Friday, December 26, 2014

Ten great island adventures for the New Year

Santorini, Greece at sunset is an Adriatic masterpiece  (wikipedia)
CHARLOTTEDecember 26, 2014 – With a new year on the horizon, it is time to dream of summer weather, and nothing conjures those images better than an island.

Tom Hanks was a Castaway. We have all heard the story of Robinson Crusoe. We see cartoons about the joy of being marooned on a desert island. Nothing captures the desire for isolation, solitude and sunshine better than an island.

Though every island, no matter how large, possesses inherent limitations, the adventurous idea of an environment surrounded by water somehow captures the imagination.

With that in mind, here is a list of ten great island destinations to discover in 2015.
Spectacular ruins of the Greek theater in Taormina, Sicily  (Taylor)
1 – Sicily – The largest island in the Mediterranean has a little bit of everything; Greek and Roman ruins, Europe’s largest active volcano Mt. Etna and plenty of World War II history. Those elements alone are more than enough. Add in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather and Sicily is a ready-made classic to explore.
Breathtaking Sydney Opera House at night in Sydney Harbor, Australia  (wikipedia)
 2 – Australia – Just look at the size of a can of Foster’s beer and you understand the appeal of Australia. Australians are hardy, rugged, fun-loving people who enjoy life to the fullest. After all they live in a place filled koala bears, kangaroos, kinkajous and wombats not to mention the platypus. If those creatures alone do not capture your wanderlust spirit then nothing will. There is also the intrigue of Ayers Rock in the center of the country and when it comes to sports, nothing can top the pure mayhem of rugby.
Three faces of Iceland, a primeval world unto itself  (Taylor)
 3 – Iceland – Let’s face it, Iceland is as exotic as it gets. Situated at the point where the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans converge, where majestic fjords punctuate thousands of miles of coastline, Iceland conjures images of rugged Norse and Gaelic settlers. Perhaps most unique is the plethora of thermal activity that gives Iceland an other-wordly, eerie atmosphere for travelers to sink his teeth into.
Majestic and eerie, the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland  (Taylor)
 4 – Ireland – The magic of Ireland can be found in its lush landscape combined with the powerful, dramatic coastline and abundance of castles that permeate the island. The Irish are also horse lovers, but another sometimes thing that adds to its charm is golf. Scotland, too, features geography and medieval architecture and, while it is also the birthplace of golf, Scotland shares its island with England and Wales. For that reason the land of leprechauns and the Blarney Stone was chosen with apologies to the Scots.
Blue Footed Boobies are always a favorite in the Galapagos Islands  (wikipedia) 
 5 – Galapagos – First of all the Galapagos really are off the beaten path. They are part of Ecuador but they are famous for their exotic protected wildlife, among which are the blue-footed boobies. That name alone immediately grabs attention, especially among most male travelers. It is all very innocent, of course, since the boobies are actually birds. The idea of spending as much time as Charles Darwin did observing thousands of interesting creatures in the Galapagos is definitely appealing.
Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco is an optical illusion where escape looked easy  (wikipedia)
 6 – Alcatraz – No one would have wanted to be a prisoner at The Rock, but it does capture the imagination. And for some reason when you visit, it is almost impossible to consider the challenge of designing the foolproof means of escape.
St. Barts is the quintessential Caribbean island paradise  (wikipedia)
 7 – St Barts – This tiny spot in the Caribbean is a favorite destination for jet setters. There is virtually no night life and the one main town, Gustavia, which is delightful. St. Barts may not have the best of anything in the Caribbean, but it probably has the second best of everything. It is elegant and tiny with topless beaches and incredible French food. Why say more?
Nantuket Island near Cape Cod may be quaint but you can have a "whale" of a time  (wikimedia)
  8 – Nantucket – The cobblestone streets are charming and the quaint houses are delightful. The whaling industry that made Nantucket famous and that whaling history is what rounds out the appeal. There is a whaling museum, plenty of whaling artifacts, picturesque harbors and great seafood. Can you say, “Aaaargh!”
Lush tropical beauty of Rainbow Falls in Hawaii   (wikipedia)
 9 – Hawaii – The islands are beautiful, exotic and a favorite destination for travelers of all ages. Giant waves for surfing, erupting volcanoes and historical landmarks from the World War II sneak attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor make Hawaii unique. A luau and a little hula here and there doesn’t hurt either.
Tahiti is famous for its black sand beaches  (wikipedia)
10 – Tahiti – The Bounty (pre-mutiny), Marlon Brando and artist Paul Gauguin fell in love with French Polynesia. In fact, Gauguin was actually a “suit” who kept venturing further and further into the wilderness of this tropical paradise. He sailed to Tahiti in 1891 to escape civilization and “everything that is artificial and conventional.” In doing so Gauguin found his own personal answer to a mid-life crisis.
The Turks & Caicos are rapidly becoming the "in" place to be in the Caribbean   (Taylor)
And just for good measure, here are five more islands that deserve honorable mentions:

New Zealand
Sanibel, Florida
Santorini, Greece
Turks & Caicos