ISLAND TRIPS have always been in vogue, but there’s renewed nterest since John F Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette escaped to Cumberland Island for their oh-so-secret September nuptials. “Most Americans choose a vacation spot near water,” says Shawn Flaherty of the Travel Industry Association of America. (Because of demand, costs are generally steeper.) Among the USA’s best:
WINTERTIME ON MACKINAC ISLAND
If you’re a cross-country skier or enjoy winter sleigh rides, book now for a winter retreat on Mackinac Island.
Cars aren’t permitted; horses. buggies and sleighs are the popular mode of transportation. The annual winter festival runs Feb. 1-2 next year. Yet it’s an island for all seasons: Mackinac’s 47th annual Lilac Festival begins June 6 next year.
Ten days are packed with events including fireworks and parades. Or book a room for Labor Day and join the 40th annual Mackinac Bridge Walk: Some 60,000 pedestrians walk five miles across the Straits of Mackinac, separating lakes Huron and Michigan. Where to stay: If you saw Christopher Reeve’s film Somewhere In Time, you know about the island’s most famous resort, the 109-year-old Grand Hotel. Open mid-May through October, $170-$275 per person, including breakfast and dinner. For year-round lodging and other
Mackinac Island info: 1-800-4LILACS.
YEAR-LONG WATER SPORTS: Just an hour from Los Angeles. electric golf carts are the accepted mode of transportation at Catalina Island. Browse the quaint shops in Avalon, a romantic city on a secluded bay, or stroll along Lover’s Cove, the island’s best snorkeling spot. It’s ideal for water sports, including sport fishing and scuba diving. The less adventurous can view the vivid marine life from a glass-bottomed boat.
Runners won’t want to miss the annual benefit run on Jan. 11; Swing Dancers from around the world meet at the Casino Ballroom in June; and the annual Plein Air Painters Festival is in November.
Where to stay The historic lnn on Mount Ada, once home to chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., is pricey ($250-$495, November through May, including three meals), but offers spectacular views. Catalina Island info: 310-510-1520; other accommodations: 310-510-3000.
PRIME CELEB-SPOTING: Little Palm Island, on Little Torch Key, is only three miles offshore in the lower Florida Keys. But when you arrive by boat or seaplane on this tiny private key with 14 thatched-roof bungalows (28 suites with ocean views and wraparound sun decks) scattered among
the exotic foliage and fragrant flowering plants, you’ll feel as if you’re in the South Seas. (There’s even mosquito netting around the beds.) Nap in a rope hammock or wander the beach searching for shells.
This romantic Shangri-La was used as a retreat for presidents, diplomats and movie stars. And it hasn’t been forgotten in recent years; Al and Tipper Gore and Ivana Trump have vacationed here. Telephones and TVs are taboo. The phone number says it all: 1-800-3GETLOST. Doubles from $330, June to mid-December; $545, Dec.20 through March.
SAN JUAN ISLAND’S ARTISTRY: Art
aficionados are flocking to San Juan Island, one of the largest in the San Juan archipelago and just a short ferry ride across the Puget Sound from Washington state. Home of the American bald eagle, it’s also a haven
fpr working artisans. Browse Friday Harbor and get inspired by the qual ity fine arts and handicrafts displayed in the village. Plan now for the Festi val of the Whales in May, the San Juan Jazz Festival in July and the County Fair in August. And don’t forget your paintbrush! San Juan Island info: 360-378-5240.
SUMMER DAYS ON BLOCK ISLAND:
Cumberland isn’t the only island that has hosted a Kennedy wedding. Ted Kennedy Jr. and Kiki Gershman exchanged vows on Block Island, R.I., in 1993. Plan now for a summer when the sparse population of 800 swells to 15,000. The 1 1-square-mile island is less developed than nearby Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, and has an off-the-beaten-path charm. A dozen miles off the coast of Rhode Island, it’s just 100 miles from downtown Boston, and a 70-minute ferry ride from Point Judith, R.I.
Pack your hiking gear and head to Mohegan Bluffs. Climb the 130 steps, then catch your breath and enjoy the view of New York City (on a clear day). Hike or bike along greenway paths to the Enchanted Forest, where you’ll find more than 40 rare and endangered species of flowers and insects. If you’re a suffer, head for Black Rock to catch a wave on your board.
Where to stay: There are some 70 hotels and B&B’s on the island. Call Block Island info: 1-800-383-2474.