The Top Ten Island Hikes

By Kristine Hansen
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Hiker overlooking Scotland's Isle of Skye
#1: Scotland's Isle of Skye  (Jeremy Woodhouse/Photodisc/Getty)

Island life typically consists of feet in the sand and eyes pointed toward the crashing waves. But hikers in the know realize that following an inland trail can transform the casual beachcomber vacation into one that mixes ocean breezes and stunning coastal views with surprises seldom encountered while perched on a beach towel. In that spirit, here are our top ten island hikes, from rugged and remote to sand-strewn and paradisial. Think of it as earning the right to have that first waterside sundowner.

10. St. George Island State Park, St. George Island, Florida
If white-sand beaches are your thing—but you don't relish the idea of a long haul to the Caribbean—you're in luck. This state park on St. George Island, an enclave in northwestern Florida mostly populated by people's second homes, occupies 1,962 acres and provides views of slash pines, live oak hammocks, marshes, and ospreys. The skinny barrier island is accessible via a four-mile bridge from Eastpoint. A five-mile trail begins at the main campground and carves through the park's white sands and tall prairie grasses. Post-hike, head to Apalachicola, a funky little coastal town across the causeway from Eastpoint, to dine on locally caught oysters and scallops. Tamara's Café Floridita offers strong coffee, and a handful of well-curated antique shops offer distraction of a different sort.

9. Rock Island State Park, Door County, Wisconsin
Hop a ferry at the northernmost point of Door County, a peninsula wedged between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, and head to Washington Island—and then catch another ferry to Rock Island. (Trust us: It's worth the trek.) The 900-acre isle is car-free and offers easy access to ten miles of trails that hug rocky shorelines and sand dunes. Go for the 5.2-mile Thordarson Loop Trail, which rims the entire island and takes about three hours. Or start smaller on the one-mile interpretative trail. After hiking, check out an 1836 lighthouse (Wisconsin's oldest), a former fishing-village site, or some Native American artifacts (plus original Icelandic carved furniture) at Viking Hall.

8. Angel Island State Park, San Francisco, California
Within eyeshot of Alcatraz sits 740-acre Angel Island, also in San Francisco Bay and off the northern tip of the city, about one mile from the Tiburon Peninsula. To get here, hop a commercial ferry. The five-mile perimeter road is surfaced most of the way, but the route takes you past rocky shorelines, beaches, slopes, and forested areas. For more of a challenge, summit 788-foot Mount Livermore, which takes, on average, a little over two hours. Back on the mainland, Sausalito is home to many cafés serving seafood, such as Sam's Anchor Café, which has been an institution since the 1920s. The restaurant also boasts views of Angel Island, making it the perfect spot to catch a peek of what you've just hiked.

7. Moran State Park, Orcas Island, Washington
This massive, 5,542-acre park resides on Orcas Island (the largest of the San Juans). To reach it, take a 90-minute ferry ride from Anacortes. Moran State Park has 33 miles of hiking trails, but we suggest you take on the three-mile hike to the island's highest point, 2,409-foot Mount Constitution. From a stone observation tower at the summit, you can see cities in northern Washington and southern Canada, as well as beautiful views of the Cascade Mountains and the rest of the island. Painted a funky bright green, Turtleback Farm Inn is six miles from the ferry stop. Stay in one of its seven bedrooms or in the new four-bedroom house out back.

6. Sears Island, Waldo County, Maine
The largest uninhabited and undeveloped island along the East Coast sits at the tip of Penobscot Bay off the coast of Searsport, Maine, connected to the mainland by a causeway. Although it's only two miles long and one mile wide, there is plenty of room for hiking. On the 936-acre island, 601 acres are protected, including a 1.5-mile road and a five-mile hike that traces the rocky shoreline. Members of a local coalition occasionally lead medicinal plant identification walks; check with the Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition. In the town of Belfast, dine on fresh lobster or browse shops that sell everything from pottery (Mainely Pottery) to locally made jewelry (Yo Mamma's Home). This artsy town also has numerous bed-and-breakfasts within a few blocks of downtown.

Published: 27 Jul 2011 | Last Updated: 15 Aug 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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