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Five amazing islands that you don't need a passport to visit

Perfect island adventure and relaxation

When I was about ten or eleven, Dad took my brother, sister and me to visit some of my dad’s friends who owned horses. This felt like a real treat: the chance to go horseback riding on just a random day! My dad grew up as a rancher/cowboy in northern Utah and Wyoming; he had the opportunity to ride horses every day as part of his normal life experience. He’d passed his love and excitement for horseback riding onto his kids, although as city dwellers, we didn’t get many opportunities to ride horses. His parents had long since sold their ranch and moved to the city themselves. So this horseback riding day was special!

My sister Diane (just a year older than me) and I were to share a horse, and my dad was going to ride with Mark, our little brother. Diane’s and my horse was the first one saddled, and my dad got us nicely settled on the horse before turning to finish up his own preparations. Dad said, “Just walk him around while you wait,” so we obediently started riding around the small paddock. “Can we go outside the gate?” we asked. Dad, who was almost ready, responded that we could, so we guided our mount outside the fence.

Suddenly and with no warning, our docile walking horse turned into a racing fiend. With complete disregard for our attempts to pull back on the reins, he shot across the field toward the trees on the far side of the property. The two of us bounced along precariously as our horse tore across the grass. Becoming more uneasy by the millisecond, I felt myself slipping and sliding on his bare back behind Diane. “I’m going to fall off!” I warned her. Diane, always the supportive sister, said, “I’ll fall off too!” The two of us slid off the back of the galloping beast and landed unceremoniously on the hard ground. Dad and Mark came right behind us on their mount to check that we were OK, and Dad’s friend went after the runaway horse.

It turned out that this was the first “real” ride of the season for those horses, and that when ours had the opportunity to get out of the paddock and barn, he ran for his freedom. We mounted again once we were assured that our horse would behave, and had an enjoyable ride.

Our life this past year has been a little like Diane’s and my crazy ride that spring day: unexpected and bumpy, feeling like we didn’t have much choice in our own future. But now it’s like we’ve fallen off that horse: the quarantines are lightening, and vaccines are becoming available. It’s time to figure out if we’re ready to get back on the travel horse.

I’ve put together a list of five amazing island destinations right here in the U.S. (not including Hawaii), which are completely captivating and wonderful. If you want a great destination to dream about or plan, one of these islands may be the perfect getaway.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Thirty miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Nantucket is known for its worn wharves, historic cottages, cobblestoned streets, quaint shops, and sandy dunes. It’s a perfect summer getaway for biking, surfing, fishing, hiking, or shopping.

Where I’d stay: The Nantucket Hotel & Resort, located in the heart of town. I love the Nantucket Club, their brand-new state-of-the-art fitness & spa facility. They have breakfast, lunch, and dinner available at the Breeze Restaurant, where tables are six feet apart, and take-out, room service, and private dining rooms are available.

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Little St Simons Island, Georgia

Little St. Simons Island, one of the barrier islands off of Georgia, is a remote, practically inaccessible island off the larger St. Simon’s Island. It is comprised of over 11,000 acres and has seven miles of beach. Little St. Simons is perfect for fishing, birding, the beach, biking, and boating.

Where I’d stay: The Lodge at Little St. Simons. Stays include three meals daily, all island activities, use of recreation gear, plus boat transfers to and from the island. The Lodge includes 6 charming and historic cottages. They can only host 32 overnight guests—very private!

Captiva and Sanibel, Florida

Captiva and Sanibel, sister islands on the Gulf side of Florida, are true gems. They offer a laid-back, tropical escape any time of year. These beautiful, white-sand, shell-strewn beaches are perfect for sitting back, relaxing and catching an amazing sunset. Top activities here include offshore fishing, shelling, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

Where I’d stay: Sanibel Moorings, which is located on the quiet east end of the island, near the Sanibel Lighthouse. This is a perfect home base for exploring the island, plus enjoying a prime beach location. From here you can rent a boat, paddleboard, or bike, and explore the sea or land.

San Juan Islands, Washington

Off the coast of Washington state lie the San Juan Islands, with lush forests, quaint fishing villages, rocky beaches, and scenic waterways. Whale watching (the islands are famous for three pods of killer whales), hiking, biking, fishing, and kayaking are among the activities you can enjoy. Browse shops and bookstores.

Where I’d stay: Pebble Cove Farm, located on Orcas Island, is an organic farm right on the water. With individual cabins and cottages, no two accommodations are alike. They encourage guests to roam the 4-acre property, petting the rescue animals, combing the beach, picking the ripe vegetables from the garden, kayaking from the private beach to picnic on an island, or relaxing in a hot tub or hammock.

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Catalina Island, California

Catalina Island, just an hour from the mainland by ferry, is beautiful: swaying palms, white sandy beaches, exquisite dive sites, and a soothing island vibe. Some island activities include a 1,000-foot zipline, hunting for (or viewing) the free-roaming herd of bison, a climbing wall, falconry experience, scuba diving, para sailing, and camping and sleeping out under the stars.

Where I’d stay: Hotel Metropole. This beautiful property accesses the Metropole Marketplace, with cobblestone walkways, cooling fountains, and boutique shops and eateries. They have a rooftop jacuzzi, which offers beautiful views of the harbor.

Five incredible islands, perfect for a single, couple, family, or group of friends to explore. Adventures, relaxation, and a change of scenery. Just like that horseback ride became once we got back on and were willing to chance taking another ride.


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