Car-free destinations for your big summer trip

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Published May 23, 2013

| Condé Nast Traveler

Car-free destinations for your big summer trip

Car-free destinations for your big summer trip

You won't need a car to enjoy these summer getaway spots. Where you're going, you'll be hiking, biking, and walking around town.

Tangier Island, Va.

Virginia's Tangier Island has been a small fishing community for ages, going all the way back to when John Smith first noticed it in the early 1600s. The water is still the main draw here, and visitors take advantage, either by kayaking through the nature trails, heading out on a fishing boat, or touring the local crab shanties. Tangier Sound is the home of the soft-shell crab, and it's been reported that all but five percent of the nation's soft-shell crabs come from here. When you've worked up an appetite, you try some for yourself at the Fisherman's Corner Restaurant.

Getting Around: While you can rent a golf cart or take a buggy tour, Tangier Island's narrow streets and overall compactness—it's only about one mile wide and three miles long—make bicycling the perfect option for touring the island (particularly at sunset). You can reserve bikes ahead of time at Four Brothers Crab House & Ice Cream Deck.

Getting There: Though Tangier Island has its own airport for small aircraft (757-891-2496), you're better off sailing across the Chesapeake Bay on Ferry. The Chesapeake Breeze leaves from Reedville, Virginia, every day from May 4 to October 19, while the Steven Thomas makes the trip from Crisfield, Maryland.

Mackinac Island, Mich.

Lake Huron's Victorian Mackinac Island takes conservation seriously—so much so that 80 percent of the island is situated within the protected Mackinac Island State Park, famous for its limestone bluffs. But it's not just the natural surroundings that have been carefully preserved. History is also of the utmost importance, as can be seen at Fort Mackinac, home to the oldest building in Michigan. After exploring, call it a night at the Grand Hotel (a pick on our Gold List) known for its sprawling, 660-foot front porch looking out to the water, and its equally indulgent five-course dinners.

Getting Around: Though the island is extremely walkable—the perimeter path is just 8.2 miles—it's hard to pass up the opportunity to take a ride in a horse-drawn taxi. Mackinac Island Carriage Tours claims to be the oldest continually operating taxi service in the country, in business more than 100 years. If you're really feeling adventurous, you can even rent a carriage and drive your own horse and buggy at Jack's Livery Stable.

Getting There: Two ferries service the island between May and October: the Star Line Mackinac Island's Hydro-Jet Ferry, departing from St. Ignace, and the Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry, departing from St. Ignace and Mackinaw City. There's also an on-island Mackinak Island Airport for private charter flights (906-847-3231).

Fire Island, N.Y.

Fire Island may be one, long barrier island off the coast of New York's Long Island, but it's really a string of more than a dozen different towns, beaches, and communities. Each has its own vibe with differing degrees of remoteness, amenities for tourists, and family-friendliness. Kismet, for example, is known for its wild parties, Cherry Grove is the traditional LGBT enclave and has a reputation for catering to Manhattanites, while Ocean Beach has the most to offer daytrippers, with a multitude of bars, restaurants, and even a movie theater. The entryway to Fire Island is Robert Moses State Park and the historic Fire Island Lighthouse, which dates back to 1858.

Getting Around: Because Fire Island is bigger than Tangier or Mackinac—stretching for 32 miles, with no paved roads—don't expect to be able to walk or bike from one end to the other easily. Instead, your best bet for beach-hopping is the way you came in—back on the water, via Water Taxi.

Getting There: A fleet of ferries—including the Davis Park Ferry Co, Sayville Ferry Service, and Fire Island Ferries—service different areas of Fire Island from different parts of Long Island. To keep them straight, you can always download the Fire Island App for iPhones and iPads.

Monhegan Island, Maine

Just 12 miles off the coast of Maine, Monhegan Island has always been a haven for artists looking to escape modern civilization in the summers. Today, you can still find original artwork done by locals and inspired by the island in Monhegan's shops and galleries (try visiting the Lupine Gallery or Ruth Zachary Photography). Of course, it was nature that brought the artists in to begin with, so it's worth exploring the 17 miles of wooded trails that wind their ways through the island and along the rocky shores. Whichever path you take, make sure to stop at the Monhegan Historical & Cultural Museum, located in the lighthouse keeper's house on the grounds of an 1824 lighthouse. End the day with fresh-from-the-sea lobster or chowder from the on-island fish markets.

Getting Around: There are no paved roads, and you're kindly asked to leave the mountain bikes at home, so you're hoofing it while you're here. But because the island is just 1.5 miles long by a half-mile wide, walking shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Getting There: There are three jumping-off points for getting to Moneghan by ferry: Port Clyde, where you can catch the Monhegan Boat Line; New Harbor, where you'll find the Hardy Boat Cruises; and Boothbay Harbor, via the serenely named Balmy Days Cruises.

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