14 Cheap Islands to Explore

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couple relaxing on the beach
Photo credit: cdwheatley/istockphoto

Islands offer miles of unfettered coastline and an isolating atmosphere distinct from most mainland vacation spots. Unfortunately, these virtues have led many islands around the world to become overdeveloped, overpriced (although some are still worth a splurge), and overcrowded with tourists eager to experience the allegedly slower pace of island life. Thankfully, it's a big world, and truly remote and affordable island vacations can still be found, if you know where to look. (Note: Lodging rates are subject to change.)
Lummi Island, Washington
Photo credit: Lummi Island Beach by Ed Suominen (CC BY-NC)

Sample Lodging: Full Bloom Farm
Nightly Rate: $150 (4 people)
Whale-watching cruises and other recreational opportunities abound throughout the San Juan Islands in summer, which is why it can be difficult to snag a campsite or hotel room here many weekends. Lummi Island is more remote and cheaper to access, served by a tiny county ferry costing $13 for car and driver. Like its larger neighbors, it features gorgeous landscapes, marine ecosystems, and artist communities — but fewer crowds.

Haida Gwaii, British Columbia
Photo credit: New compliance and enforcement strategy in Haida Gwaii by Province of British Columbia (CC BY-NC-ND)

Sample Lodging: Northern Shores Lodge
Nightly Rate: $81
Sometimes called the "islands at the boundary of the world," the archipelago Haida Gwaii boasts miles of virgin old-growth forest, subalpine tundra, and rugged Pacific shores to explore between its two largest islands, Graham and Moresby. Served by flights from Vancouver and a summer ferry from Prince Rupert, the islands host popular visitor activities like salmon fishing and the totem pole remnants of the native Haida nation.

Mitkof Island, Alaska
Photo credit: petersburgalaska/facebook.com

Sample Lodging: Waterfront Bed & Breakfast
Nightly Rate: $95-$105
Mitkof Island is just one of many remote islands in Alaska's southeastern panhandle perfect for a rugged getaway or sport-fishing and whale-watching excursion. Petersburg is the island's chief town, characterized by a rich Norwegian heritage and appealingly laid-back vibe, as its port is usually bypassed by the large the summer cruise ships. Flight and ferry connections to the island are available via Alaska Airlines and the Alaska Marine Highway, respectively.

Ten Thousand Islands, Florida
Photo credit: Boogich/istockphoto

Sample Lodging: Jewel Key and other National Park Service-managed campgrounds
Daily Rate: $2 a person
So many Floridian islands have fallen victim to overdevelopment, but not those within the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, which borders Everglades National Park. With a $10 wilderness permit, visitors can kayak or powerboat away from the crowds of Everglades City and have a whole tropical island or overwater "chickee" to themselves for several nights. Just make sure to pack all the necessary equipment (there are many local outfitters) and know the marine routes well before you go.

Daufuskie Island, South Carolina
Photo credit: akaplummer/istockphoto

Sample Lodging: Daufuskie Cottage
Nightly Rate: $225 (6 people)
Closed to motor vehicles and accessible only by ferry, Daufuskie Island boasts a rarefied colonial heritage still evident in its distinct cuisine, architecture, and historic trails, as well as in the piles of ancient discarded oyster shells along its sandy beaches. Beyond the unique cultural attractions, there are also live oak forests and a 20-hole golf course to enjoy.

St. Simons Island, Georgia
Photo credit: Courtesy of tripadvisor.com

Sample Lodging: Best Western
Nightly Rate: $118
Whether you prefer charter fishing or sitting back at the beach, St. Simons Island has something for you. The 17-square-mile barrier island is divided between resort communities and golf courses in the south and ecologically rich marsh preserves in the north, with no shortage of recreational opportunities between them, ranging from parasailing and windsurfing to birdwatching and bicycling.

Monhegan Island, Maine
Photo credit: jtstewartphoto/istockphoto

Sample Lodging: Trailing Yew
Nightly Rate: $110
Accessible only by boat from Boothbay and other harbors, Monhegan Island is located about 12 miles from the mainland. It has a year-round population of fewer than 100 people and no paved roads. With its historic lighthouse, gallery-strewn village, and ecologically distinct island wildlands, the rugged outcropping is a summer haven for artists and other tourists, as well as migratory birds stopping by on the Atlantic flyway.

Tangier Island, Virginia
Photo credit: Tangier, VA by Eli Christman (CC BY)

Sample Lodging: Bay View Inn
Nightly Rate: $150 in summer
Tangier is a 1.2-square-mile island — although it's shrinking, due to rising sea levels — with its own distinct culture and dialect in the Chesapeake Bay. Visit before the island gets any smaller to kayak through untouched marine habitats or try some softshell blue crab right off the boat from one of the local restaurants.

Koh Yao Noi, Thailand
Photo credit: CELINE GALMANT/istockphoto

Sample Lodging: Koh Yao Beach Bungalows
Nightly Rate: $16
Only a short ferry ride from tourist-clogged Phuket, the predominantly Muslim island of Koh Yao Noi seems to have a much slower pace thanks to its relative lack of sandy beaches. Instead, the region offers cheap seafood, snorkeling areas, rice paddies, submerged mangrove forests, and spectacular scenery in the surrounding limestone formations, which can be toured via longtail charter boats.

Chincoteague Island, VA
Photo credit: Zack Frank/shutterstock

Sample Lodging: Chincoteague Inn
Nightly Rate: $104
The biggest event of the year on Chincoteague is the pony penning during the last week of July, when the feral Chincoteague ponies swim across the channel between islands before auction. The wetland-dominated island, connected by bridges to the mainland, remains popular with visitors throughout the summer for its modest resort community, golf courses, unspoiled beachside, and miles of bike trails through the adjacent wildlife refuge.

Beaver Island, Michigan
Photo credit: Courtesy of wikimedia.org

Sample Lodging: The Quay
Nightly Rate: $150 (up to 6 people)
For a beachy summer resort community in the Great Lakes, head to Mackinac Island. For peaceful isolation, however, try Beaver Island, the largest island in Lake Michigan. It has fewer than 700 permanent residents and is served by a $32 ferry from Charlevoix. With the land dominated by state forests, inland lakes, and coastal bogs, the main activities here are all outdoorsy and refreshingly solitary, ranging from mountain biking to fishing.

Vis, Croatia
Photo credit: SimonSkafar/istockphoto

Sample Lodging: Komiza Provita Guesthouse
Nightly Rate: $22 a person
Croatia boasts the same verdant mountainsides and crystalline waters as some of its more famous neighbors without the same high price tag. Vis, in the Adriatic Sea, is one of the nation's most serene destinations, with quiet pebble beaches, Italian-influenced eateries, and local artisans specializing in olives, anchovies, and more, all competing for visitors' attention. The island can be reached by ferry from the mainland city of Split.

Agistri, Greece
Photo credit: siete_vidas/istockphoto

Sample Lodging: Dionysos Hotel Agistri
Nightly Rate: $40
Only a 90-minute, $11 ferry ride from Piraeus, on the outskirts of Athens, Agistri is an affordable Greek island getaway within reach of the nation's storied capital. Pebble beaches, turquoise waters, and small resort communities surround the island's shoreline, while pine forests dominate the inland.

Isola Maddalena, Italy
Photo credit: CAHKT/istockphoto

Sample Lodging: B&B Mongiardino
Nightly Rate: $80
Just off the coast of its bigger and more bustling neighbor, Sardinia, Maddalena Island offers remoteness amid a landscape of jagged rock ringed with pink and white sand beaches. It's especially popular with boaters. Visitors can also spend their time visiting Roman ruins or trying regional seafood specialties in the charming village of La Maddalena.

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