9 Best Island Getaways In The Southeast U.S.

9 Best Island Getaways In The Southeast U.S.
Many Americans are dreaming about their next island getaway - and the good news is a passport isn’t always required. There are magnificent island escapes right here in the United States, complete with stunning white sand beaches and plenty of memorable experiences. Some of these lovely isles are accessible by car, while others can be reached only by boat or ferry.

If you’re craving a fantastic island vacation closer to home, here are nine of the best island getaways in the southeast United States:

Duck Key, FL: The beautiful Florida Keys are known for their shimmering turquoise waters, wide array of water sports including world-class boating and fishing, abundant wildlife, and captivating tropical sunsets. Secluded Duck Key is located midway down the island chain, making it a perfect base for exploring all the Florida Keys have to offer. Better still, Duck Key is home to award-winning Hawks Cay Resort – offering an extensive choice of upscale accommodations and immersive experiences for vacationers of all ages. Reopened in 2018 after a $50 million renovation, Hawks Cay is set on 60 acres providing peaceful water views. Guests can stay in the resort’s large guestrooms or opt for spacious multi-bedroom villas. Hawks Cay features six top-notch dining venues, a full-service marina, a wide-ranging selection of watersports, five swimming pools and a massive saltwater lagoon, eight tennis courts, an onsite Dolphin Connection program, and a well-equipped spa and fitness center. Families rave about the resort’s outstanding kids and teens programs held at Coral Cay, the resort’s activities and adventures center.

North Captiva Island, FL: While some Florida coastal vacation spots are packed with people, this South Florida isle retains its original peaceful charm. North Captiva Island lies across Redfish Pass from posh Captiva Island and is just a short private ferry ride away from the Florida mainland. Vehicles can’t access the island, although North Captiva’s air strip is accessible to small private planes. Transportation on the island is via electric golf carts. About half of this barrier island is part of the Florida State Park system, so it’s easy for couples and families to find their own secluded spot. North Captiva’s five miles of white sand beaches are covered with shells, and dolphins and manatees are often spotted in the surrounding waters. Popular activities include boating, fishing, biking, and beachcombing. There are no hotels on North Captiva Island, but vacationers can rent private homes and villas. North Captiva Island Club and Safety Harbor Club provide resort-style amenities for guests including pools, tennis courts, restaurants, and access to bikes, kayaks and marina facilities.

Amelia Island, FL: Florida's Amelia Island offers visitors 13 miles of wide sandy beaches with tall dunes. Connected to the mainland by two bridges, this beautiful island is located about 30 minutes from Jacksonville's airport. From Fort Clinch at the northern end to the high dunes at the south, you'll find plenty of spaces for jogging, relaxing, or playing in the sand. In addition to camping facilities and numerous vacation rental properties, there are also several top-notch resorts available on this island. If you decide to spend a few days on Amelia Island, do try to spend a day on nearby Cumberland Island across the Georgia state line. Ferries leave from nearby St. Mary for Cumberland, where you'll find miles of deserted beaches, wild horses, armadillos, and the ruins of mansions and plantation homes. It's well worth the trip.

Little St. Simons Island, GA: Little St. Simons Island is one of Georgia’s Golden Isles and is accessible only by boat. This spectacular 11,000 acre private island is a secluded nature sanctuary filled with abundant wildlife, seven miles of white sand beaches, maritime forests and marshlands. Vacationers can stay at The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island, an idyllic all-inclusive retreat. This special resort accommodates only 32 overnight guests and is a paradise for families and nature lovers. Rates at The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island include three full meals each day, non-alcoholic beverages, unlimited island activities and use of recreational gear, daily naturalist-led outings and boat transfers to and from the island. A Junior Naturalist Program for children is also offered during the summer months.

Hilton Head Island, SC: Hilton Head Island was voted the #1 Island in the United States for the fourth year in a row at the 33rd Annual Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Awards. Hilton Head Island's mixture of world-class golf courses, wide beaches, and great restaurants has lured many vacationers back year after year. It has been an excellent place to relax, play a few rounds of golf, visit some shops and eat loads of exceptional seafood. The biking on the wide beaches at Sea Pines Plantation on the south end of the island is tremendous fun as well. Hilton Head is a good destination for active vacationers who like a wide variety of things to see and do. The island is big in size - the largest island off the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas. Located just 40 miles from Savannah, Georgia, Hilton Head Island is easily accessible by car and offers a wide variety of resorts, hotels and vacation rentals. If you go, don't miss biking on the hard-packed beach at low tide -- it's great!

Kiawah Island, SC: South Carolina's Kiawah Island is outstanding on all sides: ocean, marsh, bay and river. Located just 21 miles south of Charleston and accessible by car, Kiawah Island Golf Resort features wide beaches, vast array of accommodations, world-class golf, and extensive recreation and children's programs. Ten miles of pristine private beaches stretch from east to west, offering outstanding views of the Atlantic from oceanfront condominiums and homes. The rest of the island is surrounded by marshes and lagoons. Vacationers can stay at Kiawah Island's oceanfront hotel as well as at a myriad of island villas, and multi-bedroom homes. Nature and sports-oriented activities are offered for children, teens and adults. Kamp Kiawah will keep kids occupied with activities, swimming, arts and crafts, learning about the environment, or ocean life. Kiawah Island Golf Resort is known as one of the best golf and tennis resorts in the nation, and also offers instruction in both sports for kids and teens. In addition to all this, guests can enjoy miles of paved paths for biking, pools, and restaurants.

Bald Head Island, NC: Located at the convergence of North Carolina’s Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean, this 12,000-acre subtropical island can only be reached by ferry or private boat. No cars are allowed on the island and transportation is available by tram, bicycles or golf carts. The island is known for its 14 miles of wide sandy beaches as well as its extensive recreational activities. Loggerhead turtles nest along the shores during the summer months and the island’s 10,000 unspoiled acres of scenery are inviting. Vacationers enjoy climbing Old Baldy, North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse, as well as hiking, kayaking, fishing, sailing, and playing golf or tennis. A wide variety of vacation rentals is available on Bald Head Island, including some pet-friendly accommodations.

Ocracoke Island, NC: Ocracoke Island was once the secluded refuge of Blackbeard the pirate, and it’s still a top escape for vacationers today. Officially part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke’s sandy strands are legendary. Ocracoke’s Lifeguarded Beach has been named as one of the best beaches in the U.S. by Stephen Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach, for the last four consecutive years. This laid-back island is accessible by three different ferry routes, by boat, or via private plane. Vacationers can rent private homes and cottages, camp at the National Park Service Ocracoke Campground, or stay in small inns and lodges. While automobiles are allowed, vacationers can also get around the island by bike, tram or golf cart. Fishing, beachcombing and a wide variety of watersports are popular here. Visitors can look for Ocracoke’s wild ponies while staying on the island as well.

Chincoteague Island, VA: Vacationers who love wild ponies and the stories of Marguerite Henry will fall in love with Chincoteague, VA. This is a magical island far removed in spirit from the crowded, action-packed beach towns located just an hour away. Chincoteague was voted the best Coastal Small Town in the United States in last year's USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. Here you'll find quaint villages, marshlands, and nature galore. There are a number of hotels and vacation rentals available on seven-mile long Chincoteague Island, which is separated from neighboring Assateague Island by a small bridge. Assateague Island National Seashore contains 10 miles of unspoiled beaches and abundant wildlife, including the world-famous wild ponies. These ponies can be seen on the Maryland side of Assateague Island as well. The beaches on Assateague are undeveloped. Visitors will find a bathhouse with rest rooms and showers, but no food concessions. Picnics on the beach are very popular and lifeguards are on duty near both bathhouses.

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