The United States boasts some pretty spectacular islands, from Georgia's Golden Isles and South Carolina’s Kiawah Island to the Florida Keys and tropical Hawaii.
These islands offer an array of outdoor activities, such as hiking, surfing, and boating, as well as plentiful dining establishments and unique shops.
1. Little St. Simons Island
Little St. Simons Island is well known for its worlds-away secluded appeal, gracious hospitality, and amazing natural beauty. One of the crown jewels of Georgia’s Golden Isles, the island provides visitors with 7 miles of beautiful beaches as well as 11,000 acres of wilderness for relaxation and exploration. Little St. Simons is a privately owned island and can only be reached by boat, allowing visitors to enjoy a unhurried coastal way of life and charm. Nature lovers will certainly appreciate the island with its host of naturalist-led and recreational activities, such as swimming, fishing, bicycling, hiking, tours, kayaking, and canoeing.
2. Assateague Island
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Assateague Island is a 37-mile-long barrier island, along with its surrounding waters and adjacent marsh islands, just off the coast of Virginia and Maryland, and the island’s visitors center can be found on the mainland. The island is made up of three different public areas: Assateague State Park, the Assateague Island National Seashore, and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The Assateague National Seashore offers plenty of opportunities for recreational fun and exploration of the dynamic island, including swimming, fishing, hiking, and camping. The visitors center offers activities as well as various programs led by park rangers.
3. Block Island
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Situated approximately 12 miles off the coast of Rhode Island in the Atlantic Ocean is Block Island. The island offers visitors an amazing place for pure relaxation at a beautiful destination, something that seems to be getting less possible these days. Block Island is well known for its long stretches of public beaches, dramatic bluffs, crystal-clear waters, well-preserved wide-open spaces, and plenty of fun activities for people of all ages. For many years, it has been an oasis for visitors and locals alike, who have found an excellent quality of life on the island, where everything is slower, simpler, and more carefree. Things to do on Block Island
4. Catalina Island
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Catalina Island is a haven for those who want to leave the chaos of their busy lives behind them for a bit and escape to a slower pace to life. The island has a storied and rich history; here, movies have been made, soldiers have lived, hospitality abounds, and couples have fallen in love. The southernmost island of California’s Channel Islands, Catalina is 22 miles from Los Angeles and consists of the towns of Two Harbors at the western end and Avalon at the eastern end. Outside these two towns, Catalina Island is filled with majestic beauty and rugged wilderness.
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5. Fire Island
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Fire Island provides the ultimate island getaway, offering pristine beaches with no pretension at all. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Great South Bay, Fire Island has long been a beloved destination for several generations of watersports enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, and beach-goers.
The island is car-free and, subsequently, is without the chaos cars bring, offering an entirely different world from the nearby metropolitan life of New York City with its hustle and bustle. A visit to the island transports vacationers to nature, offering many different activities, such as kayaking, swimming, biking, surfing, hiking, tennis, and beach volleyball. How to Get to Fire Island
6. Jekyll Island
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Jekyll Island offers a stunning combination of discovery and serenity, from its historical ruins to its sprawling sandy beaches. Located in the Golden Isles chain, the island is only a few miles away from Brunswick, Sea Island, and St. Simons Island. Jekyll Island is a state park as well as a coastal haven in which people and nature harmoniously exist together. Visitors will know they have arrived at a special place from the very moment they see the “turtle crossing” signs. The island consists of an ancient maritime forest and an oceanfront promenade, with a towering canopy of live oaks that draws visitors in.
7. Hawai’i Island
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The island of Hawai’i is the largest and also the youngest of the Hawaiian islands, and gets its nickname of the “Big Island” due to being almost twice as large as all the other islands in the Hawaiian chain combined. Due to the island’s elevation, visitors can journey through a number of different climate zones, ranging from the wet tropics to the tundra. Hawai’i Island offers an unparalleled display of nature’s magnificence, from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s molten magma to the snow-capped peaks of Mauna Kea to the jet-black sand of Punalu’u Beach to the lush Hamakua coast.
8. Amelia Island
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Amelia Island can be found along the coast of northeastern Florida. While the island is easily accessible, it is also nearly unforgettable. With its 13 miles of pristine beaches, clear waters, and abundant native animals, the barrier island has been a popular place to relax and have fun for both residents and visitors for quite some time. Local restaurants offer dishes made with fresh produce and seafood, ranging from casual outdoor cafés to bistros to fine dining. Visitors can cruise the waters and watch the sunset, cast a fishing line, paddleboard on the ocean waters, or kayak through marshes.
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Kauai is the fourth largest island of the Hawaiian islands and is also known as the “Garden Island.” The northernmost and oldest island of the chain, Kauai is made up of jagged cliffs that have been aged by the elements and time, surrounded by sharp mountain spires and emerald green valleys. Cascading waterfalls, forking rivers, and tropical rainforests have been formed on the island over the ages. Visitors can enjoy hiking the trails of Kokee State Park, snorkeling at Poipu Beach, and kayaking along the Wailua River. Kauai also boasts a rich culture and a laidback atmosphere in the small towns.
10. Kiawah Island
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Kiawah Island, located about 25 miles southwest of Charleston of the coast of South Carolina, is a haven of renowned hospitality and untouched beautiful nature for anyone seeking a luxurious and adventurous retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The island features sand dunes, perfectly preserved maritime forests, and marshes in which seabirds, white-tailed deer, and turtles abound. Approximately 10 miles of beautiful pristine beach on the island are divided into two different areas, known as the West Beach and the East Beach. Beachwalker County Park provides the only public access to the beach on the island.
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The island of Lanai is the Hawaiian island chain’s smallest inhabited island. While it may be small, the island offers major enticements to all visitors. Lanai feels like it’s an entirely different world. It features rugged wilderness, which guests can explore with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Those who visit the island are sure to find plenty of privacy, adventure, and serenity.
12. Hatteras Island
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Hatteras Island gives visitors to the island an opportunity to take getting away from it all to another level. At its heart lies the Cape Hatteras National Seashore with the historic Cape Hatteras Light. Stretching almost half the length of the entirety of the Outer Banks, Hatteras Island offers seemingly endless natural beaches, sea oats, and sand dunes.
Visitors are often surprised by the amount of undeveloped beach wilderness still remaining between the seven village communities on the island. Many mom-and-pop stores and coastal restaurants can be found throughout the island. Visitors can also enjoy activities like fishing from a sandy beach and taking paddleboarding or kiteboarding lessons.
13. Mackinac Island
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Visitors have long considered the national landmark of Mackinac Island to be a perfect vacation destination, as they will find no chain hotels and no cars there. Instead, they will get to experience an array of dining options, unique shops, historic Fort Mackinac, and the globally famous Mackinac Island fudge. The island is constantly ranked in the top ten islands of the United States by both USA Today and TripAdvisor, with its nightlife, stunning sunrises, and unforgettable sunsets. Accommodations are still owned and operated by families, and guests can still get around town by horse and carriage.
14. Martha's Vineyard
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Visitors to Martha’s Vineyard are often warned that once they have been on the island of the Vineyard, which is the local name for it, they won’t ever want to leave again. Martha’s Vineyard is only a 45-minute ferry ride away from popular Cape Cod, and the ferry even includes a snack bar where passengers can grab something to eat on the way. Guests will want to make sure they bring their camera to take shots of the sailboats, pristine beaches, colorful cottages, farmers market, and lighthouses with beautiful sunsets in the background.
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15. Mount Desert Island
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Mount Desert Island is the second largest island along America’s eastern seaboard and the largest island located off the coast of Maine. The island is famous for Acadia National Park, which allows visitors to discover the state’s natural beauty. Along with the national park, Mount Desert Island also boasts a number of small towns, such as Bar Harbor, which was once a summer playground for the wealthy socialites of Boston and New York City. The town has now transformed into a summer destination for people from around the world. Visitors will also find fine dining and boutique shops in the other towns.
Next read: NC islands
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Nantucket is a charming island with a unique spirit of its own. It features the country’s highest concentration of homes from before the Civil War, 82 miles of beautiful coastline, and not a single traffic light. Much of the island has been protected from development, making it a favorite destination for those who love the sea. Nantucket, however, also offers amazing restaurants and swanky shops. Just outside town, visitors will find starkly beautiful moors and dunes that offer a remote feeling. Situated only 30 miles from Cape Cod, Nantucket is its own small world, offering fresh seafood, surfing, swimming, and much more.
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The island of Oahu, sometimes also known as the “Gathering Place,” certainly lives up to its nickname. Oahu is the third largest island of the Hawaiian island chain, and the majority of the diverse population of Hawaii calls the island home. It is a fusion of western and eastern cultures that is rooted in the traditions and values of the native people of Hawaii. The basic contrast between the modern and the ancient is what makes discovering the island, from its laidback surfing towns to its bustling cities, so enjoyable for visitors. Oahu features many different recreational activities, eclectic restaurants, and more.
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Ocracoke offers a wide range of things to attract visitors from all over, from long walks on the beach and secret fishing spots to delicious Mexican seafood and bicycle rides to get ice cream to the favorite hiding spot of the famous pirate, Blackbeard. While Ocracoke Island is rather small, it seems much larger due to the many miles of pristine beaches owned by the United States National Park Service. Visitors can enjoy sea kayaking excursions, visiting the Ocracoke Lighthouse, surfing, bike rentals, chartered fishing excursions, freshly caught seafood, live music, and much more. The fishing village also boasts a variety of restaurants and shops.
19. Padre Island
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South Padre Island, located of the coast of southern Texas, is a barrier island that features a resort town of the same name. The island is well known for its calm waters and sandy beaches and is considered by many to be the best beach area in Texas. Those who visit Padre Island will find unique shops, boating, fishing, birdwatching, warm Gulf waters, and beautiful beaches. There is a variety of watersports available on the island, such as parasailing, which offers a bird’s eye view of the island below. The island also boasts great nightlife, including live music and restaurants.
20. San Juan Island
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San Juan Island offers something new for visitors around every corner, such as a vineyard, a lavender farm, an alpaca ranch, and so much more. Visitors will also find a sweeping valley with sheep and cows, a deep forest leading to the sea, two iconic lighthouses, and possibly even orca whales off in the distance. The historic Friday Harbor is the hub of the island, and with a size of only 1 square mile, it’s very walkable. Outdoor activities include hiking, kayaking, and whale watching. The San Juan Vineyards, Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse, and Cattle Point Lighthouse are some of the main attractions.
21. Sanibel Island
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Sanibel Island is a very small island off the coast of Florida, measuring just 5 miles at its widest point and 25 miles long. The island has an intriguing and rich history, abundant stretches of pristine beaches, plentiful fauna and flora, and quite a depth of culture as well as local residents full of hospitality. Sanibel Island also offers an array of diversions and activities away from the beach, such as nature tours, tennis, golfing, Segway and bicycle rentals, the cinema, and an old schoolhouse-style theater. Visitors will find plenty of unique shopping opportunities as well, along with galleries.
22. Sea Island
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Sea Island has long been known as an excellent destination since people started vacationing here in the year 1928, and it appeals to anyone who appreciates heartfelt hospitality and gracious service. Situated off the coast of southeastern Georgia, the island consists of three championship golf courses, a tennis center, programs for children, a shooting school, a yacht club, a beach club, 5 miles of pristine private beach, and more. The island also boasts four different experiences that have been given five stars by Forbes: The Georgian Room restaurant, The Spa at Sea Island, The Lodge at Sea Island, and The Cloister at Sea Island.
23. Siesta Key
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Siesta Key is just a short drive away from downtown Sarasota. Situated adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, the island’s Siesta Public Beach has twice been named the best in the country. The quirky but quaint island of Siesta Key is 8 miles in length and offers a variety of dining options, nightlife, resorts, and unique shops. The island is also known for having beautiful quartz sand, numerous beachside amenities, and turquoise waters, while offering something for all visitors. It is a romantic island getaway for couples, a playground for any enthusiast of watersports, and a vacation destination for families.
24. South Bass Island
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One of Lake Erie’s most visited and most popular islands is South Bass Island. The major attraction of the island is perhaps the downtown Put-in-Bay, which certainly possesses the island way of life. Put-in-Bay features a central park, nightlife, hotels, and many restaurants and cafes, boasting a bit of a party atmosphere. Situated on the white cliffs of the island is South Bass Island State Park. This unique park encompasses 33 acres and offers a landmark view of the island when seen from the water. Visitors to the park are awarded amazing views as well as access to the lake.
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