Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Quick start guide to your new island life

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is out today for Nintendo Switch, inviting us all to start a new digital life on an island. Millions of fans will have been bursting at the seams to get their hands on the game, and now you finally can.

While I’d personally advise taking your sweet time and do things at your own pace, there are a few times through the first few weeks that you can end up a little stuck for what to do next, or need to grind for a day or two to unlock the next step of your growing town. This guide is here to help you speed your way through the first three days as quickly as possible… if that’s what you really want to do.

Note: There are spoilers ahead. I’ve tried to be a little vague in some places, but by and large this is a straight up guide to help you race through the first three days of island life. Do not continue reading if you want to find things out for yourself. You have been warned!

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Set off to your island

Island life starts with booking your journey to an island with the Nook twins guiding you through the process of picking your name, your character look (don’t worry, you can very easily change this later), the hemisphere so that your island seasons match the real world, and island layout.

The key things to look for when picking an island are where the streams go – the more streams, the more bridges you’ll eventually need, and the more you’ll be relying on the vaulting pole to get across them – and the island topography. The different shades of green on the map indicate a mini-cliff and step that will require a ladder or inclines to be built in order to get up there.

All of this can eventually be edited, so don’t worry too much, but getting a nice layout, whether you want something simple or complex, will stick with you for quite some time.

Pitch your tent

Getting to the island, you’re greeted with a short tutorial of your first “day” on the island and with your new neighbours. This doesn’t happen in real time, but has you pitching your tent – note: this will be where your house is then built but can be moved later in the game – and help your first two neighbours to settle on where to put theirs.

You’ll then run through early gathering of twigs and fruit for a welcome party, then end the tutorial when you go to bed for the first time. At this point, the game hooks up with the real time and date where you are.

Upgrade to a house

Waking up for the first time on the island, Tom Nook greets you with a NookPhone and will run you through the basics of DIY with some simple recipes. He’ll also present you with your bill.

Tom Nook’s Island Getaway Package is a pretty expensive trip to the island, but he’s magnanimous enough to let you pay off his first loan with 5,000 Nook Miles instead of with Bells. Nook Miles track your activity across the game, being awarded by an app on your in-game Nook Phone.

Scooping up 5,000 Miles comes pretty quickly with a mix of one-off activities and gathering. Here’s some early ones that are easy to achieve and race you up to that point

  • [Island Name] Miles – Embark on an Island Getaway Package – 500 Miles
  • Angling for Perfection – Catch 10 fish – 300 Miles
  • You’ve Got the Bug – Catch 10 bugs – 300 Miles
  • Rough-hewn – Chop 20 wood from trees – 300 Miles
  • Island Togetherness – Chat to all your neighbours (2 on day one) – 300 Miles
  • Trashed Tools – Break 1 tool – 300 Miles
  • DIY Tools – Craft 5 tools – 300 Miles
  • Greedy Weeder – Sell 50 weeds – 300 Miles
  • Greedy Weeder II – Sell 200 weeds – 500 Miles
  • Pick of the Bunch – Sell 20 fruit – 300 Miles
  • Island Shutterbug – Take a photo with your Nook Phone – 300 Miles
  • Edit Credit – Edit your Passport profile on the NookPhone – 300 Miles
  • NookPhone Life – Use your NookPhone a lot – 300 Miles
  • Shop to It – Buy something from the Nook Stop terminal in the Resident Services tent – 300 Miles (+50 for first daily log in)
  • First-Time Buyer – Buy something for the first time from the Nook Twins – 300 Miles
  • Seller of unwanted Stuff – Sell something for the first time – 300 Miles
  • Bulletin-Board Benefit – Post something to the bulletin board – 300 Miles

Complete most or all of these and you’ll have earned 5000 Nook Miles. Just speak to Tom Nook “About my moving fees…” and you can pay them off. Then speak to him a second time “About my home…” and you can upgrade your tent to a home the next day.

Open a Museum (almost)

Bringing Blathers and his museum to your island is one of the first things that happens when you settle into your new home. As you craft your first tools – a flimsy fishing rod, a flimsy net and a flimsy axe – he’ll suggest that you bring him any of the fish and insects that you catch.

For each one, he’ll ask if he can take it to send to his friend, and after five submissions, he’ll give you a tent to pick where Blathers can start his expedition.

Once Blathers arrives the next day, he’ll ask you to collect fifteen new insects, bugs or fossils to submit, after which he’ll have enough to warrant building a museum, which will open the day after next – the earliest it can open is on day 4 on the island.

For more tips on how to open the museum, head here to our dedicated guide.


More Animal Crossing Guides from TheSixthAxis


Nook Miles+

Once you’re a home owner (actually, as soon as you’ve taken out the loan for the upgrade), you’ll have access to Nook Miles+. These give you a constant stream of tasks to complete, such as gathering ten wood, talking to three neighbours, or catching a specific type of butterfly. The first five of these are worth double, and it’s well worth completing these first to earn around 1500-2000 Miles in quick succession.

Redeem these rewards as soon as the Phone icon appears in the top corner of the screen, so that a new goal is added to the set of five.

How to get the Shovel and Vaulting Pole

These are two key items for island life, and both DIY recipes are handed to you by Blathers when you first meet him in his museum expedition tent. The shovel lets you dig up fossils from cracks you’ll spot in the ground, and requires hard wood to craft. The vaulting pole lets you vault over the streams that cut up your island so that you can reach previously inaccessible areas, and requires soft wood to craft.

How to get the Slingshot

You just buy it! Speak to Timmy in the Resident Services tent and ask him what he’s got for sale. Hit ‘R’ to shift to the recipes and seeds section of his stocks, and you’ll be able to buy a simple Slingshot for 900 Bells, or buy the DIY recipe for it for 480 Bells.

The Slingshot is what you’ll need when presents randomly float across your island on balloons. Shooting them out of the sky is a little trickier in new Horizons, as shadows are directional

Upgrade your inventory and tools

The Nook Stop terminal has several great general purpose upgrades waiting for you once you’ve unlocked Nook Miles+.

  • Tool Ring: It’s Essential! – unlock the quick tool ring, accessible by pressing up on the D-Pad – 800 Miles
  • Pretty Good Tools Recipes – Improve those basic, easily broken tools with upgrade DIY recipes – 3,000 Miles
  • Pocket Organisation Guide – Increase your pocket inventory to 30 spaces – 5,000 Miles

Saving up for these really makes your island life much nicer, but might be longer term goals.

Stockpile Materials, Fish and Bugs

I’m going to keep this one a little light on progression spoilers, but in order to develop your island community as quickly as possible, you’ll want to stockpile resources you can get – specifically 30 each of hard wood, wood, soft wood and iron nuggets – as well as new Fish and Bugs until such a time as you can hand them in.

Once you have a house, you can store all items by stepping indoors and selecting items from your inventory. Your home’s storage is accessed by simply pressing right on the D-pad.

The early DIY tools require stick and maybe stone, and they will break relatively quickly, but sticks are easily gathered by shaking trees. More important is that the small part of the island that you have access to early on only has a couple of rocks to bash – they take up to eight hits as long as you don’t miss a strike – and the randomisation of this means that gathering iron nuggets in large quantities can take a few days and hold up your island’s growth.

Similarly, don’t sell new species of fish and bugs before you can donate them to the island museum, or you’ll have to catch them all over again! You can check which have been donated in your NookPhone Critterpedia, or by noticing when your character says “Yes!” before saying what the catch is

Go on Island Tours

Another resource gathering option is to use Nook Miles Tickets (which cost 2,000 Miles from the Nook Stop) at the Dodo Airport, this takes you to a randomly generated island, with a bunch of rocks to bash, trees to chop, flowers to pick, and more. They are great for getting more materials

This will also let you meet new animals and invite them to join you on your island. If you don’t like them, don’t worry, you don’t have to invite them and you’ll still have new neighbours chosen by the game at random.

Get more DIY Recipes

DIY Recipes can be got in a number of different ways. You’ll be given them by Tom Nook and other characters as they’re necessary for what they want you to do for them, but you can also buy recipes from the Nook Stop terminal in Resident Services, and from the Nook Twins, initially by speaking to them and asking what they have for sale – press R to shift to the recipes, seed and tools section – and then from the cabinet at the back of Nook’s Cranny once it’s built on your island.

You can also find one DIY Recipe per day by finding a message in a bottle on the beach, and if you visit a neighbour at home and find them hard at work at their workbench, they’ll offer to teach you the recipe for whatever it is they’re making.

Convince more villagers to move in

Once you’ve successfully helped build Nook’s Cranny – which is just about possible by the third day – the next time you see Tom Nook in the Resident Services tent, he’ll ask you to help build and furnish three new homes on the island. There’s randomised sets of items that need to be crafted per the incoming villagers’ desires, and Tom Nook will hand you the DIY recipes to do so. It’s then up to you to fulfil them and either hand them in at the construction site, or place them close enough outside, per the instructions.

Villagers can move in one per day as soon as any of them are completed, and these will either be animals you’ve invited to join your island, or animals picked at random by the game.


We’ve pretty much come to the end of what you can achieve in your first three days on the island, but there’s so much more to happen over the coming days and weeks. More villagers, more shops like the Able Sisters, characters making guest appearances, ladders!

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