Top 10 Islands Close to Home

January 6, 2015

If you don’t live on an island paradise, you can still find one right next door. Many beautiful islands lie just a bridge, ferry ride or short flight away – and even from inland states, you can be in a dreamy island setting within a half-day or less, and at surprisingly affordable prices.

Best for Wildlife: Channel Islands, California How did the Pacific look from the coast of California 500 years ago? The five island jewels — San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Anacapa and Santa Barbara — that comprise Channel ­Islands National Park offer a glimpse. Shutterstock
Best for Variety: Galveston Island, Texas Less than an hour from downtown Houston, Galveston Island is 32 miles long and has 32 miles of beach. That means it’s all beach. Well, there’s also shopping and dining in the Historic Downtown Strand District. Shutterstock
Best for Relaxation: Gasparilla Island, Florida There’s Old Florida, and then, across the Boca Grande Causeway, there’s ­Gasparilla Island, Florida. At the center of island culture since it was built in 1911, the Gasparilla Inn & Club is a retreat from the stresses of modern life but not from civilization. Shutterstock
Best for Commuting: Key Biscayne, Florida This may be the most convenient island escape in the world, at least if you live in Miami. The Silver Sands Beach Resort here is a midcentury motel close to Florida’s resort roots with terrazzo floors and doors that still use keys. Shutterstock
Best for Name-Dropping: Long Island, New York Fire Island Wilderness off the south shore and accessible by ferry and bridge offers New York’s only designated wilderness area. Dr. Stephen Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach, named two of Long Island’s beaches in his 2008 list of best U.S. beaches. Shutterstock
Best for Biking: Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts Summer is the season on the Vineyard. The Steamship Authority — in business since ships ran on steam — runs ferries almost hourly dawn till dark between Woods Hole on the mainland and Vineyard Haven (without a car it’s $7.50 per person). Shutterstock
Best for Colors: Mount Desert Island, Maine Home to Acadia National Park, Mount Desert is an island for all seasons. Revel in some of America’s oldest luxury at the Spa at the Bar Harbor Club. Built by J.P. Morgan in 1929, the club stands as testament to the enduring value of retreat. Shutterstock
Best for Seafood: Prince Edward Island, Canada For U.S. readers, Prince Edward ­Island, a Canadian province unto itself, is the most remote island in this list. Crossing the bridge from New ­Brunswick feels like entering another world. You can also get direct flights here from Boston, New York and other hubs. Shutterstock
Best for History: Outer Banks, North Carolina Kitty Hawk at the north end of the Outer Banks is just 79 miles south of the airport in Norfolk, Virginia. Cape Hatteras to the south was declared the United States’ first national seashore in 1953, and the Outer Banks calls itself “America’s Beach.” Shutterstock
Best for Views: Whidbey Island, Washington It’s about 25 miles from downtown Seattle to the dock in Mukilteo, but once you’re on the ferry to Clinton on Whidbey Island, the commute is over and Puget Sound views begin. The views of Deception Pass are spectacular. Shutterstock

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