This Secret Island Near London Is a Celebrity Hot Spot — and You Can Only Drive There When the Tide Goes Out

Rumor has it Rihanna recorded an album there.

Home and pool on a beach on Osea Island
Photo: Courtesy of Osea Island

Osea is a star-studded private island, replete with charming cottages, sandy shores and, when the time is right, warehouse dance parties. Although it may sound like a Caribbean getaway or a secret enclave in the Indian Ocean, Osea Island is located just a 20-minute helicopter ride from London.

Homes seen from the water on Osea Island
Courtesy of Osea Island

The 380-acre island off the coast of Essex is gaining notoriety not just for its famous guests but its surprising location. Osea Island is connected to the rest of England via an ancient causeway that was built by the Romans. But the causeway is only accessible twice a day, when the tide goes out. (If you drive out from London, the journey is less than two hours.)

Advertised activities on the island are charmingly wholesome; visitors can pick blackberries, explore sand dunes, ride bikes, and play croquet. But behind the sandcastles and the free bike rentals, the idyllic locale has a much deeper history.

A home on Osea Island
Courtesy of Osea Island

In the early 20th century, a man named Frederick Nicholas Charrington purchased the island to create a rehabilitation program for those overcoming addictions to drugs or alcohol. Osea's mission remained the same for more than 100 years, even accepting major celebrity clients like Amy Winehouse. But it was shut down in 2010 for operating without proper registration.

Adirondack chairs set up around Osea Island
Courtesy of Osea Island

The island was also used as a British Navy base during World War I and Cambridge University once conducted research on the island's unique ecology, birds, and marine life.

In its new life, Osea has become a mecca for the entertainment industry. The island surged in popularity in 2020 as the horror-fueled setting of HBO's The Third Day. And in 2012, Daniel Radcliffe filmed "Woman in Black" there. The island also hosts a studio where Rihanna, Charli XCX, and Labrinth (the composer for Euphoria) have all recorded music.

View from a homes living room on Osea Island
Courtesy of Osea Island

Today, it's known as an equally suitable destination for either a lavish event or a quiet weekend away in nature. (Visit in the off-season and there's a good chance you'll feel like you have the island all to yourself.)

Aerial view of a pool on Osea Island
Courtesy of Osea Island

Cottage rentals on Osea start at about $392 (£300) per night — or, for special events, you can enquire about renting out the whole island here.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at

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