When dreaming of an island getaway, look no further than these gorgeous island escapes right here in the United States. From Maine to Hawaii and places in between, there are so many breathtaking views, things to do, and history to soak up. Get on island time with these dazzling escapes that may just be a little closer to home.
Santa Catalina Island, California
The first of our island escapes brings us 22 miles off the Southern California coast to Santa Catalina Island. At 22 miles long and 8 miles wide, Catalina Island is comprised of two towns – Avalon on the east end and Two Harbors on the west.
Catalina Island has a unique history and has been said to have had inhabitants as far back as 7,000 years! Catalina Island has had many owners but the most famous of all, William Wrigley, Jr. of the chewing gum empire, became the controlling owner in 1919. He was an integral part of helping Avalon become a resort destination and even had the Chicago Cubs baseball team train during spring training on the island from 1921 – 1951. In the 1970s Wrigley, Jr. deeded a large portion of the island to the Catalina Island Conservancy to preserve the natural wilderness for generations to come.
Places to go and things to do on Catalina Island:
Descanso Beach – Located one mile north of Avalon Harbor, this beach is one of the last in California that allow alcohol on the beach.
Lovers Cove – Heralded as a popular snorkeling spot where you can get up close to the myriad of marine species.
Catalina Island Museum – With a permanent exhibit of the history of Catalina Island as well as rotating exhibits, the Catalina Island Museum has unique stories to tell and even some hands on activities for kids with their Art on the Go series which allows visitors to grab an art kit to go for their 6 – 12 year olds that include an art project with instructions and a lesson.
Catalina Casino – Easily one of the most recognizable buildings on the island, this circular, art-deco building is a non-gambling casino which is open for walking tours and houses a theatre and large event space with a 20,000 square foot circular ballroom that can accomodate 3,000 dancers!
Outdoor Activities – Golf (full-course and mini), kayaking, zipline eco-tour, biking, hiking, motorized watersports and much more!
Two Harbors – Looking for a slower-paced, more relaxed atmosphere on Catalina Island? Visit the town of Two Harbors and enjoy fishing, biking, and relaxing during your stay.
Learn more about Catalina Island
Amelia Island, Florida
In 2022 Condé Nast named Amelia Island #3 of the Top Islands in the U.S. and U.S. News + World Report named it #5 Best Family Beach Vacations in the U.S. for 2023. Nestled along the northeast coast of Florida, Amelia Island is 13 miles long and 2 miles wide and is known for its long stretch of natural Appalachian quartz beaches, abundant wildlife, and family-friendly atmosphere.
Amelia Island has a rich history and has earned the moniker “Isle of Eight Flags” due to the varied ownerships throughout history. The island was first inhabited by the Timucuan who gave the island its first name – Napoyca. The island has since had six other names with the final being after the second daughter of King George II, Amelia Sophia Eleanor of Hanover.
Places to go and things to do on Amelia Island:
Fernandina Beach – Take a walking/tasting tour downtown, discover shops, and explore the history of the island with a stop at the Pinball Museum.
Fort Clinch State Park – Home of Fort Clinch, a well preserved Civil War fort, this state park offers history, beachcombing, hiking, and even places to camp.
Nature Center at Omni Amelia Island Resort – With many ways to take a tour – kayak, eco-bike, stand-up paddleboard and segway – there is much to see and do with kids (or without) of all ages!
Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve – View the unspoiled coastal wetlands and explore the natural wildlife habitats. Also includes Fort Caroline and Kingsley Plantation.
A.L. Lewis Museum – Learn about the man who founded the historic African-American Beach and discover exhibits chronicling the history of the area.
Learn more about Amelia Island
It’s no surprise that we also chose a Hawaiian island to suggest as a getaway and the “Garden Island” of Kaua’i made the list. As the fourth largest and oldest of the Hawaiian islands, Kaua’i is home to small towns noted for their friendly locals, beautiful flora and fauna, and awe-inspiring landscape which is the recipe for an amazing getaway for families and couples alike. Kaua’i has been featured in films such as Blue Hawaii, Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and even an inspiration for the animated film Lilo & Stitch.
Places to go and things to do on Kaua’i:
Hā’ena Beach Park – Located on the north shore where picturesque views of Mount Makana (Bali Hai), gorgeous sunsets, and summer snorkeling are just a few things to love.
McBryde Gardens – As part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden it is considered a ‘botanical ark’ for many Hawaiian endangered plant species including palms, orchids, and flowering trees.
Lydgate Farms – A 46-acre farm in Kapa’a where you can take a tour and sample palm blossom honey, tropical fruits, and chocolate.
Adrenaline-inducing Adventures – Mountain biking trails, zipline safari, or ATV excursions are just some of the heart-pumping adventures to experience on Kaua’i.
Waimea Canyon – known as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific” it offers breath-taking views on the west side of Kaua’i as it stretches 14 miles long and 3,600 feet deep. As 90% of Kaua’i is unreachable by land vehicles, hiking is the most popular way to see the island.
Horseback Riding – See Kaua’i on horseback as there are tour companies that will offer 90-minute to 5-hour rides to explore beaches, sugarcane fields, valleys, and privately owned ranches.
Learn more about Kaua’i
Mount Desert Island, Maine
Next on our list is the first place in the continental U.S. to welcome the sunrise each day…Mount Desert Island in Maine. Coming in at the 2nd largest island on the eastern seaboard, Mount Desert Island has a local population of about 10,000 and boasts past and present summer visitors such as Martha Stewart, Susan Sarandon, and the Rockefeller heirs. It is part of Acadia National Park and has 4 towns - Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Tremont, and Mount Desert.
Places to go and things to do on Mount Desert Island:
Cadillac Mountain –It is the highest point on Mount Desert Island and has great hiking, mountain biking and walking trails. It is also the first place in the continental U.S. that welcomes the sunrise each day.
Thunder Hole – A naturally occurring rock inlet where the waves crash and make a loud, thundering sound.
Bass Harbor Headlight Station – One of the three lights managed by Acadia National Park. It is the most visited place on the west side of the island and is a popular place for viewing and photographing the sunset.
Jordan Pond – Jordan Pond is the deepest and 2nd largest lake in Acadia National Park. Spanning 187 acres, it makes for a great place to plan a canoeing or kayaking trip. Taking a hike around Jordan Pond Loop is also a great way to enjoy the pond.
Otter Cliff – A 110-foot-high cliff that juts out over the ocean. It is located on the eastern side of the Park Loop Road just past Thunder Hole.
Learn more about Mount Desert Island
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts When you think of a quintessential seaside island escape on the U.S. east coast, Martha’s Vineyard must be among the top that come to mind. There are so many things to do - miles of bike paths, kayaking, windsurfing, fishing, hiking, swimming, sightseeing, and lighthouse tours. A trip to Martha’s Vineyard would not be complete without going to the beach and having some fresh seafood during your visit. Comprised of 6 towns spread across 100 miles, Martha’s Vineyard is well known to have some famous visitors over the years – Princess Diana, Oprah Winfrey, Michael J. Fox, and numerous politicians and their families. The six towns on the island are split into two classifications, down-island towns – Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown; and up-island towns – West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah.
Places to go and things to do on Martha’s Vineyard:
Bike Riding – Bike riding is the most popular mode of transportation among the locals and a great activity for vacationers.
Mass Audubon’s Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary – Located in Edgartown with some of the most spectacular views on Martha’s Vineyard is the Mass Audubon’s Felix Neck Sanctuary and Wildlife Refuge. Admission is free with the trails open from dawn to dusk every day. Explore the salt marsh, ponds, various wildlife habitats and shoreline while visiting the sanctuary.
Martha’s Vineyard Museum – Founded in 1922, this museum was once called the ‘Dukes County Historical Society’ and has exhibits paying homage to the classic film Jaws, the food history of Martha’s Vineyard, and the storied heritage of the area.
Beaches – There are a few beaches worth mentioning, Katama Beach (South Beach) which is known for the surfing waves and shell fishing, Lobsterville Beach is a popular fishing spot, Aquinnah Public Beach (Moshup Beach) has beautiful views of Gay Head Cliffs, and Lambert’s Cove Beach which is said to have clear water and fine sand.
Ocean Park – If arriving by ferry, this park is hard to miss as it is close to the dock. A 7-acre grassy expanse that is a welcoming spot for picnics, firework displays and festivals.
Learn more about Martha’s Vineyard
Block Island, Rhode Island About 9 miles south off the coast of mainland Rhode Island lies Block Island, a charming place for a summer getaway. Block Island was first inhabited by the Narragansett Indians who named it “Manisses” which means “Island of the Little God”. Measuring about 6 miles long and 3.5 miles wide it encompasses just over 10 miles of land area. Block Island, although small, offers many activities, shopping, and watersports from spring to fall. Places to go and things to do on Block Island:
Glass Float Project – Imagine walking along a trail around Block Island and just to the side of the trail you find a clear (or one of the 23 colored) glass orb! This is a find and keep (if you wish) art installation project where there are 550 glass orbs hidden on the island that are numbered. If you decided to keep the orb you find the projects creator asks you to please register it so they can track when all 550 are found.
Sports & Recreation – There are so many activities available on Block Island – biking, horseback riding, kayaking, boating, parasailing, fishing and more!
Guided Tours – Whether visitors want to see Block Island by land, air, or sea there is a tour for that!
Spring Street Gallery – Looking for local art or to take an art class while on the island? Check out the Spring Street Gallery, one of the five galleries on Block Island. There are art receptions planned throughout the year to highlight artists on Block Island and the gallery is a non-profit and staffed by the local artists.
Learn more about Block Island
Galveston Island, Texas Head on down to the southeast coast of the Lone Star state and experience the history, beaches, and attractions of Galveston Island. Classified as a barrier island, Galveston Island is about 51 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. In 1900, a great storm hit Galveston Island destroying about 1/3 of the city and caused the residents to come up with a plan to raise the seawall by 17 feet to help protect the island from further storms. The state of Texas owes many ‘firsts’ to Galveston – first hospital, post office, opera house, and is the birthplace for the “Juneteenth” celebration to name a few. Galveston Island is also called “Oleander City” due to the abundance of the cultivated Nerium oleander shrubs that thrive there.
Places to go and things to do on Galveston Island:
Moody Gardens – Many consider Moody Gardens to be an attraction in itself with an Aquarium Pyramid, Rainforest Pyramid, golf course, lazy river and much more! It is a great place for families to explore exhibits and habitats. Beaches – There are many beaches to enjoy on Galveston Island but some notable ones include – Galveston Beach which has a touristy vibe and amusement rides, Crystal Beach has 7 miles of scenic, sandy beach that is a great place for families, and Babe’s Beach which is known for the historic markers and impressive seawall. Strand Historic District – Visit the area of downtown Galveston known as The Strand for a glimpse of history, beautiful 19th century architecture, shopping and dining options. Galveston Island State Park – Get out and explore at Galveston Island State Park. Located on the western side of the island, it covers 2,000 acres and is a beautiful place to camp, fish, bike, kayak and enjoy other watersports. Visitors can rent a campsite for overnight stays or enjoy day trips to the park. Learn more about Galveston Island
We hope this list of island getaways in the U.S. inspires you to wander. Have you visited any of these islands? Let us know at WinniWanderer@winni.com. Hearing from you will make our day!
By Staff Contributor