Family Friendly Destination Elopement Locations
From islands off Scotland to the west coast of Africa to New Zealand, these hidden gems are the best places to elope all over the world! Whether you’re looking to hike lush green hills to ocean overlooks, or you’re dreaming of sand dunes as far as the eye can see, there is a perfect elopement destination out there for your adventurous family! Ready to find it?
In Top 8 Elopement Destinations for Adventurous Families I go over some of my personal favorite destinations, the best times of year to travel there, and a bit of added fun for your little ones. When you’re ready to begin planning your elopement, reach out! We’ll dig deeper into the logistics of a destination elopement with children, and narrow down your location list to one that is perfectly YOU. Until then, keep reading and get inspired!
Best Places to Elope for Adventure Loving Families
Location #1 – Yucatán
Region: Southern Mexico, bordering the Gulf of Mexico
Best Time of Year to Visit: October – April
Description: Hello white sand beaches, lush exotic greenery, turquoise cenotes, and lands steeped in rich history! If you’re a free spirit and inclined to worship the sun, a boho elopement in Tulum will feel the perfect fit for your wedding day experience. And there will be ample stunning locations to say your vows, from old haciendas to having a traditional Mayan ceremony at the base of some ancient ruins. Climb a temple looking out over the forest and you’ll see vegetation covered mounds hiding countless structures yet to be revealed. Marvel at the astronomical precision at Chichen Itza, where Venus and the sun were used to orient temples and mark important ceremonial and agricultural times of the year. Cool off after your adventures by swimming in a cenote or “sacred well,” a cavernous limestone pool filled with deep blue waters. Cenote Cristal is even toddler friendly!
A Bit of History: One of the many attractions on the Yucatan peninsula are the Mayan ruins (some right on the beach in Tulum). Built between 300 and 900 AD, there are several impressive complexes in the peninsula. When you walk these ruins, remember that you are at the very edge of the impact zone of the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, 66 million years ago.
For the Kids: All of the kid-friendly activities make this one of the best places for families to elope. Your little ones will love Campeche, an old walled Spanish town that was sacked by pirates many times over. If your kids love the beach, walk the white sands of the Bay of Campeche and play “I spy” with an unbelievable array of shells. Explore lantern lit caves with a local guide, and see bats swirling and swarming out at sunset. Witness species of animals you have never seen at the zoo in Merida, an old Spanish town and the peninsula’s capital. Merida also has a huge market where kids can shop for just about anything.
Location #2 – Isle of Skye
Region: Off the west coast of Scotland
Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round
Description: The Island of Mist, right out of Middle Earth. Skye is a magical land of Neolithic cairns, caves, cozy pubs, and craggy peaks. Cuillin hills will please the novice hiker, as well as challenge the most seasoned mountaineer. Plus, the rugged coastline is stunning! I’ve found many off-the-beaten-path places perfect for a romantic Scottish elopement. You could elope at Fairy Glen or Brother’s Point (2.25 mile hike), but wear waterproof shoes because part of the hike takes you through a soggy bog!
Must Sees: 1) Dunvegan Castle and Gardens is home to a fairy flag and was built in the 13th century. It overlooks a sea loch, Loch Dunvegan. 2) The Trotternish Ridge is the longest landslip in the region and home to the Old Man of Storr, a 160ft pinnacle rock formation that looks like, well, an old man.
A Bit of History: After he and the Jacobites were defeated at Culloden in 1746, Bonny Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart), disguised as a maid, fled to the safety of Skye.
For the Kids: The beaches at Staffin or Duntulm have dinosaur footprints that are 165 million years old. Kids can climb the mystical hills of the well named Fairy Glen (if fairies are real, they most certainly reside here). Wade in Fairy Pools, visit a castle, sea kayak, or spot grey seals along the shoreline.
Location #3 – Northern Ireland / Giant’s Causeway
Region: The northernmost tip of Northern Ireland, in the UK.
Best Time of Year to Visit: Year-Round, but watch out for high winds!
Description: An UNESCO World Heritage site made up of basalt columns formed by volcanic activity in the area more than 60 million years ago. Two different trails lead down to the Giant’s Causeway, the lower blue trail and the upper red trail. Neither trail is difficult, though the easiest is the blue (approx. .6 mile down a gentle slope). Go early to have the place to yourself, but the best light for photos is nearing sunset. If you’re staying for a few days, you’ll want to home-base out of Belfast or nearby. Take the opportunity to visit the Titanic Museum – you’ll be amazed how much you learn!
Must Sees: Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is suspended at almost 100 ft above the Atlantic Ocean and built so fishermen could walk from a tiny island back to the main island. You’ll need your hands for the bridge so it’s best for older kids or for babies/toddlers in actual carriers.
A Bit of History: Irish legend tells us the causeway was built by Finn McCool, an Irish giant who was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Finn McCool built the causeway across the North Channel so the two giants could meet and fight.
For the Kids: Nearby is The Jungle in Moneymore – an outdoor activity center for kids of all ages. Montalto Estate, in Ballynahinch, is home to beautiful walking trails (all of which are suitable for both children and adults), an impressive wooden tree house kids will love, a natural play area, and a cafe for parents to refuel.
Location #4 – The Italian Dolomites
Region: Northeastern Italy
Best Time of Year to Visit: Summer – Fall
Description: A land of jagged peaks and idyllic rolling hills. Wildflowers blanket the meadows during the summer months and make this an alpine heaven with fairytale scenery and one of the best places to elope for families. Hike the iconic Tre Cime di Lavaredo – the entire loop is 6 miles long and mostly flat with an elevation gain of 1115.5 feet. You’ll see three distinctive and jagged peaks rise up from the surrounding scenery, with lots of opportunities to let your little ones out of their packs to run around and explore on this hike. Make sure not to skip the short spur up to the Refugio Locatelli where you will find the best view of the Tre Cime. Chair lifts and cable cars run during the summer months to make hiking to various peaks optional.
Must Sees: 1) Lago De Braies is the largest lake in the Dolomites and the water is a gorgeous turquoise color in the summer, and covered with ice in the winter. 2) Livinallongo del Col di Lana Town has World War I trenches, ruins of forts, barricades, tunnels, and a museum for those who love history.
A Bit of History: The Italian Dolomites were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009 for being the “most picturesque range of mountains in the world.”
For the Kids: You’ll be near amazing adventure parks where kids have access to climbing walls, little streams with water games, mini golf, slides, adventure trails and geocaching. Visit Ötzi, the Iceman, a glacier mummy from the Copper Age at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.
Location #5 – Morocco / The Atlas Mountains
Region: Northern Africa
Best Time of Year to Visit: March – June, September – November
Description: The Atlas Mountains, in northwestern Africa, separate the Mediterranean Sea from the Sahara Desert. The Atlas mountains are known for gorgeous snow capped peaks, box canyons, and gorges. In town, the main square in Marrakesh, Djemaa-El-Fna, has loads of entertainment – musicians, magicians, and artists take up shop in every corner and perform until the early hours of the morning. And you’ll want to try traditional Moroccan food at the dozens of stalls beckoning visitors in! Nearby, you can immerse yourself in a labyrinth of souqs, magical narrow streets that twist and turn until, if you wish, you are lost amongst a sea of colorful rugs and lanterns.
Must Sees: 1) Toubkal National Park, home to the highest peak in Morocco, is perfect for any length of elopement – from day hikes to multi-day outings with Berber mules carrying the freight (and your kids when little legs get too tired or the terrain becomes a bit too technical). 2) The Sahara desert. The dunes are a far ride from the mountains, but if you’re staying in Morocco for any length of time, you won’t want to miss a chance to stand on the edge of the largest desert in the world.
A Bit of History: The gateway to the High Atlas Mountains is Marrakesh, one of the four imperial Moroccan cities, with walls, or rampart, dating to 1100 AD. On the coast, the city of Casablanca is home to the largest mosque in Northern Africa, the Hassan II.
For the Kids: The souqs contain a myriad of tiny shops that should keep kids enthralled for hours – and if they look to the corners of these shops, they’ll undoubtedly spy a few sleeping kittens. Nearby parks have pony rides, or kids can ride a camel! Children can take an oasis tour, rock climb, visit an amazing garden or the informative Berber Ecomuseum, or just hang out in the Djemaa-El-Fna.
Location #6 – Namibia
Region: Southwest Coast of Africa
Best Time of Year to Visit: July – August
Description: Namibia is one of the safest countries in Africa – there’s no need to worry about malaria in tourist areas, or yellow fever. The landscapes are gorgeous, and varied. Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world, and perfect for a sunrise elopement. The Sossusvlei red sand dunes are the largest in the world, and you can take a balloon ride over the dunes. Deadvlei is a white salt pan with ancient acacia trees – climb a dune to watch the sunrise.
Must Sees: 1) Quivertree Forest is in southern Namibia – Bushmen used the branches of these trees to make quivers. Namibia’s national tree, Quivertrees bloom May to July with bright yellow flowers. 2) Giant’s playground – dolerite rock formations dated between 160 and 180 million years old. 3) Spitzkoppe, a gorgeous but less frequented landscape perfect for camping and a sunset elopement. 4) Etosha National Park in Northern Namibia is the biggest wildlife sanctuary in the country. 5) At the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, hundreds of thousands of seals hang out and call to each other.
A Bit of History: Namibia hosts the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Twyfelfontein, which is the largest site of ancient Bushman rock engravings in Africa.
For the Kids: Visit the quirky settlement of Solitaire, with a permanent population of less than 100 people, on your way to Namib-Naukluft National Park. Anywhere you go, the varied landscape and wildlife viewing is sure to entertain your little ones.
Location #7 – New Zealand
Region: South East of Australia
Best Time of Year to Visit: November
Description: The land of four climates, more waterfalls than you can count in one view, and the homebase of the greatest adventure ever taken – Hobbiton. Visit Hooker Valley Track in Aoraki / Mt. Cook National Park to see the highest mountain in New Zealand. Hike the 6 miles round trip (262 ft elevation gain), cross three swinging bridges, and end up at a stunning glacial lake with Mt. Cook in the background. This is a popular hike, but with so many lovely viewpoints, you’re sure to find an intimate nook or cranny perfect for exchanging vows. Visit the wineries in Marlborough, which are family-friendly, too! Wairau River has a large outdoor lawn and garden games, Cloudy Bay has a huge garden with croquet, petanque, and various bats and balls for kiddos to play with, and Forrest Wines & Wither Hills both have grassy lawns and toy boxes right in the tasting rooms. You can also visit Hanmer Springs, natural hot springs 90 minutes north of Christchurch. Soak in mineral rich thermal pools, while taking in the scenery beyond.
Must Sees: 1) The Punakaiki Rocks are a landscape strewn with pancake shaped rocks and blowholes sending up jets of water along the coastline. A gorgeous natural wonder best viewed at high tide. 2) At Truman Beach you can walk under a small waterfall cascading from the limestone cliffs above onto the beach below. 3) Waipara River Boys Brigade Swimming Hole has a rope swing, tarp water slide, banks to picnic on and a nearby river to play in.
A Bit of History: Legend is that New Zealand was fished from the sea by a demigod named Maui. He fashioned a magical fishhook from an ancestral bone, and while fishing with his brothers hooked the world’s biggest fish. Upon carving into it, Maui and his brothers created the deep valleys and sharp mountain peaks of New Zealand.
For the Kids: Enjoy the drive to Kaikoura, a small town on the east coast of the South Island and about 112 miles from Christchurch. Throughout the drive, you’ll view a stunning coastline, snow-capped mountains, wildlife, and clifftops. Watch for dolphins, whales, fur seals, and dozens of bird species! Kaikoura means crayfish in Maori, and here kids can catch their own. Kids 8+ can swim with dolphins, and those 5+ can go on a dolphin watch. Kids 3+ can go on a whale watch tour, depending on the sea conditions.
Location #8 – Faroe Islands
Region: Pretty much directly between Norway and Iceland in the North Atlantic
Best Time of Year to Visit: Summer
Description: While some hikes are definitely more popular than others, the Faroe Islands has the epic views of Iceland without the throngs of people. One of the more well-known hikes is to Lake Sørvágsvatn / Leitisvatn, a lake sitting atop dramatic sea cliffs on the island of Vágar. The hike is 3.7 miles round trip and flat, but the views are stunning! The best view is from Trælanípa cliff, but make sure to continue on to Bøsdalafossur waterfall.
Must Sees: 1) Saksun Church on the island of Streymoy. The stone walls and grassy roof are backed by a cliffside waterfall and give the building a truly remote and natural aesthetic. 2) The sea inlet at Sund on Streymoy. When foggy and still, the reflection and silence here is eerily beautiful! 3) Mulafossur Waterfall on Vagar Island. The waterfall leads directly off a cliff to a sharp inlet on the coast, and feels like it’s dropping off the edge of the world.
A Bit of History: Irish monks were the first known settlers in the islands. In the 6th century AD they told of the “Islands of the Sheep and the Paradise of Birds.” The name is derived from old Norse and means Sheep, given by the Viking settlers coming from Norway in the 9th century.
For the Kids: Take a ferry ride to Mykines to see the puffins on a sunset guided hike and stay in a lovely small lodge afterwards (this hike would also be a gorgeous elopement location!). The views are epic, the tourists are gone come evening, and the puffins are pretty much the cutest creatures ever.
Things to Consider for Any Elopement Destination
Travel at Your Little One’s Pace
My favorite thing about photographing family-friendly elopements is the wonder and attention to detail that children bring to life! Even when hiking with kids means traveling at a snail’s pace, remember this is part of the journey – you’ll appreciate the stones beneath your feet and the vistas before your eyes more with them present! Seeing life through the eyes of your kids is pure magic. Yes, traveling is easier without kids, and so is eloping. Outdoor adventures with little ones can be tough! But would you really have it any other way? They force you to slow down and soak it all in. Every. Single. Detail. What at first may seem pretty dang annoying becomes the very best way to get married and to walk through life – with eyes, ears, and heart open to it all. Trust me, you’ve got this!
Be Prepared. Check the List Again!
Only you know what your family is capable of – what kind of destination will suit your elopement experience, and where to draw the line between adventure and struggle. I am in no way advocating that you go far outside your comfort zone for the sake of an adventure elopement! Everyone has different needs, expectations, and a unique family. My goal is to hear your dreams, learn what experiences you’re comfortable with, and help you plan a family friendly elopement wherever in the world you’re hoping to go! If you’ve never taken your kids on a hike longer than two miles, we probably won’t be choosing an elopement destination that requires an all-day hiking adventure. But there are many ways to make your day easier, and to craft a memorable experience for your family. For instance, if you have kids between the ages of 4 and 8, a pack animal to carry them when their legs get tired could be the difference between tears and laughter. Similarly, there are some basic safety rules that outdoor enthusiasts with kids try to follow. Example: When kids are ready to carry a bag of their own, make sure the maximum weight of the backpack doesn’t exceed 12% of their bodyweight. Second, be mindful of altitude and never take a child under 5 years of age above 8200 ft or a child under 10 above 9800 ft.
Just be honest with yourself; only you can decide what works for your family. You want this adventure elopement to be fun, and ensuring it’s the best day ever takes proper planning. Pack sunscreen, water, jackets, and layers. Invest in comfortable and durable shoes suitable for the terrain. And bring a lot of snacks!
Want more elopement location inspiration? In this post you’ll find the best off-the-beaten-path locations for Arizona elopements. Wherever you choose to elope, I support you! I support your adventurous spirit, family connection, and love of nature. I support YOU!
Are you and your family ready to plan your own adventurous destination elopement?