One year, my family and I took a trip to an island. Vancouver Island, not far from Washington's coast, can only be accessed by boat or plane over the extensive waters that lie between it and the mainland. We decided to cross the straight on a small ferry. Journeying the tumbling waves of the ocean was an adventure in itself. The idea of daring the sea to get to our destination created a nervous excitement well worth it for any traveler. Our oversea excursion completely enhanced our island vacation, and made it that much more distinctive.
I learned then why the island getaway is on most people's dream vacation list. The desire of escaping the mainland and getting lost on an island is an almost inexplicable thrill. If it's not the sea travel and the fantastic resorts, the seclusion captivates the senses and allows for utter relaxation.
The Distinctive Island Culture
Maybe because people have to try a little harder to get to that fantasy location, no matter if it's surrounded by the Caribbean or a Great Lake, islands maintain that craved exclusivity. They can literally get you away from it all.
"Islands have a culture distinctly their own," said Blain Sepos, Executive Director of Oceanside Tourism in Vancouver, British Columbia. "Life moves slower, people aren't so tied to their watches. You don't have to travel all that far to get anywhere."
Islands are a destination, Sepos said. "People want to get there; they're not just passing through."
The concepts of the island and paradise are closely linked. People nearly automatically associate bliss with that secluded water-surrounded destination. Traveling to an island allows vacationers to experience their true paradise, if only for a few days.
St. George Island: Relax
"You come here to relax," says Sandra Taylor, Marketing Manager at Resort Vacation Properties of St. George Island. "You leave all the stress 'over there.' Even work is that way here. Even though I have deadlines, it's not anything like being 'over there.' It's just so much more relaxing."
Adorned with sandy beaches and rocky coastline, St. George Island offers the best of Florida's shores while completely surrounded by the clear blue ocean. Off the Florida coast in the glistening Gulf of Mexico, this small landmass is a pristine example of preservation and serenity. The island was uninhabited for more than 5,000 years of its existence, except for the annual fly-over of migrating butterflies and birds; today it remains small and relatively secluded, with a national park, a quaint commercial district, and as Taylor will tell you, luxurious rental beach homes.
Resort Vacation Properties of St. George Island features properties that focus on natural preservation and seclusion. One guest "was just amazed that there was nobody on the beach," says Taylor. "One-third of our island is a gated community. All of the trees have been preserved. So you don't have that openness, where you can just hold hands with your neighbor."
Rentals range from charming beachfront villas to lavish bayside homes. Each is furnished and offers a variety of amenities, from fireplaces and porches to pools and hot tubs. But each home captivates the ideal family destination, as there are many repeat visitors that share homes with other families. Taylor says that from the beginning, simple, casual and yet luxurious amenities like free linens and free long distance have been a big draw for island-goers; many Resort Vacation Properties Rentals also allow pets. "There aren't too many communities that do that," Taylor says. "That's probably because we are still so un-crowded here."
Water activities reign on this barrier island. From just off shore to the deep sea, St. George is a prime habitat for flounder and trout. For many years, the mainstay of the local economy was oystering - the island is still famous worldwide for its oysters. Visitors can charter a boat and discover hotspots known to the local fishermen. The island also maintains miles of undeveloped beaches ideal for sunbathing and swimming. The St. George Island State Park radiates with its coast for canoeing, combing for seashells and inland hiking.
"It's just quiet here. There's not all that bungee jumping and go-karts, and whatever else you find other places," Taylor says. "It's more private."
"You come here to relax. You leave all the stress 'over there.' Even though I have deadlines at work, it's not anything like being 'over there.' It's just so much more relaxing."- Sandra Taylor, Marketing Manager, Resort Vacation Properties of St. George Island"
The two nearest airports to St. George Island are around 75 miles away in Tallahassee and Panama City, Florida. From there, rent a car or take a bus or taxi to Eastpoint. Once on the coast, the St. George Island Bridge is a short four miles to the remote island.
"When I cross that bridge, the stress just melts away," Taylor says.
For a scenic hiking escape, there are also islands throughout the North American backwoods. Isle Royale - America's only island National Park - is 45 miles north of Copper Harbor, Michigan and is the largest island in Lake Superior. It's covered with forests and local wildlife, and it creates a primitive aura in the vast lake. To keep the natural integrity, motorized vehicles are not allowed on the island, and it's only accessible by ferry, canoe, or kayak. Wolves and moose roam the woodlands, and there are copper mines dating pre Columbus. The coastline once hosted many shipwrecks and abundant fisheries, but today maintains a historic lighthouse and preserved ruins from past resorts. While it's only 45 miles long and nine miles wide, at its widest point, the island brings secluded natural leisure.
Visitors need to set aside two or three days to truly experience the island's seclusion. The ferries only cross Lake Superior at certain times, leaving one-day travelers only able to take a short hike. With more days available, there's ample time to explore the 165 miles of scenic trails and relax on the campgrounds.
So what is an island paradise? "Island vacations are for those looking to slow their lives down a bit," Sepos says. "They (our guests) come here because they like to spend time with their families," says Taylor. "Here, they don't have to feel like they have to spend all their time doing amusement-type things."
Escape the mainland and find your paradise!