Did you know that the United States boasts the fifth-highest number of islands globally, ranking behind Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Canada? If you’re curious about the location of most of these islands in the U.S., or which state has the largest number of islands, we’ve got you covered.
Determining whether a piece of land is an island or not is not a simple task since there is no universally recognized criterion to define what qualifies as an island. While islands are typically surrounded by water, it is unclear how expansive the land must be to qualify as an island.
In order to remain above water at high tide, an island generally needs to be of sufficient size. Islets, on the other hand, are often referred to as islands that are less than one acre in total size.
According to the general definition, an island should be smaller than a continent. Although Greenland is three times larger than Texas, it is typically regarded as the largest island globally. On the other hand, even though Australia is the smallest continent, it is deemed too massive to be classified as an island.
While there may be some disagreement due to the vague and non-standardized definition of an island, there is one state that clearly emerges as the winner in terms of having the most islands under its jurisdiction.
According to the state’s website, Alaska has officially recognized 1,800 named islands, but there are more than 800 additional islands with names that may not be recognized by the state. Moreover, there are numerous islands that are not named, either officially or colloquially, including islands located in the state’s many inland lakes. These unnamed islands are estimated to number in the thousands.
Alaska boasts a plethora of coastal islands, primarily located in the southern region of the state. The largest island in Alaska is Kodiak Island, which spans over 3,600 square miles. Interestingly, Kodiak Island also holds the distinction of being the second-largest island in the entire United States, with the Big Island of Hawaii being the only one larger.
Alaska boasts the most coastline of any U.S. state with over 6,600 miles, thanks to its numerous islands and vast size.
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With more than 4,500 islands spanning over ten acres or larger, Florida boasts of a vast collection of scenic islands. Pine Island, covering an area of around 7.3 square miles, is the largest island in the state.
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Maine is home to a vast number of islands, with over 4,000 in total. The most expansive of these is Mount Desert Island, which spans an impressive 108 square miles. Interestingly, the pronunciation of the island’s name is not “desert” as one might expect, but rather it is pronounced like the word “dessert.”
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A State of Islands
Did you know that every single state in the United States has islands? While some states may only have small islands in rivers or lakes, every state, without exception, has some form of island. In fact, one state is even entirely composed of islands. As you may have guessed, that state is none other than Hawaii.
The state of Hawaii is comprised of 137 islands, with eight major islands being Hawaii, Kahoolawe, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai, Niihau, and Oahu.
Hawaii Island, also known as “The Big Island,” spans over 4,000 square miles making it the largest island in both Hawaii and the United States.
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An Island That Isn’t an Island
Rhode Island, the smallest state in the United States, boasts a unique name that sets it apart from the rest. Interestingly, it is the only state in the country to have the word “island” in its name. Despite this, the majority of the state’s land is connected to the mainland, including the capital city of Providence. The state has a total of 108 listed islands, but they make up only a small portion of its overall landmass. The name “Rhode Island” dates back to the sixteenth century when the famous Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano discovered the area and described an island “about the bignesse of the Ilande of the Rodes.” The name has endured through the centuries and remains a source of pride for the state.
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The United States federal government also holds jurisdiction over several island territories, in addition to the states.
American Samoa, consisting of five volcanic islands and two coral atolls, is the only U.S. territory located south of the equator, occupying a land area of around 76 square miles.
Guam, the largest island in Micronesia, is situated at the southernmost point of the Mariana Islands. It spans across about 225 square miles of land area.
Northern Mariana Islands
The total area of this U.S. territory is 183.5 square miles and it includes 14 islands.
One main island, four small islands, and hundreds of cays and islets constitute Puerto Rico, which covers over 3,500 square miles, surpassing the combined land areas of Delaware and Rhode Island.
U.S. Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands consist of three main islands (St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas) and approximately 50 cays and islets, with a total land area of just under 134 square miles.