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When setting up your island for the first time, it’s important to keep these in mind:
- You cannot change your island name. Whatever you enter will be the full island name. The world “island” is not added to what you type in.
- You cannot change your name or birthday.
- You’ll be stuck with your island layout for a long time, so make sure you have access to things you want (lakes, rivers, etc.) with whatever you pick. Your character can’t cross rivers or scale ledges (the lighter the color on the map, the higher it’s elevated) at first and the traversal tools that allow you to do so take a while to unlock.
- You can change your appearance and you’ll unlock more customization options later.
After you set up your island, you’ll arrive with two random animals (called villagers) who are also participants in the getaway package. There are several personality types across the different animals. You will always have a female uchi character (a “big sister” type) and a male jock. You can see the complete list of possible villagers here! You will also have a fruit native to your island — there are pears, peaches, apples, cherries, and oranges. If you don’t like the villagers or your fruit you can reroll (or reset) them by immediately backing out of the game by closing the software completely.
Remember, if you choose to do this, you’re giving up your island layout. In addition to the new villagers, you’ll also have different default clothes and fruit when you reroll. Plus, you’ll need to go through all the starting questions again.
And don’t forget, Animal Crossing: New Horizons auto-saves, so feel free to put your Switch to sleep as needed!
After you’re set up with the first introductory “day,” by going to sleep after the welcome party, the island is (mostly) your oyster. Tom Nook will have more specific activities for you to do that will teach you how to slowly improve your island. You may have a simple place now, but it can eventually grow into a bustling little village. Keep checking in with Tom Nook after you complete tasks to progress. You can also check in with him if you’re unsure of what to do.
Be sure to talk to the other villagers to improve your friendship with them. You can’t actively track your progress with them, but once you get the option to give them presents after a few days, you’ll know you’re on the right track. They’ll often give you things in return too!
You don’t start Animal Crossing: New Horizons with all the tools you need to explore your island. Here’s a super quick guide on how to unlock them, or visit the individual Tools Guide pages for more information on each:
- Fishing Rod and Bug Net – Speak to Tom Nook in Resident Services for his DIY Workshop
- Slingshot – Purchase the DIY Recipe from Timmy
- Stone Axe – Give Tom Nook at least two bugs and/or fish
- Watering Can – Give Tom Nook at least four bugs and/or fish
- Shovel and Vaulting Pole – Give Tom Nook five bugs and/or fish and speak to Blathers once he arrives
- Ladder – This comes much later. Keep following Tom Nook’s tasks and pay off your tent debt.
Not only will collecting resources earn you Nook Miles (the new achievement-based currency), but you’ll also be preparing yourself for future activities. You’ll need resources like rocks and tree branches to make your first tools. The first level of tools break somewhat frequently, so you’ll need a lot of resources to keep going. If you run out of resources for crafting tools, Timmy sells some tools.
Here are resource collecting tasks we recommend doing to get the most out of your island early on:
- Clear weeds near the base of trees. If too many cover the ground, items that would need to drop there will either bounce far away or disappear entirely.
- Shake trees from the front (definitely not behind) with a bug net in hand. Wasps sometimes drop from trees, and if you’re standing in front of the tree, you can catch the wasp by hitting “A” right after your character stops being stunned. This is the easiest way to catch them. If you’re behind the tree, you might accidentally hit the tree and get stung. You can also evade wasps by running into a nearby building. Wasps sell for a lot of Bells, though, so you’ll want to catch them! If you do get stung you can buy Medicine from Timmy or talk to another resident to get the recipe to craft it with the wasp nest and three weeds. If you don’t find wasps, you’ll sometimes get tree branches, an item, bells, or the fruit hanging in the tree!
- Plant some new trees! Once you’ve got a shovel good to go, use some of the fruit you’ve either been sent or gathered to plant new fruit trees. Dig a hole where you’d like the tree, and while facing the hole with your shovel out, open you inventory and select the fruit you’d like to plant. You’ll see an option for “Plant 1.” This step is more so future proofing your island for more resources rather than getting you new ones, but it’s important!
- Craft a flimsy axe and start hitting trees! You can hit each three times to earn wood. You can get normal wood, hardwood, and softwood. You’ll need all three for various things in the coming days, so stock up!
- Hit rocks with a shovel, but strategically. Position yourself next to the rock. Dig a hole immediately behind you then another to the right or left of you. This may seem silly, but doing this ensures you won’t push yourself away from the rock too quickly while you’re striking the rock with a shovel. If you don’t hit the rock in succession quickly enough, you’ll stop earning resources from the rock. Get closer to the rock as needed. You’ll get stone, clay, iron nuggets, and even gold nuggets if you’re super lucky! You can earn a maximum of eight items from each rock.
Hit the Beach
In addition to collecting resources, you can gather shells on the beach to sell, and among them, you should find a daily message in a bottle. This bottle will have a DIY recipe, so don’t forget to check all accessible beaches! If you find a recipe remember to select it from your Pocket and hit “learn.”
If you see water shooting out of a hole on the beach, that means you’ve come across a clam. You can dig it up and craft it to make fish bait.
Read the Island Bulletin Board
If you want to know the island happenings, you’ll want to check out the bulletin board to the left of Resident Services. You’ll know there’s a new message to be read when you see a yellow bird perched on top. Messages start with a town greeting, but eventually they’ll alert you to villager birthdays (very important) to special events. You can post your own messages too!
When you’re looking to pay off your fist loan to Tom Nook, you’ll want to focus on earning Nook Miles rather than Bells, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do both at the same time. Many of the early Nook Miles challenges require you to simply play the game. Here are some activities we recommend doing in your first few days, and some of these involve activities we already mentioned above:
- Pull weeds, but not all of them – Farming weeds in Animal Crossing: New Horizons is lucrative early on if you don’t have a lot of time to sit around fishing. Leave a few big ones with dandelions so more weeds will grow around them. This brings us to…
- Sell crafted items; not resources – If you’re selling wood, weeds, or tree branches straight to Tommy, stop. You’ll likely earn 2x-3x as many Bells by crafting items in bulk and selling them. For example, weeds sell for 10 Bells each. Collect a bunch, craft them into the Leaf umbrella, and make 300 per umbrella! It’s double what you’d make off the clump of 15 weeds required to craft the umbrella and it doesn’t use any tools (which cost resources to make). It’s an all around net positive. You can earn Nook Miles by selling weeds, but we’d recommend leaving that for later once you’re past this starting period.
- Look for the lucky money rock – Once per day, one of the rocks on your island will drop Bells instead of other resources when struck. If struck eight times, you can get up to 16,400 Bells. Early on, there may be days where you can’t find it but that’s probably because it’s out of reach (across the river or on elevated terrain). Eventually, you’ll have the tools to explore your entire island.
- Listen and look for gifts in the sky – Once you have a slingshot, always try and shoot down balloon presents. They can give you anything from clothing to furniture, new fruit, DIY recipes, and anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 Bells. You’ll know a balloon is floating nearby when you hear a higher pitched wind sound. You may also see its shadow on the ground.
- Gifts from Mom – Mom will sometimes mail you non-native fruit. Don’t sell it! Instead, plant them to create more fruit trees, then sell the fruit that drops for 500 a pop, and keep planting more to gain a constant income of Bells for fruit.
- Craft Fish Bait and fish a lot – Generally, bugs won’t sell as much as fish so you’ll want to focus on fishing over bug catching. If you’re not overly concerned about your museum the first few days (and even if you are, you can get those museum fish out of your inventory by placing them in your tent or somewhere outdoors by choosing “Place Item”) try to fish as much as you can. You can summon fish in lakes or the ocean with Fish Bait, which you’ll learn to craft by digging up a manila clam on the beach. You can find a manila clam by looking for small, reappearing holes in beaches that have water periodically spitting out of them. If you can fish late at night, you’ll sometimes find some rare ocean fish that sell for 10k+ Bells.
- Save your free deserted island trip ticket – Tom Nook will give you a free Deserted Island trip ticket that’s valued at 2,000 Nook Miles – don’t use it yet. Wait until you’ve unlocked the expanded pocket space through the Pocket Organization Guide Nook Miles reward. It might be tempting to jump the gun, but you’ll want more space to carry as much back with you as you can!
- Plant a money tree – Once you dig up a bag of Bells from a glowing spot in the ground don’t close the hole or spend the money! Instead, select and plant the bag of Bells you found to grow a money tree. Or, if you have more Bells saved, you can take up to 10k out of your pocket and plant that for a greater value money tree instead.
Keep up with these things and you should have a fair bit of money in no time while working on unlocking your first home upgrade. Be sure to visit our Nook Miles page if you’re specifically having trouble reaching the first 5,000 miles to see what’s easy for you to unlock.
For even more on making money, be sure to visit the Money Guide – How to Make Bells Fast!
So, aside from gathering resources and crafting, what else is there to do? Well, that is a big part of New Horizons, but there’s plenty else to do too. Interact with villagers, earn money to pay off your debt, use Nook Miles to travel to other deserted islands for even more resources, and
collect bugs, animals, and dig up fossils to fill out your museum. If you want to know exactly how and when you’ll get new things, be sure to visit the ultimate unlock guide! There are technically spoilers there if you want it to be a surprise, though.
Building Your Museum and Collection
If you’ve unlocked the Critterpedia app, the first thing you might notice is the great number of blank spots for fish and bugs. There are tons of common critters to catch, as well as rare ones, but they will come with time. You will quite literally need time, too. Some critters are only available in certain seasons and, even more specifically, at certain times. Check out our guide for Bugs and for Fish to see all the ones we’ve found so far along with their sale price.
Bug Catching Tips:
- You can approach bugs slowly by holding down “A” and moving toward your target.
- Regardless of how slow you move, some bugs will notice you. When they do, stand still and move again only after they look away!
- Some bugs will only appear on very specific places, like on flowers, on rocks by the ocean or on a tree stump.
- Bugs may not sell for much, but you will eventually meet a visitor who will buy them at a premium.
- Sound is hugely helpful when catching fish! You’ll hear a distinct noise when the bobber goes underwater as a fish bites, so be sure to keep your sound on while fishing.
- Reel in the fish, by pressing and holding A only when the bobber goes completely under water. The fish can nibble on the bobber a few times before committing to the bite. Some bite immediately, though!
- The size of the fish is reflected in the shadow of the fish.
- Craft a bunch of fish bait and use it in a smaller lake. The small lakes can take a while to spawn fish, so this will expedite the kind of fish you’ll find.
- Sometimes you’ll catch…not fish while fishing. Those “not fish” are trash. If you want to get rid of it, you can place it in a trash can if you have one, craft with it, or place it in the recycling bin at Resident Services.
As far as fossils go, every crack in the ground you see is a fossil. Be sure to dig it up and always get it assessed before even thinking about selling it! Blathers can only do one at a time at first, but that’ll change quickly.
Decorate and Design for Points
Your home is mysteriously inspected by the Happy Home Academy (HHA) every week, and the more furniture you add, the better off it is. You can also earn extra points by decorating with Seasonal Items or themed furniture sets. You can get furniture all sorts of ways, including having it gifted, buying it, or shooting it out of the sky in the form of a balloon present, but the easiest by far is by creating your own through DIY Recipes. Keep in mind that you can also interact with some furniture, like mirrors. You can use them to change your appearance! You can also turn electronics on and off and open some things.
Eventually, you’ll be able to customize a good chunk of the DIY furniture and some purchased items too. If design is your thing, you can use the Custom Designs app to create designs for all sorts of things, including clothing, face paint, decorating your DIY furniture and more. Don’t forget, you can place furniture, fish, and bugs outdoors too, so decorating goes far beyond your home!
Having trouble getting items just in the right spot while you’re in your home? Hit the down button on the d-pad to enter a special decorating mode.
This one is a little odd since earning Nook Miles really only requires you to play. But, completing Nook Miles challenges are also important for unlocking nickname words for your passport! You can edit your passport by selecting the Passport App in your Nook Phone. Each Nook Miles challenge unlocks two words that you can mix and match. Check out the Nook Miles page to see all the words we’ve found.
You can also change the phrase on your passport and take a new passport photo to show off your newest look.
Find the Daily Visitor
Each day you should have a visitor on your island. This could be the washed up Gulliver, a seagull who is suspiciously found washed up on the beach, or someone like Saharah, a camel who trades mystery wallpaper, flooring, and rugs. There’s even a ghost who will occasionally appear at night named Wisp! They each offer different services or tasks that usually yield a reward.
Tip: If you save and quit to the title screen by hitting “-”, the visiting animal is sometimes shown walking around your island!
Take Care of Your Flowers
There are a lot of flowers far off on the cliffs of your island at the start, but don’t forget to plant the seeds Timmy gives you! If you water flowers with a watering can, they can grow even more flowers. Take that a step further by making sure different colored flowers are next to each other, and eventually, a new color can grow! For instance, a red flower and a yellow flower next to each other can eventually grow an orange flower.
This is only the beginning of your adventure. With each season you’ll get to craft new things, find new fish and bugs, and even celebrate special in-game events. The weather and terrain changes too! Nintendo already announced plans for free DLC updates that include events, so be sure to keep your game up to date. You can read more about updates on the Updates and Patch Notes page. But, until then, your island is primed for growth and you’ll have plenty of new buildings and villagers with time.
Looking for more helpful guides? Be sure to check these pages out: