11. Shelter Island – New York
The back-end of Long Island holds one of New York’s best kept secrets. Shelter Island may not be far from NYC, but it might as well be a world away considering how few people are ever on the island. A lot of the residents that live here have done so with their families for centuries, and the summer homes for other families have been there for just as long. That doesn’t meant that there aren’t places for newcomers, but the long-standing tradition of summer pilgrimages shows that there’s something special enough about this island to keep people coming back.
10. Daufuskie Island – South Carolina
If you’ve ever wondered what South Carolina looked like before major transportation took over, then Daufuskie Island will provide that and more. This peaceful little island holds everything that makes the state wonderful minus the tourists everywhere. The beaches are pristine and natural, and they even provide epic eco tours of the island via either kayak or a stand-up paddleboard. The local fauna and wildlife are unique to the area, so it’s definitely worth taking the time to take the tour.
9. Tangier Island – Virginia
You won’t find many carbon emissions coming off of Tangier Island, which has pretty much completely done away with cars and trucks. Instead, you’ll have to rent a golf cart to get around the island. While this may sound a little odd, it actually makes for a pleasant experience. This is another one of those places that hasn’t changed much in the past century, and you don’t have to look hard to tell. Take a canoe or kayak for a paddle through the wetlands, it’s absolutely beautiful at dusk.
8. Bald Head Island – North Carolina
The Bald Head Light on the island is one of the most iconic in North Carolina, but that’s not the only thing worth checking out on Bald Head Island. The wetlands are stunning throughout the year and the island is the furthest thing from a tourist trap. You’ll have enough room to breathe and enjoy your peace of mind on an island like this. Plenty of vacation rentals rest upon the shores and it even has its own golf course that never seems to be too crowded. Set aside a day to take the walk all the way around the island. You’ll be glad you did.
7. Matinicus Isle – Maine
If you want to talk about being off the radar, look no further than Maine’s Matinicus Isle, which embraces the fact that it’s well off the beaten path. Residing at roughly 23 miles off the coast of Maine, not much comes or goes from the island without anyone knowing. While it was long believed that the people of the town hated outsiders, that has proven to be untrue and many vacation rentals have popped up around the island for anyone looking for an escape. Check out the local history while you’re there, it’s pretty incredible.
6. Smith Island – Maryland
What makes Smith Island so incredible? Well, for starters, it looks like a page right out of a history book. A lot of the same old fishing houses have been sitting on the island for well over a century, and the way of life still revolves around fishing and crabbing. It’s kind of incredible to think that the industry hasn’t been completely taken over by corporations, and these islanders love their way of life. In case you were wondering, until you’ve had something freshly caught from this island, you have yet to live. Just saying…
5. Monhegan Island – Maine
We’d argue for the fact that Monhegan Island is one of the few pure places left in America. What we mean by that is that you won’t find any traces of big business or tourism here. Instead, you’ll find carefree spirits and clean air that’s hard to match. The flowing grass mesh with the rocky hillsides before eventually meeting the shoreline, which is perfect for a picnic on a temperate summer day. The locals are a bunch of naturalists, so expect to recycle and go green! You have to love a town that cares about the planet.
4. Fire Island – New York
There’s a reason why Fire Island is one of the most popular tourist towns in New York. Some keep coming back for relaxation on the beach while others just want to enjoy a little time away from the bustle of big cities. Regardless of why they come, this small town has a lot of hospitality, and that’s what we think the real secret is. In fact, the people are so kind that it almost seems like southern hospitality in a northern state. Maybe the rest of the world should chill out like the people on Fire Island, until then, we’ll keep heading back year after year.
3. Put-in-Bay – Ohio
Put-in-Bay looks more like it belongs in the Florida Keys than anywhere else. This eccentric little island town has more than enough spirit to last through the harsh winters. The summer is definitely the time to go. Every weekend seems to bring something new and exciting to the town. One weekend in particular, Pirate Weekend, draws in tens of thousands of swashbucklers storm the island to drink, eat, and be merry, and it’s quite the spectacle. The party just never seems to stop in this little town, and we love it.
2. Mackinac Island – Michigan
Mackinac Island has a lot of history, and that shows in both the architecture and historical monuments scattered throughout the island. While the place is beautiful regardless of the time of year, we love going in late spring, when the weather is warming up and the flowers bloom all over the place. Even when the sun goes down, the walk through the historic town is blissful as the wind rolls off the lake and through the streets. A sunset over the lake from the beach never ceases to amaze.
1. Catalina Island – California
One thing’s for sure: People know how to have a good time on Catalina Island. The temperature always seems to be perfect, and the sailboats come and go from dawn to dusk. Little bars on the island contain a lively crowd in the evenings, and the view itself is incredible. Pretty much all of the buildings are painted in some vibrant shade of pastel. In fact, there’s not much about the town that isn’t full of life. Even the local marine life seems friendly, as you can get up close with seals and whales that visit the waters around the island. What’s not to love?
Have any stories from these islands? Feel free to share in the comment box below!