You don’t need to venture as far as New Zealand or even Curaçao to get on “island time.” Not when you can break free from the mainland without even leaving the contiguous 48 states (sorry, Oahu). And, yeah, we realize that “contiguous” and “island” shouldn’t exactly be used together, but you get the gist. The best U.S. islands offer boundless beauty and endless adventure.
There’s a New England reprieve awaiting you, bordered on all sides by Cape Cod waters. Some of America’s best fishing spots lie beyond all those inland rivers and lakes. (Just ask anyone who’s been to Padre Island in Texas or Brunswick Island in North Carolina.) There’s even an island escape smack dab in Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Just pitch a tent and be among the island’s 500-plus bison residents.
Looking for a quick island getaway? Set your sights domestically. Our continent’s isle-lined coastal perimeter and giant lakes—some of which could pass for mini island-studded oceans—is where you’ll find the 15 best U.S. islands.
Domestic Bliss: Best U.S. Islands You Don’t Need a Passport to Visit
1. Catalina Island, California
Precisely one marathon’s length off the coast of L.A., you’ll find Catalina, a grounded antidote to the City of Angels. Though “grounded” is purely figurative. Many of the island’s recreational attractions still lie at sea, and its primary city Avalon (population 4,000) feels like a harbor town—where many of its locals and visitors get around by golf cart. To get to Santa Catalina, catch a ferry in Long Beach or San Pedro, both of which take about an hour. Stay a couple nights between Avalon and west-end Two Harbors (on the tiny isthmus that connects the two larger pieces of Catalina), with options ranging from regal suites to camping tents. You can hike the 1,500-ft. Silver Peak, 1,200-ft Avalon Canyon, or any part of the island’s 38.5-mile Trans-Catalina Trail pathways. Practice your falconry, get acquainted with resident bison, zip line over the horizon, or rejuvenate yourself at the Island Spa before returning to L.A.
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