First look inside designer Marc Newson’s summer home on the island of Ithaca, Greece


“The holding is made up of a number of blocks: some were only as big as a tennis court, others were much bigger,” he explains. “Each one of those blocks was owned by four to 10 people. We probably dealt with 100 people, the majority of whom live outside of Greece in places like Australia, South Africa, America, Russia – all over. It was a nightmare; it’s not easy to buy land here. But it’s done now.”

As Newson reflects on what the task demanded, his wife, acclaimed British stylist and business entrepreneur Charlotte Stockdale, breezes into the room. “Marc brought me to this very spot the first summer we ever spent together, in 2005,” she explains in a crisp British accent.

“We drove here from Paris in his Aston Martin. It was just a wild hill, and we skidded on our bums all the way down to the beach, and he said he really wanted to buy land here. I said ‘yeah, good luck’.”

United in creativity

Newson and Stockdale married in 2008 in Hampshire, England, and now have two daughters in their early teens. Alongside a hectic family life, the pair continue to build their independent businesses: he, Marc Newson Ltd; she, accessories and fashion label Chaos, which she co-owns with a friend. The creation of Chaos followed her long association with Fendi, where she worked closely with Karl Lagerfeld for nine years.

The winter issue of the new Fin Magazine is out on May 13. Jesse Hunniford

The temptation to finally collaborate on a work project got the better of them this year; last month, they produced a series of “Marc Newson for Chaos” phone cases based on patterns designed for the cloisonne pieces in his 2019 Gagosian show. And yet, alongside children (and now product joint-ventures), it must be added, a great strength of the Newson-Stockdale union is creating beautiful homes.

“I feel like I’ve been renovating houses the last 20 years,” Newson muses. “These were not projects I’d set out to do. They just happened – you inflict them on yourself. The problem is that ultimately, there are only so many hours in a day.” Adds Stockdale: “We’ve been doing stuff up since the day we got together.”

It has reinforced the feeling he’d never want to be an architect: “With architecture, every job is effectively a prototype. You get one shot at it and if you don’t get it right, you suffer the consequences.” A Greek architect with a British master’s degree got Newson’s ideas into brick-and-mortar form. Even with a crack team, the biggest issue for Newson remains the time it drains from his day job.

“I’ve never had a set routine,” he continues. “I design when I can. Sometimes I think I’m good in the mornings, other times I’m not. It changes as you get older – at least it does for me. I used to never be able to get up early; now I’m up at 5 or 6am for the kids. At least the older you get, the less sleep you need.” October next year marks his 60th.

Before tying the knot, Newson overhauled his bachelor pad in Paris’s 19th arrondissement, which he’s since sold. After they married, the couple renovated a roomy apartment in central London with six-metre ceilings, which they still use during the week. “London is really all Marc,” muses Stockdale, “all bright colours – with just a bit of me in the one small library room.“

They embarked on the Ithaca house in 2014, and it is this home that Stockdale anoints as a true combination of their aesthetics. “My safe place is classic design, his safe place is modern,” she says. “He’s fundamentally driven and obsessive; I’m extremely easy-going. How it works is I tend to let him roll, and then I start to nudge. But if I really don’t like something he wants to do with a house, I’ll just tell him.”

The elegant living room. Athina Souli

Hot on the heels of wrapping Greece in early 2019, the pair signed up for an even bigger project: the restoration of a Grade 1 heritage-listed Jacobean mansion built in the late 16th century in the Cotswolds. Last month, the family moved into the finished section of the house. This home is now their main base given the girls go to school in the area; Newson drives them each morning.

Newson is vowing the Cotswolds will be the last big family reno. He’s also resolved to do less overseas travel for work as the world finally jags out of the worst of the pandemic. And yet, it would seem he and Stockdale just can’t help themselves.

In his characteristic offhand way, Newson then reveals there actually could be another project in the wings – all the way back in Sydney’s eastern beaches, where he has acquired a property. It’s the city in which he grew up, after all; he still has extended family there, and his small clan loves to visit as often as they can. In the meantime, Newson points out that it’s a much shorter hop to Greece for British school holidays.

Treasure trove of antiquity

Walking into the Newson-Stockdale Ithaca dream one morning in April, winter is well on the way out, and nature’s stage is being set for summer.

Mauve wisteria and fragrant jasmine are busy colonising everything, from the iron handrailings on the crumbling steps and stone fences to the vast patio. Bell-collared goats roam through the olive and arbutus trees.

The family are in situ for a week during the Easter break. Between an industrial designer and a stylist, the house ticks over like clockwork.

A small steamer is being fired up in the main bedroom to smooth out the white linen bed covers for Fin Magazine’s photo shoot – the first time the couple has been photographed in the new house – and the cantilevered sand-wave marble staircase is gleaming under the housekeeper’s mop.

Every room of the
four-bedroom house opens onto a panorama, be it the sea, ancient olive trees or rambling gardens that are home to roaming goats. Athina Souli

When we arrive, the master of the house is out of sight, on back-to-back video calls, but his authoritative voice (still with an Australian accent) can be heard wafting throughout the corridors in snippets such as “… there needs to be a break between body and grille” and “just tell me what you need from me” (he’s clearly talking about or to Ferrari, with which he’s completing a big project).

Newson is also ever present in the furniture, cutlery and glassware. In the main bedroom, it’s via his 2013 Bumper Bed for Domeau & Pérès. We sip water from his 2008 glasses created for Qantas’ A380 in-flight service; sneak a peek inside the kitchen cupboards, and it could be a Qantas in-flight-service museum.

But it’s the treasure trove of Greek antiquity he’s amassed here that clearly fires up Newson the most. “We spent years collecting most of this furniture from antique markets and auctions,” he explains of the rickety old side tables, elegant solid-wood dining chairs and long table, finished with a hand-embroidered tablecloth from neighbouring Cephalonia. Sotheby’s and Bonhams catalogues attest to the expensive and excellent art on the walls by the cream of the Greek masters.

“Virtually all the art in the house is by Greek painters, except for the works by [British] Edward Lear, and those works are of Ithaca,” Newson says. The house also has a motif that flows throughout: a cross-section of the wild strawberry that grows outside, carved into timber beams, marble features and reproduced in brass door handles. “That’s a very traditional Greek house thing,” he points out, as Stockdale and the housekeeper discuss lunch.

Both have independent histories with Greece: she via her British family’s small summer home in Corfu (where she spent summers as a child); Newson through his maternal grandfather, Andreas Raftopoulos, who was born in the nearby village of Stavros in 1907. He anglicised his name to Andrew Rolfe after arriving in Australia in the 1920s.

I was sailing around … and we came to Ithaca and I had some notion of connection. I remembered how things hang together here.

Marc Newson

Newson was close to his grandfather, and his middle name, Andrew, honours Rolfe. His mother divorced his electrician father not long after she had Newson, and moved back to her parents’ place in Gordon on Sydney’s upper north shore. Rolfe owned a milk bar in Chatswood, then bought a barbershop in the city. By the time Newson was at school, Rolfe was working part-time as a gardener at a private hospital in Killara.

“I was always interested in how things worked, and so was my grandfather,” says Newson. “He was very practical.” Rolfe taught him young the importance of getting the design and workmanship of an object right to avoid disappointment in use.

Newson later boarded at Trinity Grammar in Ashfield before completing a fine arts degree in jewellery and sculpture at the Sydney College of the Arts in the early 1980s. After graduating, he lived in Tokyo, then Paris. But it was Sydney where he first made his mark.

The prototype for his most famous piece, the Lockheed Lounge (named after the American aircraft maker), was created in the harbour city in 1985.

“I spent weeks, months driving out around factories in the western suburbs, sourcing bits, familiarising myself with small industries around the place,” Newson reminisces. In 1993, Madonna reclined on it for a music video, and by April 2015, his Lockheed Lounge sold at auction for £2.4 million, making it the most expensive object ever sold by a living designer.

Like so many Australians of his generation, Newson’s first taste of Europe came via a Eurorail trip, with his mother when he was 12 in 1975. “Mum pulled me out of school and we went travelling for a year. It included a stay in the [Raftopoulos] family’s house in Stavros, which had no running water and barely any electricity.”

Newson and Stockdale on the cantilevered sand-wave marble staircase; wisteria winds around iron handrails on the stone steps to the patio. Athina Souli

In his 30s he returned to Ithaca for the first time since childhood. “I was sailing around with a French friend, an artist called Fabrice. He was a great sailor, I was not.

“We basically came to Ithaca and I had some notion of connection; I remembered how things hang together here. We camped at the beach down there,” he says, gesturing towards the bottom of the cliff. “Gradually my fortunes improved until I could do all this,” he continues, now gesturing at the house. “But I never saw myself as having an estate here, which is what this is – it’s quite big by local standards.”

He and Stockdale may well have created the most beautiful home in the Ionian islands with the most spectacular view (and a default private beach via a 350-metre stepped pathway below the house). But Newson has not forsaken his humble Ithaca roots. He looks after the original family home for his “grandfather’s youngest brother’s widow”, who lives in Athens.

“My grandfather’s youngest sibling, Uncle George, died about 10 years ago, but the house is still in the family, although not in my direct blood family as it were.

“If it was for sale, I’d buy it in a heartbeat – it really needs some TLC – but I may not have to buy it, I may inherit it,” he muses, adding: “Of course, you never know in Greece.”

The winter issue of Fin Magazine is out on Friday, May 13 inside The Australian Financial Review.



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Travel news: British tourist to visit world’s most dangerous island | UK | News


Miles Routledge, who uses the Twitter handle Lord Miles Routledge, has built a reputation as being a “danger tourist” having visited multiple hotspots in the past – including Kabul during the Taliban takeover. His latest plan will be to visit a renowned island in the Indian Ocean known for a hostile indigenous tribe who have had very little contact with the outside world and remain one of the world’s last uncontacted peoples in the world.

Devout Christian Mr Routledge is hoping to visit North Sentinel Island located in the Bay of Bengal.

Previous attempts by others visiting the protected island, which belongs to India, have resulted in death at the hands of the locals.

In 1867, British explorers had to fend off attacks from the natives as they awaiting rescue following their vessel becoming shipwrecked off the coast of the island.

In 2006, two fishermen were killed by the natives known as the Sentinelese.

And American Christian missionary John Allen Chau met the same fate when he attempted to spread the word of God on the island in 2018.

Contact with the islanders is not only discouraged due to their extremely violent nature but to protect the group from the outside world, in particular from disease and viruses other nations have long become immune to.

Mr Routledge has devised a plan to document the group without putting himself or the tribe at risk

Taking to Twitter, he wrote: “Buy 2 small boats and go to North Sentinel Island.

“One crew sets off fireworks to distract the primitives.

“One crew in decontaminated suits sets up Starlink, cameras and a solar panel all hidden.

“Twitch of uncontacted tribes, $$$ and help science.

“Tell me why this wouldn’t work.”

READ MORE:
World’s most mysterious places Britons can’t visit

Mr Routledge claims this would allow for a Twitch stream to be set up and monitor the mostly undocumented tribe.

He says this will help science and make money along the way.

Adding another plan to his ambitious adventure, he wrote: “Or like, go with a drone disguised as a big bird, film content, boom exclusive footage of non-contacted tribe that’s near priceless.”

Warning of the dangers ahead, one Twitter user replied to Mr Routledge by saying: “Go in a suit of armour.

“What are they going to do against a knight with their little sticks?”

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Mr Routledge has conducted other dangerous trips in his travels.

In April, he was seen to have “tea with the Taliban” during a visit to Afghanistan.

Tweeted about the encounter, he wrote: “Tea with the Taliban.

I’m in Afghanistan, walked into Taliban residency by accident and after talking they gave me food, tea and even offered for me to stay the night.

“They are so kind!”

Should Miles Routledge visit the island? Will the visit pose a danger to the islanders in light of the recent global virus? Let us know your thoughts by CLICKING HERE and joining the debate in our comments section below – Every Voice Matters!

He has also travelled to Ukraine during the Russian invasion, and spent time in Kazakhstan during riots.

In reference to his Sentinel Island idea, he later claimed that he wasn’t being completely serious.

He tweeted: “I mentioned this before but I’ve had a lot of new followers then, it’s always good to get further perspective on s**t posts that may turn into something real one day.”

Mr Routledge has been contacted by Express.co.uk for comment.





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Is The Tip Of The U.P. Michigan’s Biggest Island?


Michigan is known for its upper and lower peninsulas. For many people there is a running joke about the U.P. being a part of Canada or Wisconsin, but what many people don’t know about upstate Michigan is that the tip of the Peninsula is actually an island. While both Peninsulas are home to thousands of islands, this northernmost point of Michigan might be home to the biggest hidden island of them all. 

Michigan’s Biggest Known Island: 

Isle Royale is located in Lake Superior and is considered the largest island in Michigan. Isle Royale is so much more than just an island of 206 square miles, its history and preservation as a National Park has helped further scientific research and understanding since 1959. Untouched by man due to its isolation, Isle Royale provided us with the rare opportunity to see how evolution without human involvement would play out.

The majority of research focuses on the complex dynamic between the wolves and moose populations on the island. This observation research project is considered to focus on the oldest questions in ecology: Is nature understood best due to the predictable ‘law-like’ patterns that is displayed through animal tasks and behavior, or is nature best understood for its history and being able to evolve no matter the events it faces? With research, shipwrecks and mysteries Isle Royale has been a must stop for visitors of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, no matter what tour or path you choose to take on the island you’re bound for some excitement. However, with all of the wonders of this island, is it REALLY Michigan’s largest island in the entire state? 

Fun Fact: Isle Royale is the largest island within the world’s largest body of fresh-water, Lake Superior. 

Keweenaw Peninsula Becomes Michigan’s Largest Island 

Keweenaw County is Michigan’s northernmost, and least populous, county in the state of Michigan. It is perhaps best known for being the gateway to Isle Royale National Park and its research center. Derived from the Ojibwa word meaning “the crossing place”, the Keweenaw Peninsula has been used as a travel and resource point for all sorts of goods and services that need to pass through Whitefish Point on the eastern end of the Peninsula. Though, is the tip of the Upper Peninsula hiding something from Michigan’s residents? 

Though this area of land is widely known as the Keweenaw Peninsula, it is technically an island due to the dividing path of the Portage Canal. In fact, many people consider Michigan Technological University part of Keweenaw County, but because of where it lies on the Portage Canal it makes up Houghton County. Across the small lift bridge is Hancock, which is the beginning of Keweenaw ‘Island’. As someone who lived in this area for many years, Houghton and Hancock very much feel like one town together but the bridge really makes the difference (especially when getting stuck at the lift when on your way to work or class).  

What is so interesting about this waterway that creates an island within the peninsula, is the fact that part of it was manmade. What would have eventually turned into a canal after a few hundred years, the fjord that is now Portage Canal had the last half mile dredged out in the 1860’s to officially separate the tip of the U.P.; making it Michigan’s largest island. Copper country is full of surprises! 

Having experienced the peninsula turned island first hand, I strongly recommend visiting Keweenaw County and all of the beautiful sights it has to offer. Make sure to stop by the Jam Lady on your way to Copper Country! 

Don’t Call Yourself A Yooper Unless You’ve Been To These Michigan Upper Peninsula Places

It can almost be looked at as a different state entirely, while encompassing everything beautiful about Michigan. There are some spots that are truly breathtaking, and if you’ve never planned a trip to the upper peninsula, make sure you’re comfortable with long drives.

Hidden Gems of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

No matter what you’re into – dining, boating, hunting, outdoor sports, and everything in between, you’ll find something you’ll love in these small towns in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula.





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People travel from all over to find ‘treasure’ on this Southwest Florida island


LEE COUNTY, Fla. — It’s only accessible by boat.

But once you get there, it’s truly paradise.

People travel from all over the world to visit Cayo Costa State Park.

We journeyed to the island with Captiva Cruises.

That’s where we spoke to a few people who tells us they believe this is the best location for shell hunters.





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Rishiri Island is a backcountry skiing paradise, as long as there’s a break in the weather


The wind cancels the ferry to Rishiri on our first day.

As we descend into Wakkanai Airport, I see waves crashing heavy against the snowy shoreline of northern Hokkaido. Beyond that the sea roils, a stormy green accented with whitecaps that feels cold just to look at. The route to Rishiri, a remote island 20 kilometers off the northwestern tip of Hokkaido that we are hoping to ski, is closed.

Fellow journalist and skier Francesco Bassetti and I are stuck in Wakkanai, a once-prosperous fishing town rendered almost obsolete by the Russian seizure of Sakhalin and its fishing grounds at the end of World War II. The town is Japan’s last major settlement to the north and just an hour’s drive from Cape Soya, where a sign quietly protests the country’s diplomatic tensions with Russia: This is the farthest north “freely accessible” point in Japan.

The landscape reflects the latitude. Snowbound fields butt up against the sea, and hardy fishing boats lie dormant next to natural harbors, pinned to the ground by ropes crusted with rime ice. Beneath leaden skies, Wakkanai’s squat structures are battered by ferocious, salt-laden gales, aging them prematurely and causing their paint to peel and flake. Wind turbines provide more energy than the town can use in a single day.

From the center of Wakkanai, we drive north, past the frigid-looking Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force base, to a lighthouse at the tip of Cape Noshappu. As the sun sets on the frozen landscape, I look west out over the sea, where I can just make out the snow-covered slopes of Rishiri, reflecting the sun’s dying light.

Francesco shouts at me to be heard above the wind: “How far do you think you’d make it?” The sea beneath the lighthouse looks freezing. “Swimming?” I shout back. “About 30 seconds.”

We turn and trace our footprints through the snow back to the car. The wind howls around us; the inside of the car is warm, and wonderfully quiet.

The snow-covered island of Rishiri as seen from the ferry to Wakkanai | OSCAR BOYD
The snow-covered island of Rishiri as seen from the ferry to Wakkanai | OSCAR BOYD

The island

Rishiri is the exception to the gentle landscape of northern Hokkaido.

Just 18 kilometers wide along its longest axis, the island rises steeply from sea level to a jagged, 1,721-meter peak formed by volcanic eruptions and sculpted by wind and glaciers. The island’s name, which is shared with the peak, is derived from the Ainu language, in which “rishiri” translates to “high island.” In Japanese, it has been nicknamed “ukishima” — the “floating island” — for the way it appears to hover above the sea.

The peak quite rightly deserves its place on the list of hyakumeizan (the famed 100 mountains of Japan highlighted by alpinist Kyuya Fukada), and in summer, hikers flock to climb it — passing through alpine meadows filled with endemic wildflowers and views over the neighboring island of Rebun.

Many more come for Rishiri’s maritime delicacies. The island is made prosperous by its fishing industry, which thrives off the summer catch of Rishiri konbu (kelp), prized in the kitchens of Kyoto’s finest restaurants. The uni (sea urchin) that feeds off the same kelp is even more valuable, selling for up to ¥40,000 a kilogram to the nation’s Michelin-starred sushi restaurants and, increasingly, to customers overseas.

“All you hear in summer is ‘uni, uni, uni,’” says Yoshihiro Kawanami, managing director of the Rishirifuji Town Tourist Association, with a laugh. “It’s enough to make you never want to think about it again.”

But summer is short and, in winter, Rishiri takes on a different form. The island is blanketed in snow and even windier than Wakkanai. The fishing season ends and Rishiri grows quiet, the stream of tourists thinning to a trickle. Those few who do arrive in winter come for one thing: backcountry skiing.

During northern Hokkaido's long winter, much of the fishing fleet is brought onto land to weather the stormy conditions. | OSCAR BOYD
During northern Hokkaido’s long winter, much of the fishing fleet is brought onto land to weather the stormy conditions. | OSCAR BOYD

The ferry

At 5:50 a.m. on our second morning, we are woken by a call from our fixer, Ayami Saga. “The ferry is running, I’ll see you outside in 20.”

As we board, the wind has dropped but the clouds remain, tinged pink by an invisible sun. The ship is modern, equipped with a dedicated luggage room for ski gear, and entirely deserted. Built for the summer crowds, the ferry can carry up to 550 people at a time on the two-hour passage to Rishiri, but on this particular day in early March, the passenger manifest can be counted on five fingers. Still, two ferries a day run throughout winter.

The journey is plagued by the remnants of the previous day’s bad weather. Outside the shelter of the harbor, the swell lifts the ferry and pitches it forward into the sea, waves crashing over the bow and covering the windows of our cabin with a fine spray. Storm clouds roll in, unleashing flurries of snow across the deck that settle for a moment before being obliterated by the waves.

“It is much calmer today,” says Saga, who was born in Wakkanai and seems a cheery model of composure throughout the journey. Francesco sits unusually silent, and I keep a wary eye on the sick bag tucked into the seat pocket in front of me, glad that I didn’t eat much for breakfast.

Surrounded by the gray of the sea and the sky, the ferry almost feels lost in a void, steadily chugging on to its destination. Occasionally, the clouds part and we catch a glimpse of Rishiri, growing ever larger ahead of us. Each time we see it, Francesco and I burst into excited chatter and pass a pair of binoculars back and forth, trying to spot skiable lines down the island’s steep ridgelines and valleys.

It’s an awesome mountain, even at a distance.

Toshiya Watanabe is the only backcountry ski guide on Rishiri, and has spent the past two decades climbing and mapping the island's skiable lines. | OSCAR BOYD
Toshiya Watanabe is the only backcountry ski guide on Rishiri, and has spent the past two decades climbing and mapping the island’s skiable lines. | OSCAR BOYD

The guide

The backcountry of Rishiri is the domain of Toshiya “Toshi” Watanabe, the only ski guide to live on the island and a pioneer of the local, 10-person strong surfing community. Watanabe’s grandfather, originally from Toyama Prefecture, brought the family to Rishiri in the 1940s, where he plied the konbu trade and built a small business empire that spans the island’s fishing, construction and hospitality industries.

Powder skis and surfboards greet us at the entrance of Rera Mosir, the Watanabe family’s hotel on the outskirts of Rishiri Fuji. Maki, the hotel’s esteemed chef and Watanabe’s wife, welcomes us to the hotel and tells us that her husband is out on the mountain, enjoying the new snow the storm had brought to the island.

It is not until dinner that Francesco and I meet Watanabe in person, kitted out in the gear of his sponsor, Mammut, and sporting a goggle tan that is visible across the dining hall. He strides over to our table armed with a map of Rishiri and a box of photos of the same ridgelines and valleys we spied from the ferry. Red lines trace every crevice, gully and crack, marking out the skiable routes we’ve come for.

“Even though Rishiri is just one mountain, it is really many mountains,” Watanabe says. “You can access every face and never have to drive more than 30 minutes.”

Watanabe compares Rishiri to Mount Fuji and Mount Yotei — standalone volcanoes that are similarly popular for ski touring but have almost perfectly conical shapes. Rishiri is a far more rugged mountain, with deep valleys, protective ridgelines and such an abundance of terrain that even with the island’s temperamental weather, there is always somewhere to ski.

“Too much wind — there’s a line,” he says. “Too much sun — there’s a line. High avalanche risk — there’s always a line.”

Guide Naoki Kitagawa leads the group up the east face of Rishiri, with Wakkanai's Cape Noshappu visible in the background. | OSCAR BOYD
Guide Naoki Kitagawa leads the group up the east face of Rishiri, with Wakkanai’s Cape Noshappu visible in the background. | OSCAR BOYD

The approach

On his map, Watanabe outlines seven main approaches to the peak, each connected to Rishiri’s sole ring road. Wind direction dictates route selection and, at breakfast the next morning, Watanabe guides Francesco and I through our itinerary. He also introduces us to Naoki Kitagawa, an assistant guide who’ll be the fourth member of our expedition.

“However windy it is in town, it will be two to three times that up on the mountain,” Watanabe says. “Today we have a westerly wind, so the east face is the best place to ski.”

We load our gear into a van and set out along the road. After two days of clouds, we are treated to clear weather. To our east, the western coast of Hokkaido stretches out across the horizon. To the west, Rishiri’s peak — a jagged crown of rock and ice brutalized by the elements.

“You two must have been very well-behaved to get weather this good,” says Kitagawa as we park next to a snowed-in forest road. “Throughout the year, you only get to see the peak this clearly a handful of times.”

From Rishiri’s steep interior, the island’s lower slopes splay out gently toward the sea. Although it would be perfectly possible to tackle the forest road under our own steam, Watanabe prefers a quicker approach: a snowmobile tow. It feels a bit like cheating, but it cuts an hour or two of gentle climbing to barely 15 minutes. We click into our bindings, put the tow rope between our legs, and let the snowmobile do the rest.

Four kilometers inland, the gradient kicks up a notch and the four of us begin our ascent on skis, following a ridgeline to an outcrop that Watanabe has dubbed “1,003 Peak,” for its height. The pace is relaxed and, as we climb, the view spools out behind us.

We can see Wakkanai’s Cape Noshappu and beyond that Cape Soya. To our north, 100 kilometers away, the southern shores of Sakhalin rise out of the sea. At one point, Watanabe stops and gestures toward the far distance.

“Do you see that over there?” he says, pointing with a ski pole at a small island I can barely make out. “That’s Moneron — 120 kilometers away.”

Even he seems surprised by the view.

Guide Naoki Kitagawa skis down Rishiri’s eastern face toward the sea. | OSCAR BOYD
Guide Naoki Kitagawa skis down Rishiri’s eastern face toward the sea. | OSCAR BOYD

The ski

At 1,721 meters, Rishiri is not a particularly high mountain, and with the good weather, the idea of reaching the summit occupies my mind as we climb. Watanabe puts that idea to bed.

“No one has managed to summit this winter,” he says when I ask one too many times about it. “Often I’ll tell people that it is too dangerous to go out, but they’ll insist on trying to go to the summit anyway. Groups have returned after dark with frostbite to their faces, their fingers, their toes — frozen by the wind.”

The winter conditions on Rishiri’s upper slopes are so extreme that the mountain is often used as a training ground for Japanese climbers hoping to attempt 8,000-meter peaks in the Himalayas. The higher we climb, the more wind-scoured and icy the snowpack becomes.

While we are relatively sheltered on the eastern face, above us the clouds seem to move in double time. Large cornices hang precariously off downwind ridges, and exposed slopes are rippled and cracked by the force of the wind. The southern face of Rishiri is hardest hit, a tortured mass of rock and ice with breathtaking spires that rise out of the island’s center. The peak is harsh, rugged and beautiful — scenery that draws us up the mountain — but it is not a place for the underprepared.

After Watanabe’s warning, the idea of reaching the summit begins to feel less and less important. The real reward of Rishiri is not its peak but the proximity to the sea. There is nowhere like it in Japan for skiing, nowhere the sea feels so immediate. Facing down the mountain, it stretches from periphery to periphery, azure beneath the midday sun.

At 1,003 meters, we turn around and begin our descent. No one else is on the mountain. It’s just us, the sea and a vast backcountry playground.

“You must have been very well-behaved,” repeats Kitagawa as he drops into an untouched bowl and makes his first turn.

Snow fills the air and disappears on a breeze.


Francesco Bassetti climbs a ridge on the east face of Rishiri, with the west coast of mainland Hokkaido stretching out behind him. | OSCAR BOYD
Francesco Bassetti climbs a ridge on the east face of Rishiri, with the west coast of mainland Hokkaido stretching out behind him. | OSCAR BOYD

When to go

The best time to go to Rishiri for backcountry skiing and snowboarding will depend on what you’re hoping to get out of your trip.

January and February have the most consistent new snowfall, with February being the peak month for powder skiing on the mountain. For good views and sunnier weather, visit in March or April, when the winter storm cycle slows.

For attempts on the summit, guide Toshiya Watanabe advises visiting toward the end of March and into April, when the weather is warmer, and the wind drops a little. Summiting is never guaranteed and, as he puts it, “I am a ski guide, not a summit guide.”

While you can ski on Rishiri in all but the worst weather conditions, allow for three to four days on the island to get the best out of your trip. May marks the end of the season.

Backcountry guides

Watanabe is the only backcountry guide on Rishiri Island and he operates out of his hotel, Rera Mosir. No previous backcountry experience is necessary for a trek, though participants should be competent skiers or snowboarders. Guided tours and accommodation can be booked in English through Explore Share or via his company, Maruzen, in Japanese.

Prices start at ¥13,200 per person depending on the group size. You should bring your own touring gear to the island, though it is possible to rent avalanche safety gear (beacon, shovel, prove) from Watanabe. Snowshoe tours are also available through Maruzen and the Rishiri Shima Guide Center.

The southern face of Rishiri is a tortured mass of rock and ice, with breathtaking spires that rise out of the island’s center. | OSCAR BOYD
The southern face of Rishiri is a tortured mass of rock and ice, with breathtaking spires that rise out of the island’s center. | OSCAR BOYD

Summer on Rishiri

Rishiri is best known as a summer destination and is when the island comes to life. The summer hiking season is from June to October. The hike to the peak can be done unguided and takes eight to 12 hours depending on fitness. Several companies offer guided excursions throughout the season. During the summer season, Watanabe offers a variety of outdoor activities, including fishing and sea kayaking trips. The konbu (kelp) and uni (sea urchin) seasons last from June through September, during which many local restaurants serve uni-based cuisine. A dedicated bicycle route circles half the island and links to the ring road for a 60-kilometer loop of the island.

Other winter activities

During the winter season, many local establishments close due to the lack of tourists. There is a ski slope with one lift and one run suitable for beginners. Onsen dot the island, and the Rishirifuji Hot Spring complex, complete with outdoor baths, is a 10-minute walk from the center of the town of Rishiri Fuji. On the west side of the island, the Rishiri Choritsu Museum introduces the history and culture of the island in Japanese. For coffee and pastries, visit Porto Coffee, located opposite the ferry terminal.

How to get there

Rishiri can be reached via ferry from Wakkanai (two hours; from ¥2,550 per person). Ferries run twice a day from November to the end of April and three times a day from May to the end of October. Rishiri also has a small airport that connects it with Sapporo in under an hour. Planes and ferries may be canceled by bad weather, particularly in winter, so factor such unpredictably into your plans.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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Tamil Nadu travel update: Now travellers can enjoy boat ride to Kurusadai island in Gulf of Mannar – Times of India



Tamil Nadu travel update: Now travellers can enjoy boat ride to Kurusadai island in Gulf of Mannar  Times of India



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CDC: Avoid the ‘very high’ risk Indian Ocean island of Madagascar


(CNN) — The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added just one new destination to its highest-risk category for travel on Monday — and it’s again an Indian Ocean island nation.

Moved up to Level 4 is Madagascar. Off the southeastern coast of Africa, it’s known for its unique wildlife, including lemurs, and for being the world’s fourth-largest island.

The CDC places a destination at “Level 4: Covid-19 Very High” risk when more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents are registered in the past 28 days.

Madagascar resided at “Level 3: Covid-19 High” risk last week.

There are now about 120 destinations at Level 4. While the number of places in the “very high” risk category has been dropping since peaking around 140 in February, there are still more places in the Level 4 category than in all the other categories combined.

To recap, only new addition to Level 4 on March 21:

• Madagascar

CDC: Avoid Level 4 destinations

El Prado Museum is a huge draw in Madrid, Spain. However, the country remains at the CDC's Level 4 warning.

El Prado Museum is a huge draw in Madrid, Spain. However, the country remains at the CDC’s Level 4 warning.

Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

The CDC advises avoiding travel to Level 4 countries. CDC thresholds for travel health notices are based primarily on the number of Covid-19 cases in a destination.

The CDC does not include the United States in its list of advisories, but it was color-coded at Level 4 on March 21 on the agency’s map of travel risk levels.

Tourist favorites stalled on Level 4 include Aruba, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, France, Greece, Peru and Spain. The United Kingdom has been there since July 2021.

In its broader travel guidance, the CDC has recommended avoiding all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.

Changes at Level 3

The Level 3 “high” risk category — which applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days — saw five additions on Monday — from spots scattered around the world. They were:

• Albania
• Bolivia
• Botswana
• Colombia
• Guyana

The move to Level 3 was good news for the quintet, all of which were at Level 4 last week. Colombia in particular has been emerging as a popular travel destination in recent years, including its cosmopolitan capital of Bogotá.

Levels 2, 1 and unknown

Hassan II Mosque stands  in Casablanca, Morocco.

Hassan II Mosque stands in Casablanca, Morocco.

Shutterstock

Destinations carrying the “Level 2: Covid-19 Moderate” designation have seen 50 to 99 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days. The four new entries to Level 2 on March 21 are:

• Guinea
• Guinea-Bissau
• Morocco
• Nepal

All four had been at Level 3, including the big tourist favorite of Morocco.

To be in “Level 1: Covid-19 Low,” a destination must have fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past 28 days. Six places moved to Level 1 on Monday:

• Cameroon
• Cape Verde
• Gabon
• The Gambia
• Mozambique
• Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo fell the most, all the way from Level 4. Cape Verde had been at Level 3. And the rest had been at the “moderate” Level 2.

Africa continues to be a bright spot on the current Covid map, as all six of those are located there.

Overall, there are now 30 destinations at Level 1, and all but three (China, Saba and Taiwan) are in Africa. That includes Kenya, a favorite of safari-goers.

Finally, there are destinations for which the CDC has an “unknown” risk because of a lack of information. Usually, but not always, these are small, remote places or places with ongoing warfare or unrest. The CDC made no new additions to the category on Monday.

Cambodia, the Canary Islands, Macau and Tanzania are among the more-visited locations currently listed in the unknown category. The CDC advises against travel to these places precisely because the risks are unknown.

A medical expert weighs in on risk levels

Transmission rates are “one guidepost” for travelers’ personal risk calculations, according to CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen.

“We are entering a phase in the pandemic where people need to make their own decisions based on their medical circumstances as well as their risk tolerance when it comes to contracting Covid-19,” Wen said in mid-February.

“You should interpret Level 4 to mean this is a place with a lot of community transmission of Covid-19. So if you go, there is a higher chance that you could contract the coronavirus,” said Wen, who is an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Some people will decide the risk is too high for them, Wen said. “Other people will say, ‘Because I am vaccinated and boosted, I am willing to take on that risk.’

“So this really needs to be a personal decision that people weigh understanding that right now the CDC is classifying the different levels based on community transmission rates, and basically only that,” Wen said. “They’re not taking into account individual circumstances.”

More considerations for travel

There are other factors to weigh in addition to transmission rates, according to Wen.

“The transmission rates are one guidepost,” Wen said. “Another is what precautions are required and followed in the place that you’re going and then the third is what are you planning to do once you’re there.

“Are you planning to visit a lot of attractions and go to indoor bars? That’s very different from you’re going somewhere where you’re planning to lie on the beach all day and not interact with anyone else. That’s very different. Those are very different levels of risk.”

Vaccination is the most significant safety factor for travel since unvaccinated travelers are more likely to become ill and transmit Covid-19 to others, Wen said.

“People who are unvaccinated remain at high risk and really should not be traveling at this point,” she said.

People should be wearing a high-quality mask — N95, KN95 or KF94 — anytime they’re in crowded indoor settings with people of unknown vaccination status, she said.

And it’s also important to consider what you would do if you end up testing positive away from home. Where will you stay and how easy will it be to get a test to return home?

Top image: Colorful pirogues line the beach in Morondava, Madagascar.(Reto Ammann/Adobe Stock)



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CDC: Avoid travel to this ‘very high’ risk Indian Ocean island


By Forrest Brown and Marnie Hunter, CNN

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added just one new destination to its highest-risk category for travel on Monday — and it’s again an Indian Ocean island nation.

Moved up to Level 4 is Madagascar. Off the southeastern coast of Africa, it’s known for its unique wildlife, including lemurs, and for being the world’s fourth-largest island.

Last week, the much smaller Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius was the only destination added to Level 4. It remained at Level 4 this week, too.

The CDC places a destination at “Level 4: Covid-19 Very High” risk when more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents are registered in the past 28 days.

Madagascar resided at “Level 3: Covid-19 High” risk last week.

There are now about 120 destinations at Level 4. While the number of places in the “very high” risk category has been dropping since peaking around 140 in February, there are still more places in the Level 4 category than in all the other categories combined.

To recap, only new addition to Level 4 on March 21:

• Madagascar

CDC: Avoid Level 4 destinations

The CDC advises avoiding travel to Level 4 countries. CDC thresholds for travel health notices are based primarily on the number of Covid-19 cases in a destination.

The CDC does not include the United States in its list of advisories, but it was color-coded at Level 4 on March 21 on the agency’s map of travel risk levels.

Tourist favorites stalled on Level 4 include Aruba, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, France, Greece, Peru and Spain. The United Kingdom has been there since July 2021.

You can view the CDC’s risk levels for any global destination on its travel recommendations page.

In its broader travel guidance, the CDC has recommended avoiding all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.

Changes at Level 3

The Level 3 “high” risk category — which applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days — saw five additions on Monday — from spots scattered around the world. They were:

• Albania
• Bolivia
• Botswana
• Colombia
• Guyana

The move to Level 3 was good news for the quintet, all of which were at Level 4 last week. Colombia in particular has been emerging as a popular travel destination in recent years, including its cosmopolitan capital of Bogotá.

Levels 2, 1 and unknown

Destinations carrying the “Level 2: Covid-19 Moderate” designation have seen 50 to 99 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days. The four new entries to Level 2 on March 21 are:

• Guinea
• Guinea-Bissau
• Morocco
• Nepal

All four had been at Level 3, including the big tourist favorite of Morocco.

For people interested in cruise ship travel, it’s currently at Level 2 as well.

To be in “Level 1: Covid-19 Low,” a destination must have fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past 28 days. Six places moved to Level 1 on Monday:

• Cameroon
• Cape Verde
• Gabon
• The Gambia
• Mozambique
• Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo fell the most, all the way from Level 4. Cape Verde had been at Level 3. And the rest had been at the “moderate” Level 2.

Africa continues to be a bright spot on the current Covid map, as all six of those are located there.

Overall, there are now 30 destinations at Level 1, and all but three (China, Saba and Taiwan) are in Africa. That includes Kenya, a favorite of safari-goers.

Finally, there are destinations for which the CDC has an “unknown” risk because of a lack of information. Usually, but not always, these are small, remote places or places with ongoing warfare or unrest. The CDC made no new additions to the category on Monday.

Cambodia, the Canary Islands, Macau and Tanzania are among the more-visited locations currently listed in the unknown category. The CDC advises against travel to these places precisely because the risks are unknown.

A medical expert weighs in on risk levels

Transmission rates are “one guidepost” for travelers’ personal risk calculations, according to CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen.

“We are entering a phase in the pandemic where people need to make their own decisions based on their medical circumstances as well as their risk tolerance when it comes to contracting Covid-19,” Wen said in mid-February.

“You should interpret Level 4 to mean this is a place with a lot of community transmission of Covid-19. So if you go, there is a higher chance that you could contract the coronavirus,” said Wen, who is an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Some people will decide the risk is too high for them, Wen said. “Other people will say, ‘Because I am vaccinated and boosted, I am willing to take on that risk.’

“So this really needs to be a personal decision that people weigh understanding that right now the CDC is classifying the different levels based on community transmission rates, and basically only that,” Wen said. “They’re not taking into account individual circumstances.”

More considerations for travel

There are other factors to weigh in addition to transmission rates, according to Wen.

“The transmission rates are one guidepost,” Wen said. “Another is what precautions are required and followed in the place that you’re going and then the third is what are you planning to do once you’re there.

“Are you planning to visit a lot of attractions and go to indoor bars? That’s very different from you’re going somewhere where you’re planning to lie on the beach all day and not interact with anyone else. That’s very different. Those are very different levels of risk.”

Vaccination is the most significant safety factor for travel since unvaccinated travelers are more likely to become ill and transmit Covid-19 to others, Wen said.

“People who are unvaccinated remain at high risk and really should not be traveling at this point,” she said.

People should be wearing a high-quality mask — N95, KN95 or KF94 — anytime they’re in crowded indoor settings with people of unknown vaccination status, she said.

And it’s also important to consider what you would do if you end up testing positive away from home. Where will you stay and how easy will it be to get a test to return home?

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Top image: Colorful pirogues line the beach in Morondava, Madagascar.(Reto Ammann/Adobe Stock)



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Meet the man who has lived on tiny Pigeon Key island off the coast of Florida for the past 14 years


‘For quite some time it was just me living out here… me, the cat and a [rescue] duck, for a little over a year,’ says Kelly McKinnon, who has spent the past 14 years living on Pigeon Key, a five-acre island off the coast of Florida.

Fortunately, he ‘doesn’t mind the isolation’. 

Plus, he reveals that life there has its interesting moments – his Amazon parcels arrive on ferries, the fishing is epic and a man once arrived from Cuba on a raft – and the lockdown didn’t really affect him: ‘When the pandemic hit, this was the best place in the world to be.’

Kelly McKinnon has spent the past 14 years living on Pigeon Key, pictured, off the coast of Florida. The nearest shop is around two-and-a-half miles away to the west on neighbouring Knights Key, reached via the Old Seven Mile Bridge, which runs right over the island but is disconnected to the east

Kelly McKinnon has spent the past 14 years living on Pigeon Key, pictured, off the coast of Florida. The nearest shop is around two-and-a-half miles away to the west on neighbouring Knights Key, reached via the Old Seven Mile Bridge, which runs right over the island but is disconnected to the east

'It¿s not a place where if you forget the eggs you¿re going to go back. You just do without,¿ says Kelly McKinnon (pictured), one of only four permanent residents on Pigeon Key

‘It’s not a place where if you forget the eggs you’re going to go back. You just do without,’ says Kelly McKinnon (pictured), one of only four permanent residents on Pigeon Key 

On the downside, island life has wreaked havoc with his love life – ‘the island has eaten up a few girlfriends’, he admits. 

McKinnon’s minuscule island home is part of the Florida Keys archipelago that stretches to America’s most southern point and is connected to the Keys in one direction only – to the west, by way of the historic Old Seven Mile Bridge, which runs right over the island but is disconnected to the east.

One of only four permanent residents, he is executive director of the Pigeon Key Foundation, a non-profit organisation that works to protect the area’s culture and history. And with the other three residents employed by McKinnon, he might best be described as ‘the boss of the island’.

The Michigan-born islander lives by himself in a small wooden house built in 1916 – one of just eight buildings on the island – and has got what he describes as a ‘pretty good view’. 

The porch has unspoilt views of crystal clear turquoise water and looks out over a lawn where herons fish from the garden bench, framed by palm trees. 

The nearest shop is around two-and-a-half miles away on neighbouring Knights Key and with access only via boat or the Old Seven Mile Bridge – open to walkers, cyclists and emergency vehicles only – the islanders ‘don’t leave too often’ and need to plan their meals carefully.  

‘It’s not a place where if you forget the eggs you’re going to go back. You just do without,’ McKinnon says.

Asked if he’s able to use Uber Eats to stock up on food and McKinnon laughs heartily.

He says: ‘We don’t get Uber Eats, but sometimes the ferry that comes out will bring our Amazon packages to us.’  

For McKinnon, the idea of getting a home delivery is so alien that when he visits friends in other parts of the world, the first thing he will do is order food. ‘We order a whole bunch of stuff to the door because it’s such a novelty,’ he says. 

The keen fisherman reveals that he gets a lot of his food using his rod, taking his boat out to catch lobster, tuna, hogfish, permit fish and swordfish. 

This drone photo shows the Old Seven Mile Bridge just before its big relaunch in January, 2022

This drone photo shows the Old Seven Mile Bridge just before its big relaunch in January, 2022 

A keen fisherman, Kelly McKinnon and his girlfriend, Ananda Williams (pictured above with Kelly), often take a boat out to catch lobster and fish. ¿We¿re able to source a lot of stuff right here,¿ says McKinnon, who enjoys being self-sufficient. ¿If the bridge blew over tomorrow we could get by.'

McKinnon is pictured here with a permit fish, a game fish native to the western Atlantic Ocean

A keen fisherman, Kelly McKinnon and his girlfriend, Ananda Williams (pictured with Kelly above left), often take a boat out to catch lobster and fish. ‘We’re able to source a lot of stuff right here,’ says McKinnon, who enjoys being self-sufficient. ‘If the bridge blew over tomorrow we could get by.’ He’s pictured on the right with a permit fish, a game fish native to the western Atlantic Ocean

‘We’re able to source a lot of stuff right here,’ says McKinnon, who enjoys being self-sufficient. ‘If the bridge blew over tomorrow we could get by.’

Living off the land on a tropical island might sound like a dream, but as McKinnon has discovered, it’s not for everyone.

‘I mean, I really like it here, but the previous girlfriends haven’t always been that excited about being on the island and being isolated,’ he says.

His current girlfriend, Ananda Williams, is a coral reef research biologist and lives in the city of Marathon, which is strung out along the keys to the west and takes about 20 minutes to reach by bicycle along the Old Seven Mile Bridge. ‘She’s underwater most days and it seems to fit her lifestyle,’ says McKinnon, happy to have found someone who isn’t fazed by a solitary life.

'I mean, I really like it here, but the previous girlfriends haven¿t always been that excited about being on the island and being isolated,' McKinnon (pictured above) admits

‘I mean, I really like it here, but the previous girlfriends haven’t always been that excited about being on the island and being isolated,’ McKinnon (pictured above) admits

Pigeon Key is part of the Florida Keys archipelago that stretches to America¿s most southern point

Pigeon Key is part of the Florida Keys archipelago that stretches to America’s most southern point

This man arrived at Pigeon Key from Havana in 2016, using a small raft

This man arrived at Pigeon Key from Havana in 2016, using a small raft

However, despite the slow pace, the island has a way of throwing up the unexpected.

McKinnon recalls the bizarre day in 2016 when a man arrived at the island having paddled over from Havana.

He says: ‘One day we saw a gentleman running on a piece of the old bridge. Then he jumped in the water and swam up to the island. He had arrived using a small Styrofoam raft and claimed he had jumped in at Havana harbour.   

‘We said hello and got him some water. I think he was allowed to stay.

‘It was an interesting day.’  

Unreliable plumbing, we learn, can also disrupt McKinnon’s schedule.

The sewerage system is the main culprit. Being cut off from the mainland means waste cannot be pumped away, and when things go wrong it’s McKinnon that has to deal with it. ‘You’re literally working in s*** every now and then, so that’s not too glamorous,’ he says.

McKinnon says: ¿We don¿t get Uber Eats, but sometimes the ferry that comes out will bring our Amazon packages to us.' Pictured is one of the houses on Pigeon Key

McKinnon says: ‘We don’t get Uber Eats, but sometimes the ferry that comes out will bring our Amazon packages to us.’ Pictured is one of the houses on Pigeon Key

When the job needs doing, it’s so atrocious that ‘I don’t even feel right about pulling rank and saying “hey – the boss isn’t doing this one”‘, he adds with a shudder.

The sleepy island has also seen some strange goings-on come nightfall. Aside from the twinkling phosphorescent glowworms that light up the ocean (McKinnon says it’s a spectacle not to be missed), some residents claim to have seen ghosts.

People who’ve stayed on the island say they’ve seen ghosts in windows of houses, heard spectral trains going by in the distance or felt a heavy weight on their chests at night.

‘I’ve never experienced any of these things. I don’t really want to,’ McKinnon says. ‘If there are ghosts out here hopefully they know I’m doing my best to take care of the place and keep the history and cultural aspects going.’

For McKinnon, the ghost sightings might be down to people’s wild imaginations, sparked by the island’s fascinating history. 

In the early 1900s, it was the work camp of the 400 men who built what’s now the Old Seven Mile Bridge.

The bridge – originally called Knights Key-Pigeon Key-Moser Channel-Pacet Channel Bridge – used to carry steam trains and was made to the exacting standards of Henry Flagler, a railroad magnate who kept a close eye on his workforce. He was teetotal, and didn’t believe that drinking was conducive to hard work. 

When it was built in 1912, the bridge over Pigeon Key was used to carry trains, as this undated photograph shows. The bridge's original name was the Knights Key-Pigeon Key-Moser Channel-Pacet Channel Bridge

When it was built in 1912, the bridge over Pigeon Key was used to carry trains, as this undated photograph shows. The bridge’s original name was the Knights Key-Pigeon Key-Moser Channel-Pacet Channel Bridge 

McKinnon says: ‘The reality of it is, it probably wasn’t a very nice place to work. Four hundred guys on a small island. No deodorant, limited fresh water, no women, no booze, no gambling.’

It’s these visceral details, together with the old Florida charm of the place, that McKinnon wants to preserve.

 ‘When the pandemic hit, Pigeon Key was the best place in the world to be

Pigeon Key resident Kelly McKinnon

The Pigeon Key Foundation looks to bring the island’s history to life with tours and exhibitions, and they receive well over 200 visitors a day. That number is only set to increase following the $44million renovation of the Old Seven Mile Bridge earlier this year.

‘We’re not looking to turn Pigeon Key into Disney,’ McKinnon says. ‘It’s an unbelievably expensive environment to maintain because everything is 100 years old, made out of wood and in one of the harshest environments you can imagine.

‘We want to keep the vibe without ruining it for everybody – and me! I live out here, so 500 people in the yard a day seems like more than enough.’

McKinnon is pictured here on the Old Seven Mile Bridge with a visiting childhood friend

McKinnon is pictured here on the Old Seven Mile Bridge with a visiting childhood friend

The road bridge next to Old Seven Mile Bridge (above) was built in 1982

The road bridge next to Old Seven Mile Bridge (above) was built in 1982

The marine science centre is another big part of the Pigeon Key Foundation work. Currently, the centre is researching Alzheimer’s and cancer medications derived from creatures in the water, as well as carrying out coral restoration and mangrove plantings.

McKinnon has help in running all of this, of course – the other three island residents work on the environmental and educational programmes.

‘We’re a tight-knit group,’ McKinnon says of his select team, who all started out as interns. The longest-serving employee has lived here for 10 years now, and the shortest, three.  

'When I hire people, I¿m not just hiring an employee. I¿m hiring a neighbour,' says McKinnon

‘When I hire people, I’m not just hiring an employee. I’m hiring a neighbour,’ says McKinnon

McKinnon takes a slow and steady approach to hiring people – and who wouldn’t? There’s no escaping that annoying colleague when you’re living next door. 

‘When I hire people, I’m not just hiring an employee. I’m hiring a neighbour,’ he says about his recruitment process. 

The hints in the questioning seem to land with McKinney, who quickly adds: ‘And I’m not looking to put anyone else on the island.’

Well, that’s our Robinson Crusoe dreams dashed, but at least we can console ourselves with a takeaway.



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Cruise tip: Cruise advice for passengers from cruise worker on Royal Caribbean island | Cruise | Travel


Sue said: “I am from the UK, so the tropical year-round climate of the Caribbean is just spectacular!

“We truly live in an idyllic location, white sandy beaches surrounded by crystal blue Caribbean waters.

“It’s a lush tropical escape where the climate is incredible, and we get to share this amazing island with our guests every day.”

Even tropical islands aren’t immune to the occasional bout of bad weather and Sue said: “Monitoring the weather becomes a fanatical focus!”





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