I love islands. Perhaps it’s because I grew up on one, Long Island, where I spent the first 18 years of my life never further than 20 miles from the beach. My favorite part of Long Island, ironically, is an island off the coast of itself, Fire Island, which is known to most, including Long Islanders, as a gay haven, but has so much more to offer than day-glo Speedos.
After LI, I moved to Manhattan, another island, and one that is also on many travelers’ “best” lists. (One not-so-loved NY island is Staten Island, which most New Yorkers either don’t realize is part of the Empire State, or they refuse to admit it is, preferring to credit it to New Jersey. In my nearly two decades living in NY, the only time I ever went to Staten Island — besides driving through it to get elsewhere — was for a softball game. I didn’t even stick around for the free beer afterward. That should tell you something.)
Why my sudden island fever? Conde Nast Traveler recently posted its list of favorite islands, a globe-trotting array of tropical and verdant outposts that even some geography whizzes may not have heard of. Let’s recap:
- Santorini, Greece
- Cocoa Island, Maldives
- Mount Desert, Maine
- Capri, Italy
- Kauai, Hawaii
- Vancouver Island, British Columbia
- Bora Bora, French Polynesia
- Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
- Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil
Now, I have to admit, as an island lover, I’ve been to my share of ocean keys, but of the above list, I’ve only been to Vancouver Island, the least tropical of them all. Which means I don’t really have much expertise on the above, but I do have to say, I know of some damn good islands worthy of mentioning.
- Fire Island Little red wagons, gorgeous coastal architecture, some of the finest sand I’ve ever stuck my toes in — what’s not to love? The urge to visit once struck me so hard that I drove from Westchester County to Brooklyn, threw two friends into a car with me, and forced them to drive the additional hour to the ferry in Bay Shore, which added an additional 45 minutes to our trek. No sooner had we landed on the beach than the skies opened up and forced us to seek refuge in one of the open-air restaurants in the main town of Ocean Beach. But even that visit was worth the trouble. I fell in love with Fire Island so much that I skipped my prom and went for the weekend instead. I could write pages about the place, but there are other islands to discover. (Note to self: Plan trip back east and drag friends to Fire Island.)
- Morro de São Paulo, Bahia, Brazil Perhaps it’s nostalgia that makes Morro shine in my memory: I celebrated my 21st birthday there, in various stages of consciousness. After a night of partying, I celebrated — and almost terminated — my time on the planet by jumping off a cliff, before realizing I’d now have to climb back up. (I believe I swam around and found a way on shore.) Like Fire Island, Morro had no cars, and the lifestyle was summed up by the most popular bar on the beach: the Bob Marley Bar.
- Catalina The SoCal island recently took a beating from some nasty fires, but the majority of Avalon escaped unscathed, thankfully. I’ve been told that the harbor and picturesque hillsides rival those of Capri, but I bet the Italian isle doesn’t have buffalo roaming its beaches.
- Oahu I haven’t yet visited any of the other former Sandwich Islands, but if Oahu is the “least attractive,” as most people have told me, then the others must be paradise. Just because there’s a city, people, doesn’t mean it’s ugly. And I’d trade a smooth commute on the 405 for bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Pali Highway any day if it means I can return to Manoa Falls, Kaneohe Bay, or Kailua.
Gadling also mentions a few of their own favorite islands. The San Juans and Channel Islands have been on my to-do list for some time now. Now, if only I could wrangle the vacation time to make island hopping a little more convenient.