Best Animal Crossing: New Horizons island ideas

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island ideas
(Image credit: @Thorin_ACH)

The Animal Crossing: New Horizons Update 2.0 brings with it more than 9000 new items which means the Animal Crossing: New Horizons community is in full swing creating next level islands. The combination of new items and customization options means that there’s no shortage of incredible creations. This is perfect if you’re looking for Animal Crossing: New Horizons island inspiration. Those on the hunt for Animal Crossing: New Horizons ideas are now faced with a smorgasbord of fresh islands to lust after as Animal Crossing’s finest creators realise the possibilities on offer. 

And, while the update brought many much-needed quality of life upgrades, there have been a couple of updates since the game’s release which will make a big difference if you haven’t checked in in a while. An additional 100 design slots were added back in March 2021 which means 50 regular design slots and 50 pro design slots. Ideal if you spent a long time lusting after multi-slot paths last year but couldn’t spare the space. And don't forget you can access codes directly from your NookPhone too. 

So, whether you’re looking for pier customisation options or just see the new castle items in action, here are some of the most inventive Animal Crossing: New Horizons island ideas.  

1. Get inventive with Kapp’n’s pier

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island ideas

(Image credit: @MistyCove)

Now that we’re heading to Kapp’n’s Pier every day to go on exciting island tours, that one fishing decoration you put there a year ago just isn’t going to cut it. It’s time to take some inspiration from @MistyCoveIsle on Twitter who has come up with all kinds of different ways to decorate the space with a selection of design codes. Whether you decorate it with a fringed rug or even a lounger or two, the pier will quickly become your island’s most stylish locale. You don’t want Kapp’n to sing about your bad design choices, do you? 

2. ‘Abandonedcore’ is the new cottagecore

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island ideas - 'Abandonedcore’

(Image credit: @Seaburd)

Remember when we couldn’t move last year for petals and log furniture as everyone transformed their islands into cottagecore paradises? Well, it’s time for something a little more apocalyptic. @Seaburd on Twitter has coined her dilapidated creations ‘Abandonedcore’ and we’re getting a distinct The Last of Us feel from her shots. The official addition of vehicles means that there’s now longer a need to build them from perspective cheats and broken dreams. Expect many more industrial island creations but the idea of nature reclaiming the world here is a lovely touch.   

3. Keep an eye out for vines 

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island ideas using vines

(Image credit: @BertCrossing)

The release of crafting recipes all themed around vines and glowing moss means that things have taken a distinct turn for the Indiana Jones in Animal Crossing. Ruins and vines are everywhere in Bertown by @BertCrossing on Twitter. The path here is by @kuroneko_5810 and is a perfect combination with the ancient items and twisted overgrown fairytale trees. If you’re looking for the recipes and crafting resources for these, remember to get on Kapp’n’s boat every day and keep hunting for DIYs. 

4. Start customising lamp posts

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island ideas using customizable lamp posts

(Image credit: @Daileyart)

It’s the little details in Animal Crossing: New Horizons that make it so difficult to put down - well, that and those aforementioned 9000 items. The addition of customisable lamp post signs means that people like @Daileyart on Twitter can create these perfect miniature designs that make your island even more unique. Whether you want a Skyrim-style fantasy island packed with dragon iconography or just something to make your streetlights look a bit fancier, these custom creations are a subtle addition to make things feel truly yours. 

5. Construct your dream castle 

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island ideas to construct your dream castle

(Image credit: @Thorin_ACH)

Castles in Animal Crossing: New Horizons used to require hours perfectly positioning simple panels and then finding the ultimate camera angle to create the illusion. Well the good news is that now, while you’ll still play for hours, there are all manner of castle items to craft your ultimate keep. @Thorin_ACH has gone hard on the Game of Thrones imagery with his perfect fort, complete with sentries, cauldrons, and turrets. And, not to be outdone on the creative front, can you see two of Gulliver’s Italian offerings in the picture above?  

6. Go to Wonderland

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island ideas themed around Alice in Wonderland

(Image credit: @MarieTattersall)

Why not theme your entire island to your favourite children’s literature? That’s exactly what @MarieTattersall on Twitter has done with her astonishing Wonderland creation. Making the most of many mushroom items, this incredible island is packed with iconic imagery from Lewis Carroll’s creation. You can see a full tour of Wonderland on Animal Crossing Island Tours With Mimi. Every section of the island is perfectly themed, complete with the caterpillar, a ‘beheading’ zone and just the right number of roses to keep the Red Queen happy.    

7. Shrek-tacular scenes

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island ideas where players are recreating Shrek

(Image credit: @Anna_ACNHS)

Animal Crossing islands are like onions and ogres. They have layers. This perfect recreation of Shrek’s swamp by @Anna_ACNHS on Twitter is terrifyingly good. Not only is Shrek on point but Fiona looks spot on and this is another inventive way to use the vine and fantasy elements, as well as a great use of the new house renovations. Oh, and let’s take a minute just to admire how perfect that ‘Beware Ogre’ sign is. All we need now is a cat and a horse villager to have a full Dreamworks sequel on the go. 

8. Make a splash

Making a pool

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The best thing about this peaceful outdoor pool design from madoodlem on Reddit isn’t the three available colours to match your mini pool, or even the inventive lighting system, it’s that it only takes three of your custom design slots. But this is just the beginning. With countless other incredibly intricate tile designs available, your pool can quickly become a work of art. You could even search for ‘puddles’ at the Able Sisters to add even more H2O. Just be prepared for images of a very small pink frog to appear too. 

9.  Take the museum outside  

(Image credit: Nintendo)

If you like wandering into the museum just to sit and watch the butterflies flutter, you’re not alone. And, more importantly, you don’t always have to head to Blathers’ domain to enjoy them. Catch three of the same of your favourite bugs, hand them over to Flick for model making, and you can create your very own butterfly garden like twerk_on_that_shark on Reddit. It’s probably a good thing that Blathers never leaves the museum. Wretched things…  

10. Release your inner pirate 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Raise the mainsail, cross your ayes, and practice your best me hearties with a full on pirate ship to make the most of Gullivarr’s booty. @Cosmos_ray on Twitter has taken it, quite literally, to the next level with a fully terraformed multi-level galleon complete with moat, Wood Burning Stove mast and Market Sign sails. Don’t worry, there’s no need to make any villagers walk the plank if you don’t have space. The beach makes a perfect location for a docked or even grounded ship.   

11. Build glass bridges 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

There are now 10 bridges available but dependent on your designs, that might still not feel like quite enough. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to get inventive and create your own island crossings with terraforming. Tile over the top with a design like ghosthost999’s glass bridge on Reddit and you might find that Nook’s own variety are now lacking a distinct sense of risk with every step.

12. Create themed restaurants

(Image credit: Nintendo)

For the days you just can't get to Disneyland, consider your Animal Crossing island an essential part of your CV for a career in Imagineering. You could build a regular restaurant with all of that colourful furniture, but throw in some of Celeste’s crafting recipes and the Diner collection and you’ll have a culinary experience akin to Disney’s Sci-Fi Dine in Theater in no time. Think of your favourite restaurants and start getting inventive. Just don’t let Zucker near any sushi, eh?   

13. Get farming

(Image credit: Nintendo)

This is for those of us who switched up a Stardew addiction for an Animal Crossing one. Is there truly a way to feel at home in a game without any cows or sheep to tend to? No, Rodeo and Wendy don’t count. This barn and livestock combo comes courtesy of Mctieknots on Reddit and it’s a perfect springboard to a future agricultural paradise. Tilled fields of turnips, Simple Panel greenhouses and orchards all make for perfect Animal Crossing island ideas. 

14. Don’t forget the chickens 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

 A little further down the pecking order, so to speak, is this perfect chicken coop. Made up of two stalls, some Simple Panels and some eggcellent hat designs from @daileyart on Twitter, this hen packed-delight is another innovative creation with AC’s existing recipes. For more Animal Crossing inspirations and ideas, make sure to follow Andrea on Instagram too for more brilliant pieces. French doors on a Simple Panel, anyone?    

15. Scaring is caring  

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Don’t panic, there’s nothing wrong with you if you want to add a little, well, unspeakable terror to your Animal Crossing island. How can we know what true happiness is if we don’t experience the darker side of life? Whether you’re placing in-game skeletons and anatomical models in murder basements, or painting the ground with the above instant coulrophobia from @cybearizons on Instagram, there are plenty of ways to increase your islands spookometer. Don’t forget to add KK Dirge to nearby speakers to add even more atmosphere.  

16. Build a bar 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Brewster has arrived but if you and your friends are looking for something a little stronger than coffee, you might want to create your own drinks establishment. This classy bar design from @morimorisenyou on Twitter works both inside and outside and comes complete with a satisfying keg Simple Panel design. Use this as a diving off point and recreate your favourite cocktail bar. Tangy would probably love a cannibalistic Screwdriver or two.    

17. Give villagers themed gardens  

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Who cares if they have no intention of even looking at your creations, let alone acknowledging them, your villagers deserve perfectly themed garden areas. This perfect barber zone from @wd_mori on Twitter in honour of Gaston’s impressive facial fuzz is only the beginning of the glorious potential. Why not build a tea house for Tia? An orange grove for Tangy? And Lucky would just love a graveyard… Well, there’s another hundred hours gone.   

18. Embrace the path

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Gaze back in time to the Animal Crossings of yore and you might remember that the only way to make paths previously was to constantly run along the same patches of ground. Thankfully we aren’t still purposefully making holes in the grass but what the AC community now only refers to as The Path from @Denim2_mori brings the same natural feel as those well-trodden grooves. And there are now dozens of new variations. Whether you want spilled sprinkles in multiple colours or black cobblestones, there’s a perfect design for your island out there.   

19. Have a picnic  

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Yes, your villagers will probably still sit adamantly right next to your perfectly placed cushions but that’s no reason not to try. Creating a picnic area on the beach or hidden snugly in an orchard is a simple addition that only requires a few design slots. This creation from moonbunnyart on Reddit comes complete with blanket tassels and makes the most of a stack of Sable’s patterns for the custom cushions. Teddy bears are of course optional. Just don’t tell Stitches.  

20. Build an outdoor library 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

If the one thing keeping you from building a library outside is the idea of the books getting wet, you’re not alone. We like to imagine that they’re all waterproof which is the only way that we could build anything like @haru_eiffel’s beautiful natural library. Check out the rest of their Instagram if you’re looking for more non-book flavoured Animal Crossing ideas. Be warned though, it’s one of those ‘are we even playing the same game?’ accounts.  

21. Construct a market

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Even though DIY recipes can now go in your storage, you want to make sure you actually do as the game wants and find a way to properly share them.  Where better then than an actual marketplace. You don’t really need to build an entire cityscape for the background like @okinawa.island on Instagram but a market packed with stalls will be a welcome addition to your island. It’s also perfect for leaving other specific items to share with friends.   

22. Add city feels 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Visit an Animal Crossing newbie’s home and the first thing that will hit you is just how green it all is. We did all start out on an abandoned island, y’know. A fun mission then is to design like you never want to see green again. Islands like those of @miss_acnh on Instagram make the most of stone and metal to bring a big city atmosphere to proceedings. Just remember that if you don’t like the colours of your Nook Miles items you can take them to be customised on Harv's Island so that everything fits in. 

23. Keep clean with a laundry 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Until this moment, we’d never really thought about where villagers without washing machines cleaned their clothes. It turns out that all those Jocks joking about sweat stains on your recipes probably weren’t kidding. Step in @imotarez on Twitter then with some fresh-smelling inspiration. This laundrette once again makes the most of Simple Panels as both dividers and machine facades and thankfully has plenty of reading material.     

Louise Blain

Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in gaming, technology, and entertainment. She is the presenter of BBC Radio 3’s monthly Sound of Gaming show and has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland. She can also be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, Netflix UK's YouTube Channel, and on The Evolution of Horror podcast. As well as her work on GamesRadar, Louise writes for NME, T3, and TechRadar. When she’s not working, you can probably find her watching horror movies or playing an Assassin’s Creed game and getting distracted by Photo Mode.