Saturday, August 14, 2010

America's Island Paradises

Info from Yahoo! Travel

Boundary Waters

For a true wilderness experience, travelers visit Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota for its renowned canoing and fishing sites. Part of the Superior National Forest, the region's terrain was shaped by glaciers, and comprises more than 1,000 lakes and streams, with several isolated islands. Visitors are likely to see "a ridiculous amount of stars," says Robert Reid, U.S. travel editor of Lonely Planet. "It's an unbelievable sight," says Reid. "You're in a completely untouched land."

Catalina Island

Catalina Island, the most famous of California's Channel Islands, is only 22 miles off the shore from Los Angeles. Catalina's visitors enjoy excellent snorkeling, kayaking and hiking on the island, or dine on Avalon, the Channel Islands' only city. "A lot of people don't really consider the availability of an unspoiled natural environment so close to L.A.," says Jess Moss, editor at Fodor's.

Cumberland Island

Beachgoers looking for a secluded island getaway may want to consider a visit to Cumberland Island in Georgia, site of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s 1996 wedding to Carolyn Bessette. Once owned by the Carnegie family, Cumberland Island is part of the national seashore and is best known for its miles of undisturbed beaches. For the outdoor types, the island also features miles of trails for horseback riding and hiking.

Thousand Islands

New York
As its name suggests, the Thousand Island Region comprises more than 1,000 islands along the U.S.-Canada border, surrounded by the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario and Adirondacks Mountains. Jess Moss, editor of Fodor's, recommends staying in the historic Alexandria Bay in upstate New York. Visitors can explore upstate New York's wilderness in several of the region's state parks and also enjoy outdoor activities such as fishing, boating and hiking.

San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands offer a stunning view of forested beaches and sea animals, says Robert Reid, U.S. travel editor for Lonely Planet. Travelers can get around the archipelago, which is nestled between Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia, by a ferry system. Most people opt to lodge on San Juan Island, but Orcas island is also a popular spot for tourists, especially those who want to catch sight of local whale pods. "It feels like a stepping stone to Alaska," Reid says. "You see a lot of wildlife you wouldn't see in other places."

Chincoteague Island
Famous for its wild ponies and migratory birds, Chincoteague Island is adjacent to the Assateague Island National Seashore, and features miles of undisturbed and often uncrowded beaches. Visitors can ride one of the Chincoteague ponies, believed to be the descendants of horses aboard a Spanish galleon that crashed off the island in the 16th century, or camp in the Maddox Family Campground. "It's a really cool place to bring kids," says Nancy Schretter of the Family Travel Network.

Lake Champlain Islands
Vermont's Lake Champlain Islands are a great getaway for fishing, canoeing and kayaking, says Holly Hughes, co-author of 500 Extraordinary islands. There are five towns across three main islands, linked together by bridges over a 27-mile stretch. In addition to several old-fashioned inns and B&Bs in town, visitors can choose to camp inside state parks, some of which are located on their own islands, and accessible only by boat.

Mackinac Island
For many visitors, Michigan's Mackinac Island may seem like a step back in time. The island is a national historic site, home to several historic hotels from the late 1800s. Visitors can take several hiking trails or get around by bicycle or horse-drawn carriages -- no cars are allowed on the island. "It's really a time-warpy, old fashioned, water taffy kind of place," says Holly hughes, co-author of 500 Extraordinary Islands and a former executive editor of Fodor's Travel Guides. 

Martha's Vineyard
An island off of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard has long been a poplar vacation spot for the famous and the elite, including President Obama, the Kennedy Family and President Bill Clinton. Still, there are inexpensive ways to vacation on "the vineyard," says Robert Reid, U.S. editor for Lonely Planet. He recommends travels consider staying in Oak Bluff, and area with a strong African-American history.

Sanibel Island
One of the Barrier Islands along the Gulf Coast in Florida, Sanibel Island is considered one of the best shelling destinations in the world -- with beaches full of conch, scallops and lightening whelk seashells. A must-see for nature enthusiasts is the island's J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, home to more than 220 species of birds. Visitors can island hop to the more exclusive beaches on nearby Captiva Island by taking a ferry. "The beaches there are really like being in the Caribbean," says Family Travel Network editor Nancy Schretter.

Love always,