Islands without cars can be the perfect car-free holiday destination, offering a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere. Clear from traffic jams, parking fees or the struggle to find a free parking space these islands can be explored on foot or by bicycle. But with over 500 million cars in this world finding a car-free island is becoming an increasingly difficult task. Furthermore islands in this list should be laid-back (this excludes Venice) and have at least a small population and some facilities (this excludes all uninhabited islands).
Little Corn Island is the smaller of the two Corn Islands that lie about 70 km east off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. The island was originally colonized by the British, and most native islanders have more in common culturally with other English-speaking Caribbean islands than they do with the mainland of Nicaragua. Without roads and motorized vehicles the only option to get around the island is by walking. The surrounding coral reefs make it a popular destination for scuba diving and snorkeling.
Rottnest Island is located off the coast of Western Australia near the city of Perth. The island was inhabited by Aboriginal people from approximately 30,000 years ago, until rising sea levels separated the island from the mainland. When the Dutch explored the island in the 17th century the island was uninhabited. Today the island is a popular tourist destination. Activities include swimming, snorkeling, fishing, surfing, diving and cycling round the 11km long island. Cars are not permitted although there are a few tourist busses. Just don’t time your visit with the annual school leavers who come to Rottnest Island en masse.
Kadavu is the fourth largest island in Fiji and has about 10,000 inhabitants. Some of the natural resources of Kadavu include the mountainous jungles and waterfalls, bays fringed by coral reefs and a mangrove forest that provide habitat to a host of wild life and birds, including the Kadavu musk parrot. The untouched and natural state of the island makes it ideal for a remote vacation destination. There are very few roads on Kadavu and the main mode of transportation include boat taxis and ferries.
Hydra is one of the Saronic Islands of Greece separated from the Peloponnese by narrow strip of water. The island is deservedly one of the most popular day-trip destinations from Athens. The port of Hydra has a scenic location in a deep harbor, with whitewashed houses rising on the hills on both sides from an azure blue sea. Motorized transportation is forbidden on Hydra. The town center is small enough to get around on foot while donkeys, bicycles, and water taxis provide public transportation to the rest of the island.
Lamu Island is a part of the Lamu Archipelago and one of the most popular attractions in Kenya, besides the wildlife parks. Lamu Old Town, the main town on the island, is one of the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa. Built in coral stone and mangrove timber, the town features inner courtyards, verandas, and elaborately carved wooden doors. There are no roads on the island, just alleyways and footpaths, and therefore, there are few motorized vehicles on the island. Residents move about on foot or by boat, and donkeys are used to transport goods and materials.
Caye Caulker is a small coral island in the Caribbean Sea and is accessible by high-speed water taxi or small plane. In recent years the island has become one of the top tourist attractions in Belize for backpackers and other tourists for its (relatively) cheap prices, laid-back vibe, and abundance of restaurants and bars. The main mode of transport on the island is simply walking. The paths are well defined, and crossing the island takes about 20 minutes. Bicycles and golf carts can also be rented.
Located not far from the Thai border, the Perhentian Islands are one of the most popular budget tourist attractions in Malaysia. The two main islands are Perhentian Besar (“Big Perhentian”) and Perhentian Kecil (“Small Perhentian”). Both the islands have palm-fringed white sandy beaches and turquoise blue sea. Scuba-diving, snorkeling, and swimming are the most popular tourist activities here. On most beaches, the water is shallow with lots of rays, cuttlefish and parrotfish. Aside from walking, the only means of transport are water taxis.
La Digue is one of the smaller islands of the Seychelles. It has a population of about 2,000 people, who mostly live in the west coast village of La Passe, which is linked by ferry to the islands of Praslin and Mahé. A popular way to get around the island is by bicycle. A great cycle excursion is to L’Anse Source D’Argent, one of the world’s top beaches.
Lombok’s most popular tourist destination, the Gili Islands are an archipelago of three small islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. The islands are very relaxed and laid-back, with countless little beachside cafes still playing reggae and no cars or motorbikes to disturb the peace. Bikes are available for rent and the main tracks are good enough for riding, at least on Gili Trawangan. The islands however are only a few miles in diameter and can just be walked instead.
Note that the name “Gili Islands” is rather redundant as gili simply means “small island” in Sasak and there are many other islands around the coast of Lombok with Gili in their names.
Ko Phi Phi is a small archipelago in the Krabi Province in Southern Thailand. Ko Phi Phi Don is the largest island of the group, and is the only island with permanent inhabitants while the smaller Ko Phi Phi Leh is very popular as a beach or dive excursion. There are no cars or motorbikes on the island so transport on the island is mostly on foot. Longtail boats can be chartered which take you to beaches on the island that can’t be reached by foot.