Explore America

U.S. Islands You Should Visit

You don’t have to jetset off to an exotic faraway destination for an island getaway. From the Keys in Florida to the San Juans in Washington, there are thousands of island in the United States for you to explore and enjoy. Here are four island getaways I shared in a segment during AMHQ on The Weather Channel in May.

Great Lakes Getaway

Mackinac Island is a long-beloved vacation spot for Midwesterners. This Great Lakes getaway is also on a lot of people’s bucket list. In this charming Victorian style town is the Grand Hotel, which opened July 10, 1887. It’s home to the World’s longest porch. It’s 660 feet long! After enjoying afternoon tea, I wandered outside with a glass of champagne and rocked my worries away. It’s also wonderful in the early morning. There are no cars on the Island. They’ve been banned since 1898. The ways to get around are walking, biking or taking a horse-drawn carriage. I got a special VIP experience on a carriage ride at the Grand riding in a vis-a-vis that 5 presidents have ridden in. Stables Master Ben and his Hackney horses Noble and Royal were wonderful, but it was Ben’s dog Lucy who stole the show. Carriage rides are a great way to see the geological and historical spots on the island. Do a self-guided tour at Fort Mackinac for some War of 1812 and Revolutionary War history. Stop in one of the many sweets shops. Mackinac is the fudge capital of the world with 10,000 pounds sold daily in peak summer season. The movie Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was filmed at the Grand Hotel and locations throughout the island in 1979.

Getting there: Ferries from Mackinac City – run every hour, 4-hr drive north of Detroit, 2 hrs from Traverse City

Barrier Island with Southern Charm

I spent two nights on Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia, with my cousins. While I had been to Savannah several times, it was my first time to Tybee Island. It’s a wonderful way to get a beach vacation and history tour combination. The Tybee Lighthouse dates back to 1736. It’s one of America’s most intact light station. Climb the 178 steps to the observation deck for 360° view of Atlantic, Savannah River and Tybee Island. Spend some time exploring the grounds too and tour the head keeper’s cottage. Fort Pulaski National Monument is an architectural marvel. Construction began 1829 and took 18 years and $1 million years to complete.

Getting there: Drive to the barrier island is 18 miles from Historic Savannah

Say Aloha to Paradise

Island of Hawaii is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. It’s a paradise of waterfalls, volcanoes, and black sand beach. The waterfalls near Hilo are stunning and the Snorkeling near Captain Cook is mesmerizing. Walking on one of Hawaii’s black sand beaches is a must. The most famous one is Punaluu on southeast coast. There are several national park sites dedicated to Hawaiian culture and history. Ka Lae or South Point Complex is the southernmost point in all of the United States. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is one of the most unique landscapes in world because it goes for sea level to 13,677 feet. It is also an International Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Getting there: Can fly directly into Kona from mainland – Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, LA, San Fran, Seattle

Dramatic Desert Landscape Destination

This is an island with a twist. Island in the Sky is in Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah. The mesa with 1000 ft sheer sandstone cliffs offers sweeping views from overlooks. Grand View Point and Mesa Arch are my favorites. A couple of other interesting spots are hiking up Aztec Butte to see ancient ruins and Upheaval Dome is believed to be a meteorite crater (1/3 of mile wide).

Getting there: 45 minute drive north of Moab

My West Coast Wish List

In a segment for The List TV Show, I added a West Coast island that’s on my wish list to visit. Santa Catalina is southernmost of California’s Channel Islands. William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum entrepreneur, bought Catalina Island Company in 1919. Hotel Atwater which opened in 1920 and was renovated in 2019 is one of several luxury hotels on island. There are two small towns – Avalon on the south side and Two Harbors on northwest side. If you’re a camper, rent a tent cabin at Hermit Gulch Campground. Rent a cabana at Descanso Beach Club. Go on a zip line eco tour or aerial adventure through obstacles in a grove of eucalyptus. The Wrigley Botanical Garden is over 37 acres and features Catalina island endemic plants. Go in an open-air biofuel Hummer to explore the hillsides to see the free-range Catalina Bison Herd brought to island in 1924 for a movie and never left.

Getting There: About 22 miles S/SW of LA – take ferry Newport Beach, Dana Point, Long Beach or San Pedro

Author Jennifer Broome has been to all 50 states. Check out the Explore America section for more unique places to visit in the United States.

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