10 Places in the U.S. Where Bikes and Boats Rule

Tires stacked outside a home on the waterfront
Photo: Eric Lanning/Flickr [CC by 2.0]

If you're tired of traffic and high gas prices, it's time to put the car in park, unbuckle your seatbelt and enjoy one of these vacation destinations where your wheels aren't welcome. You won't find a single automobile in any of the places on our list — just bicycles and the occasional golf cart or horse-drawn carriage.

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Monhegan Island, Maine

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This tiny island off the coast of Maine is less than a mile long, has no paved roads and is home to about 60 residents. The only way onto the island is via boat or ferry, and once you arrive, you won’t only be leaving your car behind — cellphone service is iffy and Wi-Fi is nonexistent. However, Monhegan Island boasts miles of hiking trails, plentiful birding opportunities and an artists’ colony. Plus, it’s home to many rare plants and flowers. Because the island is so remote, there’s a limited chance for reseeding by winds or birds, and some species are in danger of dying out.

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Governors Island, New York

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This 172-acre island is just 800 yards from Lower Manhattan, but is a world unto itself. For almost two centuries it was a military base and closed to the public, but in 2003 the U.S. sold the island to New York for $1. Today, visitors to Governors Island can bike, picnic, attend festivals and enjoy free National Park Service walking tours, and New York Water Taxi even operates an artificial beach on the northern tip of the island.

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Smith Island, Maryland

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Smith Island is Maryland’s only inhabited offshore island in the Chesapeake Bay, but it’s actually composed of several islands. In the last 50 years, the island has lost more than 3,000 acres of wetlands due to erosion, and restoration efforts are under way to restore the island and prevent further erosion. An active fishing community that boasts some of the nation’s best crab cakes, the island is also the birthplace of the Smith Island Cake, which was declared Maryland’s state dessert in 2008. The famous dish features six-15 thin layers of cake filled with frosting — but locals say it’s the cooked chocolate icing that really makes the dessert unique.

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North Captiva Island, Florida

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This island was once part of larger Captiva Island, but storms during the 1920s severed the landmass, leaving the 4-mile-long crescent known today as North Captiva Island. In addition to no cars, the island has no paved roads, no hotels and no grocery stores. Visitors can book beach houses and tour the small island’s sandy trails by foot or golf cart, and they’ll quickly discover that North Captiva’s dolphins and gopher tortoises outnumber its people.

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Halibut Cove, Alaska

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Located in Alaska’s Kachemak Bay State Park, Halibut Cove is nestled among mountains, glaciers and forests and is accessible only by boat. It’s home to just 38 people, according to the 2010 Census, and one of the only floating U.S. post offices is located here, along with a popular floating coffee shop. The cove is lined with stores, cabins and art galleries, which are also accessible only by boat, and you’re likely to see a variety of wildlife, including sea otters, harbor seals and humpback whales.

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Mackinac Island, Michigan

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Mackinac Island is located in Lake Huron, and the entire island is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Motorized vehicles were prohibited on the island in 1898 — with the exception of snowmobiles in winter and emergency vehicles — but visitors can travel via foot, bicycle or horse-drawn carriage. In fact, Michigan’s Lake Shore Road, which runs along the perimeter of Mackinac, is the only state highway that doesn’t allow cars, but it’s always busy — with clomping hooves and spinning wheels — on summer days.

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Tangier Island, Virginia

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There are few cars — but plenty of golf carts — on this 3-mile-long island in the Chesapeake Bay. Boating, biking, crabbing and kayaking are popular activities. Tangier Island truly feels like a world unto itself because of its isolated locale and its history. British forces used it as a staging ground during the War of 1812, and the island’s residents speak with a distinctive Cockney accent.

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Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

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This small wooded isle is located between Hilton Head, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., and is accessible only by boat. Golf carts and bicycles are the only forms of transportation on the island, but what makes Daufuskie truly unique is its Gullah population. Gullah are descendants of freed slaves, and the inhabitants’ culture is evident in the island’s food, music and local art. Although the island is mostly undeveloped, it does have a resort, two golf courses and a local art gallery.

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Catalina Island, California

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Los Angeles may be known for its traffic, but just a ferry ride away sits Catalina Island, a place where cars are restricted and golf carts rule the streets. About 1 million tourists visit this rocky island each year, and although visitors can’t drive a car, they can bike, kayak, parasail, swim, zipline and scuba dive. California does allow a very small number of registered cars on Catalina, but there is currently a 14-year waiting list to own a car there.

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Bald Head Island, North Carolina

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Located at the tip of Cape Fear and accessible only by boat is Bald Head Island. Although it has a rich history — it played a part in two American wars and was once a pirate hideout — today the island is a quiet, picturesque vacation destination. More than 80 percent of Bald Head is conservation land where visitors can enjoy nature hikes and view sea-turtle nesting areas, but the only way to get around is by foot, golf cart or bicycle.