abandoned island
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
October 1, 2020 ·  5 min read

The Incredible Ruins of 11 Abandoned Islands

Abandoned places are creepy – houses, buildings, theme parks – all could be the setting of a horror film. What’s potentially even creepier, however, are abandoned islands. As eerie as they are, however, these ruins of twelve deserted islands have some pretty interesting backstories.

The Ruins of 12 Abandoned Islands

These islands all have long been deserted by their former inhabitants. While the towns and cities built on them have been left largely to ruin, they all have an interesting story of how they became that way. 

1. Mitsubishi’s Gunkanjima Island

This small island off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan has been completely uninhabited for the last 40 years. Gunkanjima was established by Mitsubishi at the beginning of the twentieth century because they suspected it was sitting on top of a large submarine coal deposit. Their suspicions were correct, and by the 1940s the tiny island was powering Japan’s industrial revolution, producing 400,000 tonnes of coal every year.

The city was built up around the mine and given a name which means “the city without green”. Eventually, the coal was used up and no one had any reason to stay any longer.

2. Poveglia Plague Island

A short boat ride from Venice, this was a forbidden island used as a quarantine station during the late 17th/early 18th-century plague. It is said that over 160,000 people lived out their final days on that island and that there are so many people buried there that the soil is 50% human remains.

Naturally, the place is thought to be haunted and was an attractive place for ghost hunters. Today, visitors and tourists are no longer allowed in Poveglia.

3. No Man’s Island

Off the coast of Nettlestone in England sits one of “Palmerston’s Follies”. These are a variety of Victorian-era fortresses built to defend the country from the potential threat of a French invasion. Built during peacetime, these perceived threats never came to fruition.

No Man’s Island was used as a defense station against submarine attacks during WWI and was then later turned into a luxury resort. The £6 million investment didn’t work out, however, because contaminated pool water caused an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease.

Not wanting to lose the island, the hotel owner locked himself inside the hotel and lived there until authorities evicted him in 2009.

4. Disney’s Discovery Island

In Bay Lake, Florida sits what was once one of Disney’s most popular attractions. A wide variety of exotic animals called the island zoo home, however, Disney closed the island in 1999 and moved all of the animals to what is now their Animal Kingdom.

Today nature is all but taking over the dilapidated buildings. The island is off-limits, and anyone caught trying to sneak on will be banned from all Disney parks forever.

5. McNab’s Island

Off the coast of Halifax on the East Coast of Canada sits McNab’s Island. First settled by Peter McNab in the 1780s, the McNab family lived on the island for generations until 1934. (1) The island has been mostly abandoned since WWII, however, there are several different ruins you can find there, including (1):

  • Three old military forts
  • A burial place for victims of the cholera epidemic who were unknown or unclaimed
  • Old family homes
  • A family graveyard
  • A former soda factory that ran bootleg alcohol during prohibition
  • A shipwreck cove
  • A beach where the English hung navy deserters during the Napoleonic wars

It’s no wonder no one wants to live there anymore.

6. Deception Island

This Antarctic island has been used and deserted by many countries. Prized for being a safe place from storms and icebergs, the island has been both used and abandoned by many countries. Several scientific discoveries occurred there, and it spent many years as a functioning Norwegian-Chilean whaling station.

The island, however, is not as safe as it seems: It is an active volcano. It erupted twice in the 1960s, all but destroying everything on the island. Today tourists go there to soak in the island’s hot springs.

Abandoned hangar and fuselage

7. Cumberland Island

On Cumberland Island in St. Mary’s, Georgia, stands the ruins of the Carnegie Mansion. The Carnegie Family was an extremely wealthy 19th-century family who owned 90% of the island. There they built a 59-room mansion on the island’s south shores to use as a summer home.

Abandoned during the Great Depression, it slowly fell to ruin until a fire in 1959 all but completely destroyed it.

Read: 21 Unbelievable Places That Look Like They’re From Another Planet

8. Ross Island

In the Andaman archipelago is an island established by British colonialists in the 18th century. People lived there in 1788 and 1789 after Archibald Blair’s survey of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. (1) Several residential ruins, now covered in roots and vines, still stand, including:

  • Houses
  • A church
  • A bazaar
  • Stores
  • A swimming pool
  • A hospital

In 1942 Japanese troops invaded the island and took control away from the British of all of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. You can still see some leftover remains of Japanese bunkers there.

9. Dry Tortugas

When Juan Ponce de Leon discovered these clusters of coral in 1513, the only residents were sea turtles. He named the islands Las Tortugas (the turtles) and they quickly became an important shipping corridor.

Even faster, however, the islands were given another name: Ship Trap. Despite their frequent use, hundreds of ships sunk there.

Fort Jefferson, a massive military fortress, was built there. After 30 years of construction, however, it still was fully completed and was abandoned by the army in 1874. Since then it has been a coaling station and a quarantine hospital, though today it is known as one of the most remote and least visited national parks in America.

10. King Island

Off the coast of Nome, Alaska is the Stilt Village of Ukivok on King Island. An indigenous population called the Aseuluk people built a small village of huts on stilts on the sloping hillside of the tiny island. They lived there until the mid 1900s when they were forced to evacuate to mainland Alaska. Their village, however, still stands.

Deserted stilt village of Ukivok on King Island

11. San Giorgio in Alga

Another island off the coast of Venice, humans have been living on San Giorgio since 1000 C.E. It has been used both as monasteries and as a Nazi operations base, however, it has been abandoned since WWII. Religious and military artifacts have all been removed and now it just sits as an empty ruin.

Most of these islands are off-limits for tourists, but those that aren’t could certainly make for a creepy little excursion on your next vacation. For those interested in ghost stories and ancient history, they are definitely worth the trip.

San Giorgio in Alga

Keep Reading: The Montezuma Castle – The Incredible Stone Dwelling Built Almost a Millennium Ago Is Still Intact