by D.J. Wilson –
Recently, my brother called me with news that he’s going on a business trip to an island. Automatically, I envisioned the calm turquoise waters of the Caribbean. When he mentioned the island was here in the States, my brain remained in tropical mode and fast-forwarded to the lush vegetation of Hawaii. I had to scratch that image, too, when he further clarified that the Island is actually located off the east coast of the United States. It was natural that I pictured the Island of Hawaii when thinking of a U.S. island. After all, the Big Island is a popular travel destination. Not only is it the largest Island in America, but it is immensely beautiful and has an ideal tropical climate. The state of Alaska might have been my second guess. It has about 2,670 named islands and is home to the second largest in size, Kodiak Island. Hawaii and Alaska are obviously not the only states with islands. In fact, there are a whopping 18,617 U.S. owned islands along the North American coasts of the mainland United States. Variations in size, topography, climate and environment render each of them unique. With so many islands not far from our shores, why not consider an island getaway near home? Let’s explore six interesting islands which offer an abundance of fun things to do:
San Juan Islands, Washington – There are 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County, located off the coast of Washington State. Four of the islands receive ferry service, including the islands of Orcas, Lopez, Shaw and San Juan. San Juan Island offers a mellow vibe. Visitors will enjoy exploring village boutiques, galleries, and shops. Take in a show at the local theatre, enjoy high quality local wine and seafood at your choice of restaurants, or spend time exploring outdoors. Biking and hiking are comfortable activities to enjoy in San Juan Island’s temperate year-round climate. The Island boasts excellent air quality and average temperature in the summer is 70° F and 40° F in the winter. Relax on a beach and enjoy breathtaking views of sea and mountains. Those seeking water related adventure will be excited to canoe, kayak, sail, and fish or go on an exciting whale watching adventure. Be sure to visit San Juan Island National Historical Park, a wonderful place to hike, picnic, and observe wildlife. Plan to spend time at the San Juan Historical Museum and the Whale Museum, full of interesting things to see. Discover the Island’s sweeping beauty, from lavender farms to lighthouses. In the evening, retreat to your private cabin overlooking the woods or relax in a cozy hotel in the historic town of Friday Harbor.
Amelia Island, Florida – Amelia Island is part of the Sea Islands, a chain of barrier islands stretching along the east coast of the United States from South Carolina to Florida. This vacation paradise is just 30 miles from Jacksonville on Florida’s northeast coast. The 13-mile-long island has a rich history of changing hands between colonial powers and was named for Princess Amelia, daughter of George II of Great Britain. Luxury hotels, bed and breakfasts and numerous dining options are available on the Island. The golden sands of Amelia Island and pristine dune-filled beaches make it an ideal spot to enjoy the coast and take in ocean views during the hot summer months. With an abundance of sunshine, the summer temperatures may reach the 90s during the day. The ocean breeze is a refreshing balance to the heat. The island is a great place to visit year round. Spring temperatures remain in the 70s with some seasonal rain and the winter is generally dry and crisp. Play 18 holes at a private golf resort, head to a spa or enjoy horseback riding on white sand beaches. Be sure to visit Amelia Island State Park and discover over 200 acres of unspoiled wilderness along the southern tip of the Island. Don’t miss a visit to Fernandina Beach, a historic town filled with boutiques and homes. Enjoy the Amelia Island Museum which showcases the region’s rich history under eight national flags. No matter what season, visitors will love the Southern hospitality, grand coastline, breathtaking ocean and picturesque sunsets.
Isle Royale, Michigan – Located in the northwest of Lake Superior is an island of the Great Lakes named Isle Royale. It is surrounded by 450 smaller islands and waters, and together they make up Isle Royale National Park. It is the largest natural island in Lake Superior, the second largest in the Great Lakes, and is Michigan’s sole national park. This scenic wilderness island contains a road-less backcountry which prohibits vehicles. Isle Royale offers a wonderful chance for adventurers to explore unspoiled nature. Hiking, backpacking, camping, fishing, canoeing and kayaking are some challenging island activities to enjoy in this remote location. A large part of the land is rough and untamed, famous for moose, wolves and an abundance of wildlife. Visitors must arrive by boat or seaplane. The Ranger III is the largest ship owned and operated by the National Park Service which travels to Isle Royale National Park’s northeast end at Rock Harbor. The Isle Royale Queen IV offers same day round trip service the Rock Harbor. Aboard the Ranger III, plan 5 hours of travel time and allot up to 3 ½ hours aboard the Queen IV. Though discounted fares for day trips are sometimes offered, it’s optimal to choose a multiple night’s stay. Lodging is available at Rock Harbor, with limited dining choices. Those in search of peace and tranquility will appreciate rooms with balconies overlooking beautiful Lake Superior. Be sure to capture the morning sunrise and watch the sun glisten upon the water. From rugged forests to historic lighthouses, much adventure awaits.
Marco Island, Florida – Marco Island is a city in Florida located on the island bearing the same name. It is situated off the coast of Southwest Florida. It is the largest barrier island within Southwest Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands area. Getting there is a breeze, as it’s just a short ride from the Florida Everglades and close to Naples. Parts of the island have scenic elevations. Visitors will fall in love with the beautiful beaches, luxury beach-front resorts and great variety of dining options. Pristine parks, such as Collier Seminole State Park, offer camping, picnic grounds, nature walks and narrated boat tours. Briggs Nature Center, with a half-mile boardwalk, is a great place to canoe. This tropical climate location is known for its wet and dry seasons, with most of the rainfall occurring between June and October. Winter is busy season, so for best rates plan to visit May through December. The island offers many outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, golfing, tennis and more. Looking to relax? Enjoy a spot along the four mile beach shoreline and take in views of the sparkling sea. Dig your feet in the white sand or search for seashells. For those who prefer to stay indoors, there’s plenty of shopping, museums and theatre shows.
Santa Catalina Island, California – This rocky Island, off the coast of Southern California, is also called Catalina Island or simply Catalina. Situated 22 miles south-southwest of Los Angeles, it is part of the Channel Islands of California archipelago. Visitors may arrive by sea or air. The ride is only about an hour by boat or a speedy 15 minutes by helicopter. There are a myriad of water sports which are popular on the island, including scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, jet skiing, boating, and sailing – just to name a few. The crystal clear waters make it the perfect place to swim and play. Visitors can rent a glass bottom kayak for a self-guided tour through Lovers’ Cove Marine Preserve or take a professional glass bottom boat tour to observe colorful fish and marine life. Enjoy over 75 square miles of land, with activities ranging from walking, hiking, bicycle riding, zip lining and more. A water taxi service is available to take you around to different island locations by boat. If you’re seeking an assortment of hotels, restaurants and spas, plus a great nightlife, the town of Avalon is ideal. Those looking for privacy may fancy a cottage rental or wish to sneak away to a quiet bed and breakfast. The Island hosts special events throughout the year, such as marathons, balls, celebrations, games, a film festival, concerts, parades, BBQ’s and even hosts an Annual Rubber Ducky Derby in April.
Nantucket, Massachusetts – Considered an ultimate New England getaway by many, this island sits 30 miles south off the coast of Cape Cod and close to Martha’s Vineyard. Together, with the small islands of Tuckernuck and Muskeget, it creates the town of Nantucket. Visitors may reach the island by ferry, aircraft or private boat. Famous for having over 80 miles of beaches, the island is a busy tourist destination during the summer months. Enjoy sailing in the Sound or taking a dip in the Atlantic. In 1966, the island was designated a National Historic Landmark District, having some of the finest surviving architectural examples of a seaport town from the 18th and 19th century. The picturesque downtown, with its historic streets, lighthouse and clapboard homes, offers a warm and inviting appeal. It also boasts some of the highest home values in the United States. Be sure to visit the town’s historic Main Street thoroughfare and historic museums and sites. Enjoy dining, shopping and an overnight’s stay in one of the Nantucket’s charming bed and breakfasts, comfy inns or lovely hotels. April is a great time of year to visit, when millions of daffodils herald the arrival of spring at the island’s Annual Daffodil Festival. The saltwater scent off the ocean, scenic paths along the shore and abundance of wildflowers make Nantucket a truly wonderful place to vacation.