Discover Which State Is Home to the Most Islands in the Country

Views from Eagle Island in Bristol Bay, Alaska
© liveyourlife/Shutterstock.com

Written by Mike Edmisten

Updated: July 19, 2023

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The United States has the fifth-most islands of any nation in the world, behind Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Canada. Where are most of those U.S. islands located? Which state has the most islands in the nation?

It is not necessarily as straightforward as it may seem, largely because there is no standard metric for what constitutes an island. Islands are surrounded by water, by definition, but how big must the land be to be considered an island?

Generally speaking, an island must be large enough to remain above water at high tide. Many islands are less than one acre in total size. Islands this small are sometimes called islets.

An island must also be smaller than a continent. Greenland, which is three times the size of Texas, is generally considered the largest island in the world. Australia is the smallest continent but is considered too large to be an island. 

Because of the loose, non-standardized definition of an island, there may be disagreement on which state has the most islands in its jurisdiction. However, one state wins the overall competition fairly easily.

Alaska

Alaska officially recognizes 1,800 named islands, per the state’s website. There are over 800 additional islands with names that the state may not officially recognize. And this doesn’t take into account other islands which are not named, either officially or colloquially. Those islands, including islands in the state’s many inland lakes, number in the thousands.

The majority of Alaska’s coastal islands are in the southern part of the state, including the state’s largest island. Kodiak Island measures nearly 3,600 square miles, making it not only the largest island in Alaska but also the second-largest island in the U.S., behind the Big Island of Hawaii.

All of these islands, combined with Alaska’s massive size, give the state the most coastline of any U.S. state at over 6,600 miles.

Kodiak Island

Kodiak Island is the largest island in Alaska.

©iStock.com/Wildnerdpix

Florida 

Florida has over 4,500 islands that are ten acres or larger. Pine Island is the state’s largest island at approximately 7.3 square miles.

Palm trees on Gulf of Mexico in Bokeelia on Pine Island Florida

Pine Island, Florida, is the state’s largest island.

©Jim Schwabel/Shutterstock.com

Maine

There are well over 4,000 islands in Maine, the largest of which is Mount Desert Island at 108 square miles. Incidentally, the island’s name is pronounced like the word “dessert” instead of the normal pronunciation of “desert.”

Aerial view of Bar Harbor, Maine. Bar Harbor is a town on Mount Desert Island in Hancock County, Maine and a popular tourist destination.

Bar Harbor is located on Maine’s largest island, Mount Desert Island.

©Mihai_Andritoiu/Shutterstock.com

A State of Islands

All 50 states have islands. Some may only feature small islands in rivers or lakes, but every U.S. state has islands in some form. One state is made up entirely of islands, though. That state, of course, is Hawaii.

The Hawaiian archipelago has eight major islands: Hawaii, Kahoolawe, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai, Niihau, and Oahu. However, 137 islands in total make up the state of Hawaii.

At 4,000 square miles, Hawaii Island, commonly known as “The Big Island,” is the largest of Hawaii’s islands as well as the largest island in the United States.

Lanikai Beach in Hawaii

Hawaii is the only U.S. state that is made up of nothing but islands.

©segawa7/Shutterstock.com

An Island That Isn’t an Island

Rhode Island is the only state with the word “island” in its name. There are 108 listed islands in the state. However, the majority of the state’s land, including the capital city of Providence, is connected to the United States mainland. The name “Rhode Island” dates back to the sixteenth-century Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano. As he explored Narragansett Bay, he wrote that he discovered an island “about the bignesse of the Ilande of the Rodes.” The name stuck.

Historic Dutch Island Lighthouse in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island

The historic Dutch Island Lighthouse stands in Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay.

©iStock.com/Paul Hamilton

Island Territories

Along with these states, there are also island territories that are under the jurisdiction of the United States federal government. 

American Samoa 

This is the only U.S. territory south of the equator. Five volcanic islands and two coral atolls make this U.S. territory. American Samoa has a total land area of approximately 76 square miles.

Guam

The island of Guam is the southernmost of the Mariana Islands and is the largest island in Micronesia. The total land area of Guam is around 225 square miles.

Northern Mariana Islands

This U.S. territory comprises 14 islands with a total area of 183.5 square miles.

Pristine blue waters of the Micro Beach and the far-off Managaha Island backdrops a perfectly manicured garden with pond in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands.

The Northern Mariana Islands consist of 14 islands of sheer tropical paradise.

©iStock.com/raksybH

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico comprises one main island, four small islands, and hundreds of cays and islets. The total land of Puerto Rico accounts for over 3,500 square miles, making it larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands comprise three main islands (St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas), along with around 50 cays and islets. The total land area of the U.S. Virgin Islands is just under 134 square miles.

St Thomas US Virgin Islands Drone Aerial.

St. Thomas is one of the main islands in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

©iStock.com/Kruck20


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About the Author

Mike is a writer at A-Z Animals where his primary focus is on geography, agriculture, and marine life. A graduate of Cincinnati Christian University and a resident of Cincinnati, OH, Mike is deeply passionate about the natural world. In his free time, he, his wife, and their two sons love the outdoors, especially camping and exploring US National Parks.

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