5 Exotic Escapes Close To Home

Looking for exotic without the effort? A world of extreme escapes is as near as you want it to be with these 5 travel destinations.

Best of the Caribbean | Best Islands to Live On | Best Dream Trips

Mount Desert Island, Maine

How easy is it? From Bangor it's a casual 70-minute drive to this misunderstood spot.

How exotic is it? I made the mistake of pronouncing Mount Desert as if I were surrounded by cacti. The local way is "dessert," and it's fair to say no coast in the East is so dramatically rocky. From the top of Cadillac Mountain, I could see Nova Scotia, exotic in its own Canadian way, 100 miles in the distance. — Jon Whittle


Dry Tortugas

How easy is it? 40 minutes by seaplane from Key West.

How exotic is it? There, out the window of the seaplane, an enormous yard seems to be floating in the Gulf of Mexico. We're technically in the U.S., but closer to Cuba than to the Florida peninsula. This truly is the forgotten land: Fort Jefferson, former home to army deserters and conspirators. The plane touches down among the islands and maneuvers to shore. I step off holding the only carry-on necessary for this trip: snorkel gear. Oh, this is gonna be good. — Jon Whittle


Grand Bahama, Lucayan National Park

How easy is it? The phrase "travel day" does not really apply. Our flight left Miami at 8 a.m. We were on the runway in Freeport at 8:50 a.m.

How exotic is it? The directions from the airport to the rippled, sandy bank of Gold Rock Beach went like this: Drive east one hour and pull off at the compost toilet. Take off your shoes and prepare the camera. My timing, by accident, was perfect. The tide was on its way out, revealing a textured beach the width of a football field. There were no chaise rentals or food stands. Which makes it sound strange to offer the following tip: Bring your own Sands (the local beer). — Zach Stovall


Orcas Island

How easy is it? One hour from Seattle (plane) or from Anacortes (ferry).

How exotic is it? An overlook emerges from the old-growth forest. I've passed a stream filled with spawning salmon and a waterfall spilling into a lost world of moss and ferns. Up here on a high perch Orcas is totally isolated. The white wake of a ferry navigating past a deep fjord shows a symbolic connection from this island to a far-off landmass capped by the snow-covered Cascade Mountains. I can see the mainland, but I'm nowhere near it. — Bob Friel


Vancouver Island

How easy is it? Seaplanes go from mainland to no man's land in an hour.

How exotic is it? This is a microcosm of Canadian wilderness. Bears. Elk. Killer whales. Totem poles. It's also the warmest spot in Canada.