10 Overseas Territories You’ve Never Heard Of That You’ll Want To Visit
By Mark Johanson | August 25, 2012 12:46 AM EST
Norfolk Island - Australia
Once a British penal colony, Norfolk Island is populated by the descendants of the H.M.S. Bounty's mutineers and their Tahitian captives, who were made famous in the 1962 Marlon Brando film "Mutiny on the Bounty." The island today is perhaps best known for its biggest export: the Norfolk Island pine, an ornamental sapling that's vaguely reminiscent of a poorly-spaced artificial Christmas tree. But the foliage is only part of Norfolk's unique charm. Elegant convict-built Georgian buildings dot the Kingston and Arthur's Vale Historic Area, many locals converse in Norfuk (a strange blend of 1700s English and Tahitian), and if you're around in November, you can celebrate Thanksgiving, a tradition first brought to the island by visiting American whaling ships. Needless to say, the island will not fail to confound.
Where to Stay: South Pacific Resort Hotel (Rates start at $94 per night)
Saint-Pierre et Miquelon - France
France may be a lot closer than most North Americans realize. Just off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, lie the tiny islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, a self-governing territorial overseas collectivity -- one of the collectivités d'outre-mer or COM -- of the French Republic and the only remnant of the former colonial empire of New France, which once spanned from Louisiana to Labrador. Less than 6,000 people call this remote outpost home, and most have traditionally survived on fishing and servicing the fishing fleets operating off Newfoundland's coast. With the industry in decline, the nation has made a big push to promote itself as a tourist destination, adding a new international airport in 1999 and promoting its unique culture (the residents speak a French dialect that's closer to metropolitan French than Quebecois, and they throw large cultural festivals throughout the summer months). With rows of colorful cottages, serene seaside views, incredibly fresh seafood and tax-free French delicacies, it should have no trouble attracting North Americans seeking a touch of European flare.
Where to Stay: Nuits Sant-Pierre Boutique Hotel (Rates start at $110 per night)
South Georgia - Great Britain
It's hard to get any more remote than South Georgia Island (unless you're a penguin, in which case you might as well be in Tokyo it's so crowded). Located about as close to the Antarctic Peninsula as it is to the tip of South America, this British overseas territory in the South Atlantic (over which Argentina claims sovereignty) can be reached by numerous cruise liners on voyages to Antarctica that dock at Grytviken, a former whaling station turned center of (very limited) government. Once there, visitors can pay fees and explore by sea. Visits are strictly regulated to ensure that the fragile environment remains unscathed, but the journey is one few wildlife experts will be able to top anywhere else in the world.
Where to Stay: An overnight stay on South Georgia comes with a £1000 permit fee, so almost all visitors sleep in their boats. Click here for more information.
Îles des Saintes (Islands of the Saints), French Antilles - France
The Îles des Saintes is a dependency of Guadeloupe, which in turn is an overseas department and Region of France. Confused? Don't be. All you need to know is that this splendid archipelago boasts superb beaches, exceptional snorkeling and a fascinating history to boot. Too small for sugar plantations and the attendant slavery, this patchwork of volcanic dots on a map is home to the blue-eyed descendants of impoverished Breton colonists -- and the history of Les Saintes is as rich as its cuisine.
Where to Stay: Auberge Les Petits Saints, Terre de Haut (Rates start at $140 per night)
Rota (Northern Mariana Islands) - USA
Rota's isolation -- halfway between Guam and the Northern Mariana's largest island of Saipan -- has kept tourism at bay, and as a result the pace of life here remains about as slow as the turtles out at sea. You can swim right in town, have a beach all to yourself and live out your Robinson Crusoe dreams while barefoot, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. "The Friendly Island," as it is known, is the crowning jewel of the Marianas Archipelago with its emerald green interior and sapphire blue exterior. Best of all is nightfall, when it all fades to ruby red.
Where to Stay: Rota Resort & Country Club (Rates start at $240 per night)
Faroe Islands - Denmark
For how close they are to the UK, it's a wonder more people don't head to the storybook-like Faroe Islands. A dramatic jigsaw puzzle of rock and water, the islands are astonishingly well-connected and relatively easy to bounce around. The larger port cities boast rows of eye-popping rainbow-colored domiciles, while country cottages don grassy-green roofs that emulate the rolling, sheep-mown hills. Remote as it may be, the Faroese, like their Icelandic neighbors, maintain a vibrant arts and music scene, particularly in the capital, Torshavn, which highlights the islands' quirky mix of old and new.
Where to Stay: Hotel Foroyar (Rates start at $115 per night)
Mayotte - France
The blue, white and red French flag flies high on a 145-square-mile spec of land between Madagascar and Mozambique. Mayotte, as it is known, has all the dreamlike sand and turquoise sea you might imagine from an Indian Ocean isle, but it differs from its neighbors on the Comorian Archipelago in that it has a bustling tourism industry fueled by French citizens who don't need a visa to holiday here. While French is the official language, it's only spoken by about a third of the population, with the overwhelming majority communicating in Mahorian (a dialect of Swahili). The one big downside of its established tourist industry is that prices here run about the same as they might in France, despite the fact that the local population remains largely poor.
Where to Stay: Le Jardin Maore (Rates start at $60 per person per night)
Providencia Island - Colombia
Don't let the word "Colombia" confuse you. This remote Caribbean outpost, part of the Archipelago of San Andres, is halfway between Costa Rica and Jamaica. Providencia is the jewel of the UNESCO-protected Seaflower Biosphere Reserve and contains some of the world's greatest marine biodiversity that's ripe for exploration. What tourist industry exists on this mountainous dollop of land can be found in the hamlet of Aguadulce on the west coast, about a 15-minute ride from the small airport. There, you'll find a dozen or so small cottages and hotels strung along an enticing beach.
Where to Stay: Hotel Deep Blue (Rates start at $250 per night)
Christmas Island - Australia
Christmas Island is often referred to as "the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean" with its wide array of endemic species. Over 63 percent of the land is protected as a national park, and local ecologists' claim to fame is the annual red crab mass migration -- dubbed "one of the wonders of the natural world" -- when the critters head to the sea en masse to spawn. The abundant natural phenomena, coupled with a unique population of predominantly Chinese-Australian emigrants from Singapore, make for a truly unique travel experience unlike any island around.
Where to Stay: The Sunset Hotel (Rates start at $140 per night)
Rarotonga (Cook Islands) - New Zealand
The largest and most populous of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga offers dense jungles, craggy mountain cliffs and pearly white sand -- all the ingredients for postcard-perfect pictures to dazzle your friends back home. On Rarotonga, you can swim through underground caves, hike through "The Needle" and dance the night away with the cheerfully mischievous Polynesian locals. But be careful not to move about too fast. Time in Rarotonga moves at a snail's pace, and you'll want to save time to sit back, kick your feet up and do absolutely nothing. That is the joy of Rarotonga.
Where to Stay: Palm Grove in Vaimaanga (Rates start at $190 per night)
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