‘Gilligan’s Island’: Where Was the Classic Sitcom Filmed?

by John Jamison

“Gilligan’s Island” ran from 1964-1967. And during that time, the desert island setting provided the show with everything it needed to be entertaining. The lagoon was often responsible for introducing visitors to the island and wacky items that washed ashore. But where was it actually located?

Well, the lagoon that we’re familiar with from the show was built and filmed on a CBS Studio Center backlot. That’s not where the show started, however. The pilot for “Gilligan’s Island” was famously filmed on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. In fact, it’s possible that some of the show’s success can be directly traced back to this location.

Natalie Schafer, who played Mrs. Lovey Howell, only accepted the role because the show was essentially paying for a vacation to Hawaii. Thankfully for show’s sake, Schafer stuck around after the pilot. She continued to play the millionaire wife of Thurston Howell III.

The ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Lagoon

The calm shores of the lagoon featured prominently in “Gilligan’s Island.” Everything from explosives to a lion washed up on those shores throughout the course of the show. But however real it may look in the show, the lagoon was a manufactured set.

The entire water feature was built on a CBS backlot no more than a mile from the nearest highway. This made for all sorts of issues when it came time to film as the sounds of traffic often interfered.

And the water itself was far from the tropical paradise being depicted. The deepest point of the lagoon was four feet, and when the show stopped filming in the offseason, no one maintained the water. The cast was so disgusted by the quality of the water that they refused to swim. They even reportedly put a fish in the lagoon to prove their point, and it died, finally convincing the studio to do something about it.

The scenes taking place at the hut camp were all filmed on sound stages, as was typical. But the legacy of the lagoon itself lived beyond “Gilligan’s Island.” Other TV shows filmed there and made reference to the original show. According to the LA Times, however, the lagoon has since been filled in and turned into an employee parking lot for CBS workers.

And that’s a bit of a shame, at least based on Bob Denver’s account of the set. The actor who played Gilligan himself told the LA Times in 1995, “There were palm trees, tropical plants, the waterfall–it was gorgeous and with the sand, it was like a kids’ paradise in summer. More like a playground.”