Travel is social media’s most talked about topic right now, according to a new analysis conducted by Kantar, a leading data, insights and consulting company.
This should come as no surprise to those who are sheltered in place because of COVID-19. Nonetheless, those of us who love to travel can’t wait to pack our suitcases and head out once again to amazing destinations.
There’s something about an island we all love. And the best part is that we have plenty right here in the United States and its territories. Here are some dreamy island escapes to put on your future bucket list to help ease you back into travel.
Amelia Island, Florida
It’s one of Florida best-kept secrets. Amelia Island is the northernmost barrier island on Florida’s Atlantic coast. Only 13 miles long and 2 miles wide, the charming unspoiled isle isn’t as well known as other Florida seaside destinations but it’s one of the reasons this pristine paradise is so special.
This almost timeless, off-the-beaten-path destination is just 30 miles from Jacksonville, yet it feels a world apart. Idyllic Amelia Island is a perfect mix of stunning golden-hued beaches, abundant wildlife, fascinating history, and Southern gentility. Giant oaks draped in Spanish moss form a picturesque forested canopy throughout the island.
The historic bayside town of Fernandina Beach dates from the post-Civil War period. This quiet hamlet boasts 50 square blocks of gorgeous Victorian, Queen Ann, and Italianate homes, many listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including The Addison on Amelia Island, a bed and breakfast.
Its scenic waterways are perfect for kayaking and river excursions. Cruisers are treated to spectacular views of Floridian wildlife including dolphins, manatees, and, yes, alligators.
St. Simons Island, Georgia
The stunning coastal salt marshes were our first glimpse of Georgia’s Golden Isles. St. Simons Island is a unique combination of laid-back vibe, breathtaking beaches, and natural beauty. Add in pristine golf courses, fascinating historical landmarks and exceptional Southern seafood cuisine, and it becomes an unforgettable visit.
Few destinations can claim an operational lighthouse and one that encourages visitors to climb 129 steps for breathtaking views of neighboring Jekyll Island.
St. Simon’s Island Pier is a picturesque wooden structure overlooking Neptune Beach. The Pier Village serves as the downtown social hub, a popular destination for dining, gathering on the pier or picnicking.
One of the most serene places on the island is Christ Church Frederica. Though the original structure built in 1820 was destroyed in the Civil War, the Gothic-style church was rebuilt in 1886, making it the third oldest Episcopal parish in the country.
Its magnificent stained-glass windows depict biblical stories. The church’s cemetery, a pastoral resting place for the island’s earliest and most notable residents, spreads serenely under ancient moss-draped oaks.
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
The third largest of the Virgin Islands, St. John has fewer tourists but just as many white sand beaches as its more popular neighbor, St. Thomas.
What makes St. John so unique is that sixty percent of this pristine island paradise has been preserved as a national park. Hiking opportunities abound throughout the island and we love seeing wild donkeys, deer, cows, pigs and mongooses on our adventures. A hike through the ruins of Annaberg Sugar Plantation is not only picturesque, it’s a historical journey that sports some of the most awe-inspiring views of the island.
Waters here are crystalline with multiple shades of tourmaline and azure. Snorkeling is the most popular activity here as the calm waters are teeming with stunning coral formations, colorful angelfish, and a myriad of other sea life.
Some of the most photographed beaches in the world are located on St. John and a good way to experience them is by boat. Dinghies are available on the waterfront for full or half-day rentals with maps of the many islands included.
This is the ideal waterfront transport as the rugged dinghies can easily be beached while snorkeling or hiking. Our favorite secluded spots are the quiet coves of Maho and Francis Bay, where sea turtles can readily be spotted in the grassy sea beds.
Santa Catalina Island, California
Located a mere 22 miles off the Southern California mainland, the remote island paradise of Santa Catalina Island is accessible only by boat, plane or helicopter.
This wonderful, captivating place, covering only 76 square miles, feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of a busy world. Its vintage charm provides glimpses of what an earlier undeveloped Southern California once was.
Eighty eight percent of the island remains uninhabited, set aside as a nature conservancy to protect its hidden coves, unspoiled beaches, rare plants, endangered species, and threatened habitats.
Getting to the island is half the fun. Board the Catalina Express catamaran from Dana Point Harbor for a relaxing one-hour journey. Boats arrive in Avalon, the picturesque Mediterranean-like seaport village framed by verdant cliffs plunging into sparkling aquamarine waters.
Cars are scarce on the island and residents wait years to obtain a vehicle permit. Walking, bikes and golf carts are the principal forms of transportation. A favorite way to explore the island’s mountainous terrain is by electric bike. Our preplanned routes took us to the must-see stops along the way, each breathtaking vista more spectacular than the one before.
Without a doubt, the island’s iconic landmark is the glorious Casino, though it’s not a gambling casino at all. Built in 1929, the majestic 12-story structure standing watch over a yacht-filled harbor takes it name from the Italian word meaning “gathering place.” It’s here that Hollywood Golden Era celebrities flocked to the island to dine, watch silent movies, and twirl away on the world’s largest circular ballroom to the sounds of big band music.
Other popular island activities include diving, parasailing, zip-lining, fishing, kayaking, golfing, hiking, ecotours and much more to satisfy every adventure-seeker.
An unknown author once said, “Dreams are made of sand and sun.”
Yes, we will travel once again, but in the meantime, let’s take this opportunity to dream, research and plan our next island getaway.
Common to the travel industry, this writer was hosted by various venues in Amelia Island, Florida, St. Simons Island, Georgia and Santa Catalina Island, California. However, this did not influence my review of these destinations.