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Island escapes in America


By Mke Galvin, courtesy Nantucket COCTalk of islands conjures ideas of faraway places and remote, exotic escapes from the ordinary pace of life on the mainland. And although there are plenty of far-flung destinations to explore in the outermost regions of the globe, you don’t need a passport to have a great island experience.

America has its share of island destinations that make great spots for group adventures. From the San Juan Islands of the Pacific Northwest to the classic getaways of New England and inland islands of the South, those spots all promise regional character and individual charm for groups that visit.

[ Massachusetts ]
Nearly 30 miles off the coast of Massachusetts, Nantucket is one of the easternmost spots in the United States and has built a reputation on its distinctive New England history.

“Nantucket was the whaling capital of the world in the late 1800s,” said P.J. Martin-Smith, executive director of the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce. “The whaling industry died, but Nantucket didn’t change. All of the original buildings remain the same; we have more than 800 properties from before the Civil War. Our entire island is a national historic site.”

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves many of those historic structures as attractions for groups to tour. Visitors can walk through the oldest building on the island, which was built in 1620; peruse the Whaling Museum of Nantucket; or tour the mansions built by some of the area’s prominent whaling-ship captains in the 19th century.

The island also holds a number of interesting special events, such as the spring Daffodil Festival and Nantucket Noel, during the holiday season.

Mackinac Island
[ Michigan ]
The scenic beauty of Lake Huron and a protected historical environment help make Mackinac Island a favorite destination of groups touring Michigan.

“Mackinac Island is considered the jewel of the Great Lakes,” said Mary McGuire Slevin, director of the Mackinac Island Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We don’t have any cars — only horse-drawn carriages — so it’s like a step back in time.”

Eighty percent of Mackinac island is protected as a state park, which helps to preserve the natural environment and offers plenty of recreational opportunities. Groups will find about 70 miles of trails for hiking or horseback riding; many opt to explore the historic village on the island by horse-drawn carriage.

The island’s most famous landmark, the Grand Hotel, upholds a century-old tradition of elegant hospitality. Many groups that visit the island stay a night or two in the hotel and enjoy a meal in the formal dining room.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.