Top 3 Hidden Gem Island Vacation Destinations in Texas

You’ve no doubt heard of the popular Texas island vacation destinations of Galveston and South Padre Island.  Some of the most beautiful and laid back islands in Texas are places that most people haven’t heard of, or simply drive by on their way to the big tourist areas.  If you are someone who is looking for a place where lounging peacefully on the beach is the main activity, this is the list for you.

3. MUSTANG ISLAND

Mustang Island Ocean Beach

Mustang Island is a barrier island located directly east of Corpus Christi.  Port Aransas is the city located on the north end of the island, but the entire island is covered with beach houses and condos.  Picking a rental located on the southern end of the island will be a less busy area.  As you can see in the picture above, this area has some of the most brilliant blue green (and clear) water in Texas.  The water doesn’t drop off quickly from shore, which makes taking a swim really easy and safe.  Check out this eccentric beach house you can rent for $400 a night on VRBO: https://www.vrbo.com/3904911ha

Mustang Island Beach House

2. MATAGORDA BEACH

Located directly south of the city of Matagorda, Matagorda Beach is a laid back village on the gulf.  The Colorado River enters the Gulf of Mexico at the State Park on the southwest end of the island.  This is probably the least busy island that you can rent a house or condo on in Texas.  The houses aren’t on top of each other, most have yards, and are perfect for a relaxing vacation.  There are beautiful sand dunes along this island which separate the houses from the beachfront.  You can rent a really nice house directly on Matagorda Beach for much less than most accommodations on Galveston.  This is a perfect location for a family who is interested in renting kayaks or fishing.

There is an area on the island that is dedicated to paddle sports like kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding and you can rent everything you need for a very reasonable price.  The fishing is also fantastic off the beaches, making it easy to catch a fresh dinner right in front of your rental home.  This is one of my favorite rentals on Matagorda Beach for a great island vacation (only $335/night too!): https://www.vrbo.com/3695345ha

Matagorda Beach House VRBO

1. BOLIVAR PENINSULA

Located directly across from Galveston, the Bolivar Peninsula is an island which is also on the outside of Galveston Bay.  Its proximity to Houston makes arriving here easy through Houston’s airports.  There are a few different communities here, most notably Crystal Beach.  This area is unique because while it is located just a few miles apart from the busy island of Galveston, it takes over 2 hours to get between the islands by car.  Depending on what you are looking for in a vacation this can be either positive or negative.

If you are looking for the ultra-touristy island vacation experience, this area probably isn’t for you.  But if you are looking for an island that’s far enough away from the hustle and bustle to be relaxing, but close enough to make a few trips in to the city, this is a great location.  There is even a ferry that you can take which runs from the Bolivar Peninsula to Galveston which can be a fun day trip!  House rentals in this area are typically stilt houses which are really cool, but can be problematic for those who don’t handle stairs well.  There are also many newly built or completely remodeled homes here from the past hurricane damage.  Here is an awesome newly remodeled 3 bedroom home right on the beach that you can rent for about $300 a night: https://www.vrbo.com/1114661Crystal Beach House Rental

Whichever Texas island vacation destination you choose, we hope that you can enjoy the natural, wild beauty that the Texas Gulf Coast offers.  There are many different ways to experience island life in this state, and I hope this article gave you some ideas on locations that you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.  Remember, places like South Padre and Galveston might make for an easy island vacation, but trying somewhere off the beaten path can be even more rewarding.

 

Best Island Vacation Destinations in South Carolina (other than Hilton Head)

When you think South Carolina everyone first thinks Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach.  There are so many excellent island vacation destinations in South Carolina you don’t have to stick to just those two for vacation destinations.  I find both too touristy.  For a small state with limited oceanfront like South Carolina, you will be shocked by the amount of awesome islands they have!

DAUFUSKIE ISLAND

This little known island is a hidden gem.  You can get to this island by taking a ferry from Hilton Head.  Once you make it to the island golf carts become your transportation.  Daufuskie has about 3 miles of beachfront shoreline and picturesque views.  There are many rental homes available and ready for your island vacation.  You can check the schedule for the ferry service here: http://www.daufuskieisland.com/daufuskie-island-ferry-schedule/ There are many excellent vacation home rentals on Daufuskie available on VRBO and AirBNB, and since the island is only accessible by ferry, prices are usually quite low.  Check out the 4BR house on the water that is renting for only $400 a night: https://www.vrbo.com/1328221Dafuskie Island Beach Rental

FRIPP ISLAND AND HARBOR ISLAND

Fripp Island and Harbor Island are located one bridge across from each other northwest of Hilton Head.  They are typically less busy and hectic than the big tourist islands in South Carolina.  What makes Fripp Island a great place for an island vacation is the fantastic views, beach, golf and restaurants.  There are 2 golf courses directly on the beach, and 8 restaurants on the island.  You don’t have to take a ferry to get to either Fripp or Harbor Island, you can drive from the mainland across the bridges.  Once on the islands most people get around by golf cart or bicycle.  Here is a shot from the ocean side golf course, the views are truly remarkable as you can see.Fripp Island Golf

There are tons of awesome condo and house rentals on these islands, and while they generally run a little higher in price than Daufuskie, you are paying for the convenience of avoiding the ferry and having fantastic golf in your backyard.  If the golfing doesn’t appeal to you then I would stay on Harbor Island, it is a little cheaper than Fripp with similar rentals available.  You can check out VRBO’s available rentals here: VRBO Available Rentals- Fripp Island

ISLE OF PALMS

Isle of Palms is a pretty unique place.  Located just east of Charleston, this island has a huge number of 10+ bedroom houses that are available for rent.  This is pretty unlike any place I’ve ever been, and is quite the site to see.  Most of these mansions are renting from $1000 to $1500 a night.  At first this might seem crazy but with 10 or more bedrooms these rentals sleep 25 or more people.  If you have a large group going on an island vacation (multiple families, family renunions, etc) this works out to an absolute bargain.  There aren’t very many locations in the US where you can rent houses on the beach this big.

A beach mansion of the Isle of Palms with friends or family is my absolute top recommendation for where to stay in South Carolina.  Here is an example of one of the rentals I am referring to (currently renting for under $1500 a night and sleeps 25): https://www.vrbo.com/792528

Isle of Palms Mansion VRBO

Can’t you picture all of your family having a vacation in a house on the beach like this?  While understandably chaotic, this is one of those once in a lifetime trips that no one will forget.  The beaches on Isle of Palms are fantastic, and it is about a 15 mile trip from the Charleston International Airport to the Isle of Palms.  While the Charleston Airport isn’t huge, there is still a ton of daily direct flights in from many major US airports.  There are tons of restaurants located within walking distance of most rentals on the island.  My favorite restaurant here is the ACME Lowcountry Kitchen.  They serve some of the best seafood in the area, and check the TripAdvisor reviews (4.7/5 with over 2500 reviews) TripAdvisor Reviews-ACME Lowcountry Kitchen

If I haven’t convinced you already of why Isle of Palms is one of the best island vacation destinations in South Carolina, I’ll leave you with the view from the rental mansion listed above.  Happy Islanding!

VRBO Isle of Palms Beach View

4 Hidden Florida Islands You Can Only Get to by Ferry

Most of the islands in this list you probably haven’t heard of.  They aren’t very well known or popular vacation locations. This is mainly because the thought of planning a trip to an island that is only accessible by boat can be a daunting task.  There’s a reason that so many celebrities have houses on islands like North Captiva.  The tranquility of these islands is unparalleled in the United States.  The fact that you are literally and figuratively “detached” from the rest of the busy world provides a level of relaxation that you can’t find anywhere else.  If you are willing to plan a trip a little bit outside your comfort zone, these islands will not disappoint.

DON PEDRO ISLAND

Don Pedro Island

Don Pedro Island is a 7 mile long barrier island in Southwest Florida, off the coast of Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda.  This island has one of the most pristine beaches in Florida.  This island is one of the most accessible and easy to get to on our list.  You can simply drive your car onto the ferry located on the mainland (you can see the ferry company’s site here http://palmislandtransit.com/), then you are free to drive around the island by car to your vacation rental or restaurant.

There are many houses for rent through VRBO on Don Pedro, and you can usually score at great deal most times of the year.  Since most people don’t know about this island, it seems to run cheaper than the areas around it like Boca Grande.  This would make a great first island vacation destination.  Punta Gorda Airport is about a half hour away, but you could also fly into Sarasota or Fort Myers.  Allegiant Air sometimes has extremely cheap flights into Punta Gorda.  Available House Rentals VRBO Don Pedro

LITTLE GASPARILLA ISLAND

Little Gasparilla Island Beach House

Little Gasparilla Island is very close to Don Pedro.  In fact, its attached to it.  It is believed that a long time ago water separated the two islands, but storms filled in the passes and they are now connected.  Although they are connected, Don Pedro State park lies directly in between the two.  This makes it extremely difficult to get from one to the other, so we will consider them separate.  Little Gasparilla does not have any restaurants on the island so you will need to bring in groceries.  There are actually services that will deliver you groceries by boat, and this is one of the most convenient ways to get your groceries to the island.

Most of the beach houses on Little Gasparilla are stilt houses like the picture above, and you can’t get any closer to the water.  House rentals on Little Gasparilla are generally even cheaper than Don Pedro.  You can check out the available rentals here: Available House Rentals VRBO Little Gasparilla Island

NORTH CAPTIVA ISLAND

North Captiva Beach Rental

North Captiva Island is the gem of Southwest Florida.  Celebrities like Tom Hanks and Shaun Connery own homes here and frequently roam the island.  North Captiva is accessible by ferry from the Pine Island Marina.  You can check the ferry schedule here: https://www.northcaptiva.com/index.php/ferry-schedule Fort Myers International Airport (RSW) is the closest airport, although Punta Gorda is just 30 miles away.  Either are great choices for getting here by plane.  The ferry company will also pick up your groceries and have them ready for you.

There are 4 restaurants on the island, you can check the Tripadvisor Reviews of them here: North Captiva Restaurant Reviews-TripAdvisor My favorite is probably Mango’s, and I love the beach bar there.  One of the most fun things about North Captiva is the whole island is filled with golf cart paths.  Most house rentals come with at least one golf cart and they are used in place of cars on the island.  There are ultra luxury homes you can rent here to simple beach cottages.  There really is something for everyone here, and it is my top recommendation for anyone looking to take a Florida island vacation.

Since the ferry service started offering the service to pick up your groceries, vacationing on North Captiva is easy.  All you have to do is simply show up at the ferry marina, everything else is taken care of.  If you want to save a little money, there are excellent rental options a short walk off the beach (not quite beachfront).  Here is the VRBO page for North Captiva, you can type in your dates and number of guests and it will show you whats available, Available House Rentals VRBO North Captiva

 

Happy Islanding!

 

Top 10 Tricks for Planning a Sanibel Island Vacation on a Budget

Top 10 Sanibel Vacation Tips
Learn my top tips and tricks for having a memorable island vacation on a budget.

Sanibel Island is a place that is near and dear to my heart.  The first time I felt the ocean on my feet was here, and I’ve been here more than any other island in the world.  Every trip it seems like I learn something new about the island.  Sanibel Florida is not cheap during high season, but if you know where to look you can score some fantastic deals.

10.  Stop at a grocery store before crossing the causeway

The grocery stores on the island, Bailey’s General Store (https://baileys-sanibel.com/) and Jerry’s Market (https://www.jerrysfoods.com/stores/sanibel/), are fantastic but expensive.  If you stop at a grocery store like Publix in Fort Myers on your way to Sanibel and get the basics you can save a LOT of money.  This Publix is right off the road that runs to the Sanibel Causeway and is really convienient! Google Map to Summerlin Rd. Publix

9.  Use Happy Hours as a way to experience the fantastic restaurants of Sanibel without breaking the bank

Most Sanibel Island restaurants offer a happy hour menu.  Check out our list of the best Sanibel Island Happy Hours here https://frequentislander.com/best-sanibel-island-happy-hour-deals/  Some of the best I’ve found are at The Sandbar, Il Cielo, and Timbers Restaurant and Fishmarket.  Those 3 restaurants are also 3 of the most popular restaurants on the island, so not only can you save money by going early for happy hour, you can also afford dessert.

8.  Visit Sanibel in Off Peak Seasons

December through March is the busy season for much of Florida, and Sanibel is no exception.  Planning a stay around these times can be an absolute bargain, especially on house rentals.  I’ve booked house rentals during the Florida’s early summer (May) for as little as a third of the price in January.  This is without a doubt the easiest way to cut a huge chunk out of your costs.

7.  Rent Bikes or Kayaks for a week, not hours or a day

The big bike rental companies on Sanibel Island like Billy’s Rentals will often times have much better deals when you rent by the week.  Check out Billy’s rental price sheet: http://www.billysrentals.com/reserve/ratesheet/  You can rent a single speed bike for $40 a week or pay $15 for 4 hours.  It’s a no brainer.  They will drop the bike off wherever you are staying and pick it up when you leave.  It doesn’t get much easier than that!

6.  Go to the Sanibel Island weekly Farmer’s Market

Sanibel has a fantastic farmer’s market with some of the most unique and delicious items that I’ve ever seen at a small market like this one.  There are loads of vendors selling food to eat at the market as well as produce and seafood to take home and cook.  You can easily make this a stop for a cheap and delicious lunch. The market runs October through the end of May every Sunday.

5.  Avoid Outrageous Parking Fees

Parking at all city owned beach lots on Sanibel is $5 and you can count on getting a ticket if you go over and don’t reload the meter in time.  It doesn’t sound like much but if you were to pay to park at a paid beach all day every day for your vacation it would really add up.  Choosing a place to stay on Sanibel that is in close proximity to the beach can save a ton in parking fees.  I want to stress that while paying for parking every day isn’t probably the way to go, it is an absolute must to spend AT LEAST an hour each at Blind Pass, Bowman’s Beach, and Lighthouse Point.

4.  Have Beach Picnics

I’ve always loved having dinner on the beach, for me it is an essential piece of any Sanibel Island vacation.  This is especially useful during the busy season.  The main road on Sanibel (Periwinkle) gets so busy during dinner hours that you end up spending most of the evening driving or waiting in traffic.  Simply bringing your own picnic to the beach can make the most of your time on the island.  You wouldn’t want to miss a gorgeous Sanibel Florida sunset waiting in traffic would you?  Didn’t think so!

3. Plan Driving Around Busy Times of the Day

Another tip that has to do with traffic, spotting a trend?  While Sanibel is a fairly large island, it is still relatively narrow.  Because of this there is one main road that runs the length of the island, Periwinkle.  This road gets absolutely packed in the morning from 7AM to 8AM and again from about 4PM to 6PM.  There are a large number of people who work on the island but live on the mainland that use the roads during this time, so it gets busy quickly.  When you add the dinner crowd to this, the road can move about as quickly as the Los Angeles 405 during rush hour.  Your Sanibel Island vacation will be more enjoyable if you make a point to avoid Periwinkle during these times.  Trust me on this one.

2.  Explore the Natural Beauty of the Island

While a vacation to Sanibel Island might not be considered cheap, there are so many things to do on the island that are cheap or free.  Use that bike you rented for a week to your advantage!  There are so many trails and beachfronts to explore, its impossible to do it all.  Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge is one of the best trails for biking/driving and wildlife viewing in the United States.  You can get a year pass at the pay booth for the same cost as 2 trips through the refuge.  The views in this refuge are priceless, and for $10 you can’t go wrong.

1. Rent a House or Condo through VRBO

Check out our post on the top 5 Sanibel Island condo rental complexes here: https://frequentislander.com/top-5-sanibel-island-condo-rental-locations/  If you’ve never rented a house or condo through VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) this is absolutely the time to do it.  Most VRBO rentals are rented by the week but there are a few who rent by the day.  If you have a large family or are planning to visit Sanibel with friends you can save a TON of money by renting a whole house or condo.  There aren’t any chain hotels on the island, they are all locally owned.  These small beachside hotels aren’t a bad choice if you are staying less than a week.  You can expect to pay between $200-400 a night for a room at these hotels.  But heres an example of how VRBO can change how you vacation:

Sanibel Island VRBO Rental
A view to remember, for way less than you would think.

I found this condo through a quick search on VRBO, you can view the rental page here: https://www.vrbo.com/3504259ha

You will see you can book this amazing 3 bedroom Sanibel Island condo on the beach for a little over $200 a night in early summer.  This condo sleeps 6 people, so it would be a fantastic alternative to multiple hotel rooms, and much cheaper.  Having a full kitchen on vacation really comes in handy, you avoid having to eat out for every single meal.  If this condo isn’t available you can check all of VRBO’s available rentals in Sanibel by visiting this link: Available Sanibel Island Rentals VRBO.com

 

 

 

Welcome to Frequent Islander! Plan an unforgettable island vacation

Hello travelers!  I created this site as a way to share some of my knowledge on travel, specifically island travel.  I have always been fascinated with islands, even as a child.  When I plan a vacation I obsess about every single detail.  I have been told I have travel planning OCD.  I truly enjoy the planning process that goes into taking a vacation.  My friends sometime ask them to help plan (or completely plan) their trips, and some have said I must have been a travel agent in another life.

As much as I would love to have been a travel agent, that occupation is becoming extinct at a rapid pace.  Not only are travel agents a dying breed, but I fully believe you DO NOT NEED ONE to travel.  A little research from the right places (like Frequent Islander 🙂 ), and even the most complicated exotic island vacation is doable.  You can be your own travel agent and be proud of the awesome vacation you’ve planned.

At the same time, I know not everyone finds enjoyment in complicated island vacation planning (I know, I’m weird).  That is where I hope that Frequent Islander can help make planning a little easier, possibly fun!  Anyone can head to an island, stay at a chain hotel, and do the activities in the hotel lobby tourist flyer rack.  You can experience something like renting a house on the beach and eating at the local’s restaurant for the same price as that chain hotel, with a little planning.  I hope that Frequent Islander makes planning your island vacation a breeze, from learning how to book a rental home on VRBO to taking a ferry to your new island adventure.