10 Beautiful Car-Free Places to Visit in the US this Summer

Looking for a unique and stress-free vacation experience this summer? Consider leaving the car behind and exploring one of the many car-free islands in the United States. Not only will you enjoy the freedom of getting around by bike, walking, or golf cart, but you’ll also have the opportunity to engage in conversations and experience the island life at a different pace.

From the Lowcountry of South Carolina to the Canadian border, here are some of the best car-free islands for your summer getaway. Whether you’re looking for a week-long escape or a weekend adventure, these islands offer a carefree and enjoyable vacation experience that you won’t soon forget.

1. Tangier Island, Virginia

Tangier Island is a unique destination located 12 miles off Virginia’s eastern shore. It is accessible by ferry and is known for its preserved dialect of English spoken by the locals since the 1700s. Visitors can enjoy a quick day trip via seasonal passenger ferries from Onancock on Virginia’s mainland, or they can settle in at a vacation rental or bed and breakfast to experience the rhythm of a true fishing island. Tangier’s sublime seafood specialty is soft shell crabs, making it an ideal destination for dining.

If you’re exploring more of Virginia, Tangier Island should be on your list of places to visit right now.

2. Halibut Cove, Alaska

Looking for a car-free coastal community in Alaska? Look no further than Halibut Cove, located on the Kenai Peninsula and accessible by ferry from Homer. With only 200 residents, the community offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Accommodations in Halibut Cove include rustic log cabins for rent through Reserve America and Alaska’s Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation. If you’re looking for a more upscale experience, consider staying at a wilderness lodge such as Alaska Stillpoint Lodge or Ridgewood Wilderness Lodge.

Kachemak Bay State Park is located right at your doorstep, offering a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, and fishing for monster halibut and salmon. Don’t forget to send a postcard from the Halibut Cove post office, which is a floating version of USPS located right on the docks.

If you’re interested in seeing more of Alaska without a car, consider taking a trip on the Alaska Marine Highway.

3. Dry Tortugas, Florida

If you are searching for a serene and car-free escape, the Dry Tortugas is the perfect destination for you. This group of seven small islands is located about 70 miles west of Key West and can be reached by ferry or seaplane. Once you arrive, you can camp on the beachfront of Garden Key, explore the historic 19th-century Fort Jefferson, and snorkel in the crystal-clear waters. The Dry Tortugas is an excellent spot for snorkeling, where you can encounter rays, parrot fish, sergeant majors, and sea turtles. The name “Tortugas” comes from the abundance of sea turtles found on the islands.

4. Two Harbors, Catalina Island, California

If you’re a scuba diving enthusiast, Two Harbors in Catalina Island, California is the perfect destination for you. The island is located 22 miles off the coast of Long Beach, California, and is famous for its golden kelp forests that are home to bright orange Garibaldi fish and sometimes even sea lions.

While on land, you can have a car-free vacation in the quaint town of Two Harbors, which is quieter than Avalon, the main hub of Catalina Island. You can choose to stay at Catalina Cabins, where you can experience rustic living (bring your sleeping bag, pillow, and towel). Alternatively, Banning House Lodge is a Craftsman-style bed and breakfast that offers more creature comforts.

To explore the area, you can hire a golf cart or set out on foot to visit the beaches, restaurants, and hiking trails. With so much to see and do, Two Harbors is a must-visit destination for scuba divers and nature lovers alike.

5. Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

If you are looking for a peaceful and relaxing vacation, Daufuskie Island is the perfect destination for you. Accessible only by ferry, this remote island is situated off the coast of South Carolina, between Hilton Head and Savannah. Once you arrive, you will find yourself in a car-free environment where you can explore the oak-lined roads by bike or golf cart. The Haig Point community offers vacation rentals for overnight stays, including the two-bedroom historic lighthouse which is said to be haunted by the friendly ghost of the former lightkeeper’s daughter.

Apart from the white sand beaches and quiet backroads, Daufuskie Island offers a variety of activities. You can visit local galleries like The Iron Fish, go horseback riding along the beach, or even visit a rum distillery. So, if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy a slow pace of life, Daufuskie Island is the perfect destination for you.

6. Rock Island State Park, Wisconsin

If you are looking for a serene camping experience away from the bustling crowds, Rock Island State Park is the perfect destination. Located just off the northern tip of Door Peninsula, the island can be reached by ferry service from Memorial Day to Columbus Day weekends. The park offers lakefront campsites that are easily accessible from the ferry dock, miles of shoreline, and secluded beaches. You can also explore the historic Pottawatomie Lighthouse, situated atop a bluff. Rock Island State Park is an ideal place for nature lovers and those seeking a peaceful escape.

7. Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island is a perfect destination for an old-fashioned family vacation. Located in Lake Huron between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas, the island has been car-free for over 120 years, making it an excellent place to explore on foot, bike, or horse-drawn carriage tours. The island offers a range of accommodation options, including cabins in the woods and Victorian cottages near the lakefront. During summer, visitors can enjoy swimming, hiking, and sampling the island’s famous fudge flavors.

One must-visit spot is the Grand Hotel’s extra-long terrace, where you can sip a cocktail while rocking in a chair overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. If you’re traveling to Michigan with your family, Mackinac Island is a must-visit destination. There are plenty of things to do with kids, from exploring the island’s natural beauty to indulging in its famous fudge. So, pack your bags and head to Mackinac Island for a memorable family vacation.

8. Bald Head Island, North Carolina

If you’re a beach lover, Bald Head Island is the perfect destination for you. This car-free location is situated off the coast of North Carolina and boasts 14 miles of pristine golden beaches. The island is protected by over 10,000 acres of untouched nature preserve, including marshes, maritime forests, and more. Bald Head Island is a natural playground, waiting for you to explore.

To get to the island, you can take a passenger ferry from the mainland, which takes around 20 minutes. Once you arrive, you’ll have roughly 5 square miles of the island to yourself. There are no cars on the island, so you can take a tram or rent a bike to get around. Enjoy the beaches, go kayaking or fishing on the Cape Fear River, or relax in your vacation rental on the beach. You can even stay at a New England-style inn that overlooks the marina and marsh.

9. McCarthy, Alaska

If you’re looking for a backcountry adventure, McCarthy, Alaska is the place to be. This small town is located in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in central southeast Alaska. You can reach the town by crossing a pedestrian footbridge across the Kennicott River. The town is car-free and has a year-round population of just a few dozen people.

Ma Johnson’s Hotel is a historic boarding house that you can book into. There are many backcountry park adventures like rafting and glacier trekking that you can fill your schedule with. If you’re looking for some entertainment, the Golden Saloon is a pub that offers live music and tacos. The ghost town of Kennicott is also nearby and worth a visit. You can take a guided National Park Service tour through an abandoned mining camp.

If you’re planning to visit more national parks in Alaska, McCarthy is one of the best places to start.

10. Isle Royale, Michigan

Isle Royale, located in the far north of Michigan, is a car-free island that offers over 160 miles of hiking trails for you to explore in the wilderness of Lake Superior. As you step off the ferry dock or arrive by seaplane, you can choose to pitch a tent or book a room at Rock Harbor Lodge, the island’s only full-service lodging option. With 60 rooms that offer stunning views of Lake Superior, you can relax and enjoy your stay.

Apart from hiking, you can also enjoy fishing charters, rent a canoe or kayak to paddle along the shoreline, or go swimming in Isle Royale National Park. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including moose, beavers, otters, and more, making it a popular destination for nature enthusiasts.

If you’re looking for more hiking trails in Michigan, check out the top hiking routes recommended in the video linked above. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner, Isle Royale is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves the great outdoors.