We hate to choose geographical sides — but Travel + Leisure readers did. It’s safe to say the South takes it when it comes to island getaways, with Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Florida collectively claiming seven out of the top 10 spots.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.
There are, of course, the perennial favorites, including South Carolina’s Hilton Head — the No. 1 winner yet again — and Kiawah Island, which many said had an “uncommercial” feel. Longboat Key, along Florida’s Gulf Coast, is a debut winner. One reader chose it for her honeymoon: “My husband and I felt like we were in the Caribbean, with pure white sand beaches and crystal-blue water.” In Georgia, the aptly named Golden Isles — composed of four barrier islands — are beloved for their marshland, pristine coastline, and laid-back charm, while North Carolina scores for the Outer Banks. Its wide beaches include Carova, where you can bodysurf while watching grazing wild horses.