The USA has a number of different, distinctive islands that are absolutely stunning. Whether it’s a popular tropical locale, a charming seaside resort, or even a lesser-known gem, you can find it in America. Here then, without further ado, are 30 spectacular American islands you should explore.
30 Spectacular American Islands You Should Explore
1. Prince Of Wales Island, Alaska
This remote, rugged place is the fourth largest US island. It covers an area of over 2,230 square miles. This natural landscape features fish-filled streams, rocky mountains, and old-growth forests. It also includes 900 miles of meandering coastline, with a plethora of beautiful bays and quiet coves perfect for canoeing and kayaking.
2. Kodiak Island, Alaska
Kodiak Island is nicknamed “the Emerald Isle” in recognition of its lush, verdant landscape. The second largest in the USA, it’s 100 miles long and spans an area of 3,670 square miles. The sheltered bays and green mountains were once the home to Russian settlers. One of the most popular activities here is to find and watch the huge Kodiak bears fishing for their meals in the halibut- and salmon-rich streams and rivers here.
3. Santa Catalina, California
As regular readers already know, this picture-perfect paradise is a great place for a romantic getaway. Also known as simply Catalina, this dreamy destination is known for its beautiful beaches, swaying palm trees, sumptuous seafood, and lovely luxury hotels. It also offers an assortment of athletic activities such as hiking, kayaking, scuba diving, and swimming. Take the zip-lining eco-tour and go flying 600 feet above sea level.
4. Key West, Florida
This isle is arguably the most famous of the Florida Keys. Key West is perhaps best known for its colorful Caribbean-style, conch-like homes, coral reefs ripe for both scuba diving and snorkeling, and its interesting inhabitants. Be sure to see the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Learn about the author’s life and even see the furry descendants of Snow White, his famous six-toed cat.
5. Marco Island, Florida
Marco Island is another worthy Floridian island destination. The largest of the state’s Ten Thousand Islands area, some claim it’s the most enchanting as well. Complete with frolicking dolphins, sun-bleached sand, and luxurious resorts, it’s also a great place for water sports such as boating, kayaking, fishing, and swimming. Visit the Marco Island Historical Museum and the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
6. Anna Maria Island, Florida
Many residents used to keep this nigh tropical spot to themselves. Once you see its seven miles of postcard-perfect crystal-blue water and sugar-white sand you’ll understand their moment of selfishness. While the secret’s long been out, the overall atmosphere here is preserved via regulations regarding the construction of new buildings and businesses. Explore the art galleries, boutiques, and assorted eateries along Pine Avenue.
7. Sanibel Island, Florida
Nestled near Florida’s mainland, in the Gulf of Mexico, the award-winning beaches come complete with azure blue water and sugar-white sand. This family-friendly, low-key locale is the perfect place for shell collecting too. Here you can enjoy a sub-tropical climate, a historic lighthouse, stunning sunsets, and luxurious resorts. Be sure to visit the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge as well.
8. Cumberland Island, Georgia
You’ll find Georgia’s largest barrier island just off the state’s southeast coast. This 10,000-acre area of unspoiled wilderness is also one of the Northern Hemisphere’s natural habitats. Here amidst wide marshes, salt-sprayed forests, stunning beaches, and wild wetlands you may see loggerhead turtles nesting and wild horses roaming free, gracefully grazing on dune grass.
9. Jekyll Island, Georgia
This isle is another natural haven and also the very most southerly of the state’s Golden Isles. Veteran visitors recommend the renowned Jekyll Island Club Resort which harkens back to the late 1800s. If you’re in need of a scenic expanse of sand, the peaceful place known as Driftwood Beach wins hands down. It has been called one of America’s most romantic beaches.
10. Big Island, Hawaii
The island of Hawaii, a.k.a. The Big Island covers a space of 4,028 square miles. This popular, awesome island is nearly twice as large as the state’s other islands. Here you will find many examples of natural beauty including (but not limited to) black sand beaches, breathtaking blue water, lush, verdant valleys, and, of course, massive volcanoes.
11. Oahu, Hawaii
Oahu is the birthplace of pop singer Cheesa Laureta, and your rovin’ writer too! Also known as “the Gathering Place”, it has a diverse community and a busy capital city too. It is the third largest of the state’s islands and has a lovely landscape that is highlighted by enchanting tropical scenery, luxury resorts, massive mountains, and towering skyscrapers. It’s also an exciting center of nightlife and culture.
12. Kauai, Hawaii
While the state is undoubtedly familiar, Kauai, a.k.a. The “Garden Island” may not be. Some travelers say this island is one of the world’s most beautiful places. More than 90 percent of it remains undeveloped, and can’t even be accessed by road. Thus, it is an unspoiled paradise perfect for nature walks and hikes. Stroll the beaches or hike through the rugged canyons, lush jungles, and majestic mountain scenery. It’s all good.
13. Mount Desert Island, Maine
A lot of America’s official “second busiest national park”, Acadia National Park, is here on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. Visit Cadillac Mountain. At a height of 1,530 feet, it’s the highest place along the entire North Atlantic Seaboard. The best time to visit is between October 7th through March 6th in the early hours of the morning. During this time the mountain is the first place in the country to see the sunrise. Watch as the sun paints both sky and land an awesome shade of orange.
14. Assateague Island, Virginia And Maryland
Two herds of wild horses freely roam this unspoiled barrier island. Its diverse landscape spans the border between Virginia and Maryland. This is a national park that includes sand dunes, salt marshes, maritime forests, and pastel-tinted beaches sprinkled with seashells. Interestingly, the horses here are the descendants of domestic horses. Look for red foxes and white-tailed deer too.
15. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Longtime readers might recall this as being one of the best honeymoon destinations in the nation. Also known as “Hollywood East”, Martha’s Vineyard is found off the coastline of Massachusetts. Only accessible by boat or plane, this has been a preferred summer hideaway for rich celebrities for years. Such celebs as Jackie Kennedy, former president Barack Obama, and Oprah Winfrey have enjoyed its peaceful pristine beaches, relaxing small-town vibe, and noteworthy scenery.
16. Nantucket, Massachusetts
I once wrote a piece on Nantucket/If you missed it then you can just . . . Nantucket is nicknamed the “Faraway Land” because it’ll make you feel as if you’re somewhere else. Highlights here include 82 miles of scenic coastline, the highest number of pre-Civil War buildings, the whaling museum, historic lighthouses, and the White Elephant restaurant.
17. Mackinac, Michigan
Mackinac Island is situated off the coast on lovely Lake Huron. The island is car-free. Here on this three-square-mile isle, you travel on foot, bicycle, or by horse-drawn carriage. The Victorian architecture, and Fort Mackinac, built in 1780, add to its vintage vibe. Visit Mackinac Island State Park, and sample some local homemade fudge too. Stay at the Grand Hotel.
18. Fire Island, New York
Hop on a ferry from Long Island’s mainland and explore the unspoiled, isolated landscape on famous Fire Island. Some travel writers say this is a “standout spot.” Here you can escape the city traffic and the absence of streets actually allows nature to thrive. Enjoy the picture-perfect protected beaches, scenic sunken beaches, and wildlife here.
19. Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
Only accessible by boat, Ocracoke Island is protected by the National Park Service. It has many miles of undeveloped coastline and an overall feel that makes this little island different from the other Outer Banks islands. Here you’ll find but one small village and tranquil, crowd-free beaches that might make you think you’re on your own private isle.
20. Block Island, Rhode Island
This unassuming locale off Rhode Island’s coast comes complete with New England charm, freshwater ponds, high bluffs, pristine beaches, and pretty hills carpeted with wildflowers. In town, you will find several art galleries and colorful boutiques. See the Mohegan Bluffs, the Block Island Wildlife Refuge, and the North Light. Take a kayak or bicycle tour too.
21. Hilton Head, South Carolina
This barrier island and resort town is a showcase for some of the state’s best elements. It features 12 miles of beaches, almost 100 miles of bicycle trails, and great places to go fishing, hiking, kayaking, and dolphin-watching. It’s also known for its golf courses and comes with a pirate ship too. Don’t forget to sample the seafood!
22. South Padre Island, Texas
This is the world’s longest barrier island and one of the state’s best beach destinations to boot. The best time to visit this island is almost any time! After all, on average, it gets over 300 days of sunshine every single year. Here you can enjoy sand dune-backed beaches complete with emerald Gulf water and sugar-white sand.
23. Galveston, Texas
Originally a European settlement, the island of Galveston is an hour’s drive out of Houston just off the gleaming Gulf Coast. History buffs will love the architecture here, The island features one of the largest well-preserved examples of Victorian architecture in the USA. If you love sand, sun, and sea there are 32 miles of shoreline. Hit South Beach’s Pleasure Pier too!
24. Antelope Island, Utah
This nearly 44-square-mile island is off the mainland in Utah. It’s also the largest isle in the Great Salt Lake. Here you can discover a surprising variety of both wildlife and natural wonders. Its well-known namesake antelope, bison, coyote, and mule deer roam a lovely landscape of beautiful beaches and craggy mountains. This is also an official International Dark Sky Park.
25. San Juan Island, Washington
Off the US northern coast in the Salish Sea, this scenic island is part of Washington state’s popular archipelago of the same name. This island is rich in maritime history. Here you can explore its well-known lighthouses, watch for the local orcas, explore the shops and enjoy the fresh, local seafood in the charming seaport of Friday Harbor.
26. St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Finally, we travel to the first of some beautiful US territories. St. Croix is the largest of the US Virgin Islands and reportedly one of the Caribbean’s most popular vacation spots as well. Enjoy the grassy hills, lush rainforests, and sandy coves. If you like scuba diving or snorkeling, you must see the Buck Island Reef National Monument.
27. St. John Island, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. John Island is only nine miles in length and is the smallest isle in the archipelago. Here you’ll find a unique combination of crowd-free Caribbean beaches, historical ruins such as tribal petroglyphs from former inhabitants, and colorful coral reefs teeming with such sea life as spiny lobsters, queen triggerfish, and blue tang.
28. Culebra, Puerto Rico
Roughly 20 miles off Fajardo’s coast, Culebra is an underrated gem in a US territory. It features clear, tropical water, diamond-dust sand, and an exceptional abundance of wildlife. UNtil 1975, it was a US Naval base. (Notice the abandoned tank on favored Flamenco Beach.) Culebra is surrounded by over 20 cays so it’s the perfect place for scuba diving and snorkeling.
29. Vieques, Puerto Rico
Another US territory, Vieques is a sparkling spot located six miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico. Yes, it features lush tropical flora, Instagramable beaches, and semi-wild horses. Its most famous attraction, however, is Mosquito Bay. Organisms called “dinos” make it the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay. Animal lovers will also want to see the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge.
30. Tutuila, American Samoa
Last but certainly not least, is the US territory of American Samoa in Polynesia. There are several places to see here. Highlights include Mount Alava, and the noteworthy capital city and natural harbor, Pago Pago which features pretty yellow sand beaches, small shops specializing in handicrafts, and assorted eateries.