By Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
Updated: July 18, 2019
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When it comes to the best islands in the United States, readers gave the East Coast a near-clean sweep on this year’s list. Only one entry on this list isn’t located on the Atlantic seaboard, and that exception sits in a lake in the middle of the country.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure 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.

RelatedThe World's Best Awards 2019

What all of the destinations on this year’s list have in common is a decidedly laid-back vibe. Georgia’s Cumberland Island (No. 3) is accessible only by ferry and limited to 300 visitors at a time. There are no cars or stores, a single hotel (the charming 15-room Greyfield Inn, a former home of the Carnegie family set on 200 acres), and some 100 feral horses that roam the nearly 18 miles of coast. “The undeveloped nature is so seductive and lovely,” wrote one reader. “What a rare and precious gift!”

Cars are also verboten on Michigan’s Mackinac Island (No. 5) in Lake Huron. With biking and walking trails along its roughly 8-mile circumference, quaint inns, and plenty of restaurants, Mackinac is popular for day trips as well as longer visits. “An amazing time-warp destination that retains a lot of Victorian traditions,” wrote one reader, while another enthused, “Absolutely beautiful.”

Still, it’s hard to deny the charm of the southern United States, where seven of the top ten islands can be found, including the one that has retained a firm hold on the No. 1 spot for four years in a row.

10. Kiawah Island, South Carolina

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Score: 80.80

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The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, skylark.com, rates $305/night
Includes daily breakfast, $100 resort credit

9. Outer Banks, North Carolina

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Score: 81.44

8. Amelia Island, Florida

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Score: 81.49

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The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, skylark.com, rates from $408/night
Includes daily breakfast, $100 spa credit

7. Florida Keys, Florida

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Score: 81.72

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Sunset Key Cottages, skylark.com, rates from $685/night
Includes daily breakfast, $100 resort credit

6. Nantucket, Massachusetts

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Score: 82.22

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The Wauwinet in Nantucket, skylark.com, rates from $218/night
Includes room upgrade upon arrival, adults-only hotel

5. Mackinac Island, Michigan

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Score: 82.26

4. Golden Isles (Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons Island, Sea Island, St. Simons Island), Georgia

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Score: 84.00

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The Lodge at Sea Island, skylark.com, rates from $455/night
Includes daily breakfast, $100 resort credit

3. Cumberland Island, Georgia

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Score: 84.83

2. Mount Desert Island, Maine

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Score: 85.53

1. Hilton Head, South Carolina

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Score: 85.83

This verdant island continues to draw a faithful fanbase, thanks to its idyllic shores (think: frolicking dolphins, nesting turtles, near-empty beaches) and air of sophisticated luxury (consider its prize-winning golf courses and lauded restaurants). Add that visitors can move from one to the other within minutes on a bicycle and ”everyone is aware of and respectful of cyclists,” as one reader observed, and it’s easy to understand why Hilton Head is beloved by travelers craving an effortless getaway. "Love this island! Easy access to a wonderful slice of paradise," wrote another fan. “People are extremely friendly, and the food is to die for!”

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2019.

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