If you're having fantasies about an island getaway, but don't have the time or money to travel to an exotic spot in the tropics, that's OK. Consider a vacation at one of these U.S. islands, each with its own unique attractions.

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Marco Island, Florida

At the southwestern tip of Florida, Marco Island is located in the Gulf of Mexico and is known for its pristine mangrove estuaries. The tropical getaway is a prime destination for shell collectors, who fill their pockets with sand dollars and flat scallop shells.

Santa Cruz Island, California

Managed by the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy, Santa Cruz is off the coast of Santa Barbara and is home to indigenous wildlife not seen anywhere else on the planet. Near the more famous island of Catalina, Santa Cruz — with 96 square miles — has its own distinct charm. Recently, scientists were able to successfully breed endangered bald eagles on the island.

Grand Isle, Vermont

Looking for an off-the-beaten-track fall destination? Near Plattsburgh, New York (site of a historic Olympic Village) on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain, Grand Isle's autumn foliage and 18th-century log cabin museum make for a quiet but memorable fall vacation.

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Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

This southern island community was recently named one of the world's best surf towns, and visitors can enjoy its water sports practically year-round. Fishing enthusiasts book charters to hook mackerel and mahimahi.

Jekyll Island, Georgia

You can golf, kayak and swim on this island, which is halfway between Jacksonville, Florida, and Savannah, Georgia. Its Sea Turtle Center is a can't-miss destination for ecology lovers.