Deep, turquoise waters. Sandstone cliffs, groves of pine and oak, and long, empty beaches. Miles of trails for hiking, beautiful state parks, and historic lighthouses. You may not get whiffs of saltwater or need to dodge falling coconuts, but you will find incredible island experiences in the Midwest. Here are some of the best.
Washington Island, Wisconsin
A quick five-mile ferry ride across the passage known as “Death’s Door” — shipwreck central some 100+ years ago — Washington Island is known for a few things that’ll convince you to leave the mainland: Schoolhouse Beach, made of polished limestone pebbles, is one of five “sandless” beaches in the world; the fields of lavender at Fragrant Isle could light up your Instagram for weeks, and lunch here means noshing on “lawyer.” (It’s a cold-water fish popular around these parts, but it’s also a great line.)
There are actually 35 islands in the Grand Traverse Archipelago, off the shores of Door County, but only a few are readily accessible. Rock Island — home to Rock Island State Park and its lighthouse and miles of trails — is also a great day trip via the Karfi ferry from Washington Island’s Jackson