When looking for island destinations in the US, travelers often think of Hawaii and its renowned island options which are ideal for vacations. However, there exist over 18,000 islands outside the popular state, some inhabited and others deserted. Many states on the coast enjoy proximity to neighboring islands, just a few miles away by boat or ferry. Each of these destinations features a different atmosphere, climate, and landscape, allowing visitors to indulge in a getaway tailored to their preferences, from luxurious resort experiences to calm mountain-lined beach escapes. While the choice may be overwhelming among the thousands of available destinations, here are 7 of the most beautiful must-see US Islands.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Situated at 7 miles from Mackinaw City in northern Michigan, the beauty of Mackinac Island is its natural simplicity and Victorian-style architectural landscape. As it is a car-free island on Lake Huron, horse-drawn taxis operate daily around the clock. Visitors can enjoy biking by the freshwaters in the moderate summer sun and head for cross-country skiing in the winter season. For a sweet trip, travelers can stroll to the island’s favorite old-fashioned candy store Joann’s Fudge to taste its traditional fudge and observe the performance-like dessert preparation on marble slabs. The historic sites and marvelous greenery of the island make for a peaceful escape for families seeking a slow-pace relaxing time.
Marco Island, Florida
The largest of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island is located in the Gulf of Mexico, at a drivable 45-minute ride from the Southwest Florida International Airport. The island is a paradise of water activities such as boating, jet ski kayaking, fishing, and snorkeling. Marco Island is home to a wide range of sea creatures including king fish and grouper, and diverse animal species like dolphins, sea otters, and pelicans. The white sandy beaches offer a sublime tropical setting for swimming and sunbathing, beachfront resorts, excellent seafood restaurants, and fine dining experiences. The activities are endless; from sipping cocktails on a yacht to bird-watching, hiking, and stargazing at the beachside trails and parks.
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
The fastest way to arrive to Hilton Head Island is through the Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH) 5 miles from the different resorts. The island is connected by a two-lane swing bridge to Bluffton in the Low Country of South Carolina. Known for its world-class golf courts, Hilton Head offers prestigious services at its high-end resorts and spas, catering to couples or travelers with elevated tastes for an upscale stay. Whether it’s a walk by the scenic shoreline of Coligny Beach Park or a visit to the iconic lighthouse in Harbour Town, the panorama is breathtaking to witness.
Santa Catalina, California
Cabanas and palm trees greet the visitors of Santa Catalina Island, located about 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles, California by ferry boat. The mild subtropical climate attracts families, couples, and nature lovers to rent a paddle board, book a zip-lining adventure through the canyons or go scuba diving in the Pacific Ocean. The island serves as a picture-perfect destination with glass-bottom boats available for rent, spectacular dive sites, and remarkable views from the Trans Catalina Hiking Trail.
San Juan Island, Washington
Located in the northwest of Washington state, San Juan is one of the three scattered islands that embrace a serene and slow lifestyle. San Juan Island is the go-to destination for travelers looking for organic farm-to-table cuisine, lavender farms, wineries, and orca whales. The Friday Harbor is one of its two historic waterfronts bringing together an array of galleries, museums, and venues hosting a film festival and other cultural and artistic programs. For wildlife hiking enthusiasts and cozy getaway lovers, San Juan is the most charming sanctuary.
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
A mere 40-minute ferry ride from Boston, Martha’s Vineyard encompasses magnificent beaches and vibrant fish markets. The vistas of the island are jaw-dropping, combining cottage houses with wildflower gardens right by the shore. Martha's Vineyard Film Society is a prominent arthouse on the island, screening films all year round and hosting multiple festivals in the summer season. Another outdoor event is the First Friday in Owen Park, taking place on the first Friday of each month between June and October, and includes food trucks, artist vendors, live music performances, and outdoor parties.
Block Island, Rhode Island
South of mainland Rhode Island, Block Island is a haven of spectacular bluffs and ocean views. Its incredible beaches, boutiques, and harbor districts are brimming with recreational, natural, and artistic activities. Travelers can spend time exploring hidden beaches, visit the Southeast Lighthouse and Museum, pamper themselves with local artisanal products, or kayak through the Great Salt Pond. Surely, the most essential stop has to be at one of the many handmade ice cream shops across the island to satisfy the sweet tooth.
These seven islands promise an unforgettable time, soaking up some sun while gazing at mesmerizing views that combine pristine beaches with diverse fauna and flora. Each island offers a completely unique atmosphere and landscape, alongside countless possibilities for food and drinks, water activities, adventures, and local discoveries.