9 Secret U.S. Islands You've Never Heard Of — But You Should Visit

9 Secret U.S. Islands You've Never Heard Of — But You Should Visit

Hiding in plain sight all along!

By Aly Walansky

Of course there are scores of islands around the world whose names will sound very familiar to far-flung travelers — or even common wanderlusters. But did you know about these secluded, intimate, and not-very-well-known islands right here within the U.S.? You won't need a passport, but you may need a map to get there. And they're definitely worth exploring!

1. Mackinac Island, Michigan

Located in Lake Huron between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, Mackinac Island is a throwback to a slower way of life. “The only way to reach Mackinac Island is either through a 20-minute ferry ride or a private plane ride," explains Jordan Wagner of Wayfaring With Wagner."If Lake Huron freezes over in the wintertime, people can also reach the island via snowmobiles. Although a relatively small island — only eight miles around — it has a distinct feature: It does not allow any motorized vehicles. Transportation options include walking, horse-drawn carriages, or cycling." The location of the first land battle of the War of 1812, this historic island still has its entire fort (Fort Mackinac) intact.

2. Island Lake, Colorado

Photo: U.S. Forest Service

Island Lake situated in the San Juan National Forest, is one of four amazingly incandescent bodies of glacial water that can be found in the Upper Ice Lake Basin near the town of Silverton. ((Ice, Clear, and Fuller lakes are the other three.) Island Lake surely got its name from the flat-topped rock island that is visible whenever water levels ebb. On the four-mile trail to the lakes, hikers pass several legacies of the fortune seekers who settled Silverton in the late 1800s — mines and equipment abandoned when the price of metal fell in the 1920s (though the last large mine in the area didn’t close until 1991). The entire basin is known as an alpine-wildflower wonderland during the summer months.  

3. Secret Island at Kualoa on Oahu, Hawaii

A unique haven, Secret Island is located just five minutes across from an ancient Hawaiian fishpond and bordered by breathtaking Kaneohe Bay. Mangroves and hau trees create an exciting labyrinth of trails leading to this secluded, white-sand beach, the only one in Kaneohe Bay. Many celebrities have been known to visit Secret Island at Kualoa including Janet Jackson, Nicki Manaj, and Rihanna.

4. Great Diamond Island, Maine

#blessed #solitaryrunner 😊

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Chances are you’re familiar with Portland, Maine. But did you know about Great Diamond Island? Located a one-hour ferry ride away from Portland is the beautiful Great Diamond, which is car free, and kid friendly. “This hidden treasure was once used as a military base during the Spanish American War, and has hosted the likes of Henry Longfellow and Harriet Beecher Stowe,” explains TravelPirates senior editor Jessica Bisesto.

5. Isle au Haut, Maine

Isle au Haut off the coast of Maine is so beautiful that half of the island has been protected as part of Acadia National Park. “There are 18 miles of terrific hiking trails, and a fabulous campground overlooking the water. Outside the park, you can spend the night in a lighthouse, where they also serve fabulous dinners,” says James Kaiser, author of the guidebook Acadia: The Complete Guide. Still, this island is hard to find. “It's located farther out in the ocean — 15 miles from the mainland — than any other large island in Maine. To get there, drive to Stonington, a small fishing village at the tip of Deer Isle, then catch the daily mail boat to Isle au Haut,” says Kaiser.

6. Ocracoke, North Carolina

Located three hours from the Outer Banks, Ocracoke Island is accessible to visitors who take a drive, followed by a ferry ride, says Bisesto. This remote island offers fantastic bird watching, fishing, and antique shops. 

7. Cayo Costa, Florida

With nine miles of beautiful beaches and pine forests, oak-palm hammocks and mangrove swamps, Cayo Costa State Park is a secluded natural paradise. Accessible only by boat, the 2,426-acre island offers an ideal locale for swimming, snorkeling, hiking, bicycling. and fishing. 

8. Treasure Island, California

"An artificially constructed island located between San Francisco and Oakland, Treasure Island has been used as a filming location for movies such as The Parent Trap and Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, and was also the location of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. Take a day trip and rent a bike and explore the secluded corners of this island," says Bisesto.

9. Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

A little something blue 💙 📷@lacymorris #slsummertime

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This island is located just off the coast of Hilton Head, South Carolina. On Daufuskie Island, Haig Point, a luxury community, is only accessibly by ferry, as there is no bridge to connect the island to the mainland. No cars are allowed on the island, making for a quiet atmosphere with golf carts and bicycles being the only mode of transportation. Lodging options overlook the Calibogue Sound — a 13-mile-long stretch of curving waterway shops, a spa, and abundant natural wildlife — that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Port Royal Sound. The tiny island, less than five miles long, features a rum distillery and winery, art gallery, history museum, and a handful of family friendly restaurants.

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