Islands have traditionally been considered as migratory and evolutionary dead ends for two main reasons: island colonizers are typically assumed to lose their dispersal power, and continental back colonization has been regarded as unlikely because of niche preemption. The hypothesis that islands might actually represent dynamic refugia and migratory stepping stones for species that are effective dispersers, and in particular, for spore-producing plants, is formally tested here, using the archipelagos of the Azores, Canary Islands, and Madeira, as a model. Population genetic analyses based on nuclear microsatellite variation indicate that dispersal ability of the moss Platyhypnidium riparioides does not decrease in the island setting. The analyses further show that, unlike island populations, mainland (southwestern Europe and North Africa) populations underwent a severe bottleneck during the last glacial maximum (LGM). Our results thus refute the traditional view of islands as the end of the colonization road and point to a different perception of North Atlantic archipelagos as major sources of biodiversity for the postglacial recolonization of Europe by spore-producing plants.