While a bucket-list-worthy international trip may not be in the cards anytime soon, the US is home to its own fair share of stunning islands. The best part? They’re all easily accessible by plane, car, or boat (or, sometimes, all three). From a historic North Carolina isle with a fascinating, centuries-old history to a tranquil beachfront escape just 100 miles outside of New York City (no, not the Hamptons, but nice try!), read on for a few of our favorite islands you can travel to this summer that don’t require a passport.
San Juan Island, WA
San Juan Island is the most populous island out of Washington State’s 172 San Juan Islands. Its main town, Friday Harbor, is lined with cute cafes (Duck Soup is a must-visit) and eclectic shops and galleries, including Paula West Pottery Gallery, Nixon Art Glass, and Funk & Junk Antiques. Other must-see attractions include The Whale Museum, San Juan Island National Historical Park, The San Juan Islands Museum of Art, and Pelindaba Lavender Farm. If the weather’s nice, embark on a kayaking expedition, hike the 42-acre Lime Kiln Point State Park, or go whale-watching. Alternatively, spend some time exploring the island’s wineries and breweries, including San Juan Vineyard, Madrone Cellars & Ciders, and San Juan Island Brewing Co.
Stay here: Friday Harbor House, which has an on-site restaurant and 24 guest rooms complete with oversized soaking tubs, fireplaces, and King-sized beds, makes a great home base for exploring.
Getting here: San Juan Island is easily accessible via the Washington State Ferry terminal in Anacortes (about a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Seattle). From there, the ferry ride can take anywhere from two- to two-and-a-half hours. You can also fly to the island directly from Seattle, which takes under an hour.
Saint Simons Island, GA
Saint Simons Island is the largest of Georgia’s famed Golden Isles. It’s renowned for its postcard-worthy beaches, ample fishing opportunities, and scenic biking trails (just be sure to bring your helmet!). The island has over 30 miles of bike paths that take you through lively streets lined with shops and restaurants. Along the way, you’ll also wind past grand oak trees. When it comes time to relax, head to East Beach, where you can beachcomb, sunbathe, and swim. If you prefer fishing, carve out some time to visit Saint Simons Island Pier. If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot dolphins, too. Meanwhile, history buffs will also appreciate a visit to the Saint Simons Island Lighthouse Museum. Located on the island’s southern tip, the museum houses artifacts, photos, and interactive exhibits that strive to educate visitors about the island’s rich history.
Stay here: The luxurious Lodge at Sea Island features 58 swanky rooms, suites, and cottages. Each accommodation offers elegant wooden furnishings, plush linens, marble baths, and deep-soaking tubs. Guests also enjoy 24-hour butler service. The boutique property — which is part of the sprawling Sea Island Resort — is also surrounded by three state-of-the-art golf courses.
Getting here: While Saint Simons Island is accessible via car and/or ferry, the nearest airport, Brunswick Golden Isles Airport, is just 16 miles away. Other nearby airports include Jacksonville International Airport (about 66 miles), Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (approx. 80 miles), and Charleston International Airport (182 miles). You can fly here from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which takes about one hour.
Check Prices for The Lodge at Sea Island in Saint Simons Island
Hilton Head, SC
The 42-square-mile barrier island is celebrated for its natural beauty. The Coastal Discovery Museum, which spans 2,000 square feet of exhibit space and 68 acres of outdoor space, is a must-visit. The picturesque museum is home to live oak trees, manicured gardens, and lush salt marshes. (You may even spot some horses grazing here.) Hilton Head also has 12 miles of pristine beaches, so visitors have plenty of room to lounge out and soak up the sun. Other popular activities include dolphin-spotting, shopping Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina, golfing at one of the island’s 20-plus courses, and embarking on a speed boat tour. Foodies will also love it here. Expect a wide variety of fresh, seafood-centric eats, which are best enjoyed at Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks (think: fried green tomatoes, oysters, and po’ boys) and the more casual Lowcountry Backyard Restaurant (don’t miss the crab cakes!).
Stay here: At the expansive Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa — which is situated along the Atlantic Ocean — guests can take advantage of convenient on-site amenities. These include three swimming pools (including a family-friendly one), private cabanas and daybeds, a tranquil spa, and three on-site eateries. The sprawling oceanfront resort also offers 416 upscale guest rooms and suites.
Getting here: Hilton Head Island Airport is a small airport located right on the island. However, Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport — about a 45-minute ride away — is larger and, as such, offers more flights. Hilton Head is about a two-hour car ride from Charleston and a three-hour car ride from Augusta.
Check Prices for The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa in Hilton Head
Key Largo, FL
Key Largo is often overlooked in favor of Key West, but the island is certainly worth an extended stay. It’s best known for its incredible diving opportunities. The USS Spiegel Grove shipwreck is a popular spot. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is known for its vibrant coral reefs. Canoeing, kayaking, and snorkeling are also popular here. The park is also home to several scenic trails, including Grove Trail and Wild Tamarind Trail. If you love wildlife spotting, head to Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge (which spans a whopping 6,700 acres!) and Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, where you’ll find 84 species of flora and fauna — plus six miles of natural trails.
Stay here: Craving an intimate, all-inclusive escape? Look no further than Bungalows Key Largo. This adults-only resort spans 12-acres and offers spacious bungalow accommodations. On-site amenities and (free!) activities include a zen spa, six bars and restaurants, non-motorized watersports (including glass-bottom kayaking), and yoga classes.
Getting here: Key Largo is easily accessible via car or plane. The island is about 60 miles south of Miami International Airport (about a 75-minute drive, depending on traffic). You can also fly into Fort Lauderdale International Airport (approximately 90 minutes), Key West International Airport (around two hours), or Palm Beach International Airport (about two-and-a-half hours).
Check Prices for Bungalows Key Largo in Key Largo
Block Island, RI
Don’t sleep on Block Island. This laid-back locale — also known as “The Block” — has mouthwatering eats, awe-inspiring hiking trails, and white-sand beaches. The eight-mile Clayhead Trail, which offers stunning views of the island’s towering Mohegan Bluffs, is one of The Block’s most famous attractions. The island also offers 17 miles of beaches. Dip your toes in the sand at Mansion Beach, Fred Benson Town Beach, or Crescent Beach. When it’s time to refuel, head into town for fresh seafood. Block Island Oyster Bar, Dead Eye Dick’s, and Eli’s are sure to satisfy your cravings.
Stay here: The centrally located Block Island Beach House offers beachy-chic accommodations complete with curated artwork, vintage surfboards, and antique rugs.
Getting here: The easiest way to reach Block Island is by ferry, which you can take from Rhode Island (Newport or Pt. Judith, both of which take about an hour), Connecticut (New London, about an hour ride on the high-speed ferry), or New York (Montauk, which takes about 75 minutes).
Check Prices for Block Island Beach House in New Shoreham
Martha’s Vineyard, MA
Martha’s Vineyard has attracted A-listers (including Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Jackie Kennedy, and Larry David) for decades: and it’s easy to see why. The 100-square-mile island’s main draws are its many beaches (including East Beach, Lighthouse Beach, Oak Bluffs Town Beach, and Joseph Sylvia State Beach, to name a few) and charming colonial architecture. Martha’s Vineyard is home to several vibrant towns, and Edgartown and Oak Bluffs are among the most popular. Style mavens can appreciate a stroll through Edgartown, where you’ll find chic boutiques like Slate, Nell, and Salte. In Oak Bluffs, travelers can visit the colorful Gingerbread Cottages that date back to the 19th century and ride the oldest operating carousel in the US. Lastly, don’t skip town without a visit to the Gay Head Cliffs, a national landmark.
Stay here: The whimsical, 95-room Summercamp hotel invites guests to embrace their inner child. In addition to its vibrant, bright-colored interiors, the property also offers retro-inspired games (think ping-pong, Twister, and more!) plus a “Camp Canteen” where you can purchase nostalgia-inducing snacks like Cracker Jacks and Dreamsicles.
Getting here: To get to Martha’s Vineyard, travelers can take the ferry from Massachusetts (Falmouth, Hyannis, and New Bedford), Rhode Island (Quonset Point), New York (New York City), and New Jersey (Monmouth County). More information can be found here. Alternatively, fly directly into Martha's Vineyard Airport or one of the other nearby airports, including Nantucket Memorial Airport (approx. 41 miles), Barnstable Municipal Airport in Hyannis (about 42 miles), Logan International Airport in Boston (about 95 miles), and T. F. Green Airport in Providence (around 97 miles).
Check Prices for Summercamp Hotel in Oak Bluffs
Related: The 10 Best Beaches in Virginia
Galveston Island, TX
This barrier island is best known for its beautiful beaches, including Babe’s Beach, East Beach (the largest public beach in the Lonestar State!), and Stewart Beach. When you need a break from the sun, stroll down Seawall Boulevard and check out some of the shopping, drinking, and dining offerings. The street is over 10 miles long, which makes it the longest continuous sidewalk in the US. Here, you’ll also find the world’s longest mural. Pop into the many nearby surf shops – including Southern Spears Surf Shop, Surf Styles, and Ohana Surf & Skate – for beach essentials and accessories. Moody Gardens is another popular spot, thanks to its 1.5 million-gallon aquarium and rainforest exhibit. If you’re up for added adventure, head to Galveston Island State Park, where you can hike, bike, or paddle as you take in the scenic water views and spot wildlife. No trip is complete without a visit to the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, where you’ll find carnival games, rides, and souvenir shops galore.
Stay here: Hotel Galvez boasts a central location – right across the street from the beach – plus upscale amenities like a greenery-filled pool area with a swim-up bar and a soothing spa that’s complete with a meditation garden.)
Getting here: Galveston Island is about an hour car ride from Houston. To get here, you can either take the ferry or drive. The nearest airport is William P. Hobby Airport in Houston.
Check Prices for Hotel Galvez & Spa a Wyndham Grand Hotel in Galveston
Chebeague Island, ME
This summer, escape to Chebeague Island. This sleepy (albeit still charming) destination is an excellent getaway for those in search of true R&R. Here, you won’t find an endless array of attractions: but that’s the beauty of it. Play a round of golf at the Great Chebeague Golf Club, which overlooks Casco Bay, before picking up some goodies at Island Riches or The Niblic. Afterward, refuel at one of the mom-and-pop eateries. Local favorites include Slow Bell Cafe, Calder's Clam Shack, and Chebeague Lobster Co.
Stay here: The historic Chebeague Island Inn dates back to the late 1800s. Each of the 21 rooms is distinctively designed with bespoke furnishings and custom artwork. Guests here can bike (the property offers complimentary cruisers), stroll through the garden, take yoga classes, enjoy nightly s’mores roasting and bonfires, and play lawn games.
Getting here: Chebeague Island is about 12 miles outside of Portland (where the nearest airport is). Catch the ferry from Portland (about an hour and 15 minutes) or Cousins Island (15 minutes). Boston is about 120 miles away.
Check Prices for Chebeague Island Inn in Chebeague Island
Roanoke Island, NC
Roanoke Island is just two miles wide and eight miles long. Despite its small size, the island offers plenty to see and do. Learn about the island’s fascinating (and somewhat tragic) history by visiting the Roanoke Adventure Museum. Other sights include the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum, North Carolina Aquarium, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and Elizabethan Gardens. You can also go fishing, embark on a scenic boat ride to spot dolphins, or, if you’re up for it, take a guided ghost tour. Also, the island’s main town, Manteo, is chock-full of cute eats, including Big Buck's Homemade Ice Cream, Duck’s Cottage (which is one-part coffee shop, one-part bookstore), and Lost Colony Brewery and Cafe.
Stay here: White Doe Inn is a quaint bed-and-breakfast housed in a three-story, 1910-era mansion. Here, you’ll find eight spacious guest rooms – each outfitted with private balconies and two-person tubs.
Getting here: Dare County Regional Airport is located right on the island, though it’s pretty tiny. (It mainly services private charters.) The closest international airport is Norfolk International Airport in Virginia, about two hours away by car. However, Roanoke Island is also accessible by car. The nearest major city is Virginia Beach, which is just under 70 miles away.
Check Prices for The White Doe Inn in Manteo
Shelter Island, NY
Shelter Island is located on Long Island’s East End. The destination is a popular choice for wealthy Manhattanites and suburbanites who tend to prefer a more laid-back ambiance than the one you’d find in, say, Montauk. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a visit here, as well. The island has four public beaches, with Crescent Beach being the most popular. If you prefer to skip crowds, head to Shell Beach, Wades Beach, or Menhaden Lane Beach. Or, ditch the sand altogether. Instead, stroll or hike through the expansive Mashomack Preserve or pay a visit to the Shelter Island Historical Society. You can also try your hand at kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding. Before you leave town for good, enjoy an elaborate feast (with a cocktail, of course) at one of the elegant eateries like Vine Street Cafe or 18 Bay.
Stay here: Seven is a boutique inn housed in a farmhouse that dates back to 1902. The coastal-inspired guest rooms are decorated with pine wood floorings, cotton linens, and vibrant pillows – plus a curated collection of books and artwork.
Getting here: The easiest way to get to Shelter Island is via the Shelter Island Ferry, which departs from Greenport on Long Island. You can also drive here – about two-and-a-half hours from Manhattan – though traffic is to be expected. Long Island MacArthur Airport is about 60 miles away, while JFK and LaGuardia are 96 and 104 miles away, respectively.