9 U.S. Islands to Explore this Summer

Island adventures are a unique breed of recreation. Maybe it’s the otherworldly feeling of water all around you, or the distance you seem to create from departing the mainland, but hopping onto an island, or island hopping, is one of those adventures you’ll never forget. If you find yourself bogged down by the heat of summer and the usual routine, the time to start planning your next island adventure is right now.

san juan islandSan Juan Islands, Washington
Located in the Salish Sea between Washington and British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, the San Juan Islands are an archipelago that attracts a lot of deserved attention. The San Juan Islands almost feel like a whole different world, with astounding scenery and orca whales frequently spotted in the waters. With 172 named islands and reefs, there is a lot to explore in the San Juan Islands, and a great place to start is any four of the islands that link up with the ferry service (Orcas, San Juan, Lopez, & Shaw Islands). From there you can hike, bike, kayak and explore a seaside scenery that can easily take your breath away.

hunting islandCumberland Island, Georgia
Stretching for 17 miles, Cumberland Island is Georgia’s longest barrier island, the adventure opportunities it holds are only accessible by boat. The most common way to get to Cumberland Island is by hopping on the ferry that departs from Saint Mary, and once you make the trip, there’s over 50 miles of inland and beach trails to explore. Because of its wilderness designation, there are few amenities at Cumberland Island except a few restrooms and water fountains, so planning the type of trip you want to have is essential. Camping is allowed and encouraged at any one of the five campgrounds found throughout this esteemed National Seashore; reservations and permits are required before stepping foot on the island.

hunting islandHunting Island State Park, South Carolina
Located just 16 miles from the historic town of Beaufort, Hunting Island State Park is one of the most popular parks in South Carolina. Accessible by vehicle via Interstate 95, this esteemed state park isn’t only popular because it’s easy to get to, but more so because the 5,000 acres and 3 miles of beachline it encompasses offer a rewarding chance to get away from it all. While much of Hunting Island is in its natural state, the State Park does offer select amenities including changing huts on the beach, a public lighthouse to explore, and a few campsites designated for RV’s and tent campers.

casco bayCasco Bay Islands, Maine
The Casco Bay Islands is a large clustering of big and small islands off the southern coast of Maine. The Casco Bay Ferry Line provides transport to six of the major islands and their welcoming communities. While hiking, biking and kayaking are a must in and around the Casco Bay Islands, as well as spending the night in one of three beautiful campgrounds, many visitors are enticed to go because of all the seashore dining options found throughout the area.

key westKey West, Florida
While the southern exposure of Key West might not be the best place to beat the heat this summer, with an abundant shoreline, plenty of palm trees and a tropical surrounding to indulge yourself in, even a little heat can’t spoil a good time here. Serving as the southernmost city in the contiguous United States, Key West is not far from the shores of Cuba. You’ll of course find all the typical beachside tourist attractions here, but also an abundance of campgrounds with activities such as snorkeling, fishing, beach combing, and boating.

manitou islandNorth & South Manitou Island, Michigan
The North & South Manitou Islands are part of a larger island chain found in Lake Michigan, and are also part of the inland attraction known as the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. While there is a lot of fun things to climb and explore inland at the dunes, the real adventure begins when you hop aboard a ferry and head for the islands. Both the North and the South Manitou Islands have unique adventures to explore, including 15,000 acres of designated wilderness on North Manitou, and an underwater preserve containing 50 known shipwrecks off the coast of South Manitou. Camping is allowed at either island with the correct permit and reservation.

assatueague islandAssateague Island, Virginia & Maryland
Assateague Island is a barrier island off the Delmarva Peninsula operated by two different states and three government agencies. Split between a National Lakeshore, a Maryland State Park, and a Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Assateague Island draws many people towards its rugged landscape. Thanks to the never-ceasing laps of waves falling on the shore however, the adventure is always evolving. Visitors have an array of recreational opportunities to choose from at Assateague Island, including kayaking, biking and camping, but most people visit to catch a glance at the many feral horses that also inhabit the island.

Catalina IslandSanta Catalina Island, California
Located off the coast of California, roughly 22 miles from Los Angeles, Santa Catalina Island (also known simply as “Catalina”), has plenty of good reasons to draw you in. While the tourist attraction draw in the average visitor, those looking for a bit more action come for the sunny island scenery and easy access to adventure. From backcountry hiking to undersea expeditions, the options are almost endless at this year-round adventure destination. Camping is available at select campgrounds on Catalina Island; multiple days are recommended to explore everything this enchanting island has to offer.

Apostle Islands, Wisconsin
Found on the northernmost point of Wisconsin, the Apostle Islands are an island grouping off the shores of Lake Superior that provide nearly unlimited recreation opportunity throughout the year. Comprising of 21 individual islands and 12 miles of mainland, this adventurous destination caters towards overnight island hoppers and day trippers alike. With so many hiking trails and shoreline attractions to do and see on each of the islands that line the shore, it’s well worth utilizing the many different camping options and overnight accommodations available.