Three American Islands You May Have Never Heard Of
Why go to a crowded popular beach that everyone else goes to when there are so many hidden gems to explore?
St. Helena, South Carolina
St. Helena is a rural lowcountry island with an abundance of farms and shrimp docks. It is best known for the Gullah people. The Gullah people are African-Americans living in the lowcountry regions of South Carolina and Georgia. Because they have remained relatively isolated, they have maintained their own dialect, rooted in Africa, and combined with elements of English and French.
Located just five miles off the South Carolina mainland, St. Helena’s natives, with a population of about 10,000, are the direct descendants of slaves. Farming and fishing and shrimping are the primary industries on the island, all of which support their fine-dining industry. There are many excellent authentic lowcountry restaurants on the island. The Gullah way of cooking encompasses utilizing only the fresh bounty that is available to them, in the season it is available. In addition to fresh seafood and fish, free-range chickens provide organic meat and eggs; grass fed goats provide lean meat; whole grains, such as rice or cornmeal round it out. Nothing is fried; food is roasted or grilled or stewed.
St. Helena is the site of the Penn Center, a National Historic Landmark named for Quaker William Penn. Penn Center is on the site of one of the first schools in the nation created specifically for recently freed slaves. It was part of the Port Royal Experiment, a group of missionaries from Pennsylvania who came to the area after Union soldiers forced the Confederates out. The slaves were all left behind. The group’s main purpose was to help the abandoned slaves learn how to be free and survive economically. Martin Luther King, Jr. drafted his famous “I have a dream” speech while staying at the Penn Center.
If the culinary delights and history of St. Helena aren’t reason enough to visit, Red Piano Too Art Gallery represents the work of over 150 island artists. The native folk-art represents lowcountry life well, and there is so much to look at that one visit won’t cover it all. Downtown Frogmore has vibrant, colorful gift shops, art galleries, and of course, restaurants that all exemplify the Gullah way of life.
Pine Island, Florida
On Florida’s Gulf Coast is Pine Island. It is Florida’s largest island. Pine Island lacks the typical sandy beach; it is lined with mangroves instead. Pine Island Sound has some of the most exciting fishing in all of Florida. Tarpon, mackerel, and two-dozen species of shark live in Pine Island Sound, and charter boats stay very busy. Or, rent a kayak and see the manatees at play in the mangroves. The island has miles and miles of bike paths and hiking trails to explore. There is also an active archaeological dig on the island, exploring the extinct Calusa Indians who used to live there.
Madeline Island, Lake Superior, Wisconsin
Madeline Island is the largest of the islands that make up the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. It is reached by ferry or plane from the picturesque village of Bayfield, Wisconsin, worthy of visiting in its own right. Only about 200 people live on Madeline Island year round as Lake Superior isn’t easy to deal with in the winter.
The Apostle Islands is one of the most popular kayaking destinations in the world. Centuries of pounding waves and the cyclic freezing and thawing process have sculpted magnificent caves to explore under the red cliffs.
Play 18 rounds of golf on one of famed designer Robert Trent Jones’ most beautiful and challenging courses, one of very few of his courses in the Midwest. Go charter fishing, take a class at the Madeline Island School of the Arts, swim in the crystal clear waters of “Gitche Gumee,” or visit the museum. There is no shortage of things to do on this Great Lake island paradise.