles. In addition to there being no cars, there are also no stores. It is a wildlife paradise, where it is possible to spot the Latham parrot, the Cape Barren goose or the Tasmanian devil. Not forgetting, of course, the fantastic beaches, steep cliffs and history of the island that was once a penal colony. The Maria Island Walk is a 4-day, 3-night excursion to explore the entire island.
car-free islands
Maria Island
  • Rottnest Island. A short distance from Perth, it is a place of rare beauty, popular with lovers of water sports and diving. But no one forbids basking in the sun on one of its enchanting beaches. To delve into the interior part of the island to discover its wonders, you can use the very convenient bus service, the only motor vehicles allowed to circulate.
Car-free islands
Rottnest Island

Car-free islands in Central America

  • Isla Holbox. Located in Mexico, northeast of the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo. This pristine island is forty kilometers long by not even two kilometers wide: as you can imagine, it is a place of slow, relaxed rhythms. But what is most surprising, once you land there, is the fact that the roads are sandy. Entirely pedestrian, you can walk it or you can rent a bike or a carrito, one of those little machines used on golf courses.
car-free islands
Holbox Island
  • Caye Caulker. It is one of the most visited islands in Belize. It is an atoll famous for the stunning reef that surrounds it, the famous Belize Barrier Reef. At 8 km long by 2 km wide, and with a sparse population, it is obviously a very peaceful place. Not surprisingly, the motto that echoes throughout the island is go slow. There are no paved roads and the main streets are covered with sand. In fact, both asphalt and concrete are banned on the island. The only means of transportation are golf cars. Alternatively, one gets around on foot or by bicycle.
car-free islands
Caye Caulker
  • Little Corn Island. Off the coast of Nicaragua is a true paradise surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea, where you can find white beaches surrounded by unspoiled nature. Here, too, there are no paved roads or motorized transportation. Even electricity is a luxury reserved for the few!
Car-free islands
Little Corn Island

Car-free islands in the Far East

China also has car-free islands. Let’s look at two of them.

  • Cheung Chau Island. Just 16 kilometers from dynamic Hong Kong, it has a totally much quieter atmosphere and is worth at least a day visit to take a rejuvenating break from the chaotic Chinese megalopolis. It can be reached by ferry and is easily visited on foot or by bicycle. In fact, car traffic is limited and its 23,000 inhabitants get around without using cars. In spring, the Bun Festival is held: the festivities last several days and are dedicated to various patron deities.
car-free islands
Cheung Chau Island
  • Gulangyu Island. In China, close to the coast of Xiamen, full of colonial mansions and sandy beaches. there is this coastal islet of just 2 square kilometers that boasts a deep and special connection with music. Very relaxing, it is a favorite destination for Xiamen residents. Along its quiet and picturesque streets, you can admire mansions, consulates, schools and churches, all to be enjoyed quietly and without the noise of traffic.
car-free islands
Gulangyu Island

More on this topic

Some more interesting facts and information about sustainable and inclusive tourism: