If you’re looking for the best islands in the south USA, then you’ve come to the right place! In the southern United States, you’ll find tons of beautiful places for your next island vacation. One of our favorite things about exploring southern USA islands is that there are so many of them. Each of them also has something unique to offer visitors. Most of them are also very easy to get to from some of the major cities in the south. They make a great day trip option from cities like Savannah and Charleston.
While you travel through the south, you’ll find plenty of east coast islands for you to explore. Whether you’re looking for quaint picturesque beach towns, tropical paradises, or a combination of both, there is an island in the south that’s perfect for you. Many of the best islands in the south are prepared for visitors year-round, so you’ll always find something fun to do there. Even if it’s not warm when you visit any of these islands in the southern United States, they have plenty of activities to interest you.
There are so many awesome southern USA islands. We’ve come up with our favorites and we think you’ll want to visit each one of them. So, let’s take a look at the 15 best islands in the south that you can visit without a passport!
15 Best Islands In The South USA You Can Visit Without A Passport
Tybee Island, Georgia
Tybee Island is one of the barrier islands just off of Georgia’s coast. It’s actually a great day trip from Savannah Georgia. That’s because it is just 20 minutes away from downtown Savannah. The island has a small city, also named Tybee Island. In Tybee Island, the city, you’ll find tons of boutiques, amazing restaurants, and plenty of coastal charm.
One of the things that makes Tybee Island one of the best islands in the south is its beautiful beaches. It’s the go-to beach for those living in visiting Savannah for a reason. There are beautiful, clean sands with calm waters. The highway that leads you to Tybee Island runs right along the beach line. But the beach is still peaceful and safe. If you’re visiting Savannah, we highly suggest at least taking a day trip to Tybee Island.
Stay Here: Admiral’s Inn On Tybee Island
Dry Tortugas, Florida
The Dry Tortugas National Park is easily one of the best tropical places in the south. It is made up of a series of islands, called keys, just 70 miles west of Key West Florida. Since it’s a National Park, the only option for staying very nearby is to go camping. However, if you are willing to drive to the Dry Tortugas, you can stay in beautiful Key West.
While you’re visiting Dry Tortugas, you’ll find plenty of things to do. Like most National Parks, it has hiking trails. But you can also explore a historic fort, go snorkeling, or see the islands from a seaplane. You can also take a ferry to visit the other smaller islands that make up the National Park. It’s easily one of the prettiest islands off the east coast USA.
Stay Here: Parrot Key Hotel & Villas
Galveston Island, Texas
In Texas, on the Gulf Coast of Mexico, you’ll find Galveston Island. Often just referred to as Galveston, the island is a resort-style island. It’s one of the best US islands in the south, partially because there are tons of activities. Galveston is one of the cutest beach towns in Texas and is a short drive away from Houston. It’s just a little under an hour away, so it’s a great day trip option.
The island is a popular Texas vacation spot. That, combined with the resort-style atmosphere, means it’s one of the best southern islands to visit with the family. You’ll find fun attractions like the Galveston Island Pleasure Pier, the Moody Mansion and Gardens, and Schlitterbahn’s Waterpark. If that’s not your thing, Galveston is also full of beautiful historic buildings and homes. Most of them have been converted into museums that you can tour.
Stay Here: Moody Gardens Hotel Spa & Convention Center
Hatteras Island, North Carolina
One of North Carolina’s barrier islands is Hatteras Island. It forms a bend at Cape Hatteras, which has the famous North Carolina Lighthouse. It’s one of the southern USA islands that makes up North Carolina’s Outer Banks as well. Hatteras Island has a rich history, especially when it comes to the first European settlers. The first English child born in the New World and the first flight taken by humankind took place on Hatteras Island.
Hatteras Island also has charming beach towns, like Nags Head and Duck. They have rows of beautiful beach houses, unique boutiques, and delicious restaurants to try. While you’re there, we suggest checking out the two lighthouses and at least one of the seven iconic villages. The island is also home to a beautiful National Seashore that you’ll definitely want to spend some time exploring. Hatteras Island is one of the best southern islands.
Stay Here: Villas Of Hatteras Landing
Jekyll Island, Georgia
Off the coast of Georgia is the stunning Jekyll Island. Jekyll Island is part of the Golden Isles, which is a string of Great Barrier Islands. The Golden Isles stretches from just outside of Savannah Georgia, all the way down to Jacksonville Florida. Along with being a Golden Isle, Jekyll Island is also considered one of Georgia’s Sea Islands. It’s very easy to get to and is just under two hours away from Savannah Georgia. That makes it one of the best day trips from Savannah.
Jekyll Island is known for a few different reasons. The island has beautiful beaches that are great for collecting seashells. While you’re on the beach, you can also see some of the most stunning sunsets. The sandy beaches are also great for spending the day and relaxing. But what Jekyll Island is most known for is the collection of massive ancient driftwood trees that dot the shore. It’s called Driftwood Beach, and visitors come from miles to see the unique beach landscape. It’s one of the coolest east coast islands.
Stay Here: Beachview Club Hotel
Sanibel Island, Florida
Another great place for tropical vacations in the south is Sanibel Island in Florida. Sanibel Island is home to some of the best sunsets in all of Florida. You can easily reach this gorgeous east coast island by flying into Fort Myers and taking a 45-minute drive. There is also an option to get to Sanibel Island by boat.
Sanibel Island is another one of the best southern islands to look for seashells. The beach is full of a variety of shells. Many of them are also very unique, and sometimes hard to find at other beaches. So if you’re visiting, we definitely suggest combing the beach for shells. If you don’t want to search for seashells, spend some time on the white sandy beach or take a swim in the crystal blue waters.
Stay Here: West Wind Inn
Saint Simons Island, Georgia
If you’re looking for a more unique island off the east coast USA, try visiting Saint Simons Island. Saint Simons Island is off the coast of Georgia. What makes Saint Simons unique is that it is actually known for its salt marshes. While it does have some beautiful sandy beaches as well, visitors like to explore the salt marshes. While the southern USA islands often have marshy areas, Saint Simons Island in particular is known for its beautiful salt marshes.
While you’re there, you can visit the history museum that is on the island. It tells the story of the island’s Civil War history, the historic lighthouse, and its whaling history. From the lighthouse, you can also see views of Jekyll Island. The beaches are beautiful to relax on as well. At the northern end of the island, you can take a boat to Little Saint Simons Island. The smaller island is home to birds like the Spoonbill and Gannets.
Stay Here: The Inn At Sea Island
Emerald Isle, North Carolina
Emerald Isle is actually a town on Bogue Banks Island in North Carolina. However, most people just associate the name Emerald Isle with the entire island. It’s not a very big island, but it is still a very popular island in the southern United States. Emerald Isle is also part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. You can get to Emerald Isle simply by driving a little under an hour from Jacksonville, North Carolina.
One of the most popular things to do in Emerald Isle is to go fishing on the Bogue Inlet Pier. The island also has beautiful beaches where you can relax and enjoy swimming. At the Emerald Isle Woods Park, you can play disc golf, go hiking, and there’s a dock. The park also has part of the North Carolina Birding Trail. On the Birding Trail, you’ll often see some rare or unique birds species that you can only find on east coast islands.
Stay Here: Islander Hotel And Resort
Crab Island, Florida
In Destin Florida, you’ll find Crab Island. Crab Island is the smallest island on this list, and it’s actually not really an island. It was at one time, but over the years, erosion has made it very small. The island was also created in the 1960s when the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the area. Crab Island was formed from that dredging and quickly became a popular place for Destin locals to hang out.
Crab Island is located in the Gulf of Mexico. So you’ll be able to enjoy the warm crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches that are popular in the area. All around the island, the water is shallow. So that makes it a particularly popular spot to hang out. Often boats come out to near the island, dock, and then people will spend the day hanging out on Crab Island. Because the waters are shallow, they are also even warmer than the surrounding ocean.
Stay Here: Hyatt Place Sandestin At Grand Blvd
Sullivans Island, South Carolina
A beautiful beach that’s just a quick trip from Charleston South Carolina is Sullivans Island. Sullivans Island is actually part of Charleston County. To get to Sullivans Island from Charleston, it’s just a quick 20-minute drive. You won’t find any hotels on the beach though. South Carolina, and Charleston, have chosen not to develop right on the island. So, if you want to stay near Sullivans Island, Charleston is your best bet.
While you visit the island, you’ll get to enjoy wide open beaches. It’s also one of the quieter beaches and is often less crowded than some of the other islands near Charleston. On Sullivans Island, there is also a lighthouse. It’s one of the 11 lighthouses that you can find in South Carolina. The lighthouse is actually still in use by the Coast Guard, so you can’t tour it. But it’s still really cool to see.
Stay Here: Francis Marion Hotel
Amelia Island, Florida
Even though its in Florida, Amelia Island is also very close to Atlanta Georgia. You can reach Amelia Island in just under 6 hours if you’re traveling from Atlanta. Its a popular tropical vacation in the south. You can often find visitors from both Florida and Georgia lounging on the beautiful sandy beaches on Amelia Island. Amelia Island has over 13 miles of beautiful beaches for you to explore and enjoy. Its easily one of the best islands in the south.
Amelia Island is probably best known for it’s golf-courses and high-end hotels. The hotels and golf courses make it one of the most popular islands off the east coast USA. Along with the high-end amenities, the beaches have their own set of amenities. The beaches often have bathrooms, with changing rooms and showers. They also typically have picnic tables and some even have piers you can walk on.
Stay Here: Seaside Amelia Inn
Dauphin Island, Alabama
One of the best hidden gems in the south is Dauphin Island in Alabama. Daphin Island is a popular east coast island for families looking for a great beach vacation. Dauphin Island is a little under 45 minutes away from Mobile Alabama. Its a popular tropical place in the south for those who are looking to escape the city for a bit.
Dauphin Island has the beautiful beaches that you’d expect to find in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s also a great place for catching a fishing charter if you’ve always wanted to fish in the Gulf. The island also has historic sites too. If you like birdwatching, we suggest a trip to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. Its the largest of it’s kind on the east coast and is full of unique migratory birds throughout the year. You can also visit the historic Fort Gaines while you’re on the island.
Stay Here: The Bird’s Nest
South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre Island is one of the cutest beach towns in Texas. It’s in the Gulf of Mexico, just off of the southern coast of Texas. You can easily reach South Padre Island too. To get there, fly into the Brownsville Airport. From there, its just a 20-minute drive to South Padre Island. It’s one of the most popular islands in the southern United States because of it’s many resort like amenities.
Because South Padre Island is a resort-style island, you’ll find plenty of things to do there. The island is dotted with amazing resorts with gorgeous pools and beach access. You can also go horseback riding on the beach or visit the Sea Turtle Conservation Center. The island also has amusement parks, the stunning Gulf Coast beaches, hiking trails to explore, and so much more.
Stay Here: Isla Grand Beach Resort
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
One of the best islands in the south is Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. It has some of the most pristine beaches in the south and is known for being one of the most popular tropical vacations in the south. Hilton Head is just a 2-hour drive from Charleston. If you’re staying in Savannah, it’s even closer, and takes just under an hour to get to. Because of it’s beautiful beaches and other amenities, Hilton Head Island has been named the #1 Island in the US by Travel + Leisure Magazine for several years in a row.
The island has beautiful beaches, of course, but it has a lot more to offer too. On top of the beaches, Hilton Head is known for it’s world-class golf courses. In the city center of Hilton Head Island, you’ll find some amazing restaurants and unique boutiques to explore. The beaches themselves are great for biking on during low tide and there’s plenty of space to spread out. Hilton Head Island also has parks with great hiking trails to explore and there is even a lighthouse.
Stay Here: Sonesta Resort
Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
Ocracoke Island is one of the best islands in the south. But it’s not very easy to reach. The nearest city is Moorhead City, but even still, it’s a little over 3 hours away from Ocracoke Island. However, once you get to this beautiful island off the east coast USA, you’ll see the travel was worth it. Ocracoke Island is over 16 miles of undeveloped coastline that is uncrowded and pristine.
On Ocracoke Island, you’ll find the village of Ocracoke. In the village, you’ll find the historic Ocracoke Lighthouse that has been a landmark since it was built in 1823. The lighthouse overlooks the village and the Pamlico Sound. You can also explore the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum which is in a historic home from the early 1900s. It traces the islands history. While on the island, we also suggest taking some time to visit the tiny British Cemetery. The cemetery contains the graves of many WWII sailors. There’s a lot to do and see in Ocracoke Island, and that’s what makes it one of the best islands in the south.
Stay Here: Pony Island Motel
There are so many amazing islands in the south to explore. From resort-style beaches, salty marshes, and tiny man-made islands there’s an island in the southern United States for you to explore. The east coast islands are some of the most beautiful and diverse. We hope you take some time to visit each of them – you won’t regret it!