With fresh lobsters, gorgeous landscapes, and lots of family fun, the New England islands sure know how to sparkle. Although similar in geographic region, these islands cover a vast array of terrain and vibes, from quaint coastal villages to the bustling streets of Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer. Instead of trying to figure out which of the New England islands to visit, why not use this guide to make a plan to visit them all?
Here are 10 New England islands to visit with kids. You don’t have to pack them all into the summer—the islands can be great to visit in the off-season when the beaches, restaurants, and shops are less crowded. For more New England family fun, check out our list of 100 things to do in New England with kids before they grow up and our favorite New England hotels for families.
New England Islands in Massachusetts
Have the ultimate beach day on Nantucket. Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts Office of Tourism
The charming island of Nantucket is located just 30 miles off of Cape Cod. This spot is just about as family-friendly as can be. There are so many things to do on Nantucket with kids, the trick is packing it all into a single family vacation. Luckily, with just 48 square miles to cover, it is possible to fit in several Nantucket highlights, including a surf lesson, an aquarium trip, a critter cruise, and a lobster dinner.
Soak up the charm of Martha’s Vineyard. Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts Office of Tourism
2. Martha’s Vineyard
You won’t find water parks or go-karts, but there’s still plenty to do with kids on Martha’s Vineyard. Local fairs, parades, fresh seafood, beautiful beaches, alpaca farms, ice cream shops, ball games, and loads of charm bring a steady stream of tourists all summer long. Every family will soak up the island culture in its own way, but here are 50 ways we’re pretty sure you can’t go wrong when vacationing on the Vineyard.
New England Islands in Rhode Island
3. Aquidneck Island
Narragansett Bay is home to Aquidneck Island. There are three towns that make up this Island—Portsmouth, Middletown, and perhaps most famously, Newport. Newport may have the reputation as a summer playground for the elite, but it makes for a great family vacation. Home to fabulous Gilded Age mansions and world-class yachts, Newport also offers budget friendly-family activities and accommodations. Take a trolley ride, check out the Save the Bay Aquarium, or just spend the day on the beach.
Related: 55 Things To Do in Newport, RI with Kids
Visiting Block Island is like stepping into a painting. Photo courtesy of New England Inns & Resorts
4. Block Island
With its ancient cliffs and towering lighthouses, Block Island offers families plenty to do all summer long. Entertainment here is free of boardwalk attractions and amusement parks. Spend your days on beach walks, bike rides, nature sanctuaries, and enjoying water activities.
New England Islands in Maine
5. Mount Desert Island
Most famously, Mount Desert Island is home to Acadia National Park. Most families tend to stick to Bar Harbor, which offers the greatest amount of family-friendly lodging in the area. As the Northeast’s only national park, Acadia offers tons of ways to reconnect with nature. Manageable hikes, super swimming spots, family-friendly dining, and spectacular sights with colorful names (Thunder Hole!) make any length of stay on this island pretty enjoyable.
Don’t leave Monhegan Island without visiting the lighthouse. Photo by @mainiac (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
6. Monhegan Island
The small rocky island of Monhegan is located just 10 miles from the nearest mainland. Families have their pick of accommodations ranging from rustic cottages to a full-service hotel. This island checks all your Maine highlights like a lighthouse, lobster traps, and many beaches. Once on the island, find out what’s going on by checking the signs posted on The Rope Shed, where you’ll find information on local events and businesses.
7. Chebeague Island
Located in Casco Bay, Chebeague Island is five miles long and 1.5 miles wide. You won’t find tons of crowds here, which means your family will have tons of space to explore rocky beaches loaded with tide pools, take leisurely bike rides, and just unwind. The Chebeague Island Inn ;is the heart of many activities on the Island. Guests can enjoy yoga, lawn games, nightly bonfires, hiking trails, and boat charters.
New England Island in Vermont
Explore the islands of Lake Champlain. Photo by Jim Nix, via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
8. Lake Champlain Islands
You don’t need to be coastal to find islands. South Hero, Grand Isle, North Hero, and Isle La Motte are all located on Vermont’s Lake Champlain and offer plenty of island fun. Apple orchards, farms, candy stores, maple creemees, and the world’s oldest coral reef all call these islands home and provide tons of family-friendly activities all summer long.
New England Islands in Connecticut
9. Thimble Islands
Located just off the coast of the Stony Creek section of Branford, the Thimble Islands are an archipelago of more than 100 islands, depending on the tides. Although these New England islands are mostly privately owned and do not offer overnight accommodations, they do contain some truly spectacular spots for a day trip. Outer Island is one of the larger islands in the group, is staffed by volunteers on summer weekends, and can be visited via the Thimble Islands Ferry Service. Another fan favorite is the Thimble Island Cruise, which offers a narrated tour of the area.
Related: Kid-Friendly Wineries on Long Island’s East End
Take a day trip to Sheffield Island on the Long Island Sound. Photo by Ally Noel
10. Sheffield Island
Another day-trip destination, Sheffield Island is centrally located on the Long Island Sound and is home to the historic Sheffield Island Lighthouse. The Norwalk Seaport Association maintains the lighthouse and operates a daily ferry during the summer (weekends only in the late spring and early fall), plus hosts special events such as pirate-adventure weekends and evening clambakes. The ride out to the island takes about 45 minutes, and you are welcome to bring picnic supplies. Don’t forget the bug spray—the mosquitoes can be fierce, especially later in the day.
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