New England has some of the best islands in the United States.

New England Islands: 11 Best Islands to Visit 2023

Looking for the best New England islands to visit?

The New England islands are full of beautiful scenery and history, not to mention plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors. These diverse islands have a quintessential New England charm and offer relaxing getaways or adventurous escapes.

From scenic hikes on Mount Desert Island in Maine to thrilling sailing trips on Nantucket, take in the beauty of New England’s rocky coastlines and pristine beaches.

Table of Contents
1. Nantucket, MA
2. Martha’s Vineyard, MA
3. Aquidneck Island (Newport), RI
4. Block Island, RI
5. Monhegan Island, ME
6. Vinalhaven, ME
7. Chebeague, ME
8. Peaks Island, ME
9. Mount Desert Island, ME
10. Star Island, NH
11. Grand Isle, VT
12. Plum Island, MA
13. Cuttyhunk, MA
New England Map

New England Islands: Top 11 to Visit

With a variety of landscapes, activities, and local culture to enjoy, a trip to these incredible islands is a great way to spend your next vacation.

1. Nantucket, MA

Lighthouse in yellow flower field

Nantucket is a must-visit island in New England. It offers a unique blend of chic sophistication and unhurried charm. With its historic district featuring pre-Civil War homes, the island is a treasure trove of tradition and history. The absence of large chain stores and easy downtown walkability make Nantucket a unique destination.

Nantucket’s rich history as a whaling capital is showcased at the Nantucket Whaling Museum. Explore the Whaling Museum and the Maria Mitchell Association, famous for its stargazing Open Nights.

With picturesque cranberry bogs and windswept bluffs, Nantucket offers an 82-mile coastline and serene bike paths. Immerse yourself in the fairytale ambiance of Siasconset, where rose-covered cottages and the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum await.

Discover Nantucket’s understated elegance, unique attractions, and scenic beauty that continue to captivate visitors year after year.

Book a private guided fishing tour in Nantucket! Click here to reserve!

How to Get to Nantucket?

Nantucket is only accessible via ferry. There are six ferries a day from Hyannis as well as New Bedford and Harwich Port. Some are high-speed, but you will need to plan ahead since spots are limited.

You can also fly into Nantucket. Several airlines including American, Cape Air, Delta, United, and JetBlue fly to Nantucket from Boston.

Where to Stay in Nantucket?

Nantucket is full of upscale B&Bs but the Union Street Inn stands above the rest. This 12-bedroom boutique B&B offers easy access to Nantucket’s shops, restaurants and ferries. Enjoy a complimentary full breakfast and bike rental.

Click here to book your accommodation in Nantucket!

2. Martha’s Vineyard, MA

New England Island hydrangea bushes and purple cottage

Martha’s Vineyard has attracted politicos and celebrities with its dramatic cliffs, preserved 19th-century architecture, culinary delights, and peaceful atmosphere. The island offers unspoiled beaches, including the three-mile-long Katama Beach, and many serene bike paths.

Take a bike ride or a stroll past the vibrant gingerbread cottages or enjoy a ride on the historic Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs. Edgartown is another popular destination with its climbable lighthouse and locally brewed Bad Martha beer.

The Aquinnah Cliffs, with their breathtaking views and the iconic Gay Head Light, are a must-see. Nearby, the laid-back village of Menemsha, famous for being featured in the movie JAWS, is a charming spot to visit. And no trip to Menemsha would be complete without a taste of creamy clam chowder from Larsen’s Seafood Market.

Get around the island easily with a guided tour of both Edgartown and Oak’s Bluff. Click here to book your tour!

How do I get to Martha’s Vineyard?

Martha’s Vineyard is only accessible by boat. Catch a 1-hour ferry in Hyannis or Falmouth. Some ferries can accommodate vehicles.

Where to Stay in Martha’s Vineyard?

This historic Martha’s Vineyard hotel, Summercamp, is located in Oak’s Bluff and offers oceanfront views. The property is a renovated 1879 house with modern amenities and a 24-hour front desk. Walkable to many restaurants as well as the Oak’s Bluff Ferry less than 5 minutes away.

Click here to book your accommodation in Martha’s Vineyard.

3. Aquidneck Island, RI (Newport)

Guilded Mansions in Newport

Aquidneck Island is often a forgotten New England island as its easily accessible by road bridges and right off the coast of Rhode Island. Aquidneck Island’s 44-square-mile landmass is home to Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth and is a must-visit destination among the New England islands.

With its stunning beaches, historic Gilded Age mansions, world-renowned seafood restaurants, and charming accommodations, Aquidneck Island offers a delightful experience for visitors.

Click here to book your Newport Gilded Age Trolley Tour. This tour will sell out!

As the largest island in Narragansett Bay, Aquidneck Island is known for its rich maritime history, opulent mansions from the Gilded Age, and well-preserved colonial homes and buildings.

Newport, in particular, allures visitors throughout the year with its captivating charm. The island is known for its sailing regatta and summer jazz and folk festivals.

Click here to book your Newport cruise. (Plus some boat-side mimosas!)

Middletown, located north of Newport, offers three popular beaches, including Sachuest Beach, also known as “Second Beach.” The northern end of the beach, called “Surfer’s End,” attracts wave-riders year-round.

Additionally, Middletown is home to Newport Vineyards which features live music, fire pits, and culinary events celebrating local flavors.

How do I get to Aquidneck Island?

Connected to mainland Rhode Island by bridges, Aquidneck Island is easily accessible and offers a range of waterside attractions.

Where to stay on Aquidneck Island?

Serenity Inn is situated in a historic hill neighborhood, occupying a Victorian house constructed in 1855. It is conveniently located just a few blocks away from downtown Newport, where you can explore numerous shops and restaurants.

Within a 10-minute drive from the inn, you can find the 450-acre Norman Bird Sanctuary, boasting 7 miles of scenic hiking trails. Newport State Airport is a little over 5 minutes away, and the city center of Newport can be reached within a 4-minute drive.

Click here to book Serenity Inn Newport now!

4. Block Island, RI

Mohegan Bluffs on Block Island, best New England island.

Block Island is a stunning destination known for its beautiful beaches, picturesque views, and abundant wildlife. Block Island, located about 9 miles off the coast of Rhode Island, is a small gem with unique natural habitats and cherished recreational sites.

The island’s conservation efforts have preserved nearly 50 percent of its land, ensuring the protection of its flora and fauna. The 230-acre Rodman’s Hollow is a notable site with walking trails and endangered species. Exploring the miles of unspoiled habitat and breathtaking landscapes is made easy by a network of walkways.

Block Island’s natural beauty extends beyond its beaches. The picturesque Mohegan Bluffs, rising 200 feet above sea level, is a sight to behold. Southeast Lighthouse stands proudly atop the legendary Mohegan Bluffs, offering panoramic views.

Block Island is a year-round destination, with May through October being the peak season. Whether you visit during the bustling summer months or the quieter off-season, the island’s natural wonders and accessibility will leave you in awe.

How do I get to Block Island?

Block Island is only accessible by ferry. You can take a ferry from Point Judith or Newport, Rhode Island, New London, Connecticut, or Long Island, NY. The trip will take approximately one hour depending on the speed of your vessel.

If you plan to bring your car along with you on your journey, make sure to reserve it in advance.

Where do I stay on Block Island?

Ballard’s Resort and Ballard’s Inn offer guests an unforgettable island experience with its oceanside inn and hotel. Ballard’s Hotel features spacious rooms equipped with all the classic amenities like air conditioning for a comfortable stay.

Guests can enjoy views of the harbor from their King Deluxe room balconies or relax by the waterfront in rocking chairs. A variety of beach amenities are available for rent, including umbrellas and lounge chairs. The inn is also within walking distance of all the local attractions and just moments away from the ferry.

Book your stay at Ballard’s and click here. Space is extremely limited!

5. Monhegan Island, ME

New England island rocky coast

Monhegan Island is the perfect blend of relaxation and activity. With no pavement or cars, the island is a peaceful and laid-back artisan community.

There’s no need to be an art connoisseur to appreciate the Lupine Gallery, which showcases paintings and sculptures by over 50 local artists. There’s also the Monhegan Museum of Art & History, where you can learn all about the island’s history and artistic tradition.

The island has an abundance of hiking trails for people of all skill levels, leading through over 9 miles of untouched wilderness. The Whitehead Trail and Burnthead Trail are shorter, and perfect for beginners, while the Cliff and Blackhead Trails are better suited for seasoned hikers who want a more rugged wilderness experience.

Grab a cold beer at one of the many breweries on the island. Even quiet Monhegan Island has its very own brewery, called the Monhegan Island Brewing Company. They specialize in craft beers brewed right on the island, including Balmy Days, Trap Stacker, and the Quadricentennial Pale Ale.

Want to see the Monhegan Island from the coast? Click here to book a sunset sail from Booth Bay Maine.

How do I get to Monhegan Island?

Situated merely 10 miles away from the Maine coastline, Monhegan Island can be accessed by ferry from Port Clyde, New Harbor, and Boothbay Harbor. It is important to mention that since the island lacks roads, the ferries are exclusively for passengers.

Where do I stay on Monhegan Island?

Indulge in the soothing sound of the sea as you drift off to sleep at this Oceanfront Cottage Rental. Under a 12 minute walk to Fish Beach and Lupine Gallery!

Click here to book your peaceful getaway at Monhegan Island!

6. Vinalhaven, ME

Seaside shack in Vinalhaven

While Maine has over 4600 islands, Vinalhaven is rated as the most beautiful of all of Maine’s islands. With a small but vibrant year-round population, it offers conveniences like restaurants, shops, and accommodations. Vinalhaven, situated in Penobscot Bay, is known for its pink-hued granite and thriving lobster boat fleet.

The island’s granite quarries, Lawson’s and Booth’s, are popular for kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, and swimming. There are also nearly two dozen parks with extensive hiking and walking trails.

The island’s commitment to conservation is evident through its picturesque walking trails and two refreshing swimming spots, Booth’s Quarry and Lawson’s Quarry.

How do I get to Vinalhaven?

Located in the stunning Penobscot Bay, the Vinalhaven ferry’s mainland terminus can be found in Rockland. The scenic 15-mile journey takes approximately 90 minutes, offering picturesque views along the way. Operating year-round, the ferry provides more frequent services during the peak season.

Where do I stay in Vinalhaven?

Vinalhaven is full of small inns and Bed and Breakfasts. My top recommendation is this Waterfront Cottage walkable to Lawson’s Quary!

Click here to book your stay in Vinalhaven!

7. Chebeague Island, ME

New England island coast with canoe

Chebeague Island, the largest island in Casco Bay, picturesque gem in Casco Bay, known for its unspoiled beauty. While it is usually home to a few hundred residents, during the summer the population triples as visitors come to enjoy a peaceful getaway.

Check out some of Chebeague Island’s best beaches including Hamilton Beach and Sunset Beach. While Chebeague may avoid the summer crowds of mainland Maine, there are still some lively activities such as live music bar Slow Bell popular with both locals and tourists.

This relaxed New England destination offers an authentic Maine summer experience, with activities such as fishing, relaxing on the beach, sailing, golfing, biking around the island, and simply enjoying the fresh sea air. Keep an eye out for harbor seals and an abundance of summer wild blueberries.

How to get to Chebeague Island?

Cheabeague Island is only accessible by ferry. Take the Casco Bay Line from Portland for a scenic 90-minute trip stopping at several of Maine’s islands. Note that you’ll arrive at Chandler Cove, which is at the opposite end of where you’ll find most of the island’s restaurants and shops.

For a more direct route take the ferry from Yarmouth for a 15 minute direct ferry but be sure to leave an extra 40 minutes to park and catch the shuttle bus to the ferry dock.

Where to stay on Chebeague Island?

Chebeague Island offers remote and charming rental homes and inns. My top pick for Chebeague Island is the Sunset House rental . It sleeps up to 10 people and is less than a minute’s walk to Casco Bay.

Click here to book your rental at Chebeague Island!

8. Peaks Island, ME

Peaks Island lighthouse and coast

If you’re in the Portland area, don’t miss the chance to visit Peaks Island and enjoy its breathtaking ocean views. If you like birding, walking, kayaking, art, a little history and spectacular water views, you will find Peaks Island to be the perfect day trip or getaway.

However the island prides itself on its quaint setting so don’t expect big-ticket shopping, thrills, or fancy dining.

Experience the best of Peaks Island with horseback riding, beach hangouts, kayaking, strolling downtown, biking, and savoring local cuisine. Visit the Umbrella Cover Museum, and enjoy island-roasted coffee at Peaks Island Coffee Roasters and fresh cinnamon buns at Peaks Café. Swim or kayak to Catnip Island for a fun adventure.

Want to see more of coastal Portland? Click here to book a Harbor Cruise!

How do I get to Peaks Island?

Peaks Island is not accessible by road and is just a 20 to 25-minute ferry ride from the mainland island. It is not recommended to bring your car but certain ferries can accommodate vehicles

Where do I stay on Peaks Island?

I recommend Willard’s Beach Getaway for its close proximity to Willard’s Beach and dog-friendly accommodations!

Click here to book your trip to Peaks Island!

9. Mount Desert Island, ME

View of Acadia National Park's cliffs and shore

Mt. Desert Island truly showcases the unique charm of New England islands with its diverse landscapes, from the sandy shores of the charming seaside town of Bar Harbor to the granite peaks of Acadia National Park, the sole national park in New England.

Encompassing 47,000 acres, Acadia is a stunning blend of woodlands, rocky beaches, and granite mountains. The park offers a plethora of hiking and biking trails, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in its natural beauty. Wildlife enthusiasts will be delighted by the chance to spot moose, bears, seabirds, and even whales.

To fully embrace the wonders of Acadia, start your journey with the 27-mile Park Loop Road on Mt. Desert Island. This scenic route takes you to iconic landmarks such as Cadillac Mountain, providing breathtaking views of the island’s rugged beauty. Dip into the crystal blue waters of Jordan’s Pond and Thunder Hole.

Keep an eye out for fresh wild blueberries!

Want to explore more? Click here to book one of the various Mt. Desert Island Tours including van tours of Acadia, windjammer boat excursions, or walking food tours!

For those seeking a day trip rather than camping, Bar Harbor is an ideal base. This charming coastal community serves as the gateway to Acadia National Park and provides a relaxing beach-town atmosphere. Despite its small size, Bar Harbor boasts numerous restaurants where you can savor fresh seafood, including Galyn’s.

While the Atlantic waters may be too chilly for swimming, nature cruises and lobster boat rides offer a chance to observe seals, porpoises, and whales in their natural habitat.

Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park offer a perfect blend of beach vacation and rugged outdoor adventure, making it an unforgettable destination in New England’s islands.

How do I get to Mt. Desert Island?

While Mt. Desert Island is accessible by car from the mainland, it’s not a short trip from a major city. It takes approximately three hours to drive from Portland and just over an hour from Bangor.

Where do I stay on Mt. Desert Island?

I recommend staying in the charming Inn Bar Harbor Grand Hotel which is located centrally in Bar Harbor. Only a few miles from Sand Beach and Acadia National Park, the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel is a perfect location to enjoy both the beach town and the national park.

Click here to book your stay in Bar Harbor, Maine!

10. Star Island (Island of Shoals), NH

Lighthouse over Star Island coast

Star Island, the largest of the Isles of Shoals, is a stunning island located on the New Hampshire-Maine border. These islands have captivated marine biologists, experienced fishermen, and even pirates. Legend has it that Blackbeard spent his honeymoon on the Isle of Shoals before fleeing from British warships.

While there are nine islands in total, only one, Star Island, is open to the public during the summer. Star Island provides educational programs and conferences on topics like natural history, ecology, and arts to the general public. Visitors can explore preserved 19th Century houses, and a marine laboratory.

Don’t miss the picturesque sunset in Portsmouth’s Prescott Park or the delicious local seafood at restaurants like Botanica and Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Cafe.

See the Isle of Shoals from Portsmith New Hampshire! Click here to book a guided bike tour of the New Hampshire coast.

How to I get to Star Island?

Today, the Isle of Shoals Steamship Company offers daily cruises from Portsmouth, NH to Star Island.

Where to stay on Star Island?

Star Island only has one hotel- the Oceanic Hotel. The hotel offers minimalist rooms and rowboat rentals for a true maritime experience.

11. Grand Isle, Vermont

Shore of Lake Champlain.

Vermont is often overlooked when it comes to New England’s best islands, but it shouldn’t be!

While Vermont may not have an ocean coast, it does have four Lake Champlain Islands (South Hero, Grand Isle, North Hero, and Isle La Motte). Nestled between Vermont and New York, these picturesque communities attract many visitors.

Experience the numerous outdoor activities of Grand Isle State Park with its scenic hiking trails, beaches, bikeways, state parks, and apple orchards. Explore the 226-acre Grand Isle State Park, featuring breathtaking trails and vibrant wildflowers. Visit Hyde Log Cabin, one of the oldest log cabins in the country.

Immerse yourself in the vibrant ambiance of Snow Farm Vineyard, offering an array of award-winning craft wines and hosts a popular summer concert series. As autumn arrives, nearby Hackett Orchard welcomes visitors to pick from 47 apple varieties or enjoy a tour of the family-run farm.

Indulge in warm cider donuts and hot apple cider at the farm, and don’t forget to take home a bottle of their delicious pure maple syrup.

Click here to book a guided brewery tour near Lake Champlain!

How do I get to Grand Isle?

Travel along Route 2, connecting the mainland to four beautiful Lake Champlain Islands – South Hero, Grand Isle, North Hero and Isle La Motte.

The journey is lined by a series of picturesque bridges and causeways which lead to local roads linking the islands and Alburg peninsula.

Where to stay on Grand Isle?

Pick this Southern Point Cottage for lake side views with close access to Burlington Vermont.

Click here to book your stay at Grand Isle!

12. Plum Island, MA

Plum Island's marshes and coast.

Explore charming Plum Island in Newburyport for quiet beaches, mouthwatering restaurants and adorable shops.

Don’t miss the chance to visit the Parker River Natural Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island. With beach access, wildlife trails, and birdwatching opportunities spread across 3000 acres of protected marshland, it’s a nature lover’s paradise.

Consider renting a bike to fully immerse yourself in Plum Island’s beauty and make sure to explore the boardwalk trails. A must-see is the Hellcat Interpretative Trail, offering a quick and easy walk through the dunes and marshlands.

One intriguing highlight of Plum Island is the infamous “Pink House”, a dilapidated home built as a result of a bitter divorce back in 1920. The ex-wife desired to live in a similar-looking house to her marital home, so her ex-husband spitefully constructed it in the middle of the marshes!

How do I get to Plum Island?

Plum Island is just offshore of Massachusetts and accessible via land bridges in Newburyport.

Where do I stay on Plum Island?

Blue- Inn on the Beach, is a luxurious boutique hotel located right on the ocean. Enjoy room views of the water and late nice in the hot tubs listening to the waves. Truly a perfect destination for a weekend getaway.

This boutique will fill up quickly and well in advance of the summer months.

Click here to book Blue Inn for your visit to Plum Island!

13. Cuttyhunk Island

Canoe-lined shore of Cuttyhunk Island.

Situated between Buzzards Bay to the north and Vineyard Sound to the south, Cuttyhunk is the outermost of the Elizabeth Islands near Cape Cod. Despite its small size, covering less than one square mile, the island boasts breathtaking natural beauty. Expect to see more golf carts than cars!

The island is ideal for birdwatchers as rare birds, such as the Painted Redstart, migrate here, adding to the island’s allure. During the summer, the island comes alive with vibrant wildflowers, including bayberry and sweet peas, painting the grassy rolling valleys with an array of colors.

While much of the shoreline is rocky, the beaches offer soft sand and crystal-clear waters. For the best panoramic views, head to Lookout Hill, a former naval lookout during World War II, standing over 150 feet above sea level.

You can even enjoy stunning water views, including a glimpse of Martha’s Vineyard just six miles away!

How do I get to Cuttyhunk Island?

Take the one hour ferry from New Bedford.

Where do I stay in Cuttyhunk Island?

Stay at this scenic and hip Cuttyhunk Island compound where you can spend a tranquil night. Depending on the wind, you can hear the waves crash on the rocks nearby, or at night look into a completely dark sky for stargazing.

Cuttyhunk Island has few groceries stores and nowhere to buy liquor so you will need to prep your dinner ahead of time!

Click here to book your accomodation on Cuttyhunk Island!

New England Islands Map

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a cheaper alternative to Martha’s Vineyard?

Cape Cod’s many coastal towns- Hyannis, Wellfleet, Falmouth- will be a cheaper alternative to Martha’s Vineyard with the same quinessential New England feel.

What are the three islands off of Cape Cod?

New England is most famous for its vacation islands off of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Lesser known, the southern tip of the Elizabethan Islands is the small island of Cuttyhunk, with its sleepy village (of only 10 permanent residents) and views of Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay.

What US state has the most islands?

New England’s Maine as well as Alaska are the U.S. states with the most islands. Maine has 3,166 coastal, including its largest, Mount Deer Island.

What are the largest islands off of the East Coast US?

Besides New York’s Long Island, Mount Desert Island, Maine is the East Coast’s largest island. Mount Desert Island is known for New England’s Acadia National Park and beach town Bar Harbor.

New England Islands: Conclusion

Enjoy New England Islands with the fresh seafood and unique culture of Martha’s Vineyard or explore the charming fishing villages of Block Island in Rhode Island. Spend a day whale watching off the coast of Cape Cod or have a picnic on Monhegan Island, Maine.

No matter which island you choose, you’ll find each one has something special to offer for your perfect New England island getaway!