Photos By : Nathan Bajar
Craving the island life? Forget about traveling abroad.
Craving the island life? Forget about traveling abroad. It just so happens that some of the best island getaways are closer than you think. And the bonus — no passport is required. Grab your hand luggage, indulge your fantasy and book a ticket to one of these standout U.S. islands.
Block Island, Rhode Island
Within 10 square miles, Block Island encapsulates the low-key atmosphere ideal for vacation, and offers recreational opportunities in nature like sailing, paddleboarding, fishing and hiking (there are 32 miles of trails). Block Island stands as a smaller and quieter island compared to its New England neighbors with a population of just 1,000 yet captivates visitors with its simplicity and community. One attraction is Rodman’s Hollow, a 230-acre glacial outwash plain offering panoramic views of the Atlantic and access to Black Rock Beach. In the fall season, Block Island becomes a sanctuary for birding as travelers around the globe flock here to witness over 125 bird species migrating along the Atlantic Flyway. If you extend a stay on this serene oasis (we wouldn’t blame you), venture out to the Old Harbor shops, delight in fresh lobster rolls and explore Block Island’s bevy of antique stores.
Jekyll Island, Georgia
Visiting coastal Georgia should be at the top of everyone’s travel list and as a first stop, spend some time on Jekyll Island, part of the state’s beautiful Golden Isles. Jekyll is known for its undisturbed landscapes and 10-mile stretch of calm, beautiful beaches, including Driftwood Beach, where ancient driftwood trees line the shores and add to the already distinctive scenery. The island is steadfast in its dedication to conservation, which manifests in its pristine trails and abundance of wildlife, making it a great option for camping and exploring with the entire family. Jekyll is not only home to a rehabilitation center for endangered sea turtles but it’s also a deer paradise, which any island-goer can witness with a slow cruise around the island.
Lopez Island, Washington
With a trip to Lopez Island, the easternmost San Juan Island, you depart the hustle and bustle of the city and wind up in a community that will make you feel right at home. Coined “Slopez,” the island boasts a slow pace and off-the-grid nature that continue to attract artisans, artists, entrepreneurs and nature lovers everywhere for its unoccupied stretches of beaches, serene views of a snowy Mount Baker and quaint farmlands where you’re likely to witness grazing sheep or draft horses plowing the fields. Exploring the island by hiking or biking through its hills grants a taste of the rich history of generational farming, quality of life and the island’s natural beauty. Autumn might be one of the best times to visit, for its annual Lopez Island Farm Tour, a self-guided exploration of Lopez Village. It affords guests unique access to some of the most charming shellfish farms, wineries and produce and flower gardens as well as the chance to meet local Lopez growers and makers.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Mackinac Island might be the freshwater destination of your dreams, with its Old World flair and inviting seclusion. Upon arrival you’ll find yourself surrounded by a mix of modern and Victorian-era pleasures — no cars, or chain hotels or restaurants as they’re not allowed — only rocky beachfront views, horse-drawn carriages and world-famous fudge; let’s not forget the fudge. Mackinac is a picturesque town that has been a longstanding favorite American getaway, especially for its landmark and lakeside resort, the Grand Hotel, which has hosted iconic guests since 1887. With only 600 year-round residents, Mackinac is an environment exuding a peaceful and engaging culture that extends into its many offerings, including hiking the state parks, horseback riding, kayaking and experiencing the surprisingly vibrant nightlife.
Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
New England’s Nantucket Island, 30 miles from Cape Cod, landed on the world map in the mid-1700s as a distinguished whaling destination. In the centuries following, the area continued to attract an influx of prestigious and elite vacationers. Exploring this elegant town today is like taking a stroll through old America with its lantern-lit, cobblestone streets lined with pre-Civil War shingle-style homes and views of a shimmering harbor. Even in the off-season it is easy to get swept up in Nantucket’s deep American history and charms. Here you can spend your days fishing, shopping, enjoying a traditional New England clam bake or hanging out at one of Nantucket’s many public beaches. Take the Sconset Bluff Walk to the Sankaty Lighthouse to see beloved landmarks like the Old Mill, the oldest functioning mill in the country.
Marco Island, Florida
For a sun-soaked getaway any time of the year, look no further than Marco Island, a gem of Florida’s breathtaking Paradise Coast. With its unspoiled beaches and laid-back culture, Marco Island offers the tropical island lifestyle of daydreams. There is no shortage of outdoor activities and sun sports to indulge in, so plan on spending time in and around the water (it is an island, after all!). From deep sea fishing, shelling and snorkeling the island’s shallow reefs to discovering manatees on a boat tour and jet skiing with dolphins trailing behind you, the melding of activity and nature here is seamless. On a day you opt for exploring land over sea, head to Marco Island’s weekly farmers’ market, waterfront beach bars and restaurants, or to Briggs Nature Center to witness the diverse ecology of South Florida.