Hawaii may be the most famous island in America, but there are actually a lot of picturesque offshore destinations to visit—that don’t require a passport.
A getaway to any of the below could mean dipping your toes in diamond-dust white sand, strolling through historic beach towns, or escaping into the most remote wilderness. (Not to mention orca watching or wild pony spotting as possible activities.)
The thing that unites all these islands is incredible scenery, proximity to water (AKA vitamin sea), and the fact that getting away from the mainland is the quickest means by which to leave behind work stress and get on vacation time.
Pack up your bag, because these 10 dreamy US islands are absolutely worth checking out.
Location: Virginia’s eastern shore
Dreamy draw: Chincoteague is so untamed it actually has wild ponies. (But then, you knew that if you were obsessed with the children’s novel Misty of Chincoteague growing up.) Explore the wetlands and pristine coastline any time of year. Or, try to time your visit to the annual Pony Swim on the last Wednesday in July, when the wild ponies make a journey from nearby Assateague to Chincoteague.
Location: 25 miles southeast of the Alaska Peninsula
Dreamy draw: There’s a reason Kodiak is nicknamed the Emerald Isle. This rugged, remote, verdant island is covered with spruce forests and wildflower meadows. Beyond the stunning landscape, it’s a haven for surfers, rock climbers, kayakers, hikers, and its famous Kodiak brown bear.
Mount Desert Island
Location: 50 miles from Bangor, Maine
Dreamy draw: The ocean meets glacier-carved mountains at stunning Acadia National Park on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. Spend your days tackling the park’s 125 miles of hiking trails before returning to civilization at picturesque Bar Harbor, once the summer playground of the rich in the 19th century.
San Juan Islands
Location: 100 miles northwest of Seattle, Washington
Dreamy draw: You might have to take a seaplane to get to this off-the-beaten-path island chain, but it’s 100 percent worth it to see orcas (and humpback whales, porpoises, and bald eagles, too). Besides whale-watching boat tours, spend time checking out the islands’ picturesque lavender and alpaca farms.
Location: 20 miles from Fort Myers, Florida
Dreamy draw: White sand beaches and brilliant blue ocean are hallmarks of laid-back Sanibel Island, where two-thirds of the island is a designated nature preserve. Between swimming and kayaking, the closest thing to work you’ll do here is hunting for seashells, which are absolutely everywhere on the beach.
Location: 22 miles from Los Angeles
Dreamy draw: In the early days of Hollywood, Catalina Island doubled as a stand-in for Polynesia. Some of that old-school glamour remains, including Catalina Casino, an art deco stunner built on the edge of the Island’s Avalon Bay in 1929.
Location: 13 miles south from mainland Rhode Island
Dreamy draw: Everyone bikes around hilly Block Island; it’s both a workout and the best way to explore the island’s gorgeous 17 miles of beaches. But you’ll want to ditch your wheels to hike up Mohegan Bluffs for amazing views of the Atlantic.
Location: 70 miles from Ventura, California
Dreamy draw: Nicknamed the “Galapagos of North America,” this national park isn’t easy to get to at all—you’ll need a boat or plane, and there’s no transportation on the five-island chain. But these remote islands have jaw-dropping scenery, like Painted Cave, the longest natural cavern in North America (tour it via kayak!) or Anacapa Island’s famous Arch Rock, a 40-foot-high natural bridge.
Location: 7 miles off the southern coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Dreamy draw: Sitting on a sandy beach, wrapped in a blanket, watching the sun set off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard is definitely worth an entry on any travel bucket list. The New England island draws hoards of tourists during its summer high season—including the Obamas—every year. But its beautiful beaches (like Lucy Vincent or Lambert’s Cove) are ideal for fall walks, too. And there’s no better way to see MV than by bike along any of its 44 miles of trails.