The 15 Best Islands in the Continental U.S.
Photo Credit: Jess Loiterton

Photo Credit: Jess Loiterton

The 15 Best Islands in the Continental U.S.

Florida Keys , georgia , maine , maine , Massachusetts , Michigan , news , North Carolina , rhode island , south carolina , Virginia , Washington
Jasmine Osby
Jasmine Osby Dec 29, 2022

Believe it or not, you don’t have to travel far to get some sun on a beautiful island. In fact, the US is home to some of the most beautiful islands in the world. If you live in the Southeast region of the country, you’re probably less than an hour away from some true island living. 

In its World’s Best Award survey, Travel + Leisure asked its readers to name their favorite island destinations in the continental US. The results take travelers to coastal locations across the country that lead to some of their favorite island getaways. From the South to the Midwest, here’s a closer look at this year’s 15 best islands in the US. 

1. Mackinac Island, Michigan

 

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Home to the Grand Hotel, the sixth-best hotel in the Midwest, Mackinac Island in Michigan is a historic place. There are no cars allowed on the island. However, travelers can explore the island on foot, bike, or horse-drawn carriage. Downtown is full of adventures for the whole family, including restaurants, fudge shops, and art galleries. The island is also home to Wawa, a golf course built on the battlefield where the British seized the island from Americans during the revolution. 

2. Kiawah Island, South Carolina

 

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Travel right outside of Charleston and you’ll find Kiawah Island in South Carolina. This island is a hotspot for golfers. However, anyone will find solace in Kiawah’s pristine beaches, dolphin sightings, and radiant island beauty. Travel + Leisure readers voted the five-star Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort as the best resort in South Carolina two years in a row. 

3. Nantucket, Massachusetts

Nantucket is a charming island outside of Massachusetts that attracts travelers each year. The cobblestone streets and rose-colored cottages look like something right out of a fairy tale. High-end boutiques line the streets and the island’s new Blue Iris Hotel is the new trendy hotel for anyone coming into town. 

4. San Juan Islands, Washington

 

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The activities on San Juan Islands make it a wonderland destination for true adventurers. An archipelago tucked between Seattle and Vancouver, San Juan Islands has an incredibly remote feel that makes it seem as if you are much further away than you really are. There’s plenty to do on the islands, including hiking, kayaking, and whale-watching. A hidden Washington getaway, San Juan Islands also has amazing farm-to-table restaurants to satisfy the inner foodie in any traveler. 

5. Golden Isles, Georgia

 

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Surrounded by marshlands, nature trails, and beaches, the Golden Isles is a cluster of small islands in Georgia. With their unique names and white sandy shores, the Golden Isles is a popular tourist spot in the South. Most travelers come here for its beaches but the islands have plenty of museums, historic sites, and golf courses to check out as well. 

6. Outer Banks, North Carolina

 

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Outer Banks, NC is 175 miles of stunning beach shore. Travelers often see wild mustangs roaming free on Corolla Beach and historic lighthouses make for the perfect photo backdrop. This barrier of islands separates the Atlantic from the mainland, and Roanoke Island was the first English settlement in the Americas. 

7. Mount Desert Island, Maine

With most of the island being covered by Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island is a well-preserved, natural landscape. While some wealthy families have homes high in the mountains, this island still maintains its remote, sereneness. Mount Desert has 18 mountains across the island and it’s a prime spot for hikers and mountain bikers. The oceanside cliffs, blueberry-lined trails, and annual music and food festivals make Mount Desert a favorite destination on the East Coast.

8. Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

 

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Martha’s Vineyard near Cape Cod is a charming island that is very popular among travelers from all over the world. Comfy inns and small fishing villages are at your disposal on this island and there’s a little bit of everything for everyone. If sitting on the beach eating crabs doesn’t tickle your fancy, exciting villages on the southern edge of the island offer a vibrant nightlife and restaurant scene. 

9. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Hilton Head Island is the epitome of Lowcountry living. Self-proclaimed as America’s Favorite Island, Hilton Head has so much to offer to travelers of any age. The island is home to one of the top 10 family-friendly beaches in the country and has some of the world’s best golf courses. Hilton Head has over 60 miles of walking trails, cultural excursions, and amazing rental properties that make travelers feel right at home. 

10. Amelia Island, Florida

 

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Located near Florida’s Atlantic coast, Amelia Island is the perfect destination for beach and food lovers. A more relaxed vibe than the busier islands on the list, Amelia Island provides natural scenery and a more casual ambiance. This is a great place for a self-care retreat or wellness getaway. Many travelers also fly into Amelia Island each year for its Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival in May. 

11. Florida Keys

 

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The Florida Keys remain a popular destination for travelers each year. There are plenty of places for fishing and sailing. Divers especially gravitate toward this archipelago because its home to the only living coral barrier reef in the US. Key West is home to a slew of bars and restaurants for those looking for thrills from the land.

12. Captiva Island, Florida

If you’re a seashell collector, Captiva Island needs to be on your travel bucket list this fall. Located on the Gulf Coast, the island is known for its beaches boasting an abundant number of seashells. Travelers describe the island as having a very “low-key vibe” so this may be another great destination for a self-care trip. 

13. Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island is Captiva’s sister island where travelers will find the Seashell Museum. The island has beautiful beaches and is another hotspot worth visiting if you ever find yourself on the Gulf Coast. 

14. Block Island, Rhode Island

A pet-friendly, East Coast oasis, Block Island is a wonderful place for travelers and their dogs. Pets are allowed in a lot of establishments on the island including the movie theater. A fun, quirky destination, Block Island is a short ferry ride away from the mainland and home to delicious lobster rolls and a plethora of bed and breakfasts. 

15. Longboat Key, Florida

Located off Sarasota, Longboat Key has 11 miles of crisp, white sand beaches. It also has a ton of waterfront golf courses, resorts, and spas. A charming place with lots of character, Longboat Key is an elegant and graceful beach destination. 

Related: Want To Escape The Cold? Here Are 5 Great Caribbean Islands For A Getaway 

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