For some pilots, the greatest pleasure in flying comes from being able to leave worldly troubles behind and focus on the moment: the challenges and joys of flight. For others, it’s the ability to quickly find yourself hundreds of miles from where you started: different scenery, different state, different climate. But sometimes pilots need to get away to a different kind of time—island time—to slow down and step off the continent. Need a little “island time”? Here’s a list of fun islands to visit from North Carolina’s Outer Banks south to Georgia.
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina: First Flight Airport should be on every pilot’s bucket list. The barrier island is where the Wright Brothers achieved their first successful powered airplane flights on Dec. 17, 1903. Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial and learn more from the enthusiastic rangers who serve there. Then continue to points south for accommodations, restaurants, and more island adventures.
Cape Hatteras Island, North Carolina: Continuing south over Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Outer Banks take a sudden turn toward the west at Cape Hatteras, where you’ll find Billy Mitchell Airport. Walk to Frisco Sandwich Co. or the Frisco Native American Museum & Natural History Center, home to thousands of artifacts from Native cultures across the United States, with a gallery dedicated to local tribes. The gift shop carries Native-made artworks and jewelry. Nature trails wind through maritime forest, over a stream, and around a pond connected to Pamlico Sound.
Ocracoke Island, North Carolina: Ocracoke Island Airport lies near the south end of Ocracoke Island. Walk into town or have your hotel pick you up. Unwind on 16 miles of beaches or rent a bike or golf cart and visit the lighthouse, pay your respects to British soldiers killed just offshore during World War II, say hello to the wild ponies, and take in the local Blackbeard Pirate lore. Don’t miss sundown over the harbor.
Hilton Head, South Carolina: Fly to the always-attended Hilton Head Airport to start your vacation in this Lowcountry resort town. Geared toward tourism, Hilton Head offers great restaurants and a plethora of diversions for active folks, from 24 golf courses and 350 tennis courts to biking, beachgoing, horseback riding, and luxury spa treatments. Cultural opportunities include plays at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, wine-tasting events, the 120-member Hilton Head Choral Society, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, festivals, and a PGA tournament.
“Golden Isles,” Georgia: Land at McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport or Jekyll Island Airport to access two of Georgia’s “Golden Isles.” Pristine beaches, marshes, and Southern hospitality are yours at either of these islands. Both also offer outstanding recreational fun: fishing, diving, boating, casino cruises, kayaking, birding, photography, horseback riding, golf, tennis, shopping, spas, and even water parks. For history buffs, St. Simons Island has a museum, library, historic churches, a fort, and preserved battle sites and slave cabins. Or visit the famous Jekyll Island Club or the Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island.