The only thing needed to visit these islands is a desire to relax — no passport needed. Could we make it any easier?
The top island in the U.S. is so spectacular, it also ranks second among the Top 10 Islands in the world this year — and you need not go farther than South Carolina to experience the joys of Hilton Head. As one reader described its many charms: “Relaxing, historic, with beautiful scenery, awesome accommodations, fantastic variety of restaurants, and friendly people.”
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.
South Carolina also boasts another favorite, Kiawah, while Florida lays claim to a further two: family-favorite Sanibel and the Florida Keys, a string of islands that extend south from the mainland and are connected by an oversea highway. Each of the Keys offers something different — Key West is known for its nightlife, while Key Largo is a magnet for fishermen. The diversity of these destinations speaks to the fact that for some, beaches are the top priority, while for others, it’s scenery, food, or even a cooler climate. In the Massachusetts havens of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, as well as on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, joy comes from days spent picking berries and boating while the approaching evening brings in a fog. Mist settles even more regularly over the San Juan Islands in Washington, where orcas, sea otters, and dolphins delight those lucky enough to take off from the rocky shores in kayaks. Back on land, cedar trees rise to shelter hiking trails whose rewards are views of the sea. “I recently spent time bicycling and kayaking here, and absolutely love this place,” said one reader. “Not the typical island vacation when compared to Florida,” added another. “Beautiful in a rugged, outdoorsy way.”
When packing for each of these islands, all that is necessary is a pair of binoculars, wonderful books, and a willingness to forget time. In other words: all offer a perfect vacation, no matter which coast you choose.
10. Sanibel Island, Florida
9. Kiawah Island, South Carolina
8. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
6. San Juan Islands, Washington
5. Mackinac Island, Michigan
4. Golden Isles (Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons Island, Sea Island, St. Simons Island), Georgia
3. Mount Desert Island, Maine
2. Nantucket, Massachusetts