Just because hopping a plane to Hawaii isn't always feasible, it doesn't mean you can't experience a great island without leaving the U.S. Whether you enjoy the warm waters and white beaches or the cooler weather and rocky shores, from coast to coast, the United States doesn't fail to deliver. Here are 10 great islands to visit in the continental United States.
San Juan Islands, Washington
The San Juan Islands are a great destination for whale watchers since you'll probably spot orcas as you take a ferry to one of the islands. The area consists of 172 separate islands, with four accessible by ferry. The islands are positioned between Washington and Canada. In addition to the wildlife and camping, be sure to check out the area's local vineyards.
Chincoteague Island, Virginia
Chincoteague Island is the only resort island in Virginia and is a welcome escape. The 1947 book Misty of Chincoteague and the subsequent movie took place on these mystic islands. The island is a former fishing village home to wild ponies and a quiet community.
Santa Catalina Island, California
Santa Catalina Island is 20 miles off the California coast. You have two options to get to get there — 15 minutes by plane or an hour by ferry. Weather is always perfect with summer temperatures hovering around 75ºF and winter temps around 65ºF. Popular activities include snorkeling, parasailing, and biking. The island has 50 miles of coastline with most of the island protected by the Catalina Island Conservancy.
Amelia Island, Florida
The Amelia Island Tourist Development Council calls Amelia Island "one enchanted island." The island offers plenty of opportunities to fish, and you can even take fly fishing lessons when you visit. Located on Florida's east coast, just north of Jacksonville and minutes from the Georgia border, Amelia Island offers plenty of opportunities to dine on sensational seafood.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Mackinac Island is like no other location on this list. It's a small town with almost as many horses as year-round residents. Why so many horses? Well, cars are banned on the island, making horses one of the primary modes of transportation. Think that sounds quaint? You're right. Thousands of visitors think so as well. The island has become a popular tourist destination.
Surely you've heard of Nantucket Island, the island that is quintessentially Cape Cod. White sands, crystal waters, and some of the best seafood you will ever taste is found on Nantucket. Check out the local lighthouses, bike on the beach, or visit the local shops. When it comes to providing the east coast beach feel, Nantucket ranks near the top of the list.
Galveston Island, Texas
Unless you're from Texas, we bet you didn't know that the town of Galveston, made famous by country music, is actually an island. Galveston Island is located about an hour southeast of Houston. The island is perfect for those who love getting active, whether that means paddleboarding, biking, or shooting down the world's largest water coaster. But it's more than recreational activities. Enjoy the island's history while you visit the museums or enjoy the local seafood while sipping a glass of local craft beer.
Florida Keys, Florida
While the Florida Keys are known for a party-like atmosphere, they are also an amazing destination for snorkeling, scuba diving, and boating. If you want an experience to write home about (before you even get to the island), take the overseas highway, a 113-mile bridge spanning from Miami. Of course, you can fly or take a ferry to the islands if the long drive isn't what you're after. Popular islands include Key West, Key Largo, Marathon, and Dry Tortugas.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Hilton Head is small, with only 12 miles of beaches, making it a quiet getaway. Plenty of animals such as the loggerhead turtle and over 200 species of birds call the island home. It's also a popular destination for golfers with over 30 courses.
Mount Desert Island, Maine
Mount Desert Island is the second-largest island off the east coast and the largest off of Maine. The island features lush forests, jagged boulder-lined shores, and crisp, cool winds. Although the island has a small population — just over 10,000 — it sees millions of visitors every year. Outdoor activities are a draw, with visitors enjoying hiking, fishing, biking, and boating. Check the forecast before you go, though, because it can get pretty cool at any time of the year.