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If you're thinking about where to spend your summer vacation, how about a relaxing beach or a low-key island? You won't even need a passport when visiting these beauties, as they're all in the United States. There are stunning strands like Siesta Beach in Florida and laid-back islands like Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. Here are some of our favorite summer vacation ideas for an unforgettable trip — and you don't even have to reach for your passport.
Leave the passport at home when visiting this charming island off the coast of Cape Cod. Spend your days chilling on the beach, snapping photos of the Aquinnah Cliffs, and biking along the coast — break for lobster rolls at the Newes From America pub in the heart of Edgartown, one of the island's six towns.
This 130-mile-long barrier island chain has long attracted those looking for an affordable getaway this summer. Swimming, hiking, and horseback riding are outdoor activities to enjoy. You can also visit the site where the Wright Brothers took their first flight over the sand dunes in Kill Devil Hills.
Family-friendly Lake George, in upstate New York, is a 32-mile-long glacial beauty in the Adirondack foothills. In this popular summer vacation spot, you can splash around at the town beach, take a paddle-wheeler cruise, tour 18th-century Fort Henry, and relive your youth in old-school video arcades in Lake George Village.
One of Florida's secret spots is Amelia Island, a barrier island off the coast of Jacksonville, with 13 miles of pristine beaches — making it an idyllic summer vacation destination. Golfing is big here, as are birding, kayaking along salt marshes, and checking out the historic Victorian architecture in the town of Fernandina Beach.
One of the best family-friendly summer vacation spots is San Diego, and especially Mission Beach. Aside from being patrolled by lifeguards and having calm waters, it's also home to an old-school amusement park called Belmont Park. Plus, major attractions like SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo are nearby.
For a non-beach summer vacation idea, head out west to the Triple J Wilderness Ranch in Augusta, Montana. Find your inner cowboy or cowgirl at this all-inclusive dude ranch, where you can learn to horseback ride, fly-fish, and try archery and skeet-shooting. In the evening after a cookout, gather 'round the campfire for s'mores.
Where to Stay: Triple J Wilderness Ranch
While some of the Gilded Age mansions look straight out of Versailles, you won't need a passport to visit this upscale Rhode Island coastal resort. While there are beaches and top-notch seaside restaurants along Bowen's Wharf, don't miss a visit to the over-the-top mansions like The Breakers and The Elms.
You'll definitely feel like you're somewhere else during a summer vacation to the San Juan Islands. The pristine Pacific Northwest islands (San Juan, Orcas, Lopez, and smaller islets) off the western coast of Washington (a 3-hour drive from Seattle) are known for beachcombing, whale watching cruises in Puget Sound, and seafood restaurants.
If you're craving a tropical summer vacation where no passport is needed, look no further Hawaii's Big Island. After touring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to the Kilauea volcano (due to an ongoing eruption, the park is currently closed), park yourself on Punalu'u, the most famous of Hawaii's black-sand beaches, a wide stretch dotted with volcanic rocks.
One of the most picturesque spots in Oregon is Cannon Beach, which is known for its miles of shoreline, and Haystack Rock, an offshore rock formation that rises 235 feet high (it's a big hangout for puffins). The area, less than a 2-hour drive from Portland, offers plenty of coastal hiking trails, art galleries, and restaurants for gourmet Pacific Northwest cuisine.
Once one of the busiest whaling ports in the world, Nantucket is now an exclusive summer getaway, but one where a passport isn't needed. The island, off the coast of Massachusetts, has gorgeous beaches, charming hotels, storybook gray-shingled cottages, and historic lighthouses. Don't miss a visit to the Whaling Museum.
This pint-sized Midwestern island, located in the Straits of Mackinac (where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan converge) is like stepping into a bygone era. Don't expect fast-food chains, street numbers, or even cars — rather, the horse-and-buggy is the preferred method of transport. Plus, there are plenty of scenic hiking trails.
On the tip of Long Island and well beyond the glitzy Hamptons is the laid-back town of Montauk, which has some of the East End's most desirable beaches, including Ditch Plains Beach (popular with surfers). There's also a historic lighthouse, lobster shacks, and hip cocktails bars like Navy Beach, where you can watch the sunset.
This lush island off the coast of California boasts a postcard-perfect harbor dotted with yachts and sailboats. Once a smuggler's hangout, it's now a peaceful island getaway for harried city slickers and Hollywood types, who come for the sea-related activities, beaches, and to stroll the charming shop-lined town of Avalon.
Gulf Shores, an affordable beachfront town in southern Alabama, attracts everyone from families, to girls' getaways, to college kids. In addition to pristine beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, the area also has a water park, golf courses, and cruises where you can see dolphins.
What was originally an exclusive place for America's most elite to vacation, Jekyll Island now attracts nature lovers, who appreciate its gorgeous beaches, world-class bird-watching, and nature center, which offers island walks and ecology programs.
Delaware's Rehoboth Beach is one of the East Coast's most popular beach resorts for families, making it an ideal summer vacation spot. After a swim in the Atlantic, stroll the mile-long boardwalk, stopping for cotton candy, then play a few video games in the '50s-style arcade. Jungle Jim's, the state's largest water park, is nearby.
When you think of Texas, you think of wide-open plains and large ranches, but believe it or not, it also has miles of beaches on South Padre Island, a barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico. South Padre also has a reputation as being a party zone, with plenty of bars and clubs (little wonder it's a popular spring breaker destination).
On Sarasota's Siesta Key, Siesta Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Sunshine State, mainly due to its soft white-quartz sand (which stays cool even when the temps soar). There are also lifeguard stands and a shaded picnic area, making it family-friendly. While in town, be sure to visit the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
You'll feel like you've slipped off the grid in Key West. This low-key island at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys is synonymous with a laid-back island lifestyle where happy hour starts at 3 p.m. and the nightly sunset on Mallory Square is an event. Get your culture fix at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.
This barrier island along the Gulf of Mexico has 4 miles of unspoiled shoreline. One of the most popular strands is Tigertail Beach, which not only has some of Florida's best bird-watching, but stellar shell-collecting as well — bring a mesh bag and hunt for sand dollars, starfish, coquinas, and other treasures from the sea.
Where to Stay: Marco Island Lakeside Inn, JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort
Once the summer home of America's wealthiest families, including the Rockefellers, Fords, and Astors, this Maine island is still a laid-back yet sophisticated hideaway. The pleasures here are simple: hike or bike in 47,000-acre Acadia National Park (one of the East Coast's most stunning national parks), stroll the tiny harbor town of Bar Harbor, and dine on plenty of fresh lobster.
The beaches are so beautiful here that you can easily forget that this Jersey Shore resort has a rich history. It was founded in 1620 by Captain Cornelius May, a Dutch explorer, and in the 19th century, it became a summer refuge for wealthy Philadelphians who built Victorian homes, many of which now serve as upscale B&Bs.
If you're looking for a charming beach resort where ice cream shops and quaint stores reign supreme, consider a visit to Rosemary Beach, on a scenic stretch of the Emerald Coast. Spend your days unwinding on the beach, then stroll along the cobbled Main Street or tooling around town on a bicycle before settling down for a seafood dinner.
With a nickname like "Surf City USA," Ruby's Diner at the very tip.is a no-brainer when it comes to hanging 10 — it's one of the country's top surfing beaches. If you just like to watch, there's no better vantage point than from the 1,850-foot pier, with the famous '50s-style
Cape Cod, the arm-shaped peninsula on Massachusetts’ eastern edge, is the quintessential New England summer playground, and one of the most picturesque towns is Wellfleet. Its top beach is Marconi, part of Cape Cod National Seashore, and it's a ritual to have steamed lobster and corn on the cob at Moby Dick’s.
Moss-draped oaks and magnolias are hallmarks of this exclusive private island resort off the coast of South Carolina (30 miles from Charleston), known for its upscale accommodations just steps from the water, wildlife like loggerhead turtles and egrets, and five world-class golf courses, including the Ocean Course. Plus, it's less than an hour's drive from Charleston.
Where to Stay: Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Pfeiffer Beach, reached via an unpaved road off Highway 1, is famous not only for its purple-hued sand (due to manganese garnet deposits), but also for its many rocky outcroppings — including the famous Pfeiffer keyhole rock, where the sun's rays filter through a natural archway, creating a tunnel of light that's absolutely mesmerizing.
Surrounded by the Columbia River, Willapa Bay, and the Pacific Ocean, the family-friendly town of Long Beach on a peninsula of the same name is one of the state’s most visited vacation spots (it’s a 3- to 4-hour drive from Seattle). There’s a half-mile-long boardwalk, which runs alongside sand dunes, as well as video arcades for the kids.
This Southern resort is a golfer's paradise — there are more than 100 courses, and many are designed by the biggest names in the game, including Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. There's also a 60-mile stretch of beach dubbed the Grand Strand, and kids will love Broadway at the Beach, an amusement park and entertainment complex.