14 scenic American islands to explore in 2022
There is nothing quite like island life. It’s like leaving the mainland to immediately relieve stress and promote relaxation and rejuvenation. With so many charming islands to explore in the United States, you can choose between rugged and open-air, or sleepy and seaside. The islands on our list aren’t just on the coasts either! From tiny islands nestled in the Great Lakes to a garden paradise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, our list of our favorite scenic islands in the United States has something for every travel lover!
1. Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Known for its world-class golf courses, pristine beaches and abundant wildlife, Kiawah Island is the perfect place for a relaxing getaway. This barrier island boasts 10 miles of unspoiled coastline, a magnificent backdrop for viewing both sunrise and sunset thanks to the east-west orientation of the island. Visitors can go kayaking, biking, and fishing trips to see wildlife up close, and after all the action, you can relax in one of the incredible restaurants or spas. Kiawah is located just 25 miles south of Charleston and a trip to 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, check out our full list.
2. Captiva Island, Florida
Visitors regularly flock to Sanibel Island, but the charming Captiva Island, which is connected by a small bridge, is worth a visit on its own. Travelers can take a water excursion to go fishing or see dolphins and manatees up close. Beachcombing is another popular activity thanks to the abundance of unique and beautiful seashells that wash up on the shore. Although the island is small, the selection of restaurants is wide and there are many restaurants offering succulent seafood with a view of the breathtaking sunsets that the island is known for. Be sure to explore all of our recommendations for activities on Captiva Island.
3. Vashon Island, Washington
A true taste of the Pacific Northwest, Vashon Island is a wonderful place for a day trip or an adventure weekend. Visitors can take a ferry from Seattle or Tacoma to tour 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 full of walking and hiking trails, eclectic art galleries, and plenty of shopping and dining options. 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 calm, serene beach vacation, look no further than Oak Island, North Carolina. Oak Island is less touristy than other North Carolina beaches 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 view local wildlife. The island is also a great location for golfing, fishing, kayaking and more. For more ideas and inspiration, check out our comprehensive list of things to do on Oak Island.
5. Shelter Island, New York
Escape the hustle and bustle 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 reserve and is an excellent place for bird watching. Explore the island by renting a bicycle and learn about the island’s ancient history by visiting the Historical Society, located in an unspoiled farmhouse. For more inspiration on a scenic trip to New York City, check out our comprehensive list of recommendations.
6. Madeline Island, Wisconsin
Islands are hard to find 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, so be sure to bring your binoculars and fishing gear. Our writer recommends exploring Madeline Island in a motorhome, which gives you a base for all your outdoor activities. Be sure to check out all of our RV tips and other ideas on what to do while visiting 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 crowded beaches or high-rise condos on Pine Island. Instead, you’ll find the perfect backdrop for a leisurely fishing expedition or a sunset paddle. There are also plenty of delicious dining options and an active arts community on the island, with plenty of galleries to browse. For all the reasons to visit Pine Island, be sure to check out our full list.
8. Nantucket, Massachusetts
Take a peek at the spectacular oceanfront mansions and keep your eyes peeled for celebrities as you visit scenic Nantucket Island. Nantucket is known for its beautiful sandy beaches and magnificent ocean views. Relax on the sand before browsing the island’s many boutiques and specialty stores. History buffs will also enjoy learning about the rich history of the island, which was once the whaling capital of the world. With so many dining, shopping, and lodging options available, 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 savor than its namesake vinaigrette on a weekend getaway to the Thousand Islands. The region is also known for the production of wine, cider and more. The islands vary greatly in size and visitors can take in all the different landscapes on a boat trip. During your stay you can visit a 6-story castle and walk through the park which contains over 20,000 different plants. Check out our full list of recommendations for your visit to the Thousand Islands 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 is no view on earth like the magnificent 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 Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and see waterfalls and rainbows. There are also many serene and secluded beaches to relax in after your outdoor adventures. With so much beauty to discover, visitors will want to spend as much time as possible on this beautiful and tranquil island.
11. Bailey Island, Maine
See miles of Maine’s secluded rocky coastline on your Bailey Island getaway. You can sample fresh lobster from the water, browse art galleries, or hike to explore tidal 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 the mecca of amazing seafood restaurants and a great starting point for all of your Maine adventures.
12. Put-In-Bay, Ohio
You can slow down and connect with nature on a visit to the charming Put-In-Bay. Visitors must arrive by ferry to this charming island in Lake Eerie which is home to just 600 people 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 taste delicious wines and visit a cave on the ground which is home to the world’s largest geode. Put-In-Bay also has many great hikes with beautiful views of the water and lots of migrating birds. For more recommendations on what to experience, check out our full list of things to do during your trip to Put-In-Bay.
13. Mackinac Island, Michigan
Located between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas, Mackinac Island is the perfect location for a quiet weekend getaway. Most of the island is a state park and no cars are allowed there, but you can explore the island’s historic sites by taking a horse-drawn carriage ride or renting a bicycle. The island is a 13 km loop and is easy to explore by bike, and there are many beautiful hiking spots along the way with great views of the water. You’ll find plenty of delicious restaurants, and don’t forget to save room for the island’s decadent old-fashioned fudge. With so much beauty wrapped up in a small imprint, Mackinac is the perfect place to get away from it all for a few days.
14. Revillagigedo Island, Alaska
For those looking for pristine landscapes and outdoor adventures, a visit to Revillagigedo Island is a must. The island is only accessible by plane or boat and is teeming with wildlife. During your trip, you may spot black bears, wolves, bald eagles, whales, puffins and more. One of the only towns on the island is Ketchikan, known as the salmon capital of the world. Dine at one of Ketchikan’s many wonderful restaurants and you’ll be treated to amazingly fresh salmon, as well as halibut, which is another local favorite. Are you still hungry? Check out our list of the best seafood restaurants in Ketchikan and start planning your trip!
Looking for even more American islands to explore in 2022? Be sure to check out last year’s list of our favorite scenic American Islands, or if you’re looking to venture overseas, we’ve also compiled our picks for the most scenic international islands to visit in 2022.