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Back in the 1970s, environmentally conscious house design was relegated to the fringes. Solar homes were first gaining notoriety, but were rare projects. No one built to preserve trees on new construction sites. But with a growing consciousness and improvement in materials and costs associated with eco design, the paradigm has shifted dramatically. Considerations like direction of sunlight, storm runoff, window materials, and flooring are all part of the eco package.
Simple, affordable, and great for hanging tire swings, trees are a lovely addition to your outdoor living space. They can reduce energy bills while also filtering pollutants and stabilizing soil from erosion. Leafy deciduous trees are great for summer shade and for processing carbon dioxide, the big contributor to global climate change.
Runoff from your property ends up in storm drains which lead to the bay or to a nearby lake. One way to ensure that runoff is cleaner and better for habitat is to plant a filtering system, or rain garden. Though few things sound less pretty than stormwater treatment, these swales can be beautiful.
You see the signs around town that read “food, not lawns.” What are they even talking about? You can’t eat your front lawn, can you? Well, maybe you can. There is a movement afoot to have people give up the pool table lawn for something a little more useful. By planting blueberries instead of bluegrass, you not only get more mileage out of your exterior space, you increase the absorption of on-site storm water, help out the bees and birds, and you get fewer trips to the grocery store. Have too much left over? Victory Gardens in town provide our local food banks with fresh, local produce. Small Potatoes Gleaning will come by and help harvest if you can’t get it all into crates. So get out in your yard and get planting!
Solar Panels Not only are solar panels better for the environment by making us less dependent on other forms of energy, they are making more and more sense financially. There are several local workshops to get you oriented in the world of solar. As with so many sustainable practices, there are rebates and incentives. And then there’s that check from the energy company. Not a bad deal at all.
Keeping a drafty house at a comfortable temperature can be as easy as turning up the thermostat—but that comfort comes at a price. Here are some tips and materials that keep your house cozy year-round without heavy drains on energy or your bank account.
Audit Your Usage
If your home is an existing structure you want to green up a bit, Sustainable Connections has an excellent program called the Community Energy Challenge. They will perform an energy audit to determine where your leaks and gaps are, then they help you prioritize your needs. Maybe some extra insulation will do the trick, or maybe a few solar panels will be a more effective use of your dollars. They help you sort through the options and pick a project. Not only do they get you started, they vet all the construction, so you know you’re getting reliable, quality work done on your most important asset. There are incentive programs and rebates that Sustainable Connections can help you puzzle through. In the end, you will save money and energy at the same time.
Windows’ efficiency is rated with a U-factor. Passive solar windows are generally south-facing and unshaded by structures or trees during daylight hours. According to energy.gov, these windows store the sun’s heat, much like solar panels. Unlike solar panels, they provide daylight year-round, and cooling in the summer through ventilation.
Few things have affected our planet more than deforestation. Using reclaimed and sustainable wood, you can extend the life of hardwood for beautiful wood floors that have character and style. Some great sources are our own ReStore, Duluth Timber in Bow, and Reuse Consulting. Bamboo is a sustainable, hardy, and excellent ecofriendly wood as well. For a beautiful example of bamboo, check out Village Books in Fairhaven. Natural linoleum made from tree resin is also a great versatile option.
Heating and Cooling in Comfort
Now that you have your solar panels in place, hook them up to your furnace and really get yourself off that grid. Even without the solar boost, switching to a tankless system, replacing an old, inefficient furnace with a newer one, and insulating the heck out of your home will all lead to greater energy savings. And that’s good news for your wallet and for the planet. Whether you’re starting with new construction or updating a Sunnyland bungalow, there are now more options than ever for creating an eco-friendly space that serves both your bank account, and our ailing planet.
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 July 28 2016, 11:00 AM PDT by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate
Washington State continues to see strong employment growth, outpacing national numbers with an annual rate of more than 3%. Interestingly enough, despite these substantial job gains, the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 5.8%. However, I’m not overly concerned about this because it’s largely due to a growing labor force rather than a declining job market. This means that those who are unemployed who had previously stopped looking for work are now resurrecting their job searches because they have confidence in the economy.
I expect to see a modest drop in the unemployment rate through the balance of the year, and believe we will continue to outperform the nation as a whole with above-average job gains.
HOME SALES ACTIVITY
This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economics factors. For the second quarter of 2016, I am leaving the needle in the same position as last quarter. Inventory levels have improved, albeit modestly, and price growth has slowed very slightly. However, this is offset by a jump in pending sales, a slightly higher number of closed sales, and a drop in interest rates. As such, the region remains staunchly a seller’s market.
Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.
If you thought you had to travel to Hawaii to experience island life in the U.S., you may be surprised to discover that some of the most well-loved islands are scattered around the country’s coasts.
Every year, T+L asks readers to rank their travel experiences in our World’s Best survey. Here, they share their opinions on the best hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. When it comes to world’s top islands, reader scores were based on their natural attractions and beaches, their sights and activities, friendliness, food, and overall value.
In 2016, wherever you are, you won’t likely be too far from one of the best islands in the continental U.S. Half fringe the American South, while the remainder flank New England, the Pacific Northwest, and the southernmost tip of Florida — there’s even one in the Midwest.
In the Salish Sea, just a short ferry ride from the Washington State mainland, travelers have discovered the San Juan Islands, a counterculture stronghold. Creative designers and sculptors, foragers who double as innkeepers and chefs, and nature enthusiasts have made the tight-knit communities scattered across 172 islands welcoming and exciting destinations.
On the opposite coast, readers loved Cumberland Island, Georgia, a 17.5-mile-long stretch of woodlands, marshes, and beaches that sits at the end of Georgia’s Sea Island chain. “It was wonderful to see wild horses,” wrote one reader. “There are beaches to walk on without a crowd — unless you count the horses.” Another raved about the island’s “peaceful, untouched” quality.
That same stuck-in-time feel helped Mackinac Island — between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas in Lake Huron — score the No. 9 spot.
Here, cars are outlawed, making horse-drawn carriages and bicycles two of the more popular methods of transportation. At least 80 percent of the island is preserve parkland, meaning you may just be better off on foot, exploring the historic forts, iconic rock formations, and caves. And most travelers will bed down in the 19th-century Grand Hotel, which offers lawn games and after-dinner dancing.
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.
This was sent to us by Tammy Pollard, Sr. Mortgage Advisor with Paramount Bond & Mortgage Co, LLC
Despite the facts that the Federal Reserve recently raised interest rates, U.S. stocks are tumbling and new worries about the Chinese economy seem to emerge daily, there is still a positive outlook for homebuyers.
All the worries about China that have assaulted the U.S. stock market in early 2016 have done the opposite for bonds. More money pouring into Treasurys has driven mortgage rates to a two-month low. A 30-year mortgage slipped below 4% in mid-January.
The housing market had already been steadily gaining ground even before the latest drop in rates. Actually, it’s been one of the strongest parts of the economy over the past year. Sales of new and previously owned homes are likely to finish 2015 at the highest level since before the Great Recession.
What’s more, the number of permits to build additional homes is on track to reach an eight-year high. Work on new construction is forecast to rise to a 1.19 million annual rate in December from 1.17 million in the prior month. Starts will top the 1 million mark for the second straight year. Just six years ago, builders were producing fewer than 600,000 new homes a year.
Sales of existing homes, meanwhile, are expected to hit a 5.15 million annual rate in December and finish the year about 25% higher compared to the post-recession low. Most economists predict new construction and sales will increase again in 2016, aided by a much improved labor market.
The Fed raised a key short-term rate in December for the first time in nearly a decade, and the central bank is widely expected to push rates even higher in 2016. Yet so far that hasn’t translated into upward pressure on long-term Treasurys or home mortgages. Right now investors are more worried about whether a slowing Chinese economy will hurt the rest of the world.
The higher cost of buying a home could act as another repellent. Prices rose in 2015 to levels last seen shortly before the onset of the Great Recession in late 2007. An expected increase in home construction could make it easier for buyers, though. Permits for new construction in November, for instance, were almost 20% higher compared to the same month in 2014. A greater supply of homes for sale would help hold the line on prices.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Total homes sales next year are expected to reach the highest levels since 2006 on the back of new construction and the existing housing market, Realtor.com reported Wednesday.
The report contains several surprises. Among them, Providence, Rhode Island, ranked as the hottest market for 2016, and millennials are expected to make up the biggest demographic of homebuyers next year.
Sales of existing and new home sales are expected to reach 6 million for the first time since 2006. The pace of growth of existing home sales and prices is expected to slow to 3 percent but remain strong overall. Meanwhile, new home sales are seen increasing 16 percent.
Realtor.com anticipates new home starts will increase by 12 percent.
And those new homes are becoming more affordable, Realtor.com Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke said Wednesday.
“What you’ve seen in the last couple of years is that builders have been avoiding that more affordable entry-level price point,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“We’re already seeing movement. Last week’s report on new home sales showed that the median new home price is finally coming down, and that’s a good sign that builders are positioning communities and product for a more affordable price.”
That is helping to draw in millennials, who are often viewed as absent from the housing market.
Americans ages 24 to 35 accounted for 30 percent of the existing home sales market in 2015, according to National Association of Realtors data cited by Smoke.
“That’s higher than it has been the last couple of years and trending towards normal, which is more around 36, 37 percent,” he said.
Smoke noted that Realtor.com’s top 10 hottest housing markets for 2016 contained other surprises, in addition to top-ranked Providence: St. Louis; New Orleans; and Virginia Beach, Virginia.
While all the areas on the list have strong economies or improving prospects, those four areas are about four years behind other markets in the recovery, and their economic outlook for 2016 is particularly strong, Smoke said.