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A smallish island, off the shipping lanes. It is completely uninhabited, and hence devoid of Story, until the protagonists arrive.

These islands come in four main varieties.

  • Far Side Island: A circular island approximately ten feet in diameter, with a single palm tree situated near the center—the stock setting for many cartoons and comedic uses (including Meat-O-Vision).
  • Castaway Island: A larger island with enough flora and fauna for Robinson Crusoe and his marooned imitators to strut their stuff.
  • Treasure Island: the favourite spot for Pirates to bury their treasure, usually found by means of following a map.
  • Monster Island: The abode of monsters. If it's a Lost World, the heroes might escape with a dinosaur to show off; if it's covered in Eldritch Ruins, they'll be lucky to escape with their sanity intact.[1]

The typical Desert Island is full of Jungle Japes, involving bamboo devices, coconuts and parrots.

Often found on The Spanish Main, spectacularly uncharted as it is.

In past centuries such islands could be found in every ocean, but these days it takes load of Phlebotinum to keep them hidden. In Science Fiction, a deserted moon or planet makes an acceptable substitute. Leaving these closed circles is often made difficult.

Grammatical note: these are more classically referred to as desert islands (see definition 2). This does not, in fact, imply that they are dry places.[2]

Examples of Deserted Island include:

Anime and Manga

  • Battle Royale, and therefore Survival of the Fittest, take place on deserted islands where classes of high school students are dumped with explosive collars and forced to kill each other until only one is left. Two still survive in Battle Royale, but nobody has escaped a game yet in Survival of the Fittest.
  • In Axis Powers Hetalia, the Deserted Island scenes are pleasant enough to be Beach Episodes. One time ("We're Shipwrecked") is the Axis Powers just there in no rush to be rescued, another time ("We're Shipwrecked Too") has America and England having a difficult time trying to deal with the island and each other. The Drama CD version has the entire up-until-then cast, in a combination of the two strips.




  • Babysitters Club Super Special 4: Baby-sitters' Island Adventure. The island was somewhere off the coast of Connecticut.
  • In Jim Butcher's Small Favor and Turn Coat, we have the island that Harry Dresden names "Demonreach". It was not only abandoned decades ago, but removed from government records, and Harry says he'd bet that no flight lanes pass within 5 miles of the place.
    • This island, to be clear, is on Lake Michigan, within relatively easy reach of Chicago if you know how to avoid rocky shoals or something. Its desertedness is justified by magic, namely the fact it's a Genius Loci and isn't very friendly.
  • Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.
  • Johann Wyss' The Swiss Family Robinson, explicitly named after Robinson Crusoe, takes place on a rather lush and serviceable desert island.
  • The setting for the first part of Walter Farley's The Black Stallion. Only the boy and the horse inhabit this Castaway Island.
  • Lord of the Flies
  • lampshaded quite cleverly in The End, final book of A Series of Unfortunate Events, which takes place on an island where "everything eventually washes up on the shores"(its coastal shelf is very cluttered), including a whole band of castaways with names alluding to stories of this genre.
  • H.P. Lovecraft: R'lyeh, when above water.
  • Mono Island in the Discworld novel The Last Continent.
  • R.L. Stevenson's Treasure Island.
  • Jules Verne's Mysterious Island appears to be deserted, but the resident castaways eventually learn that Captain Nemo has retired there.
  • The Invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares, in which a nameless narrator falls in love with a holographic woman on a deserted island and is slowly driven mad by the machinery that is creating the holograms. Supposedly one of the inspirations for Lost.
  • Justified in the Harry Potter stories, as islands populated by magical creatures are sometimes made Unplottable as part of The Masquerade.
  • Islandofthe Blue Dolphins. The protagonist is accidentally left behind on her home island after the rest of her people emigrate.
  • The titular Nim's Island. It's portrayed as a kid-friendly paradise. Most of the time.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Monster Men, Professor Maxon chooses one to restart his experiments. (Conveniently away from the law.)
  • The Isles of Syren in Septimus Heap, which also double as Islands with a Dark Secret.

Live Action TV

  • Lost takes place on a "deserted" island that's about as deserted as New York City.
  • Gilligan's Island
  • Rough Science, a British television special where five scientists from different fields are stranded in a hostile environment and are required to make advanced devices out of natural materials and miscellaneous scrap, has several episodes take place on deserted islands.
  • Parodied in Saturday Night Live (of course), a Christmas special with guest star Paul Simon
  • Kids in The Hall - the flamboyant Buddy Cole, musing on his three 'desert island picks', finds himself on one with his favorite book, record, and person - Oscar Wilde, who quickly gets shunned when his wit isn't up to scratch.
  • Many seasons of the Reality Show Survivor have used this setting, and it has come to be associated with the series.



  • In Philoctetes, the eponymous character was stranded by Odysseus on one of these for years. Others did anchor off of it from time to time, but no one would take Philoctetes off the island in spite and because of the fact that he was crippled.

Video Games

  • The first game in the Geneforge series. The island's also a Forbidden Zone—since it's not that near anywhere, it was used for scientific research until something went horribly wrong and the entire place was abandoned. Naturally, you're about to find out why it was abandoned.
  • Pokémon Emerald has Faraway Island, a deserted island in the middle of the ocean that has nothing of interest, except for Mew.
  • All of these are present in the Monkey Island series.
  • The Sims 2 has a spin-off called Castaways revolving round the player's sim getting stranded in such an island. The mobile phone version is essentially the same.
  • Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness has your character stranded there with a few other survivors. In a bit of a subversion, other ships DO find them, and there are, in fact, at least two other people already living on the island. The main point of the game is to fix the island up so that it can become populated.
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons has the Player Character and various animals moving to a deserted island.

Web Comics

  • Parodied in Adventurers; after Khrima accidentally shatters the Crystal of the Kildracks, Ardam and Karn end up on one of these. Ardam mentions that he'd often thought about being on a deserted island, but he always hoped it would be one without Karn. He also makes a fishing rod to give Karn something to do, but Karn sees it as a minigame and nearly covers the island in fish. But soon enough it turns out it wasn't an island, just a movie set of an island, but the movie set part was Behind the Black, which just ticks Ardam off.

Western Animation

  • Done in the Woody Woodpecker short Fair Weather Fiends.
  • The Simpsons has the episode of Das Bus, which has Bart, Lisa, Milhouse, Nelson, Martin and others stranded on a deserted island. Its a takeoff on Lord of the Flies, of course.
  • The Dethklok Home for Wayward Kittens is populated only by handicapped mutants. "RELEASE THE KITTENS!"
  • Originally Dinobot Island in Transformers Animated, to give the Dinobots somewhere to live away from civilization. By season 3 it's gotten rather crowded, now home to Meltdown's labs, Blackarachnia until she teleported somewhere, and Scrapper. The other Constructicons are probably around somewhere too.
  • On The Wild Thornberrys, the family gets stranded on an uncharted island after Nigel accidentally locks them out of the Comvee with a security system he designed.
  • Jimmy Neutron used this plot for shipping between Jimmy and Cindy. The pair argue wether there is an actual line around the equator or not, so they go to check in the hover car... cue falling off of it and ending up on a deserted island and growing closer to each other. By the end of the episode Cindy didn't even want to leave the island and suggested she and Jimmy stay there forever.
  • An episode of Family Guy has Peter, Joe, Cleveland, and Quagmire become stranded on a lone island after being shipwrecked, causing their friends and family back home to believe they had died in the storm. The guys pass the time by playing the "who would you rather do" game and at one point, try to start an orgy to satisfy their sexual urges. Naturally, a cruise liner passes by when this happens and everyone stops to take a look as if it was part of the tour.

Real Life

  • These can often be found. Unlike fictional islands, the climate of desert islands can vary since some of them can be found near the polar regions.
    • And survival on a deserted island is generally even more problematic than it is made out. Most islands that people can survive on, have people living on them.
      • Perhaps becoming less true with development however. Places where a living can be made, but it's HARD, are increasingly abandoned by the younger generation.
  • Rottumerplaat is a tiny island off the coast of the Netherlands - off limits to the general public. In 1971, two authors stayed on the island one week each (the island has a small living quarter). Each day they had a short contact by radio with the main land (this contact was broadcasted). One author, Jan Wolkers, absolutely loved it. The other, Godfried Bomans, went almost mad. The stay may have contributed to the decline of his health; Godfried Bomans passed away less than half a year later, aged 58. (Jan Wolkers would live on for another 36 years, reaching the age of 81).
  1. Also, despite the name, it's actually a peninsula.
  2. This is also not the same definition of "desert" that shows up in the oft-misspelled "just deserts". "Desert," it seems, used to get around a lot.