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US Island Vacations

Lonely Planet's Picks For US Islands That Won't Break the Bank

Editor’s note: Summer travel season has officially begun! The following guest post was written by Robert Reid, the US travel editor for Lonely Planet. He will be guest blogging on Savvy for the next two months, helping you find some great ideas of how to get your vacation on this Summer.

Hope everyone had a great Fourth of July weekend! That means summer travel season is stepping up a notch. For most, that means beach time, and on Lonely Planet’s 15 Weekends of Summer, we’re giving away a free itinerary on how to “Escape to the Beach.”

Why just go to a beach, when you can find one on an island? This week I’m giving suggestions of my favorite US islands that won’t break the bank. Some of these are your classic sun-and-swim spots, others are a bit more adventurous.


Florida’s “other coast” is really something special and Sanibel Island is our top getaway for our free itinerary give-away this week. With some 50 miles of accessible coastline, there’s a beach for everyone: from unspoiled ecosystems to fun seaside communities where you can order cocktails and go clubbing, or take in local art and even Thomas Edison’s summer home. The area has all the outdoor recreation you could dream of with mountain biking trails, kayaking opportunities, but also has great shopping, restaurants and nightlife. I visited last year and managed to squeeze in a couple kayak hours to see manatees and dolphins on the way to the airport.

Fire Island is well-known as a popular weekend getaway for New Yorkers but the real beauty of it lies in the east, where most villages are blissfully car-free. At night, you can walk among the boardwalks through the dunes that connect the houses or take advantage of water taxis to take you between villages. Hike the Sunken Garden and Otis Pike Wilderness Area or check out the views from the Fire Island Lighthouse. Try to go mid-week to snag the best rates.

Read on for more islands that won't break the bank.

Heading west, Washington State’s San Juan Islands have a slow and peaceful character- forested shorelines, secluded coves, bucolic vistas and quiet roads. The three largest Lopez, Orcas and San Juan each have their own distinctive charm, with historic sites and art galleries. The cycling is fantastic- we named the islands one of the top 10 cycling routesin the world. And there’s plenty of wildlife: seals, otters, sea lions, orca, black-tailed deer and eagles.

Now for a classic: Martha’s Vineyard. It’s surprising affordable to stay here with a great campground, beautiful hostel and plenty of inns and motels offering great value. Besides the requisite ice cream parlors, swimming beaches and arcades, you’ll find quaint towns, hiking trails and even a special bike ferry. The island also has a whole lot of history, including the beach made famous in ‘Jaws.’ If leave your car behind and use the great (free!) public transportation system on the island, you’ll save even more.

Wild and exotic, Georgia’sCumberland Island is the largest and southernmost barrier island. Our Carolinas, Georgia and Southern Trips book calls it “isolated, rugged and hauntingly pristine”. It’s a national seashore with 50 miles of hiking trails through forests, wetlands, marshes and beaches. Reserve early to camp under the old, gnarled oaks and look out for feral horses, armadillos, lizards and wild hogs.

For more summer getaway ideas or to enter our contest to win a trip to Napa Valley, please visit

Image Source: Thinkstock
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