Where to experience the States' four extremes of the compass

From California to New York Island... but the song got it wrong, as Gareth Lloyd explains

Every year hordes of Americans swarm down to Key West just so they can go back home and tell their buddies they've been to the most southerly point on the mainland United States of America. Key West is certainly a mile-stone in extreme travel: but what about America's other geographical extremes?

South Point on Hawaii's Big Island is actually the US's most southerly point. The Hawiians call this rugged place Ka Lae, and it is thought that this was the spot where the first Polynesians stepped ashore.

Bone fish-hooks dating back to the third century AD are the oldest archaeological finds, but by far the most interesting are the petroglyphs. Petroglyphs are now most commonly referred to as "rock art", but these carvings were an important way of recording for posterity everyday events such as fishing as well as the great dramas of birth and death.

The easiest way to get out to Ka Lae is in one of the hire cars that can be rented through Alamo (tel 0800 272 200) from the airport for pounds 25 per day.

Moving to the other end of the compass, the US's most northerly extreme is in the state of Alaska. The small town of Barrow (population 4,000), has the largest Inupiat Inuit community in Alaska, and one of the largest in North America.

Despite the modern-day conveniences, such as public transport and brick houses with central heating, Barrow's traditional outlook is symbolised by the town's annual spring whale hunt, where everyone is expected to lend a hand - or a harpoon.

Any schoolchild can grab an atlas an tell you that chilly Barrow is 330 miles north of the Arctic circle, but did you know that this is the place where US humorist Will Rogers came to an untimely end? The plane carrying Rogers stalled and crashed into a river just south of the town shortly after taking off.

Most Americans visit Barrow to say they've been to the top of the world or to view the midnight sun between early May and August.

The best way to see Barrow is to book a trip with Alaska Airlines (tel 800 468 2248) once you are in the United States. Prices start at pounds 250 from Anchorage, which includes an overnight stay in the Top of the World Hotel.

According to the US embassy, the most westerly point in the USA is also in Alaska: the remote island of Matignak (179 6' west). The last inhabited place however is Adak Island, about 100 miles to the east of Matignak. Both are rocky outcrops of the Aleutian Islands, which are strung out like smoked herrings from the Alaskan coast. The furthest west anyone can get on mainland Alaska is a windblown place called Wales, but as a matter of fact the American public don't seem to be interested in these Alaskan outposts.

The most westerly inhabited place on mainland USA is the Alaskan town of Nome. Most people see Nome as a grimy, treeless place in the middle of nowhere, full of tatty houses with front lawns strewn with old bicycle frames and abandoned refrigerators. This image, however, belies the town's exotic history.

In the summer of 1898 some Swedish gold prospectors struck lucky in Anvil Creek. By winter the news had reached the gold-hungry fields of the Klondike, and by 1900 Nome was declared the largest city in Alaska with some 20,000 residents.

Today's population is only around 4,500, but the residents still all have a contagious gold-rush fever. From the prospectors who ply the beach to the honky-tonk saloons, it's clear the place has retained its rough frontier appeal.

Nome is connected to the outside world by daily flights with Alaskan Airlines (tel 800 468 2248) from Anchorage International Airport. Ticket prces start at around pounds 200 return.

Moving swiftly eastwards, the last extremity on the other side of the US is Lubec, in Maine. As far as I can see the town has very little to do with Lubeck (the historic trading port in northern Germany, famed for it's marzipan). Lubec, Maine, is actually a smelly commercial fish-processing centre.

The town's main claim to fame is that Franklin Roosevelt's father James bought some land here in 1883 and built a palatial summer "cottage". The future US president spent many of his boyhood summers here, and was later given the 34-room cottage.

If you have a desperate urge to go there you should first catch a plane to Boston. There are regular flights from Boston to Bangor, Maine, and from there numerous buses make the three hour journey to Lubec. Heading east from here, the next stop is Land's End, Cornwall.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: International Project Coordinator / Account Coordinator

    Circa £26,500 DOE: Guru Careers: An International Project Coordinator / Accoun...

    Guru Careers: Plumber / Maintenance Operator

    £25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Plumber / Mainten...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen