Whatever your taste in travel, if you're anything like us you're likely to dream of an island getaway at some point: the remoteness and romance, and the chance to really get away from everything. Well, there's still time to book an escape for the summer or even further ahead, so why not look beyond the tried and tested and towards some more unconventional islands? Here are five picks for superb side trips from our destinations or even full-on breaks in their own right...
Block Island, New England
Blissful Block Island, in the Atlantic Ocean, is part of the US state of Rhode Island.
In this neck of the woods, it's normally Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket that hog the limelight, but tiny (and often overlooked) Block Island packs a scenic punch that belies its three-by-seven mile size.
The island is famous for its free public beaches, miles of hiking trails, historic lighthouses and the dramatic ocean views from its precipitous cliffs or 'bluffs', not to mention the two fine harbours which make it one of the region's premier yachting destinations.
Best of all though are its cosy B&Bs – book a stay in a traditional clapboard guesthouse with white picket fence and wraparound porch for the quintessential New England experience.
Making up one third of the 'tri-island' nation of Grenada (along with its little sister island Petite Martinique) is the dependency of Carriacou. It’s the largest of the Grenadines chain and the archetypal vision of what a Caribbean island should be.
Probably due to its impressive natural harbours and population of master boat builders, a flourishing sailing tradition has evolved on Carriacou, adding another string to its tourist industry bow.
The island's annual Regatta in late July/early August is now the biggest summer festival in the region, attracting participants from throughout the Caribbean and visitors from across the world.
Sanibel is a small tropical island a couple of miles from Fort Myers on the Gulf coast of Florida which is linked to the mainland by a causeway.
Many people head there for the bird-watching opportunities – a number of bald eagle pairs call Sanibel home, and herons, egrets and pelicans are everywhere.
Plenty of sheltered white sand beaches are accessible via wooden boardwalks through the tall grassy dunes that border them, and more than half of the forested interior is given over to wildlife refuges.
Fishing, boating, cycling, low-key beachside inns and excellent seafood are also big draws, though Sanibel is actually best known for its unique ecology – as a barrier island its beaches are abundantly adorned with pastel-coloured seashells which attract visitors from miles around.
The island's Bailey-Matthews Museum is, in fact, the only museum in the world dedicated solely to the science of shells and conchology.
Lord Howe Island, Australia
Beautiful Lord Howe is the closest island getaway to Sydney and officially part of New South Wales, though its unofficial island flag is regularly and proudly flown.
Situated in the Tasman Sea some 370 miles from the mainland, it's a brief two hour flight from Australia’s central east coast, but in terms of pace of life, it’s a world away.
Lord Howe is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so tourist numbers are carefully controlled to minimise impact on the dazzling reef-fringed lagoon, and subsequently its beaches never feel crowded.
Diving, snorkelling, surfing and hiking are the main activities, so it's a perfect destination for adventurers, but the handful of luxury boutique lodges scattered along its shores means that hedonists looking for a retreat from the world are equally well served.
Though it really starts to hot up from September onwards, right now, in the middle of the Australian winter, the temperature hovers around a pleasant 20°C.
Santa Catalina Island, California
Santa Catalina Island, or plain Catalina as it's more commonly known, is a rugged, rocky island off the coast of California, easily reached by ferry from various points south of Los Angeles.
One of California's Channel Islands archipelago, Catalina was once owned by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr.
He fell head over heels in love with the place, investing millions in its infrastructure and opening an Art Deco casino in 1929, in the main harbour town of Avalon.
Nowadays, those in charge are more likely to promote the island’s undeveloped natural landscape, native wildlife and mountainous interior than its built up bits, but that’s not to say that visitors need to rough it – there are several five star resorts and spas to choose from. This article first appeared in Virgin Money magazine. Visit them for all your travel insurance needs.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.