Leave Your Car Behind: 12 Vacation Spots Where Vehicles Aren’t Allowed

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While it can be hard to imagine going on vacation without a vehicle, the experience of exploring a destination on foot, by bike, or via other non-motorized means can be surprisingly liberating and enriching. Being car-free encourages a slower pace of travel, which can foster a deeper connection with the local environment and culture. It also allows for unexpected discoveries — from charming towns and quaint cafes to scenic hiking trails — that might have been missed when zooming by in a car. 

Plus, you’ll be doing your part for the environment by reducing carbon emissions and helping destinations preserve their natural and historical beauty. Here are 12 vacation destinations in the U.S. and beyond that do not allow cars. 

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1. Mackinac Island, Michigan, U.S

Cars have been banned here since the 1930s — and transportation is limited to bicycles, horse-drawn carriages, and walking. This makes Mackinac Island a peaceful retreat where visitors can enjoy the sounds of nature, the scenic views of Lake Huron, and the town’s historic architecture without the noise and pollution that cars bring. 

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2. Hydra, Greece

This picturesque island near Athens prohibits the use of cars and motorbikes — instead allowing donkeys, water taxis, and your own two feet as the primary modes of transportation. The absence of vehicles preserves the island’s old-world charm while enhancing the beauty and charm of the Mediterranean landscape.

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3. Giethoorn, Netherlands

Giethoorn, often known as the “Venice of the North,” or “Dutch Venice” is a charming village where canals replace roads. Like its much larger cousin, Amsterdam, boats are the primary mode of transportation here. The lack of cars preserves the tranquil atmosphere and the natural beauty of the small town’s waterways and greenery. 

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4. Fes el Bali, Morocco

Known as Morocco’s “cultural and spiritual center,” this historic medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site where four-wheel vehicles are banned due to narrow streets. The restriction helps maintain the area’s authentic atmosphere while helping to preserve its ancient buildings from damage. But visitors are welcome to explore the winding alleyways and sprawling markets on foot or by bike. 

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5. Venice, Italy

Renowned for its winding canals, gondola rides, and historic architecture, Venice is known as a unique pedestrian paradise that does not allow cars. The absence of four-wheel vehicles enhances the romantic and historical ambiance of the city by encouraging visitors to explore its architecture, art, and cuisine at a leisurely pace.

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6. Zermatt, Switzerland

This Swiss ski resort has banned combustion-engine vehicles in order to protect its Alpine air and quiet ambiance from pollution and loud noises. The ban was also introduced to limit smog that emissions were creating over the valley, which had “become an issue for other skiing destinations.” Tourists can instead enjoy breathtaking views of the Matterhorn, extensive hiking trails, and crisp mountain air. 

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7. Fire Island, New York, U.S.

This narrow island off the coast of Long Island is mostly car-free — allowing visitors to enjoy the natural beauty, sandy beaches, and wildlife without the interference of modern vehicles. The island’s close proximity to New York City and commitment to preserving its natural environment make it an ideal destination for those looking to immerse themselves in nature and escape the hustle and bustle of city life. 

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8. Lamu, Kenya

This ancient town on Lamu Island in Kenya offers a glimpse into the past with its car-free streets. The ban was implemented to preserve the town’s traditional atmosphere and delicate environment. Visitors can wander its vibrant streets by foot, boat, or donkey while soaking in traditional Swahili architecture, cuisine, and culture. 

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9. Bald Head Island, North Carolina, U.S.

With transportation limited to golf carts, bikes, and walking, Bald Head Island does not have mainland road access and bans the use of most cars (unless you have a village permit). The policy helps preserve its quiet charm and natural habitats while providing a great spot for relaxation, boating, and wildlife observation. The island is also home to Old Baldy — the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina. 

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10. Ilha Grande, Brazil

This tropical paradise is only accessible by ferry or boat and does not allow cars. However visitors can still enjoy an authentic and eco-friendly experience by exploring the many wonders the island has to offer. These include a variety of hiking trails, beautiful beaches, lush forests and waterfalls, and historic ruins like the abandoned Cândido Mendes prison, among others. 

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11. Gimmelwald, Switzerland

This small, picturesque village in the Swiss Alps is inaccessible by public roads and prohibits the use of cars on its streets. Instead, visitors can visit by cable car or public transport. The town’s peaceful environment, combined with stunning mountain views, makes it a perfect destination for hiking, camping, or simply basking in nature.

Image Credit: Julia Lavrinenko/istockphoto.

12. Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

Known for its beautiful sandy beaches and open air cafes, Little Corn Island in Nicaragua does not allow combustion engine vehicles. But the small, idyllic island offers a great escape from the stresses of everyday life. Visitors can explore the island’s lush forests, pristine beaches, and vibrant coral reefs by foot or bicycle. 

Image Credit: IherPhoto/istockphoto.

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