The Top 10 Islands in the Continental U.S.
We hate to choose geographical sides — but Travel + Leisure readers did. It’s safe to say the South takes it when it comes to island getaways, with Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Florida collectively claiming seven out of the top 10 spots.
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 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.
Related: The 2018 World's Best Awards
There are, of course, the perennial favorites, including South Carolina’s Hilton Head — the No. 1 winner yet again — and Kiawah Island, which many said had an “uncommercial” feel. Longboat Key, along Florida’s Gulf Coast, is a debut winner. One reader chose it for her honeymoon: “My husband and I felt like we were in the Caribbean, with pure white sand beaches and crystal-blue water.” In Georgia, the aptly named Golden Isles — composed of four barrier islands — are beloved for their marshland, pristine coastline, and laid-back charm, while North Carolina scores for the Outer Banks. Its wide beaches include Carova, where you can bodysurf while watching grazing wild horses.
Further up north, Nantucket continues to prove popular with our readers. The former whaling island is as rich in quaintness (think rose-covered cottages) as it is in stunning vistas over the red-clay cliffs to the sea. “Romantic and beautiful,” writes one reader, who is among the many also besotted with Nantucket’s culinary scene (don’t miss the yacht- and people-watching at the harborside Cru). If you wish to avoid the summer crush of tourists and vacationing families, book a trip in the fall and have the beach to yourself for a late-season swim.
What all of these islands share is the ability to offer everything one needs for a relaxing vacation, beginning with an easy journey to get there. Read on for the full list of this year’s Top 10 winners.
10. Longboat Key, Florida
9. Outer Banks, North Carolina
8. Nantucket, Massachusetts
7. Florida Keys
6. Amelia Island, Florida
5. San Juan Islands, Washington
4. Mount Desert Island, Maine
3. Kiawah Island, South Carolina
2. Golden Isles (Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons Island, Sea Island, St. Simons Island), Georgia
1. Hilton Head, South Carolina
The lush island’s fervent fans treasure the ability to hop on a bicycle and arrive at an award-winning golf course or a perfect, secluded perch from which to spot dolphins. Rent a house or book a stay at the Inn & Club at Harbour Town — The Sea Pines Resort, a boutique hotel that is long on Southern charm. “You can do as much or as little as you want,” wrote one visitor of this ideal family destination, while another chimed in, “My favorite place of all time!”
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2018.