Do you hear the call of the wild? In the Falkland Islands, you will do just that when you visit. Also known as Islas Malvinas, this remote British overseas territory in the South Atlantic Ocean is known as one of the best wilderness tour destinations due to its abundance of penguins, sea lions, and other wildlife. Speaking of penguins, they outnumber the locals by almost 100 to 1 (and I saw hundreds of them on my trip!).
With white sandy beaches, scenic coves, rugged mountains, sweeping plains, and a history as rich as its wildlife, there’s always a new adventure just waiting around the corner. With the Falklands comprising two major islands and 776 smaller islands, you might be wondering “Annette, where do I start?” No worries! Here are the best things to do in the Falkland Islands while on holiday.
1. Visit Volunteer Point
Volunteer Point is part of the privately owned Johnson’s Harbour Farm in East Falkland. And being a Nature Reserve and Important Bird Area, this place will surely be one of the highlights of anyone’s Falklands adventure. It was my favorite thing I did in the Falklands!
The place features the largest King penguin rookery in the Falklands, not to mention the scenic sugary white beach that draws tourists and other wildlife alike.
Getting here is fairly easy, with various local tour operators (or Viator has a highly rated one) from Stanley offering scenic cross-country day trips for tourists on-board a 4×4.
But, if you would like to level up your bucket list trip to Volunteer Point, there’s also the option to go on a helicopter ride courtesy of Falklands Helicopter Services (which we did!). They drop you nearby and walk you through the rookery while giving detailed explanations by a knowledgeable guide.
2. Ajax Bay Refrigeration Plant (San Carlos Water)
From the shores of San Carlos Water, just a few miles south of Port San Carlos, stands the Ajax Bay Refrigeration Plant. It was constructed in the 1950s for cutting and freezing Falkland mutton (sheep flesh.) However, it was eventually closed as the sheep farmers mainly raised the sheep for its wool instead of its meat.
The plant was then converted into a field hospital in 1982 during the Falklands War, run by Surgeon Commander Rick Jolly and his unit called The Red and Green Life Machine. Today, only the ruins of the plant remain.
3. Carcass Island
Carcass Island is the largest of the West Point Island Group, located northwest of West Falkland. It is a bird watchers paradise, home to many birds, penguins, and elephant seals (although that last one’s not a bird). Watch out for the often curious Striated Caracaras though, as they have a penchant for stealing red objects, probably mistaking it for meat. There was a troop of bird watchers there during my stay and they were thrilled by all they got to check off their bird bucket list!
The island’s small size is perfect for exploring by foot, with some easy and strenuous hiking opportunities at Stanley Hill and Mount Byng.
The Carcass Island Farmhouse is the only accommodation on the island, and it’s where I spent a cozy night. It houses five spacious and cozy guest rooms, four of which are en-suite with showers. There’s also a lounge with a well-stocked honesty bar (they even have red wine—my favorite!), a sunroom, and a large dining room. Delicious meals are served—we had the best breaded chicken and lamb. And did I mention there are home-baked goodies daily?
4. West Point
West Point is an island in the northwest corner of the Falkland Islands, known for its coastal scenery, high sea cliffs, and birdlife. It is run as a sheep farm and tourist attraction by owners Roddy and Lily Napier. And you can arrange a tour there while staying at Carcass Island Farmhouse.
The high sea cliffs and hilly terrain offer the perfect home for large colonies of black-browed albatrosses and Rockhopper penguins, especially on the western part of the island. Different birds, such as the endemic Cobb’s wren and Johnny rooks, also form part of the island’s birdlife.
We had the best experience by hitching a ride up the hill to where the albatrosses and penguins were and then hiking back down (it only took about 20 minutes).
5. Argentine Military Cemetery (East Falkland)
The Argentine Military Cemetery at Fish Creek, east of Darwin, East Falkland, is home to the remains of 236 Argentine troops who died during the Falklands War. Hundreds of white crosses line up neatly over the land, most of which were previously unnamed. Due to the joint efforts of the UK, Argentine Government, and Red Cross, only ten graves remain unidentified.
To the south side of the cemetery stands a large memorial wall commemorating the names of 649 Argentinians who lost their lives during the war, adorned by a figure of the Madonna at the center and a large cross.
6. Barnard Memorial Museum (New Island)
Near the shores of Coffins Harbour in New Island is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) standing buildings in the Falklands, the Barnard Memorial Museum.
This small building houses a collection of vignettes depicting scenes of ancient Falkland Islands life. They also feature a gift shop where you can buy some souvenirs.
Just outside the building is one of the most iconic sights in New Island, the wreckage of the Protector III vessel, which beached in 1969.
P.S. As you need to book in advance before visiting New Island, be sure to contact the Falklands Conservation on [email protected].
7. Pebble Island
Pebble Island is the third largest offshore island in the archipelago, spanning 22 miles (35.4 km) long, and it was one of my favorites. It got its name from the semi-translucent pebbles found in some of its beaches and is best known for its waterfowl and wading birds to the east marshes and penguins to the hilly west.
You can also find the longest beach in the Falklands here, the lovely 4-mile-long (6.4 km) Elephant Beach—we actually drove a 4-wheel drive right on the beach!
The owners of the island Alex & Dot, gave us a great tour that covered half of the island and included 4-wheeling on the beach, exploring plane wreckages from the war and a picnic lunch with a penguin beach view.
The island has two accommodations to choose from: The Pebble Island Lodge (owned by Riki Evans) and The Nest (owned by Dot & Alex Gould.). Both accommodations offer homemade meals made from locally sourced and home grown produce, giving you an authentic taste of the Falklands.
The Pebble Island Lodge is a traditional farmhouse-turned-tourist lodge in the Pebble settlement. It can house up to 11 people in comfortable en-suite rooms.
We stayed at The Nest which is a cute rental home located on Pebble Island Farm. It can accommodate two to four people, and is a great place when you want your own space. It was a bonus that Dot & Alex made us a proper English breakfast and beef dinner at their house.
8. Bertha’s Beach (Mount Pleasant)
Bertha’s Beach is a penguin lover’s paradise located 4.9 miles (8 kilometers) southeast of Mount Pleasant Airport. This scenic white sandy stretch is famous for its large groups of gentoo penguins and other waterfowl and wetland birds who call the place their home. As such, they’ve designated the area as an Important Bird Area and Ramsar Site. Aside from the birds, you might also get the chance to see dolphins (or even whales) playing in the surf.
As Fitzroy Farm owns the beach, you need to ask for their permission first before you can enter. The easiest way to get access is by booking a stay at The Cook House (which is a rental house on the farm). But, you could also book one of these two tours from Viator:
9. Bleaker Island
Bleaker Island is a 12-mile-long stretch of land at the southeastern tip of East Falkland, which can be reached by a 30-minute plane ride. The island is known for its sheep and cattle farms, large ponds, lovely beaches, and sheltered coves.
It is also designated as an Important Bird Area, home to around 49 bird species, including the adorable gentoo penguins. You can find most of these species along the shores of Sandy Bay, which is also a must-see in itself.
10. Boot Hill (near Port Stanley)
While penguins and panoramic views will definitely be one of the highlights of your Falkland Islands holiday, there are some must-see sights here that are as quirky as they are fascinating. One of these is Boot Hill, just off Darwin Road, a few miles outside Stanley.
If you can guess by the name, this small hill is full of staked boots left by people who come here. Many stories and legends speak of how it all started. My favorite one is that there is a tradition where if you leave your one boot before leaving the islands, you are meant to return and if you leave two, you will not be coming back. Needless to say, there’s A LOT of single boots there!
11. Blue Beach Military Cemetery (East Falkland)
Overlooking the peaceful San Carlos Water is a small British war cemetery known as the Blue Beach Military Cemetery. It serves as the final resting place for 14 of the 255 British troops who perished during the Falklands War of ’82.
The cemetery is designed like a stone sheep corral, with 3-foot (1 meter) walls surrounding it. One part of the wall opposite the entrance is much higher, containing seven slate memorial panels with the names of the fallen soldiers and a large inscription in the middle panel.
12. Bluff Cove Lagoon (Bluff Cove)
There’s never a shortage of places to see adorable penguins in the Falkland Islands, and the Bluff Cove Lagoon is one of its best wildlife destinations. Located 16.8 miles (27.1 km) southwest of Stanley, this privately owned wildlife haven is part of a sheep farm run by owners Hattie and Kevin Kilmartin. The Lagoon is home to the King, Gentoo, Magellanic penguins, and other bird species.
What’s more, you can also relax and enjoy the breathtaking views while sipping tea or eating some of their home baked cakes and cookies at The Sea Cabbage Cafe. They also have a lovely museum where you’ll learn about the farm’s history and the Falkland life, and a gift shop where you can purchase cute penguin-themed souvenirs, all hand-made.
P.S. Be sure to book in advance if you’re planning to include this in your travels.
13. Bodie Creek Suspension Bridge (Lafonia)
Located south of Goose Green in Lafonia is one of the southernmost suspension bridges in the world, the Bodie Creek Suspension Bridge. This 400-foot-long bridge was built in 1925 to help the farmers from Lafonia herd their sheep faster to the shearing sheds at Goose Green.
While the bridge is no longer in use and is slowly deteriorating throughout the years, it is still an impressive sight worth seeing during your Falkland Islands holiday. You can reach out to the FLH Tourism Development Coordinator ([email protected] or on their Facebook page) if you’re planning to visit the bridge.
14. Immerse Yourself in the Falkland Island Wildlife
The Falkland Islands’ wildlife is diverse, especially when it comes to their feathered residents. From five different penguin breeds to 227 bird species (which include black-browed albatross and striated caracaras,) it’s not a stretch to say the archipelago is a bird watcher’s paradise. Of course, different mammals like elephant seals and sea lions are always a treat for the eyes, as are the whales and dolphins that show up around the Islands’ waters.
With lots (and I mean LOTS) of places to spot these lovely animals, you’ll almost always spot a couple during your visit to any part of the Falklands. How many of them will you find?
15. Lieutenant Colonel “H” Jones Memorial
The Lieutenant Colonel “H” Jones Memorial is located close to the Darwin settlement, dedicated to Lt. Col. H. Jones and other soldiers killed in action during the Battle of Goose Green in a desperate attempt to save his men from heavy enemy gunfire. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award a British soldier can receive.
16. Port Howard Island
Port Howard is a settlement located on the northeastern part of West Falkland island, serving as the center of the 200,000-acre Port Howard Farm, the largest private sheep farm on the island. We were lucky enough to see them shearing sheep when we got there (about one minute per sheep!)
Aside from the farm, they also have the Port Howard Lodge, owned and managed by Sue and Wayne. It features seven comfortable rooms, a lounge, a bar, and a dining room. Different tours can also be arranged here, from fishing trips to visiting penguin rookeries to, of course, visits around the farm. Outside, there is a war museum with fascinating memorabilia from the Falklands War.
17. Mount Longdon (East Falkland)
Bring out the war history buff in you by visiting the site of the bloodiest battle of the Falkland Islands, Mount Longdon. Standing at 160 meters (525 feet,) it overlooks the Islands’ capital city of Stanley.
The hike to the summit is relatively easy, providing panoramic views of the landscape. There are also sheltered picnic spots before the peak if you fancy having some grub during your hike. At the top, you’ll find several memorials for the 1982 conflict, just below the large cross.
Mount Longdon is also part of a Mountain and Battlefield tour, which takes you on a walking tour to three other hills in the area.
18. New Island Conservation Trust
Regarded by some as one of the most beautiful islands in the Falklands is New Island, which lies in the far southwest of the archipelago. It is home to stunning scenery and diverse wildlife, which include penguins, sea lions, Johnny rooks, black-browed albatrosses, and more. The New Island Conservation Trust owns and manages the island.
While most of the island’s charm is found on the wild outdoors, don’t miss out on visiting places like the Barnard Memorial Museum, the remnants of a 1908 whaling station to the south, and the wreckage of the Protector III outside the museum.
As you need to book in advance before visiting New Island, be sure to contact the Falklands Conservation on [email protected].
19. Saunders Island (West Falkland)
Located in the north west part of West Falkland is the archipelago’s second-largest offshore island, Saunders Island. It is currently owned by the Pole-Evans family and is run as a sheep farm (although it is open to tourists from September 15 to April 30). However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t rich in wildlife. Quite the opposite, in fact!
From the southern elephant seals at Elephant Point to Gentoo and Magellanic penguins at The Neck and The Rookery to one of the many easily accessible colonies of black-browed albatrosses, there is never a dull moment at Saunders Island.
You can get in touch with the owners through their website’s contact page if you’re planning to visit the island.
20. Sea Lion Island
Designated as a National Nature Reserve in 2017, the Sea Lion Island is a haven for those looking for something off the beaten path. As you may have already guessed from the name, it is home to playful sea lions and different bird life, such as penguins, southern giant petrels, and more.
Sea Lion Island is just a 40-minute plane ride from Stanley. Visitors can tour the island either on a 4×4 Land Rover or on foot. Lodging is also available at their Sea Lion Lodge, which you have to book in advance.
21. South Georgia Island (east-southeast of the Falkland Islands)
South Georgia Island is a mountainous, barren island located 870 miles (1,400 km) east-southeast of the Falkland Islands. It is known as the final resting place of famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. Elephant seals, fur seals, Gentoo, Adelie penguins, and other wildlife take residence in the island’s bays and islets.
Due to the island’s remoteness, there is no permanent human population, and is only accessible by boat. However, the isolation makes the island a perfect place to watch wildlife in peace.
P.S. You need the SGSSI’s (South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands) permission to land on the island. However, this is usually organized by the cruise operator or expedition leader.
22. South Georgia Museum (Grytviken)
Tying in with our previous entry is a visit to the South Georgia Museum. It is located at Grytviken, a former whaling station and the largest settlement on the island.
Admission to the museum is free and boasts a collection of artifacts which range from natural history to maritime to polar exploration. Some highlights include a life-sized bust of Sir Ernest Shackleton, a humpback whale fetus, Cpt. Worsley’s nautical almanac, and more.
23. Explore the Capital City of Stanley
A visit to the Falkland Islands is never complete without exploring its capital city of Stanley. Although it is quite small, it is rich in history and home to many of the Falklands’ iconic attractions, such as the Historic Dockyard Museum and the Government House. And because it is a small city, it is best explored on foot. Due to its location, it is also near some of the must-see spots on the Falklands, like Gypsy Cove.
If you want to get the most out of your visit to Stanley take one of these tours that will delve into the history:
24. Weddell Island
Formerly known as Swan Island, Weddell Island is one of the largest private islands in the world, situated southwest of West Falkland. It is home to the introduced Patagonian Grey Fox, as well as other wildlife the Falklands is known for, like penguins and sea lions. You can also see here the famous Falklands stone runs, a landform that a young Charles Darwin described as like ‘streams of stones.’
The island offers fantastic walking opportunities and panoramic views, especially at Mount Weddell. A 4×4 tour is also available if you want to explore the island in style.
. . .
From cute penguins to off-road adventures to peaceful countryside lodges, the Falkland Islands truly is an off-the-beaten-path dream holiday destination. It’s also the perfect place to go if you are planning a trip to South America or Antarctica.
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