Is it your dream to find a hidden little island that’s virtually unknown to everyone else? Well, you don’t have to fly to some remote part of the world to live that dream. There are plenty of secret islands here in the U.S. that you’ve probably never heard of. (And I’m about to expose them!)
Great Diamond Island, Maine
Tourists flock to Portland, Maine, but the majority miss out on a nearby gem—Great Diamond Island, less than an hour away by ferry. Book a room at the Inn at Diamond Cove, located in a gated community on the north side of the island. Only hotel guests and residents are allowed to explore this section of the island, and you could spend a whole afternoon on one of its tiny beaches without seeing anyone else. Adding to the peaceful feel: Cars aren’t allowed on this part of the island.
Rabbit Island, Michigan
You could have had Rabbit Island on Lake Superior all to yourself if you were browsing Craigslist a few years ago. Rob Gorski, an ER doctor living in Manhattan, stumbled across a listing for the 91-acre island in 2000 and purchased it for a mere $140,000. Gorski renamed the former Traverse Island and has since turned it into an artists’ colony that welcomes visitors.
Let the masses go to the Cape or Nantucket. You’ll be soaking in the solitude on Cuttyhunk, an island between the Southeastern Massachusetts coast and Martha’s Vineyard. Cuttyhunk certainly feels miles away from the frenetic scenes of the Vineyard and Nantucket. There are no cars and few amenities or stores, but that’s a good thing if you’re seeking the privacy of a secret island getaway.
Whiskey Island, New York
Round up 15 of your closest friends and Whiskey Island could be yours for the week. This 3.1-acre spot in the Thousand Islands got its name from the Prohibition Days when it was used by bootleggers to smuggle alcohol from Canada into the U.S. Now it’s home to the Whiskey Island Lodge cottage, which can be rented by up to 15 people for $10,150 a week (about $677 each).
Sapelo Island, Georgia
Sapelo Island is a 30-minute ferry ride from McIntosh, Georgia. (You can also fly to its private airport if you’re fancy.) Although the island is only 11 miles long, there’s plenty to explore here—from the ornate Reynolds Mansion (where you can stay overnight) to the natural beauty of the beaches and dunes.
Admiralty Island, Alaska
Admiralty Island is everything you think of when you imagine Alaska: remote, mountainous, icy, and full of wildlife. This natural beauty has around one million acres of old growth forest, and more than 700 miles of pristine waterfront. In fact, the whole island is designated as a National Monument, and more than 90 percent is part of a wilderness reserve.
With a nickname like “The Forbidden Island,” you know that Niihau is going to be challenging to reach. But, if you can get to this unique island, you’ll see a totally different side of Hawaii—one that many locals don’t even know.
Just 17 miles from Kauai, Niihau Island is owned by a private family. It was purchased by the Sinclair family (and has since been passed on to their decedents, the Robinson family) in the 1860s on the condition that the people already living on the island be allowed to stay. Now, only the approximately 70 residents and the island’s current owners are allowed onto the island at their leisure. Otherwise, you’ll have to sign up for one of the limited tours of the island. Be warned—Niihau has its own rules, including no alcohol or guns allowed.
San Miguel, California
As the westernmost of the Channel Islands, San Miguel has always been one of the most remote places you can get to from California. It was closed by the Navy in 2014 in order to conduct a public safety assessment (the island was previously an active bombing range) and didn’t reopen to the public until May of 2016. Still want to visit? You’ll need to be accompanied by a ranger and sign a liability waiver.
Caroline Morse is a Senior Editor with SmarterTravel. Follow her adventures around the world on Instagram TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.
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