There’s nothing quite like island life. It’s like stepping off the mainland immediately melts away stress and promotes relaxation and rejuvenation. With so many charming islands to explore in the U.S., you can take your pick of rugged and outdoorsy, or sleepy and beachy. The islands on our list aren’t just on the coasts either! From tiny islands tucked in the Great Lakes to a garden paradise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, our list of our favorite U.S. quaint islands has something for every travel lover!
1. Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Known for its world class golf courses, pristine beaches, and abundance of wildlife, Kiawah Island is the perfect place for a relaxing getaway. This barrier island boasts 10 miles of untouched coastline, a beautiful backdrop for viewing both the sunrise and the sunset thanks to the island’s east-west orientation. Visitors can enjoy kayaking, biking, and fishing excursions to see wildlife up close, and after all the action you can relax at one of the amazing restaurants or spas. Kiawah is located just 25 miles south of Charleston and a trip into the Holy City would be a great addition to your travel itinerary. For even more ideas of things to do on Kiawah or in Charleston, see our full list.
2. Captiva Island, Florida
Visitors consistently flock to Sanibel Island, but charming Captiva Island, which is connected via a little bridge, is worth a trip on its own. Travelers can take an excursion on the water to go fishing or to view dolphins and manatees up close. Beachcombing is another popular activity thanks to the abundance of unique and beautiful shells that wash ashore. Though the island is small, the dining selection is large and plenty of restaurants offer succulent seafood with a view of the breathtaking sunsets the island is known for. Make sure to explore all of our recommendations for things to do on Captiva Island.
3. Vashon Island, Washington
A true taste of the Pacific Northwest, Vashon Island is a wonderful spot for a day trip or weekend adventure. Visitors can take a ferry from Seattle or Tacoma to visit the island. On the island, you can take in incredible views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Mountains, enjoy a delicious cup of coffee from a local roaster, and keep an eye out for bald eagles and whales. The island is teeming with walking and hiking trails, eclectic art galleries, and plenty of opportunities for shopping and dining. For a full list of things to do on the island, be sure to check out our guide.
4. Oak Island, North Carolina
For those looking for a quiet, serene beach vacation, look no further than Oak Island, North Carolina. Oak Island is less touristy than some other North Carolina beach spots and is the perfect place to relax on the sand with a favorite book or cocktail. Visitors can explore the lighthouse, a historic fort, and nature center to take in the local wildlife. The island is also a great spot for golfing, fishing, kayaking, and more. For more ideas and inspiration, see our full list of things to do on Oak Island.
5. Shelter Island, New York
Escape the buzz of the big city and take a ferry from Long Island to Shelter Island where you can relax and explore nature. A third of the island is a nature preserve and is an excellent place for birdwatching. Explore the island by renting a bike and learn about the early history of the island by visiting the Historical Society, which is located in a preserved farmhouse. For more inspiration about a quaint New York trip, see our full list of recommendations.
6. Madeline Island, Wisconsin
Islands are hard to come by in the midwest, and Madeline Island offers unique experiences for the avid outdoor adventurer. Part of the Apostle Islands, Madeline Island is accessible by ferry and offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, kayaking, and more. The island is also a great place to experience wildlife up close and personal, so be sure to bring your binoculars and fishing gear. Our writer recommends experiencing Madeline Island in an RV, which gives you a home base for all of your outdoor activities. Be sure to check out all of our RV tips and other ideas for what to do during your visit to Madeline Island.
7. Pine Island, Florida
A laid-back taste of Old Florida, Pine Island is a wonderful place for a relaxing getaway. Unlike other popular Florida destinations, you won’t find packed beaches or high-rise condos on Pine Island. Instead, you’ll find the perfect backdrop for a quiet fishing expedition or a sunset paddle. There are also plenty of delicious dining options and an active art community on the island, with plenty of galleries to peruse. For all of the reasons to visit Pine Island, be sure to check out our full list.
8. Nantucket, Massachusetts
Take a peek at spectacular seaside mansions and keep your eyes peeled for celebrities during your visit to quaint Nantucket Island. Nantucket is known for beautiful, sandy beaches and gorgeous ocean views. Relax on the sand before browsing through the many specialty boutiques and shops on the island. History lovers will also enjoy learning about the rich history of the island, which was once the whaling capital of the world. With so many options for dining, shopping, and accommodations, you’ll want to see our writer’s full list of recommendations here.
9. Thousand Islands, New York
You’ll find more delicious items to sample than just its namesake salad dressing during a weekend getaway to Thousand Islands. The area is also known for producing wine, cider, and more. The islands range widely in size and visitors can take in all of the different landscapes with a boat tour. During your stay, you can visit a 6-story castle and wander through the grounds that contain more than 20,000 different plants. View our full list of recommendations for your Thousand Islands visit here.
10. Kauai, Hawaii
Nicknamed the Garden Island, Kauai is Hawaii’s oldest island and is a feast for the eyes and the senses. A true must-see, there’s no sight on earth quite like the stunning Napali Coast, with its jagged green cliffs. Visitors can enjoy views of sea caves and fertile valleys on a helicopter or boat tour of the coast. Drive or hike through Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and gaze at waterfalls and rainbows. There are also plenty of serene, secluded beaches for relaxing after your outdoor adventures. With so much beauty to experience, visitors will want to spend as much time as possible on this beautiful, quiet island.
11. Bailey Island, Maine
Feast your eyes on miles of remote, rocky Maine coastline during your getaway to Bailey Island. You can enjoy fresh out of the water lobster, browse through art galleries, or go on a hike to explore tide pools along the rocky shore. The island is also home to a historic Cribstone Bridge, one of the only known examples in the world. Bailey Island is located just 50 miles from Portland and would be a great addition to your Portland trip. Portland is a mecca of amazing seafood restaurants and is a great jumping off point for all your Maine adventures.
12. Put-In-Bay, Ohio
You can slow down and connect with nature during a visit to charming Put-In-Bay. Visitors must arrive by ferry to this charming island in Lake Eerie which is home to only 600 people for most of the year. Once on the island, you can rent a golf cart to explore the many restaurants and sites. Don’t miss a fifth-generation winery where you can sample delicious wine and tour a cave on the grounds that’s home to the world’s largest geode. Put-In-Bay also boasts many excellent hikes with beautiful views of the water and many migrating birds. For more recommendations on what to experience, see our full list of what to do during your trip to Put-In-Bay.
13. Mackinac Island, Michigan
Situated between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas, Mackinac Island is the perfect spot for a quiet weekend getaway. Most of the island is a state park and no cars are allowed in, but you can explore the historic sites of the island by taking a carriage ride or renting a bike. The island is an 8-mile loop and is easy to explore by bike, and there are plenty of beautiful hiking spots along the way with great views of the water. You’ll find plenty of delicious dining spots, and don’t forget to save room for some of the island’s decadent old-fashioned fudge. With so much beauty packed into a small footprint, Mackinac is the perfect place to escape for a few days.
14. Revillagigedo Island, Alaska
For those looking for pristine scenery and outdoor adventure, a visit to Revillagigedo Island is a must. The island can only be reached by plane or boat and is teeming with wildlife. During your trip, you could spot black bears, wolves, bald eagles, whales, puffins, and more. One of the only cities on the island is Ketchikan, which is known as the Salmon Capital of the World. Dine at one of the many wonderful restaurants in Ketchikan and you’ll be treated to incredibly fresh salmon, along with halibut, which is another local favorite. Hungry yet? Check out our list of the best seafood restaurants in Ketchikan and start planning your trip!
Looking for even more U.S. islands to explore in 2022? Be sure to check out last year’s list of our favorite quaint U.S. islands, or if you’re looking to venture abroad we also compiled our picks for the most quaint international islands to visit in 2022.