When you’re traveling to a big city for the first time, you’ve probably got all the major tourist attractions on your itinerary – and why not? But if you really want to get a sense of the people, the everyday citizens and what their average day is like, you need to venture away from the bright city lights.
Small town escapes aren’t just a great way to unwind and explore at a more relaxed pace, they’re a chance to really immerse yourself in the local culture, away from the tourist scene. We explore some great options for the perfect small-town escape from around the globe.
Sanibel Island, Florida
With less than 8,000 year-round residents, this beautiful barrier island off the Florida coast is the ideal place to escape the crowds. For those with a horticultural leaning, the island’s unique plantlife is of particular interest. Many of the plants here can’t be found on the mainland and have even adapted to occasional saltwater flooding.
Surfing, chilling on the beach, shopping and dining on Periwinkle Way or searching for unusual shells on Bowman’s Beach are just some of the activities on offer. Hotels, vacation rentals and a range of inns provide a variety of accommodation options.
With its otherworldly, slightly eerie landscape and unusual rock formations, the Arches National Park is definitely one of the biggest attractions the town of Moab has to offer – but it’s by no means the only one! Known for their annual festivals – such as the Moab Art Walk, Folk Festival and “Trashion” show (which features amazing clothes made from, you guessed it, trash) this is definitely a one of a kind small town destination. Other activities include horse riding, ATV tours, rafting on the Colorado River, mountain biking and more.
Scarborough, Western Cape
40 minutes outside of the tourist mecca which is Cape Town itself, lies a charming conservation village and nature-lover’s paradise overlooking the mighty Atlantic. Close enough to all the big attractions of the Western Cape, Scarborough makes the perfect quiet sanctuary away from the crowds – and is situated right next to the stunning Cape Point Nature Reserve, with its unique fauna, flora and hiking trails.
Vacation rentals like VillaSA – equipped with all the mod cons, with room for the whole family, and just a short stroll from the main beach – are definitely the way to enjoy the area in style. Visit between June and November to catch the annual whale migration!
Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland
Fans of history and culture vultures alike are in for a real treat with this little gem just west of Edinburgh. Famous as being the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, this Scottish town is bursting with stories to tell. Visit the remains of the palace for stunning views of the Linlithgow Loch, learn about the town’s history and the 16th century Battle of Linlithgow Bridge at the Story Museum, enjoy herds of deer at Beecraigs Parkland, boat around the Loch, or get active with some cycling along Union Canal.
Lacock Village, Wiltshire, England
This little town of just over 1,000 permanent residents is so pretty, so quintessentially British, that you’ve almost certainly seen it before – in the likes of film and TV productions like Downton Abbey, Harry Potter and the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice.
Keen photographers are in for a treat – not just because of the town’s innate aesthetic appeal, but also as Lacock Village is home to the Fox Talbot Museum, celebrating the life of William Fox Talbot who perfected the technique of preserving negative images so they could be duplicated.
The 800-year old Abbey, complete with medieval cloisters, sacristy and chapter house is another must-see attraction.
It’s the ideal location if you want to really immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area. The forest walk to Teddy’s Lookout provides the opportunity to spot some of the local Koalas before taking in the breathtaking views of the coast and St George River, and the +-8km round trip walk to the stunning Erskine Falls should definitely be on your itinerary too.
Wherever your travels take you, it’s always well worth taking a turn off the beaten tourist track and exploring some of the smaller towns and villages, and lesser known attractions. They’ve always got more to offer than you’d expect!