Isle of Wight, Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey... plenty of places to go when you fancy a taste of island life, but all quite far from London. The following islands can be visited in a day trip or a weekend from the capital — no plane required.
Mersea Island, Essex
One of our Essex seaside recommendations, Mersea Island claims the title of the UK's most easterly inhabited island — but it's not overrun with people, by any stretch of the imagination. Catch it in the right light, and you could be in Cape Cod rather than Colchester. Large swathes of the seven square miles are uninhabited, but the parts that do have some human life to them are charming — think pastel beach huts, a small museum, and plenty of cottages and pubs. Plan your arrival carefully — check the tide times if you're driving, as the causeway becomes impassable, or arrive by boat from Brightlingsea. Read about our visit to Mersea Island.
Canvey Island, Essex
Connected to the mainland by two roads, Canvey Island is the livelier cousin to Mersea Island's sedate charms. There's more to see and do here, with plenty of holiday parks and hotels for weekend visits, plus an amusement park, transport museum (limited opening hours), a miniature railway, and a pub from a Dickens novel. Find out more about Canvey Island.
Osea Island, Maldon, Essex
Connected to the mainland by a causeway in low tide — and relying on a river taxi to cross the Blackwater Estuary in high tide — Osea Island is somewhat secluded from nearby mainland Essex, in the most charming of ways.
It's privately owned, and access is predominantly for guests staying there. The Osea Island resort is rather exclusive, with cottages, houses and apartments available to hire — or if you're really fancy, you can hire the whole island for private use.
Its beauty is in its seclusion... which means no shops, no restaurants and bars, no museums — just you and the river.
Northey Island, Maldon, Essex
In the same basin as Osea Island, Northey Island is just as secluded, but in a less exclusive, more natural way. Its size varies anywhere between 80 and 300 acres depending on the tides, and the National Trust now maintains it as a nature reserve. The salt marsh and mud flats are home to geese, shelducks, and golden and grey plovers, among other species. It wasn't always so quiet though — it was the site of the Battle of Maldon, which took place in 991, making Northey Island the oldest recorded battlefield in Britain.
These days, you need to arrange access with the National Trust before you visit (they'll inform you of tide times and other important info). It's a case of walking across the causeway at low tide, or arriving by boat on high tide — your car will have to remain on main land. Most years, a camping weekend known as Castaway takes place on the island.
Teapot Island, Kent
We're moving inland now, close to Maidstone in Kent, where the River Medway and the River Teise meet, carving out the spot of land now known as Teapot Island.
Teapot by name, teapot by nature — an oversized one greets visitors to the island, most of whom are here for one thing... the Teapot Museum. It'll set you back just a couple of quid to see inside the impressive collection of more than 7,000 vessels from all over the world, ranging from the intricate to the tacky. The place is overwhelmingly full of the things, all tucked safely away from clumsy hands — you could get your fill of teapots in 10 minutes, or you could spend hours looking at each one.
A picnic area, small cafe and playground complete the island itself, although the Boathouse pub across the river serves up grub. Access to Teapot Island is via the pedestrian-only Hampstead Weir Bridge, with parking available on the road and in fields nearby. Find out more about Teapot Island.
Hayling Island, Portsmouth, Hampshire
Heading a bit further afield, Hayling Island lies adrift from the mainland down near Portsmouth in Hampshire, wallowing on the outskirts of The Solent. Access to the island is via a good sturdy A-road that doesn't bow to the whims of the tides — although we wouldn't fancy cruising over it in a raging sea storm.
At 6km long, and up to 6km wide, it's one of the larger islands on this list — it's even got its own railway — and is therefore capable of meeting almost anyone's day trip needs. Even better, make a weekend of it, with a variety of hotels, holiday parks and cottages to choose from. For an adults-only mini-break away from London, the Sinah Warren Hotel on the south of the island offers a spot of luxury and some banging harbour views.
If there are kids in tow, the seafront offers the usual amusement parks and seaside entertainment. Restaurants, pubs and cafes are dotted all over the island, and if all this hasn't persuaded you, we have one word for you: DONKEYS.
Nearby, the whole city of Portsmouth and its surrounds sits on the island of Portsea, but that's another article for another day.
Looking for further inspiration for places to visit near London? Take a look at our map of day trips from the capital — it covers everything from seaside jaunts to unusual museums.