The Top 10 Islands in the Continental U.S. in 2019

Hilton Head, South Carolina
Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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.

Related: The 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

Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Daniela Duncan/Getty Images

Score: 80.80

  • Book This Deal
  • The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort,, rates $305/night
  • Includes daily breakfast, $100 resort credit

9. Outer Banks, North Carolina

Outer Banks, North Carolina
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Score: 81.44

8. Amelia Island, Florida

Amelia Island, Florida
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Score: 81.49

  • Book This Deal
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island,, rates from $408/night
  • Includes daily breakfast, $100 spa credit

7. Florida Keys, Florida

7 mile bridge, Florida Keys
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Score: 81.72

  • Book This Deal
  • Sunset Key Cottages,, rates from $685/night
  • Includes daily breakfast, $100 resort credit

6. Nantucket, Massachusetts

Nantucket, Massachusetts
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Score: 82.22

  • Book This Deal
  • The Wauwinet in Nantucket,, rates from $218/night
  • Includes room upgrade upon arrival, adults-only hotel

5. Mackinac Island, Michigan

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

Jekyll Island, Georgia
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Score: 84.00

  • Book This Deal
  • The Lodge at Sea Island,, rates from $455/night
  • Includes daily breakfast, $100 resort credit

3. Cumberland Island, Georgia

Cumberland Island, Georgia
Michael Shi/Getty Images

Score: 84.83

2. Mount Desert Island, Maine

Mt. Desert Island, Maine
Walter Bibikow/Getty Images

Score: 85.53

1. Hilton Head, South Carolina

Hilton Head, South Carolina
Getty Images/iStockphoto

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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