One area of the real estate market that is thriving right now is rental property.
All indications suggest that the rental market will continue to improve because of low vacancy rates and rising rents. In fact, the demand for rentals is predicted to far exceed supply through 2016, with 4.5 million new renters expected to enter the market in the next five years.
What to consider before buying a rental
Being a landlord has its challenges. The recession took a toll on rental prices for a few years and any future economic downturns could do the same. Once the job market returns to normal, there’s a strong possibility that more people will choose to move from rentals into homes of their own. And the demand for rental properties could become oversaturated at some point, resulting in an investment bubble of its own.
What’s more, while the income from a rental property can be significant, it can take at least five years before you’re making much more than what you need just to cover the mortgage and expenses. In other words, the return on your investment doesn’t happen overnight.
However, in the long run, if you select the right property, it could turn out to be one of your best investment decisions ever—especially since rental real estate provides more tax benefits than almost any other investment.
Tax deductions for the taking
One of the greatest things about owning rental properties is the fact that you’re able to deduct so many of the associated expenses, including a sizeable portion of your monthly mortgage payment.
The commissions and fees paid to obtain your mortgage are not deductable, but the mortgage interest you pay each month is, including any money you pay into an escrow account to cover taxes and insurance. Whatever your mortgage company reports as interest on your 1098 form at the end of each year can likely be deducted.
For example, you may be eligible to deduct credit card interest for goods and services used in a rental activity, repairs made to the building, travel related to your rental (local or long distance), expenses related to home office or workshop devoted to your rental, the wages of anyone you hire to work on the building, damages to your rental property, associated insurance premiums, and fees you pay for legal and professional services. However, as is the case with any transaction of this type, be sure to consult your attorney or accountant for detailed tax information.
What to look for
As with any real estate investment, the location of the property and its overall condition are both key. But with rental properties, there are some other, unique factors you’ll also want to consider.
Look for a building with separate utilities (water, electric, and gas, etc.) for each rental unit. This will make it far easier to legally charge for the fair use of what can be a very costly monthly expense.
If your property is one of the few rentals in the neighborhood, there will be less competition for interested renters.
Rentals that are near popular public transportation options and/or major freeways (without being so close that noise is an issue) are usually easier to rent—and demand more money.
Properties with small yards and fewer plantings are far easier and less expensive to manage.
Not only is off-street parking a desirable feature (people with nice cars usually don’t like to park on the street), it’s also a requirement for rental properties in some communities.
How to start your search
Unlike homes, rental properties do not typically have a visible ‘for-sale’ sign standing out front (as landlords don’t want to irritate, bring attention to their current renters, or turn off any prospective renters). Therefore, if you are interested in a rental property, your best option is to schedule an appointment with your real estate agent/broker to discuss your investment goals and identify what opportunities currently exist in the market place.
Posted September 7 2016, 11:00 AM PDT by Tara Sharp
Most of us already have our “ways” of doing Thanksgiving – ways our mother did it, ways our extended family did it, ways our neighborhood did it. Thanksgiving doesn’t lend itself well to trying out new traditions, but sometimes the situation calls for it – you can’t make it home for Thanksgiving, for example, or you have a family now and want to start traditions of your own. So what can you do to heighten, deepen, and extend Thanksgiving to its most memorable end?
- Start the day with an indulgent, relaxing breakfast.
While some people are firmly in the “no breakfast” camp to save room for the big meal later, we love the idea of starting the day in such a festive, delicious way! Pancakes, waffles, eggs, even pie – it’s all good.
- Take time for yourself before time with family.
As wonderful as Thanksgiving can be, we all know it can be exhausting and overwhelming. That’s why it’s such a good idea to deliberately take a little time for yourself during the day to make sure you enjoy the holiday on your terms.
- Remember loved ones who have passed.
Holidays can be bittersweet when beloved family members or friends are missing from the gathering. Look through old photo albums and recall funny, tender or important achievements of those who are gone but not forgotten.
- Write your thanks on a butcher paper tablecloth.
Cover the table with butcher paper. During the meal, distribute pens and ask each family member to write down a few things they’re thankful for on the paper and then take turns reading them out loud. We love the practice during the Thanksgiving meal of naming things you’re thankful for, and this is a unique way to do it – especially since you can tear off and save particularly meaningful memories.
- Let everyone toast!
Another way to make gratitude gushing even more festive is to let everyone make a toast. Raise your glass to the year, to your family, to your friends!
- Have the kids serve dessert.
Let the bigger kids get in on the action of serving to their family. Put them in charge of delivering dessert and coffee after the meal. The oldest can plate and pour while the younger kids can take orders and serve. It keeps them busy after the meal while the adults talk and gives them a broader sense of appreciation for the holiday.
- Have Thanksgiving dinner early.
Planning for a 3 p.m. dinner shifts the momentum of the day. An earlier meal creates a more relaxed celebration, plus there’s plenty of time to digest before going to bed. An earlier dinner also accommodates traveling guests and lets them return home at a reasonable hour.
- Take a long walk together after dinner.
No one is ready for dessert right after dinner anyway, so why not take that time to go on a long walk with your loved ones? Enjoy the cool, crispy (and hopefully dry) autumn weather and get the blood flowing again after all that rich food.
- If it’s just two of you, really treat yourself.
It can be hard to justify making a huge Thanksgiving meal when it’s just two of you, but that doesn’t mean it has to be any less special, or even any less of a treat. In fact, it should be more so. Make it special by treating yourselves to nicer ingredients and better wine than you would normally use if you were cooking for a large group.
- Stay connected with family members far away.
If you can’t be with your loved ones on Thanksgiving, thankfully you can still be together – just virtually! Do a video call or Google Hangout before dinner, or Facetime family members in for the giving-thanks portion of the evening.
This article originally appeared on WindermereSeattle.com
Posted November 15 2016, 1:00 PM PST by Pattie O’Loughlin
Posted October 10 2016, 3:30 PM PDT in Living by Shelley Rossi
When you think of your home, it likely conjures up feelings of safety, shelter, and comfort. However, accidental injuries in the home are one of the leading causes of harm to children 14 and younger. By taking certain precautions, many of these accidents can be prevented.
While supervision is the best way to keep your children safe at home, you can’t watch them every second. Childproofing, to whatever degree you are comfortable, will go a long way toward keeping your littlest loved ones safe and healthy at home.
Here are some tips to get you started.
Many accidents happen with or around water.
If you have children at home, it’s advisable to adjust your water heater to no higher than 120 degrees to prevent scalding. Furthermore, you should never leave a small child unattended in a bath tub, even for a few seconds. And be sure to safely secure doors that lead to swimming pools and hot tubs, including pet doors. When cooking or boiling water, turn pot handles in, or better yet use the back burners, to prevent little hands from pulling them off the stove.
Household chemicals can be very harmful to children.
It’s important not to keep poisonous materials under the sink, even if you have a cabinet guard in place. Keep dangerous chemicals up high and in a room that isn’t accessible to your little ones. Seemingly innocuous medicines can also be dangerous. Make sure your medicine cabinet is out of sight, mind, and reach.
Use safety latches and gates.
It’s advisable that you use safety latches on drawers, cabinets, toilets, and windows, as well as place covers on all electrical outlets. Gate off stairways and entrances to rooms, such as garages, that contain dangerous or fragile objects.
Secure furniture and other objects.
Heavy furniture, electronics, and lamps must be secured to prevent a child from pulling them over. Bookshelves and entertainment centers often come with devices that attach them to walls so that a climbing child won’t topple the furniture. The end-caps on door stoppers can be a choking hazard, so it’s advisable to remove them. Place plastic bumpers on sharp corners or edges of coffee tables, entertainment centers, and other furniture to prevent cuts and bruises.
Install a carbon monoxide detector.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that consumers purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors in addition to smoke alarms. Be sure to test both devices regularly and replace batteries as needed. The American Red Cross advises families to learn first aid and CPR, and to devise an emergency evacuation plan for fires and earthquakes.
Emergency contact info.
Last, but not least, in case an emergency does happen, always keep numbers for your child’s doctor, your work and cell, and other emergency contact info in an easily found place, preferably near the phone.
Accidents can and will happen, but by following a few small steps you can have peace of mind knowing that you’ve done everything you can to protect your family from harm in your home.
This was just posted to the Conde Nast Traveler website
Written by Rebecca Misner August 02, 2016
On remote Orcas, off the coast of Washington State, the summer is short, the days are long, and the empty beaches, gin-blue lakes, and dense forest trails add up to the castaway vacation you’ve been dying to take.
Although I’m from the Pacific Northwest, I hadn’t heard of the San Juan Islands until my mid-twenties, when I was living in New York and dating my now husband, Alex, who grew up on Orcas. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I feigned knowledge of his seemingly exotic origins—pre-Google, it took me weeks to figure out that the San Juans were not some Caribbean island-nation but an archipelago of about 175 forested and rocky islets scattered along the Salish Sea, which separates Washington State from Vancouver Island, British Columbia. (Orcas is the largest of the four reachable by passenger ferry.) I’d listened to Alex’s stories about having just 35 people in his graduating class, taking a ferry to play a rival basketball team, not to mention sailing, hiking, and fishing after school—there being no malls or 7-Elevens to slack in. But it wasn’t until I visited a few years later that I finally grasped how tiny and off the grid the island really is—you can drive the 20 miles from Deer Harbor, on the western edge of the M-shaped island, to Doe Bay, on the far eastern side, in about 35 minutes—or how Mowgli-esque his childhood had been.
Alex’s family’s home is on the eastern lobe, where we spend most of our time. It’s a mountainous, lush area, heavily forested with Douglas firs and enormous cedars. The best hiking and all of the clear freshwater lakes are here too, which means it’s where swimming and cliff-jumping take place. (The latter is an Orcas teen rite. of passage that Alex introduced our New York friends to when they decamped to the island for our wedding—the groom and officiant took the plunge about an hour before the ceremony.) The center of the island is mainly rolling farmland with grazing sheep and horses, while the western side is dry and rocky and the vegetation a little scrubbier, giving it a vaguely Mediterranean feel. It’s also, in my opinion, the most beautiful part of this place, and where you’ll find the stunning Four Winds Westward Ho—a throwback of a sailing camp that’s been around since the 1920s. Anyone can enroll their kids, as we do, though to my daughter’s dismay the girls still wear bloomers and middies. Aside from a few more places to eat, and the introduction of stand-up paddleboarding to the island’s water sports repertoire, Orcas looks remarkably as it did when I first arrived 20 years ago. And with no stoplights, big-box chain stores, or tall buildings, it has seemingly changed little in more than a century.
The San Juans’ first recorded inhabitants, the coastal Salish tribes, considered Orcas to be a sacred place. There’s a part of the island, Madrona Point—a wild, rocky outcropping thick with twisted, ruddy-barked madrona trees that grow right down to the water—that only Lummi nation tribal members are allowed to access. Orcas’s first white settlers were Hudson Bay men sent in the mid-1850s to hunt black-tailed deer—and who, knowing a good thing when they saw it, decided to stay on, marry local Lummi women, and become homesteaders rather than return to Vancouver Island.
The 1960s and ’70s somewhat predictably brought artists, organic farmers, and other idealists looking for utopian simplicity, while the 1980s, when my in-laws moved to Orcas from Oregon to take over the local newspaper, saw a bizarrely diverse set of transplants. They included followers of the spiritual sect Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment (leader JZ Knight, who claimed to channel a 35,000-year-old sage named Ramtha, moved her publishing operations to the island—Ramtha’s sword is supposedly buried somewhere on Mount Constitution); Hollywood types like producer Richard Donner (of Goonies and Lethal Weapon fame); and outdoor-brand moguls such as surfboard and sailboat designer Hobie Alter and Oakley eyewear founder Jim Jannard. In the 1990s, Microsoft money quietly flowed into the San Juans (Bill Gates owns property on nearby Shaw, Paul Allen on Lopez) in the form of subtly expensive, beautifully constructed post-and-beam summer homes. Recently, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, a wavelet of young entrepreneurs, artists, and farmers relocated to Orcas to pursue their passions without the high risk, rent, and competition of big cities.
But regardless of when locals arrived, they all cite similar reasons for staying: the island’s pulse-charging natural beauty (there’s even a cringeworthy term for the landscape’s dizzying effect—Orcasm) and its almost primordially human pace. Days are planned around the weather and tides and remain free of mainland intrusion, since cell phones only work in the town of Eastsound (and only sometimes). But also, without fail, they’ll pause, shrug, and resort to words like calling, magical, and spiritual.
Clearly there is magic at play. But for me, it’s not the type that comes from Ramtha’s buried sword. Rather, it’s from returning again and again to an island that so gracefully captures all that is glorious about summer.
LIVE LIKE A LOCAL
Planning a trip to Orcas isn’t plug-and-play, but it’s not daunting (and totally worth it) if you have the right intel.
Finding Your Way There
Orcas is not easy to get to, which is why, even over a holiday weekend in summer, you’ll see only one or two other hikers on the trails and will have the rope swing at Mountain Lake to yourself. You can get to the island by boat or plane.
If you’ve got half a day, going by Washington State Ferry is a nice intro to the region’s geography. Fly into Seattle-Tacoma International, rent a car (you’ll need one on Orcas), and drive 100 miles north to Anacortes to catch the car ferry to the San Juans. (In summer, make a reservation at least two weeks in advance.) During the hour-long trip, you’ll cruise by tiny Blakely, Cypress, and Decatur islands, and maybe see pods of orca whales, or a weekend regatta, before stopping at Lopez and Shaw. The time-pressed should consider flying by seaplane: Kenmore Air will pick you up at Sea-Tac and take you to Lake Union in downtown Seattle. From there the six-passenger crafts fly breathtakingly low—the Space Needle is at eye level as you leave—and when you veer west (try to sit on the left side of the plane), you’ll see all the way up the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Canada. Alternatively, Kenmore can shuttle you to nearby Boeing Field, where you can take a small Cessna plane to Orcas’s airport in Eastsound. Once there, you can rent a car.
You’re not going to Orcas for its hotels, most of which are fine, if fusty and dated. The better move is to rent a house. Vacation Doorways has a strong portfolio of rentals—many of them Pacific Northwest modern style, meaning lots of glass and wood with an expansive great room, large wraparound deck, and beach access. If you don’t mind going simple, reserve a waterfront cabin. My favorites are Cabins-on-the-Point on Massacre Bay, on the island’s western side (the two-bedroom house and cluster of early-twentieth-century cabins are ideal for groups), or the log cabins at Beach Haven Resort, on the northwest shore, where the sunsets are spectacular (these book up quickly with regulars, though).
Alex and I have made some of our best summer meals on Orcas. You can find any staples at Island Market in Eastsound. For fresh produce, hit the Saturday-morning farmers’ market in town. It’s a place to hang out as much as to shop—there’s often a local bluegrass band playing, and the prepared food is fantastic (get a round of fried oysters and papusas topped with crema and hot sauce). The best vendor for heirloom tomatoes, baby lettuces, new potatoes, and berries is Maple Rock Farm. Other market highlights: wildflowers from island growers and local fruit preserves from Girl Meets Dirt (the peach-chamomile jam is heaven on toast). We go to Buck Bay Shellfish Farm in Olga at least once a day. Toni Knudson, who runs the farm with her husband, Mark Sawyer (Mark’s family has been farming oysters and clams here since the early 1930s), will shuck a few Pacific oysters for you to eat while you decide what looks good for dinner. There’s usually local salmon (king, silver, or sockeye), Manila clams (small and tender and great in pasta con vongole) or the meatier littlenecks (excellent grilled with a little butter and fresh herbs), and Dungeness crab. For wine, fresh-baked bread, meats, and cheeses, Roses Bakery Cafe in town is the place.
Getting Out of the Kitchen
As lovely as it is to have your own setup, there are excellent places to eat out—most take full advantage of the access to amazing seafood, island-raised beef and pork, and produce. Stop by Brown Bear Baking on Main Street for a pre-hike coffee and a pastry—any order should include the flaky, buttery kouign-amann and at least one of the huge, gooey sticky buns. The best lunch spot on the island is The Kitchen: It’s little more than a few picnic tables beneath a large corkscrew willow tree, but its take on healthy, fast Asian food has earned it a die-hard following—get the chicken or vegetarian pot stickers with zesty plum sauce and the fried tofu and sesame rice cakes with crispy kale, prawns, and ginger-wasabi-soy sauce. You’ll want to go to Hogstone’s Wood Oven for dinner twice: once to sit outside and drink beer and eat chef/owner Jay Blackinton’s divinely thin wood-charred pizza (the smoked tomato and goat cheese, and Mangalista pork with peppers, are particularly good pies), and a second time to eat in the cozy dining room, with its ambitious locally sourced and foraged tasting menu and well-curated wine list. For a cocktail and classic Northwest farm-to-table cuisine in a (slightly) more formal environment, the restaurant at the Inn at Ship Bay is always solid.
It’s All About the Water
Because of the island’s M shape, there’s a lot of protected shoreline to explore, and sea kayaking is the best way to do so: It’s not uncommon to paddle past orca whales, Dall’s porpoises, and harbor seals while bald eagles and peregrine falcons circle overhead. Shearwater Kayak Tours in Eastsound offers three-hour and full-day trips. Our favorite is the afternoon trip from Doe Bay Resort & Retreat, on the remote eastern tip. It’s so peaceful—it seems like there are fewer private and commercial boats on this side—and we always see a ton of marine life. Bonus: When you return, you can pay a drop-in fee and use the resort’s sauna and hot outdoor mineral pools (they’re clothing optional, which is no big deal unless you run into someone your husband went to high school with). Afterward, head down a fern-lined path to the sound and plunge into the ocean; you may even see some bioluminescence—and during the ten seconds you brave the icy water, you’ll glow.
The Hiking’s About the Water Too
There are dozens of different hikes on Orcas, from casual rambles to serious climbs. The three-mile loop around Cascade Lake in Moran State Park is one of the easier, family-friendly hikes. You’ll have multiple opportunities to swim along the way—from a tame swim park (there’s a lifeguard on duty as well as paddleboards for hire), to a more thrilling jump off a 20-foot-high bridge that separates the lake from the lagoon, to a staggered group of cliffs that only the brave (the lowest cliff is a 25-foot jump) and the stupid (the highest feels close to 60 feet) should attempt. Other gentle hikes include the loop around Mountain Lake (there’s a rope swing near the start if you’re going clockwise) and the half-mile hike to Obstruction Pass, which ends at the best tide pools on the island. My favorite hike, and one of the more difficult, starts at the summit of Mount Constitution and, on a series of thigh-killing switchbacks through old-growth forests, takes you down to Twin Lakes, accessible only by trail.
Worth Their Weight
Despite the 25-pounds-per-person luggage limit on seaplanes, I always bring something back. There are a number of well-respected artists on the island, but my two favorites are master potter Jerry Weatherman, who sells out of his studio, Olga Pottery, and wood shaper Rob Thornber, whose work can be found at the Orcas Island Artworks. Both reference the island beautifully: The glazes Jerry uses on his ceramics—deep indigos, cold grays, black-greens—capture the Orcas palette, while Rob somehow manages to lathe-turn solid pieces of local madrona wood into whisper-thin, organically shaped bowls. Back at home, I drink my morning coffee from one of Jerry’s mugs and use my enormous madrona bowl for salad nightly. It seems fitting that these summer keepsakes have worked their way into my everyday life.
Posted June 8 2016, 3:00 PM PDT by Kelly Weisfield subscribe to post Email-icon
Buying Waterfront Properties – What You Should Know Before You Take the Plunge
Posted in Luxury Homes, Premier Event , Selling, Buying, and Living by Kelly Weisfield
Living on the Water Is a Lifestyle
Enjoying direct and private access to the water is typically the primary motivator for buyers seeking a waterfront property. As such, it’s really important to consider how you intend to use your waterfront. For example, if you’re a boater, evaluate the moorage at the property. Is the water deep enough for your particular type of boat? Is there a boat lift to keep the boat out of the water when not in use, or do you plan to dry dock for the winter? If you’re a swimmer, is the lakeshore accessible to wade in, or do you have to jump off a dock or platform? If you have jet skis, sail boats or other water toys, is there a place to store them or moor them? If you’re looking forward to peaceful days on your stand-up paddleboard, is the water in front of your home typically choppy or calm? When you entertain, is there ample parking for guests or space for visitors to tie up their boats on your dock?
Your directional orientation will also impact your waterfront living experience. East-facing waterfront will allow you to enjoy wonderful sunrises. If you prefer sunsets, west-facing waterfront is preferable. South-facing properties generally enjoy light all day but can also experience more direct weather.
Focus on the Property More than the House
The golden rule of real estate, “location, location, location,” is even more true when considering a waterfront property. The ratio of land value to total property value is generally higher in waterfront properties. You can always update and change your home, but you cannot change the location. Consider especially the following features of the property:
View. One of the great perks of being on the water is enjoying the beautiful views. Understand if your view is protected by CC&Rs or view easements. If there are any view-obstructing trees or structures, identify whose property they are on and your ability to maintain your view.
Proximity to the Water. If the home is not close to the shoreline, consider how you’ll access the water. If you plan to entertain lakeside, think about how you’ll get food, beverages and supplies down to the waterfront easily.
Privacy. The property’s feeling of privacy usually corresponds to its waterfront frontage. The larger your waterfront frontage, the more buffer you’ll have from your neighbors.
Topography of the Land. Is the waterfront property on a level lot or a steep slope? Access to the water is easier on a flat lot – many lakefront lots are steep and can be difficult to get up and down to. Again, this impacts the value of the property
Understand What You Can and Can’t Do with the Property
Waterfront properties are subject to additional regulations and codes from various local, state and federal agencies. There are very strict regulations on shoreline development. If the property requires a new dock or bulkhead, it’s important to know that this can be a very challenging process given the multiple government agencies involved. These limitations are likely to get even more restrictive in the near future as the shoreline regulations are being updated. Sooner is better than later in applying for any permits related to docks, bulkheads and changes to the shoreline.
Finally, if you’re planning to build or significantly remodel, do a thorough feasibility analysis given city codes and shoreline regulations. New construction often cannot be built as close to the water as the existing structure under current code. In addition to meeting with the city, engage an architect and builder who have significant experience building waterfront properties in your area to help advise you about what likely limitations there are on your particular parcel.
Every Waterfront Property Is Unique – Learn the Nuances
Living on the water means that you have an additional set of factors to consider concerning your waterfront experience. For example, what is the boating traffic like in front of your home? Is it a busy channel or near a favorite fishing spot where boaters tend to congregate? Look closely at the properties of your waterfront neighbors: is there a tear-down next door so there will likely be a construction barge in front of you for the next few years? Does your neighbor have a huge yacht moored all summer that blocks your view? Is there a public beach nearby or community club that will cause noise late into the evenings?
If you’re considering shared waterfront, be especially thorough in understanding your rights and ownership interests. Some shared waterfront properties have a specifically deeded boat slip, though many others share an interest in a community dock. The system for moorage assignment and rotation can often lead to contention among neighbors, so it’s important to learn as much as you can about how the shared waterfront and is handled in your neighborhood.
There is a reason that owning a waterfront home is a life-long dream for so many people – it brings an extraordinary lifestyle. As a significant financial investment and very unique type of real estate, it’s especially critical to engage professionals who understand the complex issues inherent in waterfront properties. Equipped with the right expertise, guidance and knowledge, you’ll be ready to turn to your waterfront dream into a reality.
We probably don’t need to tell you that 2015 was a crazy year in real estate, especially in our city. Bidding wars and listings lasting mere days on the market is something we’ve all grown accustomed to. But it turns out we’re not alone. Redfin recently came out with a list of the 30 most competitive neighborhoods from all across the U.S.. What’s the most mind blowing thing about this list? Of the 30 neighborhoods listed, 13 of them are in King County.
Seattle neighborhoods that made it onto this list are Roosevelt (4th), Phinney Ridge (9th), Stevens (11th), Greenwood (12th), Victory Heights (16th),Green Lake (17th), Madrona (20th), West Woodland (22nd). I mean, we all knew it was stormy out there, but this felt like a snow storm in Waikiki. It’s hard to say exactly what 2016 has in store, but our very own Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, has a few ideas (such as expecting that housing in Seattle will continue to appreciate in value, but at a slightly lower rate than 2015).
Read more on Seattle Curbed.
CHECK OUT #11!
Stunning, shimmering sunsets across the water, the peaceful lullaby of waves crashing and the wind blowing, the feeling of truly being removed for your everyday life … yep, islands are pretty much the best. While it’s wonderful to get that coveted passport stamp, there are plenty of islands to escape to that don’t require a passport.
Here are 15 of our favorites.
1. Mount Desert Island, Maine
Home to Acadia National Park and the historic, upscale town of Bar Harbor, Mount Desert Island is 108 square miles of rocky coastlines, evergreen forests and crystal-clear lakes, not to mention some of America’s oldest luxuries. See for yourself why this stunning, glacier-carved landscape inspired the likes of Rockefellers, Fords, Vanderbilts and Carnegies to contribute to its conservation.
How to get there: Mount Desert island is accessible by car via Bar Harbor Road. Out-of-state visitors can fly into Bangor International Airport (an hour away), or fly into Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport (15 minutes away).
2. Shelter Island, New York
Located off the eastern tip of Long Island, Shelter Island is pretty much the Hampton’s charming, less high-maintenance little sister. One third of the tiny island is owned by the Nature Conservancy to protect its natural marshlands, and it is full of nature and bird-watching trails. The rest of the island boasts some of the oldest buildings in America. Shelter Island Heights is officially recognized on the National Register of Historic Places for its collection of rural residences that have remained essentially unchanged since 1872.
How to get there: Shelter Island is about a three- or four-hour drive from downtown New York via I-495 E. There are no bridges, so commuters must take the South Ferry to the island. Out-of-state visitors will find it easiest to fly into New York City and drive from there.
3. St. Simons Island, Georgia
Ranked as America’s No. 1 Favorite Beach Town in 2014, St. Simons Island offers “a triple threat of southern charm, serenity, and affordability” (Travel + Leisure). The 18-square-mile island amid the Atlantic is dotted with miles of pristine white-sand beaches, ancient oaks and lush green golf courses. A bike or trolley ride around the island delivers you to some of the area’s oldest plantations or to the iconic 1872 lighthouse.
How to get there: St. Simons Island is accessible by car via Torras Causeway. Out-of-state visitors can fly into Jacksonville International Airport or Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (90 minutes away), or into the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport (20 minutes away).
Be sure to stay at The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, which is now offering $70 in exclusive extras for Travelzoo members.
4. Ocracoke, North Carolina
Majestic wild ponies, 13 miles of pristine sand beaches and the oldest lighthouse on the East Coast — these are only a few of the highlights of Ocracoke, the outermost island of the Outer Banks. First settled by colonists in the 1750s, the island serves as a perfect place for seaside recreation, exploration and relaxation. It’s also a history-lovers paradise with its 250+ historic structures and Civil War artifacts.
How to get here: Ocracoke is only accessible by ferry, boat or small plane. Out-of-state visitors can fly into Norfolk International Airport or Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport — both are about two hours from the island.
FLORIDA & CARIBBEAN
5. Amelia Island, Florida
An enchanting blend of French, Spanish, English and Mexican influences have shaped the landscape and culture of this 400+-year-old Florida island. Bask in 13 miles of Atlantic coastline, try your luck at one of the island’s gorgeous golf courses or take a horse-drawn carriage down 50 blocks of unique housing, shops and dining in the historic district of Fernandina Beach. Whatever you choose, you’ll understand why the island has consistently been recognized as one of the Top 10 Islands in the United States by Condé Nast Traveler.
How to get there: Amelia Island is accessible by car via FL-200. Out-of-state visitors can fly into Jacksonville International Airport (30 minutes away).
6. Key West, Florida
The combination of remote isolation, subtropical temperatures and breathtaking landscapes has made Key West the popular escape for everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Jimmy Buffet. Take a stroll down any of the island’s palm-lined streets and you’ll find century-old pastel gingerbread-trim homes, world-class seafood eateries, bars and small shops that call Key West home. Take to the water for some of the best fishing, diving, snorkeling and boating in the world.
7. Vieques, Puerto Rico
Nestled just 7 miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico, Vieques is a Navy testing site turned beach resort oasis. Not only does this island have the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world and the largest natural wildlife refuge in the Caribbean, but it also has over 40 sand beaches. If that weren’t enough natural beauty for you, there’s also wild horses freely galloping on those beaches. Yep, it’s pretty much Puerto Rico’s best-kept secret.
How to get there: From San Juan International Airport, a 25-minute flight to Vieques starts around $220. Visitors can also fly to Vieques from San Juan Isla Grande airport. Or visitors can fly into Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and then drive 55 minutes to Fajardo. From there, visitors can take the Vieques-Fajardo ferry, which will take about 90 minutes.
8. St. John, US. Virgin Islands
In 1956, Laurance Rockefeller donated 5,000 acres of St. John’s land to the National Park service, making the island one of the most naturally unspoiled in the Caribbean. Today, visitors can revel in the unbelievable hills, beaches and bays that make up two thirds of the island or take to the bustling streets of Cruz Bay, the island’s main town. Whether you’re planning on staying in a world-class luxury resort or basic campground, you’re sure to become enthralled with the island’s history, culture and natural wonders.
How to get there: St. John doesn’t have an airport, so visitors must fly into the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas and then continue to St. John by ferry or car barge.
The trip from the airport takes about 90 minutes. Cruises can also take visitors through the U.S. Virgin Islands.
(Yes, there are islands in the Midwest)
9. Isle Royale, Michigan
Isle Royale National Park is “a destination for the truly dedicated explorer” (National Geographic). Brave adventurers can trek rough and wild trails, encounter wolves and moose and make camp wherever they end their days — there are no designated campsites on this 45-mile-long island.
How to get there: The only way to get to the island is by boat or seaplane. The Thunder Bay International Airport in Ontario is the closest airport to Isle Royale.
10. Mackinac Island, Michigan
Located just off the tip of the Michigan mitten in Lake Huron, Mackinac Island packs fascinating history, small-town charm and natural beauty into 3.8 square miles. The island is a National Historic Landmark having undergone extensive historic preservation and restoration, and it is known for its unusual ban on almost all motor vehicles – it hasn’t had cars on it since the 1890s. The island is also the site of one of America’s oldest state parks and some seriously delicious fudge. During peak season, 10 thousand lbs of fudge leave the island each day.
How to get there: The only way to get to Mackinac Island is to hop on the St. Ignace-Mackinac Ferry. Out-of-state visitors can fly into Chippewa County International Airport, drive about 40 minutes to St. Ignace and then take the ferry from there.
WEST COAST & HAWAII
11. Orcas Island, Washington
Rolling hills, shimmering lakes, quaint hamlets and lush woodlands cover the 57 square miles of Orcas Island, known by locals as “the gem of the San Juans.” Hike, bike, horseback ride, swim or cruise — whatever you decide, you’ll be sure to encounter extraordinary natural beauty, wildlife, friendly people and that much needed breath of fresh air.
How to get there: The Washington State Ferry will take visitors from Anacortes to the island. Out-of-state visitors can fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport or Vancouver International Airport — both are about 75 minutes away.
12. Catalina Island, California
Just 22 miles out from LA’s coastline, Catalina Island “gives you a glimpse of what undeveloped Southern California once looked like” (Fodor’s), with its quaint beach communities and unspoiled natural landscapes. The island’s access to the area’s unusually clean water also makes it a favorite of divers, snorkelers and kayakers, though other adventures like eco-themed zip lining are also available. Visitors and explorers of the island may notice the large population of bison on the island. Allegedly, a film crew brought bison to the island in the 1920s for a movie and left them, which is why there are over 200 roaming the island today. Catalina is also known for being the place where Mr. Wrigley brought his Chicago Cubs for spring training from the 1920s-1950s and for being the site of one of Marilyn Monroe’s homes.
How to get there: An hour long boat ride or 15-minute helicopter ride from San Pedro, Long Beach, Newport Beach or Dana Point delivers visitors to Catalina Island. Out-of-state visitors can fly into Long Beach Airport, John Wayne Airport or Los Angeles International Airport.
13. Santa Cruz Island, California
With a portion of the island managed by the National Park Service and the rest being owned by the Nature Conservancy, Santa Cruz Island is a place of truly unique natural wonder. More than 600 types of plants, 140 kinds of land birds, 11 species of mammals, five types of reptiles and three species of amphibian call the 96-square-mile island home and so does one of the largest and deepest sea caves in the world. Maybe Darwin should have studied here instead …
How to get here: An Island Packer boat will take visitors from Ventura to the island. Out-of-state visitors can fly into Los Angeles International Airport and drive to Ventura (90 minutes away).
It’s important to note that there is no transportation available on the island — all areas must be accessed by foot, kayak or private boat.
14. Kauai, Hawaii
Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian islands and boasts one of the most unique geographical landscapes in the world. The island is full of lush rain forests (a product of over 440 inches of rainfall each year) soaring mountains, steep sea cliffs, sandy beaches, coral reefs, small stretches of desert and even swamps. It’s no wonder the island has been the site of more than 50 movies, including “South Pacific,” “Jurassic Park” and “The Descendants,” and is considered an unparalleled treasure of the Hawaiian islands.
How to get there: The easiest way to get to Kauai is to fly into Lihue Airport.
Despite being just 200 square miles, Guam is the largest of the Mariana Islands and chock full of cosmopolitan charm and excitement. Walk the city streets and you’ll find a fascinating mix of Asian, European and Polynesian cultures not to mention gorgeous beaches and lookouts, delicious fusions of cuisine and fascinating glimpses into the island’s storied past. Fun Fact: You can reach a white sandy beach within 15 minutes from any point on the island.
How to get there: The easiest way to get to Guam is to fly into Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport – the flight is 12.5-hours long from California.
Note: In order to visit the island without a passport, you must get there without hitting a foreign port or place. It is also recommended that travelers bring a government issued photo ID and a copy of their birth certificate.