10 Best Car-Free Island Getaways
Fire Island, NY
Little red wagons, used to tote supplies from ferry landings to back bungalows, are just about the only wheeled vehicles you’ll find on Fire Island, a long, narrow ribbon of sand and scrub pines just off the coast of Long Island. CJ’s Restaurant and Bar at the boutique Palms Hotel has the “Rocket Fuel” cocktails to power your pedal from Ocean Beach to Saltaire, Cherry Grove, The Pines, and Fire Island’s other tiny towns.
Bald Head Island, NC
Wave farewell to your car at the Southport, North Carolina ferry terminal as you make the two-mile crossing to Bald Head Island, a sleepy subtropical vacation community at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. You can ride a golf cart or bike to the Old Baldy lighthouse, the Maritime Market, and the pool and boardwalk at the Shoals Club, but you’ll rely solely on your two feet to explore the nature preserves that cover 80 percent of the island.
Mackinac Island, MI
This throwback Great Lakes jewel disdains motorized transportation of any kind: cars and even golf carts have been banned for more than a century on Mackinac Island, where walking, biking, and horse-drawn carriages are your sole transportation options. The nation’s only state highway where cars are banned, M-185, circles the island and serves as a conduit to the landmark Grand Hotel, downtown’s famous fudge shops, and the hiking trails of Mackinac Island State Park.
Little St. Simons Island, GA
Daily naturalist-led truck tours are the sole exception to the no-vehicles rule on Little St. Simons Island, an all-inclusive resort where stays are limited to 32 guests per night and days are filled with outdoor activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, birding, and fishing.
North Captiva Island, FL
North Captiva Island is roughly divided between parkland and a luxury vacation community, the latter ribboned with sandy roads traversed only by golf carts and bicycles. The island has five miles of beaches for sunning and shell collecting, and the only time you’ll fire up a motor is when you rent a wave-runner or boat to explore or fish in the Gulf of Mexico.
Dafuskie Island, SC
Populated largely by the descendants of plantation slaves and rich in the Gullah culture of coastal Carolina, Dafuskie Island is unique in many ways other than banning cars, including being home to a 20-hole Reese Jones designed golf course. Take your cart from the links to the streets for a self-guided tour of the island’s many historic sites, artisan shops, a winery and distillery, and restaurants serving deviled crabs, the local seafood specialty.
Monhegan Island, ME
Not only does Monhegan Island lack cars, it also has no roads. This rugged island 12 miles out into the Atlantic from the Maine coast is accessible only by boat, and once you step foot on land you’ll find 12 miles of wooded trails leading to a historic lighthouse, isolated coves, and dramatic cliffs. The sole village on the island has inns, restaurants, galleries, and even a wellness center and brewery.
Catalina Island, CA
Cars aren’t strictly forbidden on Catalina Island, but there’s a decade-plus waiting list for residents who want one, so most people get around by golf cart or bike, instead. The latter can be a little challenging on this hilly island — the high point, Mt. Orizaba, rises more than 2,000 feet above the Santa Barbara Channel — but it’s worth the effort when you want to get away from the crowds around the island’s landmark Casino and Avalon Beach to explore the beaches and backcountry, all protected by the Catalina Island Conservancy.
Tangier Island, VA
You’ll never be crabby about traffic on Tangier Island, where watermen traditionally haul in the Chesapeake Bay blue crabs that end up on your plate at Lorraine’s and Four Brothers. Visitors to this isolated fishing community, where locals speak with a unique dialect dating back centuries, can rent a bike or golf cart or just walk around this 1.2-square mile island (which unfortunately is growing ever smaller due to sea-level rise).
Useppa Island, FL
Golf carts are the conveyance of choice on Useppa Island, but odds are you’ll spend more time on the water: Pine Island Sound is teeming with game fish, and you can rent a kayak or catboat to float around the Useppa backwaters or over to nearby Cayo Costa State Park. White-clad croquet players at the Useppa Island Club perfectly capture the Old Florida elegance of this private-island resort.