The Top 10 Islands in the Continental U.S. in 2017

Hilton Head, South Carolina
Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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.

01 of 10

10. Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island, Florida
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Score: 82.43

02 of 10

9. Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Kiawah Island, South Carolin
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Score: 83.22

03 of 10

8. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Gabriela Herman

Score: 83.34

04 of 10

7. Florida Keys, Florida

Florida Keys, Overseas Highway
Andrew Hetherington

Score: 83.49

05 of 10

6. San Juan Islands, Washington

San Juan Islands
Ian Allen

Score: 83.86

06 of 10

5. Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island, Michigan
Getty Images/RooM RF

Score: 85.45

07 of 10

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

Golden Isles, Saint Simons
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Score: 85.60

08 of 10

3. Mount Desert Island, Maine

Mount Desert Island
LightRocket via Getty Images

Score: 86.69

09 of 10

2. Nantucket, Massachusetts

Nantucket, Massachusetts
Roland Bello

Score: 87.26

10 of 10

1. Hilton Head, South Carolina

Hilton Head, South Carolina
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Score: 90.83

Generations of families have made an annual visit to this South Carolina outpost a tradition, and little wonder. Here, there is something for everyone who wants to be outside — and all activities can be reached by bicycle. Golf lovers dream of courses like those offered here, while wildlife fans can observe the loggerhead sea turtles, dolphins, and birds who have the good sense to call Hilton Head home. Wrote one fan, “Whether for a weekend, week, or month, the island has so much to do for all ages, on and off the beach.” Added another, “It’s truly a fantastic and unique place to visit.”

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles