True or false: When you think about summer vacations, few things sound better than escaping to a nearby island. If you answered “true”, then keep reading – our 13th of 15 Summer Weekends is perfect for you.
For Trip #13, we’ve rounded up four stunning islands in the US within driving distance from Charlotte. Check them out below (in order of closest to furthest from Charlotte) along with key things you need to know as you plan your visit. Ps: If flying’s more your speed, we’ve included four additional options we love that are just a little further than a comfortable car ride.
Drive Time (from Charlotte): 3-hours and 50-minutes (to HHI)
Quick Info: Daufuskie Island is the southernmost inhabited sea island in South Carolina, located between the popular Hilton Head Island and Savannah, Georgia. It’s 2.5 miles wide, 5 miles long, and is steeped in rich Gullah culture.
Why You’d Go: For peace, authenticity, and tranquility. With only 400 full-time residents and plenty of undeveloped land and unpaved roads, Daufuskie has a laid back, island vibe.
How to Get There: There’s no bridge to the island, so the only way to arrive is via boat, by water taxi or ferry. While cars are allowed on most of the island, plan to do what 99% of most visitors do and rent a golf cart once you arrive.
Where to Stay: If you’re determined to have a traditional hotel experience, stay in nearby Savannah, Tybee Island, or Hilton Head Island – there are no luxurious hotels or B&Bs on the Daufuskie.
If you’re up for a rental property, Daufuskie has some wonderful ones to choose from. We recommend: The Little Red Guesthouse on Airbnb for a party of two, properties through Daufuskie Rental Group, and one of the many great options on VRBO (including this 2 BR Ocean Front Cottage for a party of 6, this 5 BR Angel Oak Cottage for a party of 12, and this Loft With Porch & Dock on Intracoastal Waterway for a party of 2).
What to Do: While you enjoy slowing down on the island, checkout Daufuskie’s pristine beaches, soak in the culture by visiting historic sites, and learn from a local expert on guided tours (ex. Wild Eco-Tour, Authentic Gullah Tour, History and Artisans Tour, and more). Don’t forget to taste the local fare with a stop at Daufuskie Island Rum Company and lunch at Lucy Belle’s Cafe.
Drive Time (from Charlotte): 5-hours
Quick Info: Located off the coast of Georgia, Jekyll Island is one of the Golden Isles of Georgia’s barrier islands. The island is about 1.5 miles wide, 7 miles long, and is home to 10 miles of shoreline.
Why You’d Go: Head to Jekyll for wide-open unspoiled beaches, ample amenities (ex. the island has four golf courses!), and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Plus, you’ll be close to Sea Island and St. Simons Island if you’d like to explore beyond Jekyll.
How to Get There: Jekyll Island is located midway between Savannah, GA and Jacksonville, FL. You can access this island by car – it’s just minutes off I-95.
Where to Stay: For the ultimate beach getaway, book one of the 40 suites at Jekyll Ocean Club. To put your Marriott Bonvoy points to good use, book a stay at The Westin Jekyll Island. For rental properties, checkout Airbnb and VRBO – we love this Ocean Cottage 39 on Airbnb for a party of 7, this Garden Cottage 08 on Airbnb for a party of 8, and Ocean Oaks 06 on VRBO for a party of 11.
What to Do: Jekyll Island is a wonderful place to explore the outdoors so plan to stretch your legs with some kayaking, paddle-boarding, horseback riding, and/or biking (the island has over 20 miles of trails!). Tennis and golf are also great options as is bird watching, fishing, and boating. If you’d like to see what living on the island was like in the 1700s, plan a visit to the Horton House where you’ll step back in time as you enter one of the oldest standing tabby structure exteriors in the state of Georgia.
Drive time from Charlotte: 7-hours and 37-minutes (option to breakup the drive with a stopover in Virginia Beach, VA)
Quick Info: A small easygoing beach town, Fenwick Island sits on the coast of Delaware – north of the busy Ocean City, Maryland and south of bustling Bethany Beach.
Why You’d Go: If you’re looking for laid back vibes, cooler temperatures, yummy lobster rolls, and exciting outdoor experiences, Fenwick Island and neighboring Fenwick Island State Park are perfect for you!
How to Get There: No boat is required to access Fenwick Island – you can drive right in.
Where to Stay: Like on Daufuskie, rental properties are your best option here. We love these three VRBO options: Spacious Canal-Front Cottage with 2+ block walk to the beach that sleeps 11, Best Vacation Home in Fenwick that sleeps 12, and this Waterfront Home on Canal that has a pool and is close to the beach.
What to Do: In addition to the usual beach activities you enjoy when embracing island life, be sure to indulge in Fenwick’s yummy New England seafood scene. For coastal cuisine with a beautiful view of the water, head to Catch 54. Harpoon Hanna’s is a fun option for enjoying drinks at tiki bar overlooking the water. And, for wine tastings and summer concerts, plan a visit to nearby Salted Vines Vineyard and Winery.
Drive time from Charlotte: Ok, we admit that Marco Island’s a bit far to reach via car – it’s a 10-hour and 52-minute drive away. If you’re up for the road trip, we recommend breaking up the drive with a stopover in St. Augustine, FL. If you opt to enjoy a quick stop in St. Augustine, here’s a guide for the best things to do and see there.
Quick Info: Located off Florida’s southwest coast, Marco Island is a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico.
Why You’d Go: If you’re looking for a tropical island feel with great hotels, beautiful beaches, and picturesque canals, Marco Island is the perfect pick for you. Need another reason? If visiting the Everglades has ever been on your bucket list, Everglades National Park is less than 1.5 hours away.
How to Get There: The island is linked to the mainland by bridges located just south of Naples, FL so you can drive onto Marco from the mainland.
Where to Stay: Once again you have two great options to put your stashed away Marriott Bonvoy points to good use – the JW Marriott March Island Beach Resort or Marriott’s Crystal Shores. Another option we love is the Marco Beach Ocean Resort where you’ll feel more like you’re on a Caribbean island vacation than off the coast of Florida.
What to Do: Marco Island has no shortage of great restaurants and some of our favorites include Bistro Soleil, Fin Bistro, The Oyster Society, and The Boulevard. When you’re ready to walk off all of the good food, get a taste of the Everglades without driving 1.5-hours to the National Park. Drive less than 20-minutes to Collier-Seminole State Park and stroll along their mile-long boardwalk – you’ll be immersed in mangrove swamps just like in the Everglades.
Just a Flight Away
If you’re up for a flight, we have four more great options to add to your US islands bucket list: Mackinac Island in Michigan, Santa Catalina Island near LA in California, Block Island in Rhode Island, and the San Juan Islands in Washington state.
Which one should you choose? Well, that depends entirely on your preferences:
- Head to the San Juan Islands for jaw dropping vistas plus the chance to see orca whales – a pod lives in the archipelago year-round.
- For incredible lobster rolls and the impressive Mohegan Bluffs (clay cliffs more than 200 feet above the sea), plan a trip to Block Island.
- If you prefer freshwater over saltwater and/or love a 1900s Americana vibe (think horse drawn carriage rides, a picturesque Main Street, and historic hotels), then Mackinac Island is definitely a place for you.
- Finally, to feel like you’re in Europe, take a journey to Catalina Island.
We’ll be back next week with more handpicked destinations to fill your remaining summer weekends. Want to see your favorite destination featured? Email us at [email protected]. Until then, follow us @adventuredesigned for more travel tips, custom travel planning, and inspiration.