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Active Travel Adventure Travel Outdoors

10 Best Hidden Hot Springs in North America

Nothing beats a warm soak outside on a crisp day. You’ll have to ramble down dirt roads, hike into canyons, and cross suspension bridges to get to these hidden hot springs. But the effort will make the “ahhh” even sweeter when you finally slip into a steamy bath set in the middle of thick forest or beneath the glittery Milky Way. Here are 10 of our favorite hot springs in the U.S. and Canada.

Chena Hot Springs, Near Fairbanks, Alaska

At McCredie Hot Springs, a little string of hot pools lines the edge of Salt Creek, where you can sit and enjoy a warm soak with the sound of a river rushing by. Here, in the middle of the Willamette National Forest, bathers shift rocks to create just the right mix of warm and cool water in the pools, which can range from 98 to 114 degrees (temperatures can be dangerously hot, so proceed with caution when enjoying the hot springs). In winter, this area, at an elevation of 2,000 feet, is often blanketed in snow, so you can have a roll in the white stuff and then watch it melt off your skin in the hot springs. It’s a great way to spend the afternoon after hitting the slopes in Willamette Pass or snowshoeing at Salt Creek Falls, one of Oregon’s highest waterfalls.

Getting There: From Eugene, follow Highway 58 east for 46 miles. McCredie is between mileposts 46 and 47, just east of Oakridge and near Blue Pool Campground in Willamette National Forest. The springs are about 200 yards from the roadside parking lot. Note that the campgrounds are closed in the winter and operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2014. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Arts & Culture Budget Travel Cities Family Travel Food & Drink Historical Travel Outdoors Road Trip Weekend Getaways

Cheap Weekend Getaways from 9 Major U.S. Cities

[st_content_ad]Need a vacation, but don’t have much time or money? Cheap weekend getaways are the answer. Spending two or three nights away from home can provide much-needed rejuvenation and help you scratch the itch to explore a new place at times when you can’t take a longer vacation.

Below are suggested weekend getaways from nine major metro areas around the U.S. Each getaway destination is within easy driving distance of the originating city, so you don’t need to shell out for airfare or baggage fees. Each also has well-rated, affordable hotel options.

Scroll down to see all the ideas, or click on your city below to jump straight to cheap weekend getaways from that metro area.

Featured Weekend Getaways

Cheap Weekend Getaways from Atlanta

Chattanooga, Tennessee

chattanooga tennessee aerial view

The former industrial town of Chattanooga is now an ideal spot for a weekend getaway that’s just a two-hour drive from Atlanta across the Tennessee border. Great spots for strolling include the Bluff View Art District and the scenic Riverwalk. The most popular attractions include the Tennessee Aquarium (beloved by kids and adults alike) and the Hunter Museum of American Art, housed in an early-20th-century mansion. The area is also rich in Civil War history; Chickamauga Battlefield is just a 20-minute drive outside the city.

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Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville north carolina at sunset.

About three and a half hours from Atlanta is the mountain community of Asheville, known for its artsy, outdoorsy vibe. Its most famous tourist attraction is the grand Biltmore mansion, though admission is pricey; fortunately, there are plenty of other fun things to do. Chat with artists in the River Arts District, stop to smell the flowers in the North Carolina Arboretum, or join the locals for an energetic Friday evening drum circle. The nearby Blue Ridge Mountains offer countless opportunities for hiking and scenic drives.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from Boston

Provincetown, Massachusetts

Provincetown, massachusetts beachfront

Located at the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown is best known as a summer destination, but it makes for an appealing weekend getaway year-round. Look beyond the beaches and you’ll find the vibrant shops and eateries of Commercial Street as well as the Province Lands Bike Trail, which loops for more than five miles through bogs, pine forests, and sand dunes. And don’t overlook Provincetown’s art scene, which includes galleries and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. You can reach Provincetown via car or ferry from Boston.

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Providence, Rhode Island

Providence, rhode island riverfront.

Rhode Island’s capital city, just a quick drive or train ride from Boston, is the perfect size for exploring in a few days. One major draw is the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, which features everything from French Impressionists to a 12th-century Japanese Buddha. Not far away is the campus of Brown University, which hosts a variety of events and is a pleasant place for a stroll. Save time to wander neighborhoods like the historic downtown district and Federal Hill, also known as Little Italy.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from Chicago

Galena, Illinois

Galena illinois street

This quaint historic town in the northwest corner of Illinois is about a three-hour drive from Chicago. Its well-preserved 19th-century buildings include the former home of President Ulysses S. Grant and a fascinating historical society and museum. It’s easy to spend a day wandering in and out of the boutiques and galleries on Main Street, where you can pick up everything from secondhand clothes to locally made jams. Enjoy breakfast or lunch at Otto’s Place, a local favorite.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from Houston

San Antonio, Texas

san antonio, texas riverfront

Just a three-hour drive west of Houston is San Antonio, known for its vibrant history and culture. It all starts downtown, where you’ll find the city’s most famous landmark, the Alamo, and the 15-mile urban waterway known as the River Walk, lined with restaurants and shops. There are four other historical missions here, too, comprising San Antonio Missions National Historical Park—a UNESCO World Heritage site. Families will love the DoSeum, designed for kids 10 and under, and the small but fun San Antonio Zoo.

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Lake Charles, Louisiana

Lake charles, louisiana city hall
Two hours in the opposite direction is a weekend getaway destination with an entirely different flavor: Lake Charles, Louisiana. During the day you can play a round of golf, tour a Cold War-era battleship, visit the colorful Mardi Gras Museum, or drive the Creole Nature Trail in search of alligators and birds. Then top off each day with a Cajun seafood dinner and an evening at one of the area’s four casinos.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from Los Angeles

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua tree national park, california sunset.

The starkly beautiful desert landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park offer a peaceful (and cheap) weekend getaway from the traffic and smog of Los Angeles. Looking to hike? The park has challenging trails, easy nature walks, and everything in between. You can also bike on backcountry roads, drive along the Geology Tour Road (a 4 x 4 vehicle is recommended), or stay late for a night of stargazing. Campgrounds and affordable motels offer cheap lodging inside and near the park.

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San Diego, California

San diego, california boats in the harbor.

If you’re looking for a less remote weekend getaway, drive a few hours down the coast to San Diego. This laid-back city is a favorite with families, who flock to the San Diego Zoo, kid-friendly museums like the Fleet Science Center, and nearby LEGOLAND California. (For more ideas, see San Diego with Kids.) But San Diego is also popular for adults-only getaways, with plenty of craft breweries, cultural institutions, and neighborhoods to explore; try the Gaslamp Quarter for dining and nightlife.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from New York City

Dutchess County, New York

Hudson valley, new york bridge

Part of the Hudson Valley region that stretches some 150 miles north of New York City, Dutchess County offers both scenic landscapes and appealing attractions year-round. History buffs can tour the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Home as well as his Presidential Library and Museum, while fans of the arts should make a beeline to spots like Dia:Beacon, a modern art center housed in a former Nabisco box-printing factory. Hikers can hop onto a section of the Appalachian Trail or enjoy the views from the top of the fire tower at Ferncliff Forest.

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Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton, new jersey dusk.

Stroll among the ivy-shrouded stone halls of Princeton University, located just 50 miles from New York City. Attractions on campus include an art museum and chapel, while the town of Princeton offers plenty of shops and restaurants along Nassau Street, the main drag. Top off your cheap weekend getaway with affordable eats at restaurants like Jammin’ Crepes and Olives Deli and Bakery.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from San Francisco

Sacramento, California

Sacramento, california bridge at night.

California’s capital, located 90 minutes from San Francisco, makes a particularly fun weekend getaway for families thanks to attractions like the Sacramento Zoo and Fairytale Town, which features play areas for little ones based on the stories of Humpty Dumpty, Cinderella, and many more. The riverfront historic district, Old Sacramento, is a must-visit for travelers of any age, with its Gold Rush-era buildings and old-timey shops. There’s also plenty of fresh farm-to-table cuisine to savor around town at a variety of price points.

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Mendocino County, California

Mendocino county coast.

A little farther afield are the fertile vineyards, picturesque seaside villages, and jaw-dropping redwood forests of Mendocino County, about three hours north of San Francisco. Don’t miss the rugged coastal views at Mendocino Headlands State Park or the vibrantly colored blooms at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Visit Montgomery Woods State Reserve for a hike through the redwoods, or craft your own wine-tasting tour along Highway 128.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from Seattle

Bellingham, Washington

Bellingham, washington water

In Bellingham, a small city located about 90 minutes north of Seattle, weekend visitors can enjoy a mix of urban and natural attractions. Start with a stroll through the Fairhaven historic district, where restored Victorian-era brick buildings house art galleries, restaurants, and the beloved Village Books. Art lovers can marvel at the sculpture collections at Western Washington University and Big Rock Garden, while hikers have plenty of options, including Whatcom Falls Park and Stimpson Family Nature Preserve.

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Whidbey Island, Washington

Whidbey island coast

Accessible by car and ferry, Whidbey Island is just a short distance from Seattle, but it feels like a true escape. Outdoor attractions reign supreme, from the stunning hiking trails of Deception Pass State Park to the fragrant fields at Lavender Wind Farm (come in summertime to see them in full bloom). You can paddle through Puget Sound with Whidbey Island Kayaking, go on the hunt for sculptures along the Oak Harbor Art Trail, or taste your way through the island’s many distilleries and wineries.

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Cheap Weekend Getaways from Washington, D.C.

Frederick, Maryland

Frederick maryland street scene

This small city 45 miles northwest of D.C. makes for a laid-back weekend getaway. Stroll the historic downtown area, keeping an eye out for murals, sculptures, and other public art installations scattered around town. The National Museum of Civil War Medicine and the Monocacy National Battlefield are must-sees for travelers with interest in the Civil War, while Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park offer dozens of wooded hiking trails for outdoor enthusiasts. Don’t miss the city’s many breweries and distilleries, including Flying Dog, the largest craft brewery in Maryland.

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Annapolis, Maryland

Annapolis maryland sunset.

It’s hard not to fall in love with Annapolis, with its walkable cobblestone streets and sailboats bobbing gently in the harbor. The main draw here is the historic district, with buildings dating back as far as the colonial era. The city is also home to the U.S. Naval Academy, which offers guided tours of its major landmarks as well as stories about what it’s like to be a midshipman. On a sunny day, visit the beach at Sandy Point State Park, complete with a view of the Bay Bridge.

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Beach Cities Family Travel Weekend Getaways

The 10 Best Beaches in Tampa

Let’s be real: Everyone comes to Tampa for the beaches. And everyone is right to do so. The Gulf of Mexico is famous for its powdery white sand and warm waters that make for some of the very best beaches in Florida. But with so much coastline and so little time (to do anything but lounge around on the sand), you may not be able to hit every single beach in the area, so here’s a handy guide to get you onto the best beaches near Tampa.

The Best Beaches in Tampa

For those interested in spending time bumming on the best Tampa beaches, here are your choices.

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Ben T. Davis Beach, Tampa, Florida 

[st_content_ad]Ben T. Davis Beach is Tampa’s best and largest public beach. Adjacent to the four-mile Courtney Campbell Trail, it’s also Tampa’s closest beach to the airport, making it convenient for those who don’t want to waste much time getting to the water. With white powdery sand that’s characteristic of the Gulf of Mexico, picnic areas, and great sunset-watching spots, you haven’t come to Tampa if you haven’t been to Ben T. Davis Beach.

Sand Key Park, Clearwater, Florida

Easily one of the best beaches near Tampa, Sand Key Park, part of Florida’s Sand Key barrier island, is a hidden gem that locals would prefer to keep secret. Come here to avoid Clearwater Beach’s high-season crowds, and for a quieter, more peaceful experience. Collect seashells, rent a cabana, or enjoy surfing.

Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin, Florida 

Honeymoon Island State Park is Florida’s most visited state park, as well as one of the best beaches near Tampa. Boasting four miles of perfect beaches, picnic areas, and eating facilities, this romantically named spot is also the home of the Osprey Trail, along which you can see endangered forest ecosystems. Rent a bike or a kayak to explore this gorgeous island, or simply get a beach chair and umbrella and relax under the sun.

Sunset Beach, Tarpon Springs, Florida 

With a name like Sunset Beach and a location on Treasure Island, you can count on this being one of the best beaches near Tampa. Sunset Beach tends to be tranquil and low-key—perfect for a beach picnic during which you can watch for wild dolphins without much disturbance. The beach has a boardwalk set over its dunes, which visitors are welcome to walk through. Pro tip: Get to the dunes in the late afternoon to catch one of the best sunsets of your life.

Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, Florida 

Caladesi Island State Park provides a beach experience for true nature enthusiasts who want to get in the midst of everything, which makes this one of the best beaches near Tampa. This state park delivers on the Gulf of Mexico’s white-sand promise, and adds to it a three-mile hiking trail, as well as a three-mile kayaking trail. See the mangroves’ beauty up close, and spot wildlife on one of the region’s few completely natural islands.

Clearwater Beach, Clearwater, Florida 

Clearwater Beach is an extremely popular destination and not just one of the best beaches near Tampa, but also, legitimately, one of the best beaches in the world. Besides gorgeous sunsets and miles of soft white sand, Clearwater offers beachgoers a wide selection of shopping venues, restaurants, and high-end resorts. Sunsets at Pier 60 are events during which visitors can enjoy performances and activities as they watch the colors magically change. Also available here: Many watersports and activities like parasailing, jet skiing, and boat tours. You can even take a “pirate cruise” to fulfill your childhood fantasies. And of course, the nightlife thrives.

Apollo Beach Nature Preserve, Apollo Beach, Florida 

Some people love everything about the sea except, well, going in the water. If you happen to be one of these people, Apollo Beach Nature Preserve calls your name. With not one but two beautiful beaches, this nature preserve has recently undergone major restorations, reaffirming its status as one of the best beaches near Tampa. You can enjoy lying in the sand, fishing, or spotting wildlife. Bird watching is very popular, but locals also love to come here to see the manatees. Apollo Beach is dog-friendly, too.

Beer Can Island, Big Pine Key, Florida 

This island’s real name is Big Pine Key, but locals prefer its more interesting nickname, “Beer Can Island,” which came from boaters’ knack for kicking back a few while docking here. Its beaches, including Bahia Honda State Park and Beach, certainly qualify as being among the best beaches near Tampa. Though it was recently purchased by the owners of a floating tiki bar, the entrepreneurs have promised to keep the laid-back atmosphere while adding some commodities like trashcans, restrooms, and yes, a bar. At least for now, this local favorite remains one of the best beaches in Tampa.

Davis Island Dog Beach, Tampa, Florida 

Want to enjoy beach and sun but don’t feel like driving to do so? Head to Downtown Tampa’s very own Davis Island Dog Beach. Its convenient location makes it one of the best beaches in Tampa, and it’s very popular with locals who live or work around the area. Tourists love it as well, since it can provide a needed beach break while sightseeing. It’s not great for swimming, but that’s not always what the beach is for. And yes, there are joyful pups frolicking everywhere.

Madeira Beach, Madeira Beach, Florida 

Madeira Beach, or “Mad Beach,” as the locals call it, has everything you need for a fun yet chill beach escape, making it one of the best beaches near Tampa. Don’t worry about doing anything except working on that tan, swimming off the heat, and enjoying the fresh seafood.

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– Original reporting by Mariana Zapata

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Adventure Travel Beach Experiential Travel Island Luxury Travel Outdoors Romantic Travel

10 Gorgeous Beaches You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

[st_content_ad]South Beach, Bondi, Myrtle, Copacabana: World-famous beaches that have become a household name are revered for good reason—but they’re sure to pack in the crowds, too.

The Best Hidden Beaches You’ve Never Heard Of

If you want a jaw-dropping shoreline without the sunburned tourists and splashing masses, head for one of these lesser-known gems that are just as dazzling—even if you’ve never heard of them.

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Playa Negra: Vieques, Puerto Rico

Palm trees black sand beach vieques puerto rico

The idyllic beaches of San Juan are enough of a getaway for most people, but the more remote beaches on the smaller islands off Puerto Rico are well worth the trip. Vieques, known for calm snorkeling coves and the enchanting wild horses that roam the island, is also home to a hidden black sand beach, Playa Negra. The soft, dark sand makes this beach as nice a spot for horseback riding as it is for lounging in the sun.

Where to Stay: El Blok Hotel is one of Vieques’ few waterfront hotels, and just a five-minute taxi ride from Playa Negra.

Navagio Beach: Zakynthos, Greece

Navagio beach zakynthos greece

You’ve probably seen this little-known but much-photographed beach before, but might not know its name. With its turquoise water, sweeping white cliffs, and a rusted-over shipwreck plopped on the sand, Navagio (meaning shipwreck) Beach is a popular spot for visitors to the Greek Isles. But, it’s difficult to reach: A lookout point above it is more accessible than the cove itself, which you’ll need to sail into if you want to swim or peer into the shipwreck.

Where to Stay: Since you’ll need to sail there in order to reach it, Navagio Beach is isolated from most Zakynthos hotels. But Zakynthos Town, where most visitors arrive, has plenty to choose from, including the affordable Hotel Strada Marina, for waterfront views and a central location.

Shell Beach: Denham, Western Australia

Shell beach denha western australia

Sandy beaches sound ideal until you’ve seen one that’s covered entirely in tiny white shells. Bring your flip flops to Denham, Australia’s famed Shell Beach, for a unique beach walk on the western coast’s Shark Bay. The sparkling cockles that cover this area can be as much as 29 feet deep in some places, and at low tide the flat beach is a vast expanse of white shoreline and shallow tide pools.

Where to Stay: The RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort offers comfortable digs on sprawling surroundings where you can spot wildlife like dolphins and emus.

Cox Bay Beach: Vancouver Island, Canada

Cox bay beach vancouver island canada

Flanked by the wild natural scenery of Pacific Rim National Park, Cox Bay Beach’s position on the west coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island makes for ideal surfing conditions year-round (hence its other name, Surf Beach). Take a forest path to one of the beach’s narrow cliff paths for access to the flat, wide Tofino coastline, and keep an eye out for giant drift logs and sand dollars.

Where to Stay: The Meares Vista Inn lives up the name with sweeping mountain and water views.

Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka

Boats on a tropical beach mirissa south sri lanka

For a tropical beach getaway that’s as scenic as Thailand without the overwhelming crowds, Sri Lanka’s beaches will make you feel like you dove into a postcard. Mirissa Beach on the tear-drop-shaped island’s south coast faces the expansive Indian Ocean for surf-worthy waves and uninterrupted sunset views. Post up with an umbrella or in a palm-tree hammock by day for warm sun and sand. At night, head to the beach’s many open-air, tiki-style bars to watch the tide roll in.

Where to Stay: The boutique Triple O Six Hotel’s rooms offer floor-to-ceiling windows, and you can go luxe for less thanks to Sri Lanka’s favorable exchange rate.

Camilo Beach: Lagos, Portugal

Camilo beach lagos portugal

Some of Europe’s best beaches are in Portugal’s Algarve Region, where white-sand beaches, rocky cliffs, and brightly colored fishing towns echo Italy’s Amalfi Coast. In the beach town of Lagos, descend the wooden steps to Camilo Beach (or Praia Camilo) for a day of lounging on soft sand and exploring stone arches in the sea cliffs. Switch into adventure mode by booking a boat tour of the bay that can bring you into the nearby grottoes and sea caves that drain at low tide.

Where to Stay: The Carvi Beach Hotel Algarve is a short walk from Praia Camilo and overlooks Praia Dona Ana, a rocky cove worth exploring by boat.

Nungwi Beach: Zanzibar, Tanzania

Nungwi beach zanzibar tanzania

Beach getaways don’t get much more exotic than Zanzibar, the archipelago of Tanzania, home to famously idyllic beaches and the cultural trading hub of Stone Town. Spend an afternoon at Nungwi Beach on Zanzibar Island’s northern point for tidepool starfish, fisherman watching, waterfront dining options, and to spot the occasional farm cow wandering by. Most importantly, don’t miss the pink-hued beach sunset.

Where to Stay: The DoubleTree by Hilton Resort Zanzibar is situated on Nungwi Beach, so you’ll never have to part with the view of this idyllic secret beach.

Dry Tortugas National Park: Florida

Fort at dry tortugas national park florida

A bucket list spot you’ll want to see before it disappears, Dry Tortugas National Park sits 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, and is a piece of military history floating in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico’s rising sea waters—but 19th-century Fort Jefferson’s brick interior can still be toured today. The white sand beaches of Dry Tortugas are a popular spot for snorkeling, camping, and scuba diving. You can also walk the seawalls of the fort, which will put you right over the shallow turquoise waters.

Where to Stay: Dry Tortugas is remote, but a good choice among Key West hotels is the stylish Havana Cuba at Key West for its massive pools, outdoor hammocks, and colorful decor.

Tulum National Park: Quintana Roo, Mexico

Tulum el castillo quintana roo mexico

Don’t want to settle for views from a cabana? Head to this national park on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Outside of tourist-addled Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo’s Tulum National Park boasts beachfront fun, protected sea turtles, and Mayan ruins at an archaeological site you can explore. That is if the sea cliffs and white sand aren’t enough.

Where to Stay: One of the closest hotels to Tulum’s archaeological site is the beach-nestled Diamante K, which has open-air villas, authentic Mexican food, and luxe amenities, all on a private stretch of shoreline.

Anse Source d’Argent: La Digue, Seychelles

sunset anse source d'argent la digue seychelles

On one of the world’s most remote island chains lies one of the world’s most photographed beaches. Anse Source d’Argent’s smooth rock formations, turquoise waters, and colorful fish make it feel a world away—which, at the center of the Indian Ocean, it is for many travelers.

Where to Stay: Closest to Anse Source d’Argent is Le Repaire Boutique Hotel’s central, cozy beachfront digs–complete with free breakfast.

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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel and is always looking for a new secret beach to visit. Follow her on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

 

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Active Travel Beach Cities Family Travel Outdoors

The 7 Best Beaches in Fort Lauderdale

What are you looking for in a beach—a quiet stretch of sand? A spot where you can rent a kayak or play beach volleyball? A collection of restaurants and shops nearby when you need a break from the sun? Whatever you’re looking for, these are the best beaches in Fort Lauderdale for travelers.

The Best Beaches in Fort Lauderdale

Some beaches are in quiet state parks, while others are bustling public beaches. Read on to learn which is right for you.

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Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

For a peaceful beach experience, head for Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, located on a barrier island where you can rent a canoe, go inline skating, bike along a scenic circular road, or hike the trails. Be sure to look for the underground tunnel that leads from the park straight to an uncrowded section of Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Hollywood Beach

Hollywood Beach, with its famous 2.5-mile “Broadwalk”—an asphalt strip along the beach that is filled with street performers, couples walking hand in hand and families with young children meandering along in the sunshine—was featured in the film “Marley and Me.” It’s the perfect setting for a day at the beach. Get involved in sports of all sorts (bike riding, rollerskating, kayaking, and beach volleyball), or simply soak up the sun—loungers and cabanas are available for rent. Shops and restaurants are close by, too.

Fort Lauderdale Beach

Fort Lauderdale Beach bustles with activity. Lined with waterfront hotels and an array of restaurants with oceanfront patios, this beach is where you’ll go to see and be seen.

Delray Beach

For an easy “time stands still” getaway, head to nearby Delray Beach. The heart of the community—shops, boutiques, art galleries, and fashionable restaurants—runs from the ocean along Atlantic Avenue. Before hitting the beach, be sure to check out Old School Square, which has a number of restored 1920s buildings.

[st_content_ad]Lauderdale-By-The-Sea

Compared to other beaches in the area, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, located just north of Fort Lauderdale beach and south of Pompano Beach, is a quiet hideaway. Though still close to hotels and beachfront dining venues, it is less frenetic and makes a great place to spend a lazy afternoon. Plus, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea is one of the best beaches in Fort Lauderdale for snorkeling and diving—there’s a reef within swimming distance.

Dr. Von D. Mizull-Eula Johnson State Park

Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park (formerly known as John U. Lloyd Beach State Park) is a great place to be active or just relax and watch the cruise ships go by. You can rent canoes and kayaks, go surf fishing, take a hike, or have a leisurely lunch on one of its numerous picnic tables.

Dania Beach

Dania Beach, just south of Fort Lauderdale, is one of the area’s best-kept secrets. Warm sands, shady palms, and a quaint fishing pier are at this calm beach, and with just a little legwork, you’ll discover a historic arts and antiques district, ice cream parlors, and plenty of pubs and seafood restaurants, all encompassed in a small beach town with big character.

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—Original reporting by Jana Jones, Kimberly Karis, and Shayne Rodriguez Thompson

Categories
Active Travel Beach Cities Outdoors Road Trip Weekend Getaways

10 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles

Southern California is a vacationer’s heaven. The perpetually amazing weather, the laidback and creative culture, and, oh, those unbelievable beaches make the region darn near impossible to resist.

Day Trips from Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the beating epicenter of the region, of course, but there are plenty of destinations within a three-hour drive of the city that are more than worth the haul.

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Catalina Island

 los angeles day trips

For a charming day trip from Los Angeles, hop a fast-moving boat from San Pedro, Long Beach, or Dana Point for the 26-mile jaunt to beautiful Catalina Island. Getting there is half the fun, of course: The Catalina Express ferry makes the trip in about an hour and provides the best views over the water that you’ll get anywhere in L.A.

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Once you disembark onto the island, you’ll enjoy the harbor’s clear, tranquil waters, a cheerful oceanfront promenade with adorable shops, fun restaurants, and lovely hotels should you decide to spend the night. The many opportunities for adventure include glass-bottom boat excursions, Jeep rides into the island’s interior to see the resident bison, a self-driven golf cart tour through the best of Avalon, snorkeling, hiking, ziplining, camping, kayaking, and parasailing. Or just lay out on the beach.

Ventura

 los angeles day trips

One of the easiest day trips from L.A. is Ventura, just 60 miles north, right off the 101. It’s got a laidback surfer vibe with a cute downtown, the inviting Ventura Harbor Village, and uncrowded sunny beaches. There’s plenty of shopping, waterfront dining, aquatic sports—and Ventura is also the launch point for Channel Islands National Park, a marine sanctuary sometimes called the American Galapagos.

During your drive north, consider pulling over for Leo Carrillo State Park, a beautiful and secluded marine cove whose fascinating tide pools teem with easily viewable fish, anemones, and urchins.

Santa Barbara

 los angeles day trips

One of the most popular Los Angeles day trips is to sunny Santa Barbara, a truly lovely city whose downtown makes it feel as though Europe’s Mediterranean region somehow landed in Southern California. Ubiquitous palm trees and beautiful Spanish architecture are the romantic backdrop for State Street’s attractive boutiques, impressive array of restaurants, and exciting nightlife. Visit the historic mission, take a chauffeured wine tour, rent a bike and roll along the harbor, or simply enjoy the beaches.

A short drive east of here is idyllic Ojai (say “oh hi”) and its famous Oaks at Ojai spa resort, which every dedicated traveler should experience at least once.

San Diego

 los angeles day trips

San Diego is a standalone destination, worthy of an entire week or more. But if you’re planning day trips from Los Angeles, you can still make an amazing time of it, especially if you leave before dawn and return late at night.

A perfect San Diego day would include exploring beautiful Balboa Park, a one-of-a-kind cultural destination with world-class gardens and immersive museums, then hitting the vibrant Gaslamp District for a fabulous meal, unique shopping, and exciting nightlife. Other fantastic daylong options here include Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, or exploring coastal La Jolla.

Orange County

 los angeles day trips

Orange County’s string of charming beach towns—Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach—are each worth day trips from L.A. for their inviting ambiance, sunny outlook, and variety of fun things to do.

Balboa Island, just off Newport Beach, is quaint and colorful and perfect for kids. Huntington Beach’s downtown and pier are also perfect destinations for young travelers. And in Laguna Beach, sophisticated art galleries, upscale restaurants, and a resplendent shoreline make for a perfect romantic getaway.

Anaheim

 los angeles day trips

Perhaps the most quintessential Los Angeles day trip is to Anaheim, primarily for Disneyland, but also for incredible shopping and eating in Downtown Disney and the Anaheim GardenWalk. You can also catch a baseball game at Angel Stadium, watch the Ducks play hockey at the Honda Center, do dinner and a show at Medieval Times, or, in nearby Buena Park, visit the wonderful Knotts Berry Farm amusement park (more doable in a single day than Disneyland).

Temecula

los angeles day trips 

Yes, Southern California has a wine country. One of the most delicious day trips from Los Angeles is inland to Temecula’s rolling hills, where chauffeured wine tours are the main attraction.

Between tastings, you can explore Old West-style Old Town, take a hot air balloon ride, try your luck at Pechanga Resort and Casino, or enjoy a meal at one of the town’s many wine-forward restaurants.

Joshua Tree National Park

 los angeles day trips

If you’re looking for truly memorable day trips from L.A., there’s none more unique and unforgettable than Joshua Tree National Park. This 794,000-acre high-desert expanse presents eerily beautiful scenery, making for one of America’s most otherworldly nature displays.

Drive, hike, or rock-climb your way through to see thousands of the eponymous little trees, dramatic rock formations, an abundance of desert wildlife, and a spectacular sunset.

Solvang

los angeles day trips 

Did you know that from Los Angeles, you can take a day trip to Denmark? Well, almost. Solvang, a small town 130 miles north of L.A., is a faithful replica of a typical Danish village, windmill and all—you’ll think you’ve stepped either off a plane or onto a movie set.

Come hungry because as you’d expect, there are bakeries selling every type of Danish pastry imaginable, plus many excellent smorgasbord restaurants amid the souvenir boutiques.

The whole town lights up, twinkling, every night, for either a romantic stroll or a lively bar hop. Just adjacent is Santa Ynez, a small Old Western-style town with more charming shops and restaurants, plus excellent wineries.

Palm Springs

 los angeles day trips

A worthwhile day trip from Los Angeles is into a small, famous desert town called Palm Springs. Its streets are lined with hip art galleries and eateries, gay-friendly boutiques, and gorgeous hotels and spas with swimming pools.

Take a gondola up Mt. San Jacinto to see the view from on high, visit the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, check out the Palm Springs Art museum, or rent a bicycle for an informal tour of America’s largest concentration of midcentury modern homes.

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– Original reporting by Avital Andrews

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True Nature and Adventure in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut

From the sky-high trees and brown bears in British Columbia to the kitchen parties and codfish-kissing in the Maritimes, our toast to Canada offers plenty of reasons to take the trip. For December, we’re exploring a glimpse of the far north with a look at the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Northwest Territories and Nunavut

[st_content_ad]Canada’s north has long fascinated researchers and explorers alike. Most of the landmass we now think of as Canada was actually once known as the North-Western Territory. Over the years, as provinces developed and grew, the portion reserved as the Territory shrank. Finally, the map seemed settled: Canada had 10 provinces and two territories. And then, in 1999, the map was shaken again. After years of negotiations, the Northwest Territories was split once more. The land to its east would become Nunavut—Canada’s newest and largest territory. The division has allowed both regions to develop distinct identities that make each worth including in your bucket list travels.

The Cities: Yellowknife and Iqaluit

 

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

There are about 43,000 people who call the Northwest Territories home. Among them you’ll hear 11 official languages, most of which belong to Canada’s First Nations. In the capital city of Yellowknife, you’ll find the majority of the population along with a city as worthy of attention as any across the country. Pop into the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, walk the Frame Lake Trail, or take a self-guided tour of Old Town.  The mix of skyscrapers and sailboats, and of log-cabins and ice palaces are just the beginning of experiences waiting to be had in this gorgeous corner of the world.

Iqaluit, Nunavut

Nunavut is a hard territory to overlook: It makes up about one fifth of the country’s total landmass and is the size of Western Europe. Despite being the largest of the regions, it remains the least populated with only about 33,000 inhabitants. That’s the equivalent of one person for every 25 square miles.  Getting around isn’t easy: There are no roads that will get you here; you’ll need to rely on air or sea. But what it lacks in ease of access it makes up for in stunning beauty. In the capital city of Iqaluit, you can choose between dog sleds and skis in the winter and incredible hiking options in the summer. Year-round the city—which sits on Baffin Island—is the hub. Everything from politics and local affairs to cultural celebrations and community events are centered here.  Despite the fact that Nunavut makes up the vast majority of Canada’s Arctic Archipelago and is home to the country’s most vast land spaces, Iqualuit remains a friendly, welcoming destination where once-in-a-lifetime opportunities await travelers.

Why December Is the Perfect Time to Go

The Northern Lights: Both territories offer fantastic opportunities to view the Aurora Borealis. Travelers can check in with Astronomy North to get a sense of weather conditions (and the likelihood of glimpsing the lights) on any given night. At Aurora Village, you’re outfitted with warm gear and brought out to heated teepees to take in the night sky. Or book with an outfitter like Blachford Lake Lodge that boasts its own night watch. They’ll wake you up when the lights appear. In Nunavut, try Arctic Haven Wilderness Lodge—a five-star offering on the Arctic tree line.

Winter Fun: Take a turn as a musher on a dog-sled across frozen waters, learn to ice-fish and then dine on your catch … when you live this far north, there’s no escaping the fun that winter can bring. Snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and winter camping are all family-friendly options across the territories. Dress for the weather (temperatures can dip FAR below zero) and you may find winter is your season after all.

Why It’s Great Other Times of Year

 

Out on the Water:  In the Northwest Territories, you can book a private fishing tour of Yellowknife Bay that comes with a local shore lunch, or head out for a cruise of Great Slave Lake. Looking for something a little longer? Consider Adventure Canada’s “The Heart of the Arctic” cruise expedition, which explores Nunavut as well as Quebec’s Nunavik region, Greenland, and the Davis Strait.

Aboriginal Experiences: Who better to show you around the North than members of a 100 percent Aboriginal-owned tour company who’ve long called the area home? North Star Adventures is based in Yellowknife and prides itself on knowing the best spots to catch the Aurora. They’ll also teach you to capture the fast-moving lights on your camera. Join the company’s Aboriginal Culture Tour to take a snow hike out to an Aboriginal culture camp where you’ll learn about the history, traditions, and challenges of keeping their way of life alive and thriving in the modern day.

Catch the Reindeer Migration:  Every year in early spring, “Canada’s greatest reindeer herd” moves from winter grounds to summer digs closer to the Beaufort Sea.

Summer Solstice:  The summer solstice—when long, dark winter nights give way to long periods of daylight—is one of the most festive times of year up north. It’s also a great time to visit as it offers you some of the best opportunities to see the wildlife. Animals ranging from polar bears and musk ox to whales can all be spotted in the area. Best of all, the daylight months are also when most local Nunavut celebrations take place. Traditional Inuit performing arts including storytelling, throat-singing, and drum dancing are well worth seeing. And the annual “Inuit games”—an Olympics of sorts that includes athletic and mental stamina-based competitions—is incredible to behold.

The National Parks

The national parks that make up Canada’s far north aren’t for the novice. Without the right skills, or at least the assistance of a good outfitter and guide, a tourist could find themselves in real trouble.  The rewards, when done right, are memorable: incredible wildlife, once-in-a-lifetime interactions with indigenous people, and access to pristine lands and waters.

Nahanni, NWT

Paddlers love Nahanni. The National Park Reserve is full of mountains, forest and tundra to explore. But it’s the South Nahanni River that gets canoers, kayakers, and rafters drooling. Winding its way through deep caverns and fast rapids, past moose, bear, and caribou, it’s the stuff adventures are made of. The park is best visited between June and August when flood waters have subsided and the weather is warmer. Not a paddler? Then strap on your boots and hike through the mountains, forest and tundra with views of waterfalls and those paddlers being batted around below.

Sirmilik, Nunavut

There’s no question that national parks in the region are remote—it’s both their difficulty and their charm. Sirmilik—“place of glaciers” in Inuktitut (an Inuit language)—is on the northern tip of Baffin Island. You’ll see the most if you visit in the spring or summer (May – September) when you’ll have the benefit of the round-the-clock sun. And if you can take the temperatures, diving adventures await under the sea ice and hold the potential of a beluga whale or narwhal encounter.  Neighboring communities of Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay mean you can also get a sense of the traditions and culture of the local people.

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Heather Greenwood Davis is a lifestyle journalist and a National Geographic Travel columnist. Follow her on Twitter @greenwooddavis or keep up with her family’s adventures on GlobeTrottingMama.com

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Beach Experiential Travel Family Travel Island Outdoors Road Trip Sustainable Travel

10 Secret Places to Visit in British Columbia

Thanks to Canada’s 150th-anniversary celebrations, U.S. tourists are finally starting to take note of the spectacular offerings from the North. British Columbia (or BC) is no exception, with most visitors flocking to its main city of Vancouver.

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But the province’s greatest charms are found in its less crowded spots, as I discovered on a recent trip to the archipelago of Haida Gwaii.

Secret Places to Visit in British Columbia

To learn more, I talked to local resident Sabrina Robson of Destination British Columbia (the province’s tourism board) to uncover her favorite little-known places to visit in British Columbia.

The Sunshine Coast

This coastal retreat is just a 40-minute ferry ride from Vancouver and is one of the best places to visit in British Columbia for water activities like fishing, sailing, and kayaking. The inlets even have a white sandy beach located on Savary Island.

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Port Renfrew

port renfrew waterfall on beach

You’ll find this hidden gem two hours south of Victoria, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Robson loves Port Renfrew for its essential BC features: “Think big trees, beautiful beaches, surfing, and friendly locals!” Similar to better-known Tofino, Port Renfrew also has awesome storm watching.

Nelson

Located along Kootenay Lake and the Selkirk Mountains in BC’s southern interior, Nelson is known for its outdoor offerings. But Robson notes it also has a trendy culinary scene, with more restaurants per capita than Manhattan.

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Salt Spring Island

Tucked in between mainland BC and Vancouver Island, Salt Spring is home to mountain vistas, beaches, and forested trails. Here you can kayak, hike, golf, swim, and cycle all in one day. Plus, don’t miss the farmers’ market and coffee shops!

Osoyoos

Did you know there’s a desert in Canada? Located in the Okanagan Valley, known for its bold red wine, Osoyoos is surrounded by desert, vineyards, and mountains. It’s also one of the best places to visit in British Columbia with kids; Osoyoos Lake is known for its warm water, as well as beaches and an abundance of water activities. 

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Haida Gwaii

This remote archipelago is an off-the-grid experience. Come to learn about the indigenous Haida people, explore mossy rainforests, and become one with the ocean. The island chain just south of Alaska is about a two-hour flight from Vancouver. Often referred to as the “Canadian Galapagos,” the region is home to an array of wildlife, from orcas to puffins.

The Great Bear Rainforest

As its name suggests, the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest coastal rainforests in the world and is home to a black bear species called the Kermode (or “spirit”) bear. This type of black bear has a recessive gene which actually gives it a white fur coat.

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The Skeena Train

For an offbeat experience, take a ride on “The Skeena”—a rail journey that travels between Prince Rupert in BC and Jasper in Alberta. You’ll get a chance to see quaint mountain towns like Smithers, which has a trendy craft beer, music, and arts scene. The trip takes two days, with an overnight stop at Prince George. Book the Touring Class service for access to the Panoramic Dome Car, with jaw-dropping views.

Squamish

Also known as the “Outdoor Adventure Capital of Canada,” Squamish offers kiteboarding, hiking, backcountry skiing, and mountain biking. It’s just 45 minutes north of Vancouver, making it one of the best places to visit in British Columbia for its accessibility.

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Fly-In Lodges

According to Robinson, fly-in lodges are a true BC experience. The province offers “a robust collection [of luxury fly-in lodges], where you can be in the heart of the wilderness without compromising any comforts,” says Robson. She recommends Sonora Resort, Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, and Great Bear Lodge.

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Ashley traveled to Haida Gwaii courtesy of Destination BC. Follow all of her adventures (big and small) on Instagram and Twitter.

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The 10 Biggest Benefits of Nature Travel

We have all felt it: the uncanny sensation of clear-headedness and relief that comes from a long walk in the woods, a climb to a mountain overlook, or a stroll on the beach. Even a quick dive into cool ocean surf can do it; you emerge feeling somehow cleaner despite being covered in salt water and brine. It turns out there is a heap of science behind that sensation, enough to encourage the use of our precious vacation time to immerse ourselves in nature travel for extended periods.

[st_content_ad]As John Muir said, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” Below is what the experts have to say on the extensive benefits of getting out into nature in your everyday life, and especially when traveling.

Nature Travel Increases Your Attention Span

The constant barrage of information and images that characterizes modern life is thought by many to have a negative effect on our ability to control our attention—but time in nature has the capacity to correct it, according to this study. It turns out that even viewing photos of nature can have a positive effect; while I’m not much for armchair travel, it actually seems to work when it comes to exposure to nature.

These benefits seem especially important for kids, so get started early on the nature trips and hikes.

Nature Travel Boosts Creativity

Heading out into nature has been found not only to assist attention span, but to boost creativity considerably as well—by up to 50 percent, according to a University of Kansas study. The study emphasizes that these benefits accrue “after living for a few days steeped in nature,” much as you would on a nature trip to the mountains or the woods.

[st_related]10 Great American Day Hikes[/st_related]

Awe Is Good for You

Looking out over the planet’s most spectacular natural landscapes isn’t just good for your Instagram account; the awe these places inspire is also good for you. A Stanford study linked awe to improved patience, increased interest in helping other people, and greater life satisfaction.

Nature Travel Encourages Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness may be a bit of a fad at the moment, but the underlying concepts are as old as human history. Deliberately turning your attention to sounds, smells, changing light, and other details of your environment is a favorite type of mindfulness training for many, and is fun and easy—and almost unavoidable—when you travel in nature.

Nature Travel Offers a Reset

One important benefit many of us seek from a trip is a reset, an increase in our enthusiasm and overall liveliness that doesn’t evaporate when we get back to the grind. It turns out that travel in nature offers just this; this study by researchers at the University of Rochester found a direct link between time in nature and increased energy and vitality, even when controlling for the benefits of exercise.

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The Air Is Healthier

According to the EPA, Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, where concentrations of some pollutants can be two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations. Go deep into a natural landscape, and the relative air quality improves even more.

Sunlight Is Good for You, Too

While it is well known that UV radiation from the sun can cause health problems, it is also essential to good health; in fact, the benefits of UV rays may be much greater than the risks. A study by the World Health Organization found that adequate sunlight exposure lowers the incidence of major musculoskeletal disorders, autoimmune diseases, and some types of cancers.

Take care not to get a sunburn, and the benefits of sunlight are free for the taking on your next nature trip.

Nature Travel Can Help Your Mood

According to the USDA, Duke University researchers found that walking regularly was more effective than Zoloft in reducing depression symptoms. And it’s not just the walking that does it. The Duke study quantified the effects of walking three times per week, which are considerable but significantly amplified when done in nature, according to a study at the University of Rochester.

It’s not just the exercise with your friends that makes you feel “more alive,” as the study notes; it is the immersion in nature. Do this on a weeklong nature trip, and the benefits continue to pile up.

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It Can Also Help with Other Difficult Emotional Conditions

Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appear to be helped by time outdoors and in the wilderness, according to U.S. News & World Report. Experiencing nature helps them recover from their experience and offers a slow and more natural reintegration into civilian life. These findings suggest that anyone with PTSD could benefit from nature travel, whether or not they’ve served in the military.

It’s an Easy Way to Jump-Start a Fitness Routine

In addition to all of the science above, I have found no better way to jump-start a workout regimen than nature travel. A trip that puts you in natural surroundings typically requires walking, climbing, carrying your stuff, and other relatively low-impact but high-payoff activities.

Compared to a half-hour or so in the gym every other day, an entire week of carrying even a 10- to 15-pound backpack all day leads to greater and gentler fitness gains every time, in my experience. Weight loss becomes easier, too; when you are moving around burning calories 12 hours each day, “dieting” becomes less critical to creating the calorie deficit that weight loss requires.

Sure, you can get fit walking around Rome all day long, but the temptation to Uber it home from dinner can be almost irresistible; not so much at the campfire.

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Ed Hewitt is a seasoned globetrotter who brings you a biweekly glimpse into the latest travel news, views, and trends—and how they could affect your travel plans.

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9 Best Things to Do in Stowe, Vermont in the Off-Season

Stowe, Vermont is best known as a winter hotspot for skiers and snowboarders, so when I recently visited over the summer, I expected to find a sleepy mountain town. Instead, Stowe was booming—the off-season is really the new “on-season.”

Stowe cherishes its small-town charm, and with warm (but not hot) weather, boutique hotels and resorts, and fresh mountain air, the the best time to visit Stowe is from late spring through early fall. And with Vail Resort’s recent purchase of the mountain, the area could see even more off-season development and new businesses.

The Best Things to Do in Stowe in the Off-Season

Here are the best things to do in Stowe when the snow isn’t falling.

Go for a Day Hike

[st_content_ad]There are dozens of popular trails in Stowe, making a day hike the perfect way to enjoy the weather, views, and, in the fall, foliage. The Stowe Pinnacle Trail is one of the best things to do in Stowe for leap-peeping views, and the steep but manageable hike to the summit is mostly shaded. The trail is about three miles out-and-back, enough of a workout to earn you some brews post-hike.

Another great trail is the Sunset Rock Trail, which starts right in town and can be done in under an hour—yes, the sunset views are amazing. If you’re chasing waterfalls, check out the Moss Glen Falls Trail, a 2.9-mile route that’s suitable for all levels.

Other hiking areas include Smugglers’ Notch State Park and Underhill State Park—where you’ll find Mount Mansfield, the town’s main ski mountain.

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Take a Dip in a Swimming Hole

You’ll find the breathtaking Bingham Falls swimming hole along the Mill Trail, or near a parking lot located just a few minutes’ drive from Topnotch Resort. The waterfall is part of Smugglers’ Notch State Park and can get crowded during the weekends and in nice weather. There are a few different rocks you can use to plunge into the chilly water—just use caution.

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Go Horseback Riding

(Photo: Topnotch Resort)

There are a few horseback trails in Stowe, and Topnotch offers both guided trail rides and riding lessons at its Equestrian Center. The trails in Stowe are flat and scenic, perfect for a first-time rider.

Go on a Brewery Tour

(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

Stowe has one of the best craft brewing scenes in New England, if not the entire Northeast. From the cult favorite (and often sold out) Heady Topper by The Alchemist to the newly opened Von Trapp Bierhall, you could spend a day (or weekend) touring Stowe’s breweries. And that’s exactly what you can do with Rick Sokoloff’s 4 Points brewery tour—with groups of four or more you can customize your stops and leave the driving (and knowledge) up to him.

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Bike

(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

Whether you’re looking for intense mountain biking or a leisurely ride, biking is one of the best things to do in Stowe. The Stowe Recreation Path is a 5.5-mile greenway that runs from Topnotch Resort (the access point is across the street) to Stowe Village. It’s a flat, picturesque path with covered bridges, open farms, and winding creeks. There are a few other access points along the way, but the full-length ride is a leisurely way to spend a morning or afternoon.

Adrenaline junkies can opt for some mountain biking down or around the mountain. 4 Points also offers mountain biking tours and lessons (as well as a popular brewery/mountain biking combo tour—don’t worry, you bike first). With local guides and awesome trails, these tours are suitable for all age and fitness levels.

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Relax at a Spa

(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

After a day of hiking or other outdoor activities, finding a relaxing spa is one of the best things to do in Stowe. Most mountain lodges have their own spa, but you can typically purchase a day pass if you’re not a guest.

Contact these resorts for reservations: The Spa at Stoweflake, The Spa at Stowe Mountain Lodge, Golden Eagle Resort, Trapp Family Lodge, and Topnotch Spa.

Go to the Top of Mt. Mansfield

Whether you hike to the top or cheat and take a gondola or drive, enjoying the highest point in Vermont is one of the best things to do in Stowe in the off-season. Famous for its silhouette shape—locals will be happy to point out the nose, upper lip, lower lip, and chin—there’s tons to do besides skiing on the mountain.

Besides countless hiking trails, the mountain is home to an Adventure Center—known for its zip-line course down the mountain—as well as the Cliff House Restaurant, the Gondola Skyride, biking trails, a visitor’s center, and more.

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Shop for Vermont Specialties

(Photo: Shaws General Store)

Don’t let its size fool you. While Stowe’s Main Street is small, the town is packed with cafes, ice cream parlors, galleries, restaurants, and boutiques. Shaw’s General Store is a must for mountain gear and souvenirs.

And don’t leave town without your Vermont staples; you’ll find plenty of maple syrup, farm-fresh cheese, and cider donuts here, too.

Embrace the Farm-to-Table Concept

(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

With more than 7,000 farms in the state, you’d better take advantage of fresh food and meats while you’re in Stowe. Go full throttle at the local Sunday farmers’ market and bring home your own fresh goods. Or get hands-on and do your own maple sugaring at Nebraska Knoll Sugar Farm.

Don’t worry: If you’re just looking for some locally sourced ingredients at dinner, there are plenty of farm-to-table restaurants in the area. Favorites include Flannel, Plate, and Edison Hill Inn‘s dining spaces.

You can also look for the Vermont Fresh Network logo on a restaurant’s website to ensure it uses local Vermont ingredients.

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Ashley traveled to Stowe, Vermont, courtesy of Topnotch Resort. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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7 Once-in-a-Lifetime Safaris That Aren’t in Africa

Africa may have a lock on our collective imagination when it comes to safaris, but there are plenty of places outside of Africa where you can come face-to-face with wildlife in its natural habitat, too—think Canada’s “Kings of the Arctic,” Brazil’s big cats, the wolves of Romania, and so much more.

Bucket-List Safaris Outside of Africa

So, if Africa doesn’t figure into your travel plans this year, don’t despair. Here are seven trips that prove you don’t have to go all that way to have an authentic bucket-list safari.

Meet Polar Bears, ‘Kings of the Arctic,’ in Manitoba, Canada

What it doesn’t have in Big Five wildlife, Canada more than makes up for with its own impressive safari finds, including moose, grizzly bears, and even reindeer. Still, it’s seeing polar bears in the wild that many people consider North America’s once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience.

[st_content_ad]Churchill, a town on the western shore of Hudson Bay in Canada’s Manitoba Province, is known as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World,” with approximately 900 to 1,000 of these magnificent, ice-dwelling mammals living in close proximity to humans.

Viator offers a variety of polar bear safaris every July through November, ranging from up-close viewing aboard specially designed tundra vehicles to on-foot photo safaris. Depending on the trip you choose, you may even spot beluga whales or get to chase the Northern Lights—a cosmic safari all its own.

See Bouncing Marsupials and Egg-Laying Echidnas on Australia’s Kangaroo Island

Australia’s Kangaroo Island is the country’s third-largest island: a 2,734-square-mile landmass covered in dense bushland, wetlands, and forest. More than a third of it is protected nature reserves. Seventy miles off the coast of South Australia’s capital city, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island’s isolation has allowed the island’s original wildlife habitat to thrive—making KI (as the locals call it) one of the country’s best spots for seeing some of its finest creatures.

Look for small and spiky egg-laying echidnas ambling along KI’s red dirt roads, and snoozing koalas hugging the smooth, gray branches of eucalyptus trees. Along with wallabies, the island’s namesake kangaroos are everywhere, with mobs of them lounging in open fields during twilight hours or bouncing through gum forest.

Viator lets you experience it all first-hand, with safari-style trips that run the gamut from one-day tours to four-day island excursions. These trips usually include visits to two of KI’s most popular natural attractions: Seal Bay, known for its beach-frolicking sea lions; and Flinders Chase National Park, home to a colony of New Zealand fur seals.

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Spot Leopards, Seek Out Blue Whales, and Watch Primates Play in Sri Lanka

The island nation of Sri Lanka, off the coast of southern India, teems with stunning natural features and weathered ruins that have become de facto wildlife playgrounds. Only slightly larger than West Virginia, this tropical country is one of the planet’s top biodiverse hotspots, with 123 mammal species and hundreds of bird species. It also boasts 26 national parks.

Sri Lanka’s lush rainforests are home to herds of Asian elephants who like to bathe in its rivers and monkeys that linger beside waterfalls, and mountaintop cloud forests heaving with primates. And then there’s Yala National Park: home to shaggy, insect-eating sloth bears and one of the world’s highest population densities of leopards.

Even the country’s surrounds are a treat for wildlife lovers, who may spot dolphins, sperm whales, and the ultimate sea creature—blue whales—in the Indian Ocean. Whatever your animal preference, Viator has an itinerary for you.

Visit a Wildlife Refuge Brimming with Crocodiles and Jaguars in Nicaragua

Costa Rica gets most of the attention when it comes to Central America’s wildlife, but Nicaragua’s dramatic landscapes and relatively low population density make it the perfect bucket-list safari destination. Picture smoldering volcanoes rising up from lowland tropical forests, sandy beaches where sea turtles lay their eggs, and numerous freshwater lakes—one that’s even home to freshwater-adapted sharks.

Just west of where the San Juan River pours into the body of Lake Nicaragua—Central America’s largest lake—is a wildlife refuge brimming with crocodiles, caimans, and iguanas. Sloths hang lazily from among tree canopies and jaguars wander nearby. Nicaraguan tours highlight it all, with trips ranging from multi-day birding adventures that include El Chocoyero Nature Reserve (known for its long-billed toucans and cliff-dwelling parakeets) to an immersive seven-day “Jungle Love” safari.

Search for Big Cats and Giant Otters in South America’s Pantanal

Unlike the dense, leafy woodlands of South America’s Amazon Rainforest, the Pantanal is a vast, open floodplain that overflows seasonally, transforming it into the planet’s largest freshwater wetland and attracting wildlife by the droves.

Another bonus: visibility for miles. This means endless opportunities for seeing some of South America’s most magnificent and varied creatures—think tapirs, giant anteaters, and the world’s largest rodent, the capybara (which can weigh up to 175 pounds) in action.

While the Pantanal extends into both Paraguay and Bolivia, there are more than 70,000 square miles in Brazil alone. The bulk of it is privately owned, though there are still plenty of areas for exploring. These include the 520-square mile Pantanal Matogrossense National Park—part of a larger UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s home to giant otters, cobalt blue hyacinth macaws, and what may be the Pantanal’s largest population of jaguar.

Pantanal tour operators host a bevy of wildlife experiences, including a six-day tour that pairs its “operation jaguar” with a safari in search of black howler monkeys, toco toucans, and—if you’re lucky—an anaconda or two.

[st_related]How to Pack for an African Safari [/st_related]

Discover Grey Wolves and Brown Bear in Romania

Europe isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think “safari,” but the Carpathian Mountain Range is actually home to a great deal of wildlife, including grey wolves, Eurasian lynx, and the bulk of the continent’s brown bears.

The Carpathians are actually several distinct mountain groups that stretch 932 miles from the Czech Republic to Romania, and it’s the latter country where you’ll find the best safari opportunities, along with glacier lakes and spectacular limestone gorges. These mountains are also home to one of the largest undisturbed forests in Europe—long slopes of beech, fir, and spruce trees that support thriving populations of Carpathian chamois (a goat-antelope species) and wild boar.

Several Romanian tours host small-group bucket-list safari experiences that focus solely on wolves or bears, as well as more general wildlife excursions highlighting everything from pygmy owls to beavers.

Experience Bison, Bears, and the Beauty of Yellowstone National Park

When Congress established Yellowstone as America’s first National Park in 1872, it was an idea that resonated the world over. Today this 3,500-square-mile public wilderness attracts more than 4 million visitors annually to its steep canyons, open meadows, and one of the country’s largest alpine lakes—not to mention its otherworldly geothermal features such as bubbling mud pots and clockwork geysers.

Of course, there’s also the wildlife: bison herds that literally stop traffic, mama grizzlies feeding on buffaloberries with their cubs, and elks whose autumn bugle calls can be heard for more than a mile. Neighboring Grand Tetons National Park is their extended home, which is why Yellowstone offers customizable wildlife-sighting trips into both parks.

Choose to concentrate entirely on the wolves of northern Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, or embark on a multi-day photo safari through both parks, learning about the area’s natural history and ecology as you go.

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Categories
Holiday Travel

Christmas Wonderland in the Louisiana Pines

Author: J Toms
Date of Trip: November 2005

I’ve lived in the Jonesboro area for the past 29 years. It is located in Jackson Parish, Louisiana, on 167 Highway south of Ruston, Louisiana. Jonesboro is the home of the late Louisiana Gov. Jimmy Davis, the author and singer of the song “You are my Sunshine.”

Jonesboro is a beautiful place to visit during the Christmas holidays. Especially for people who like to travel in motorhomes, RV’s or pull travel trailers. There is a great place to camp at the Jimmy Davis State Park, on Caney Lake. Plus you’re only an hour drive from Monroe Louisiana or about an hour and a half from Shreveport. Arcadia or Ruston are only a 30 minute drive away. There are nice hotels, plus they are all conveniently located along Interstate 20.

Jonesboro goes all out for Christmas. It is a must see for anyone that is in the North Central Louisiana area. To see the full Jonesboro calendar of events, visit http://www.townofjonesboro.org/visitor_info.htm

The Christmas Wonderland In The Pines is held the first Saturday after Thanksgiving with a parade, lighting of over 5 million miniature lights and a grand fireworks display. Festivities also include the Grand Marshal Coffee and the official turning on of the lights. The millions of lights then stay on from dusk to dawn all the way in to the new year.

Notable nearby attractions include: Poverty Point State Historic Site, Lake D’Arbonne State Park, Lake Claiborne State Park, Jackson Bienville Wildlife Management Area, Jimmie Davis Tabernacle, Bonnie & Clyde Trade Days, Biedenharn Museum & Gardens, Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo and Antique Alley.

There are three airports in the area – Monroe, Shreveport and Alexandria.

Categories
Island

Macadamia Meadows bed and breakfast (Big Island, Hawaii)

Author: Marie Abrams
Date of Trip: October 2006

We went to stay at a wonderful bed and breakfast called Macadamia Meadows on the Big Island of Hawaii south of the erupting volcano and black and green sand beaches, near the southern most point of the USA with our kids. We had a wonderful time there and saw the most fantastic things on day trips near there.

The owners lived there with their family whom we even took to dinner one night to a local nearby frequent popular spot with the locals called Shaqua (spelling?) hut , the name of a Hawaiian. The husband and wife of the bed and breakfast which is on several acres of a macadamian nut orchard,pick the nuts and cook the most delicious fresh cooked breakfasts daily and serve the guests and provided us with the most interesting local stories,history and ideas for activities to enrich our stay.They allowed us to pick the macadamian nuts and cracked them for us and gave us a tour of their orchard.

We went to the local fruit stand and Southern Most Point of the US bakery, and found the owner buying the next day’s breakfast including fresh pineapple,mango and papaya. We saw the eruptions from the active volcano, which was the name and the theme decor in our room. One of their daughters, studied volcanology at the University of Hawaii and had real life photos of her, her professor and the lava from the volcano and the scenery from the Volcanoes National Park, in our room. Our kids had the surf and beach motif room.

We saw the most beautiful waterfalls,swam with the turtles and snorkeled and sunbathed with them too in the natural hot springs and tidepools near this bed and breakfast.We have wonderful photos and memories including a family portrait at one of the most breathtaking waterfalls ever seen now hanging in a 26×30 frame in our home!

We also have unique photos from the Point Of Refuge ancient Tiki idol gods and our family amongst the ancients. The Japanese gardens and zoo was most inspiring. Most of all, the bed and breakfast and family that ran it, enhanced our whole trip. We became friends and converse on the phone and email now.

Categories
Adventure Travel

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Author: sightseeingsue
Date of Trip: April 2006

A ghost town, casinos, waterfalls, lighthouses, log slides, big lakes and springs, and an abundance of unspoiled land that is full of adventures waiting to be explored.

Who said being called a troll is a bad thing? And folklore tells of trolls being mischievous little creatures who live in caves, logs, or under bridges. Well, I’m rather short, have been known for raising some havoc when I was younger, and yes, I live under the Mackinaw Bridge. So I guess that makes me a Troll…and that’s what Upper Peninsula natives call us living in the Lower Peninsula.

We call Michigan’s Upper Peninsula the “UP” and its native residents “Yoopers,” which is the term they prefer to be called. It’s a different world up there, whole different language, and a whole different lifestyle. They are a hardy-breed of folk that can withstand over 300 inches of annual snowfall, and 5 or more months of winter. It’s not hard to see why saunas and snowmobiles are hot commodities up there. In the past, lumbering and mining were the bread and butter of this region, but after the virgin pines were cut and mines closed down, the UP fell on some tough times, and some still face those tough times today. Tourism is the main industry today, however, a few mines and lumbering mills are still in operation, but on a much smaller scale then before.

Michigan has two peninsulas which are connected by the Mackinaw Bridge (longest-suspension bridge in the US) and is the link between the two worlds. Our state’s population is roughly 9 million, with just 3% of them living in the UP. The UP makes up 1/3 of our state’s total land mass, and has some of the most beautiful scenery in the U.S. found here. What will you find on a visit to the UP of Michigan? Three of the Great Lakes, over 200 waterfalls, acres of national forests, oodles of other lakes, rivers and streams, ghost-towns, Indian casinos, mountains, campgrounds, beaches, lighthouses, Soo Locks, log-slide, shipwreck museums, and my favorite…the pastie. What can you do…hit the beaches, fish, hunt, snowmobile, hike, camp, ski, gamble, go four-wheeling, or just plain relax and enjoy all the picturesque sights this unique place has to offer. If you are not afraid of a little solitude, can appreciate exceptional beauty, love water and the great outdoors, don’t need the big name restaurants or hotel chains, big city life or big fancy freeways, then a visit to the UP might be your ticket to Paradise. It’s not for everyone, but once visited, it is very hard to forget.

Before a visit to the UP it might be wise to brush up on a little of the “Yooper Lingo” you might hear. For instance, a pastie is something you eat, not a dangling item you wear. Lots of words start with “da,” and every sentence end with “ah,” and a “turd” isn’t what you might think it is, but rather just a word that comes after first, second…then “turd!”

Purchase a State Park permit as you will need it to gain entry into any of Michigan States Parks. With over 15 state parks located in the UP, you are bound to stumble across one that is worth checking out. Many of the parks offer camping and some of the favorites are Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Park, Tahquamenon Falls, Laughing Whitefish, Van Riper, or Fayette Historical State Park. Permit fees are $6 daily, or $24 for the year (Michigan residents), or $29 for non-residents. Well worth the cost!

Bring your camera regardless of the season. Autumn is awesome in the UP and arguably one of the best times to visit. Every winding road you travel on will be a picture postcard waiting to be taken. The canopied roads bursting with brilliant reds, orange, and yellow hues are eye candy to any amateur or professional photographer. The winter months hold yet another picture-perfect opportunity, as nature’s once gushing waterfalls surrender to frigid temperatures and engage into some of the best breath-taking frozen ice sculptures ever seen in the U.S. Spring is the best time to see the waterfalls, as the winter snow-meltoff intensifies the flows and makes the paths easier to travel on. Summer, with everything in bloom, and the lush green acres of forest, the sparkling waters of the lakes and some of the best pictures are just a snap-shot away.

My best picks for attractions are: Soo Locks, Tahquamenon Falls, Fayette Ghost Town, Kitch-iti-Kipi, Wagner Falls, Pictured Rocks Boat Tour , Log-slide at Grand Marias, Whitefish Point Ship wreck Museum, porcupine Mountains and crossing the 5-mile Mackinaw Bridge. Some cities I think that are worth a visit are: Sault Ste. Marie, Escanaba, Copper Harbor, Marquette, Grand Marias, Brimley, Houghton/Hancock, Eagle Harbor, Newberry and Paradise. Best new experience is to try an UP staple called the pastie. One visit to this peninsula will never be enough!

The Upper Peninsula is home to only one Interstate highway. I-75 runs North to South beginning at Sault Ste. Marie and ending at St. Ignace (60 miles) then continues over the Mackinac Bridge. They have two major east-west highways, US-2 (southern part, Lake Michigan side) and M-28 (northern route, Lake Superior side) yet neither are 4 lanes. Speed limits are only 55mph except for the 60 miles of I-75. There are numerous unpaved roads found in the UP, many easily passable but some better left to the 4-wheel-drives. With thousands of miles of the best groomed snowmobile trails found in the UP, it is understandable why it’s known as one of the premier snowmobiling areas in the U.S. State permits are required for operators of sleds. Many cities allow the use of snowmobiles on their roads and sometimes it’s a necessity.

With thousands of miles of spectacular scenic back-roads and bike trails to explore, bringing your bike is an excellent way to see some of the most pristine sites the UP has to offer — especially places too rural for cars or trucks. If winter hiking or exploring is right up your alley, then you better invest in a good pair of snow-shoes as the extreme depths of the snowfall can make it impossible to get around otherwise. Occasionally the Mackinaw Bridge may close due to extreme inclement weather conditions. Believe me, you won’t want to be driving on the Mighty Mac with gale force winds or powerful blizzards that can make road travel impossible. On excessive windy days police escorts may be needed to cross.

The UP East/West maximum driving distance is 320 miles; maximum North/South is only 125 miles. It will take you about 11½ hours of driving to make it from the Ohio border (US-23) to near the tip of Copper Harbor. It will take you about a 6½ hours from the bridge to Copper Harbor, or the Wisconsin Border — take your pick. Couple of important tips: Always gas-up before you enter the UP as it rather rural in spots and gas stations may be few and far between, and always beware and prepared for darting deer racing out from the woods (especially at dusk and early evening). I don’t recall ever visiting the UP when I didn’t see at least 2 or 3 deer in any given day while driving. Be careful, and do drive safely.

Crossing the Mighty Mac…five miles of panoramic views of the crystal-clear waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are there to greet you as you cross over the Straits on the Mackinaw Bridge, which connects the Lower Peninsula of Michigan to the Upper Peninsula. To us Michiganders, it’s known as the “Mighty Mac,” and is quite a sight to see.

Visible while crossing the bridge (looking east) is the Grand Hotel perched high above the isle it calls its home, Mackinaw Island. At the end of the bridge nearing St. Ignace, numerous sandbars can be seen through the translucent waters below. During the summer months it’s neat to see all the catamarans and water spouting ferries race across the waters to transport tourist to Mackinaw Island.

The excitement for me starts about 5 miles south while still on I-75 heading north. Here is where I get my first glimpse of what lies ahead. Though only a peek, it gets your adrenaline flowing. Now is the time to tune into the bridges radio station to get the latest updates on bridge conditions. Once we past the exit sign for Mackinaw City, the last exit located on I-75 before crossing over the straits, speed limits reduced, and within minutes you are on your way heading across the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere.

The length of time it takes you to cross over varies. During normal weather conditions (which is my favorite time to cross) speed limits for passenger vehicles are 45mph, and large trucks or trailers maximum speeds limits of 25mph. Cars have there choice of driving in either of the two lanes, while larger trailer/trucks are only allowed to drive on the outside lane. Once in the middle of the bridge, the inside lane is constructed out of a steel grate that you can actually see the water through. Besides being very noisy, I find it a little scary as well. On windy days you can actually feel the rushing of the air forcing your car to move slightly when driving across it. I know its an engineered necessity to have these exposed areas exist, to allow the swaying action that is required on windy days (at least that’s what my father who’s a structural engineer always told us), but it’s still a little frightening for me.

If you don’t like the wind kicking up your car a bit, or the noise, then drive on the outside lane. Here is where, if you aren’t uncomfortable with heights, you will get the best bridge crossing experience. The protective railing isn’t that high and allows excellent viewing, and some have questioned how safe it actually is. As far as I know, only one very light weight vehicle (Yugo) has been blown off the bridge while driving excessively fast in extremely high winds. That might be why speed limit signs as well as speed recording devises monitor your speed as you enter and again as you cross. On extremely windy days (I believe over 30mph) speed limits drop to a maximum of 25mph, or in rare cases, a police escort is needed for you to cross, or the bridge is totally closed until conditions improve. My husband once, in college, recalls being the last vehicle allowed to cross one night during a blizzard and said he was never happier than to finally make it across into the Lower Peninsula that night. But don’t worry, days like this are few and far between.

There is a toll to cross so the bridge can be maintained. Passenger vehicles are $1.25 per axle, $2.00 per axle for motor homes, and commercial rigs $3.00 per axle. Fares are collected on the Upper Peninsula side.

Some facts regarding the bridge are quite impressive. Total length is 26,372 feet (roughly 5 miles), with main towers soaring 552 feet, maximum clearance at mid-span for the many passing ships is 155ft, and the deepest water depths are 295 feet. The bridge took 3 years to build and was open for traffic on Nov. 1, 1957. Before the bridge, ferry boats were used to get over to the other side. During some years, the straits below the bridge freeze solid enough for snowmobiles to drive across and rows of Christmas trees are laid, marking the path to follow. Snowmobiles are not allowed to cross over the bridge.

Every Labor Day, the bridge allows people to cross on foot. This is the only day pedestrians are allowed to cross and is known as the annual Bridge Walk. This annual walk started back in 1958 when 65 walkers participated, and now estimates of 50,000 to 65,000 eager people make the march every Labor Day. Our state’s Governor always starts the walk off, with the rest following closely behind. The walk takes on average of 2 hours, and starts early at around 7am. No additional walkers are allowed past 11am. Animals (except Seeing Eye dogs) are not allowed on the walk, and port-a-potties are only found at both ends. I have yet to build up enough nerve to part-take in this walk — maybe someday.

If you get an opportunity, take a drive across. It will be well worth the trip.

Ghost-Town At Fayette State Park

A Ghost town at a state park, and one that not only offers spectacular views of limestone cliffs off on the horizon, but also breath-taking sights of the sparkling waters of Big Bay De Noc and Lake Michigan…who would have thought. Well, that’s what you get when you visit Fayette State Park in the Upper Peninsular of Michigan. Fayette State Park and Ghost Town is located just 17 miles south of US-2, between Escanaba and Manistique on the southern tip of the Garden Peninsula.

When you enter the park, you will find restrooms and a tourist information center which will provide you will historical photos, literature or guide material, and well as a big three-dimensional model display of the park that show the historic buildings that are open for observation. After the short visit inside you will be directed to doors leading outside the center to a path that will take you down a pretty steep incline. No vehicles are allowed from this point on, but I do think bikes are OK. There are benches on the way if you need to rest and wheelchairs are available for a rental fee if need be. Getting down to the Ghost town is a breeze…but the trek back-up is another story.

During its heyday back in the 1860’s through 1890, around 500 folks called this place home. Jackson Iron Co. was the enterprise that manufactured charcoal pig iron for many of the steel companies that had operations on the Great Lakes, and Chicago was the recipient to most of its biggest shipments. When the charcoal iron market began to decline, Jackson Iron Company closed its doors in 1891 and this once bustling industrial town would soon become a deserted ghost town.

Today, this historic town is also a Michigan State Park, which offers around 19 to 20 restored buildings for self-touring. Around the grounds you will see homes, a town hall with post office, the superintendent’s house, a dance hall, shops, as well as other artifacts just as they stood back in the late 1800s. The largest building is the coal house which housed the huge furnaces which was the heart of the operations…I definitely got a chill once inside this dark building.

The harbor called “Snail Shell Harbor” is where you can see many boats (yachts) docking for the day, the beach area is great for a little swimming, and the campground has many sites for your RVs or campers and tents. The kids will love looking for rocks on the shores or have them bring their rod and reels for a little perch fishing in the bay. I really enjoyed exploring the old buildings in the village, but think the highlight for me was my leisurely walk through a very scenic tree-lined path of the forest. Not a sound could be heard except the chirping of birds, and occasionally the sounds of gentle waves rolling in and off of Lake Michigan. What a peaceful and relaxing end to a perfect day.

When we visited in mid-August, we arrived around noon and the park was not at all crowded. We spent around 3 hours there, which seemed like an adequate amount of time for us to see everything we wanted. If you do plan on visiting, plan on doing a lot of walking, as that’s the only way to get around. Make sure to save some energy for the walk back up the hill — on hot days this hike up can be grueling. Fortunately, we rented a wheelchair for my mother, which made it easier for her to see many of the sites she would probably not been able to see otherwise.

As with any Michigan state park, a permit is required to enter. Permits can be purchased by the day or by the year, and allows admission into all of Michigan’s state parks. Museum hours are 9am to 7pm daily, mid-May to mid-October.

Michigan has some beautiful state parks, but Fayette is definitely one of its best, and one of the most picturesque.

Kitch-iti-Kipi Kool Springs

“I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun, and ye who pass by, listen to my prayer: Harm me not.” These are some of the profound words found on the “Prayer of the Woods” sign you observe while you enter in to the pine and cedar forest at Kitch-iti- Kipi.

Most people think Kitch-iti-Kipi is the Ojibway word for great cold water or Big Springs, but some history buffs believes the name was given after the warrior who once drowned in these springs. Legend has it that a young warrior was trying to win the hand of a fair but fickle maiden. She would submit to his wooing only if he could catch her in his canoe as she jumped from a bough. What ever tale you believe, Kitch-iti-Kipi is Michigan’s largest spring and is located at Palms Book State Park on Indian Lake, near Manistique.

To get here, go west on US-2 through Manistique to a town called Thompson. Take M-149 north to County Road 455, past the West Unit of Indian Lake State Park, and then continue to the end of M-149 to reach this park. There is a State park sticker that is required to gain entry but the raft ride is free. There is no camping at Palm Book but there is camping at Indian Lake Park located just down the road.

After a short walk through the enchanting woods of this park you will arrive at the spring. Kitch-iti-kipi or the Big Spring is 45 feet deep and 200 feet wide, and has a constant temperature of 45ºF year round with over 16,000 gallons of water gushing out of it every minute. It’s a real beauty too. With its crystal clear emerald colored water it was possible to experience its aquatic life living below. Hefty varieties of trout were swimming freely in its waters, some as large as twenty pounds or more. If you are into fishing as my son is, this was an awesome sight to behold. The light colored sandy bottom of the springs which constantly changes it shape by the force of the water makes it easy to observe whole fallen trees, limbs or branches as well as other objects that lie below.

To feel the depth of the spring, and to truly see all the beauty that lies below, you will have to take the self-powered covered raft across the spring. It’s free, and kids can easily do this by pulling a cable. It only takes a few minutes to reach the other side, and can be stopped where ever you wish it too. The bottom sides of the raft are made out of a plastic/glass material for easy viewing for small children. Parents will have to make sure small children don’t climb on the ledges and hang over the sides as there’s nothing below but 45 feet of crystal clear water to land in. (I mention this only because I witnessed a very small unsupervised child almost end up in Kitch-iti-kipi himself.) The raft is also wheel-chair accessible and covered to reduce reflections on those hot summer days.

The park is only open Mid-May through Mid-October but the Spring is open all year, as it never freezes. Snowmobiles and hikers can view this year round. It only takes less than a half-hour to visit, but bring a sack lunch or picnic basket to enjoy it here a little longer. The gift shop is open only during the parks season but offers lots of really neat souvenirs to purchase.

Before you enter the woods take a moment and read the sign which displays the “Prayer of the Woods.” Appreciate the beauty and goodness nature offers us and do not harm its existence.

Point Iroquois Lighthouse

Traveling down West Lakeshore Drive about 7.5 miles past the small town of Brimley, we came upon the Point Iroquois lighthouse, not hidden down some isolated road but right in plain site in the Hiawatha National Forest. Not knowing much about the history of this lighthouse but curious by its ostentatious edifice, we veered off the road making this our first pit-stop.

A sign greets you — “This point of land is the historic battleground where westward invasion by the Iroquois Indiana was halted by the victorious Chippewa” and then continues on with a brief history of the natives, mentions the 93 continuous years of operation which finally ceased in 1963 due to an automatic light being erected in the channel.

The Point Iroquois Lighthouse was established in 1855 when increase shipping traffic was anticipated due to the construction of the Soo Locks. The lighthouse is located at the entrance of the St. Mary’s River near the Locks and quickly became one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Ships passing from Lake Superior into the canal came close to Point Iroquois, through a narrow passage between the sandy shores of the American side and the rocky reefs on the Canadian side. Later in 1870, the house and tower were completely rebuilt, and in 1902, a two-story brick house was added to the grounds to provide housing for an assistant keeper.

For almost 100 years, the Point Iroquois provided guidance for the many traveling vessels out in the big lake. But in 1962 its light was extinguished as a new automatic beacon erected farther out in the water was preferred.

The 2-story white brick house with bright red roof and the white 65-foot attached tower, have been renovated and is now open to the public. We first toured the two rooms restored to be reminiscent of the 1950s and enjoyed seeing all the antiques on display as well as how the house might have looked in those days.

A short time later we ventured outside to climb the 65 foot tower. After 72 very twisting stairs in an extremely narrow tower, we made it to the top — glad I’m not claustrophobic. The view outside was spectacular and we could see for miles. Looking out on the horizon gave me the sense of what the keepers and their families might have witnessed as well. And as luck would have it, a freighter way in the distance could be seen sailing on by.

The weather was gorgeous so we headed for the wooded walkway to the beach area. It was a pleasant stroll through a few pines, tall grasses and native wildflowers that grow in the sandy soil of the grounds. The beach was as beautiful as we expected, with crystal clear water gently rolling in off the lake, and unique shaped driftwood found just lying in the sand. This was a perfect find, and we were so glad we stopped.

The museum and gift shop are open from May 15th – October 15th from 9am- to 5pm daily.

Road Less Traveled

The sun was shining, temperatures were in the high 70s°F, and I was itching for a day trip while vacationing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. One hour east lied this quaint little village called Grand Marias, where the Log Slide and Grand Sable Dunes are located. I had heard so much about this place but had yet to experience it. I looked at the map and saw two choices from Munising. One, the direct route took us on Hwy-28 to 77, then north to Grand Marias, about 60 miles total. The second route, marked by dashed lines on our resorts map looked a bit longer but possibly on a more scenic path. My husband tried to discourage me by saying it’s a long way on dirt roads, my brother-in-law from Colorado was just along for the ride and said it was up to me to decide. We plopped in some good tunes, grabbed a few bottles of water and gassed up the old beast (2000 Chrysler Town & Country mini van) and off we headed on the road I anticipated would provide us many scenic views or that rare spotting of a moose, bear or a bald eagle — or at least that was my hope.

The scenic path we opted for takes you on miles of a terribly narrow, extremely deep sandy road barely improved and with little, if any, scenic sites. The road in spots was so sandy if you drove too slow you risk getting stuck or too fast would find yourself hydroplaning off into a path of a tree. We passed no quaint little towns to explore, had zero bars on our cell phones, passed only one other vehicle, were running exceptionally low on windshield washer fluid, and saw not as much as a bird during our wild-life excursion. We did pass several fire-ravished forests and ventured down several tree-lined roads that required good driving skills on, in order to maneuver around its tight curves while still trying to stay within its grooved tracks. It became very challenging trying desperately to avoid the oncoming intruding tree limbs and branches eagerly waiting to scratch up our vehicles finish. But not one moment that screamed out to me “stop and take my picture!”

We did, however, finally run into some other cars once we hooked up with Scenic Hwy-15. This deep canopied road runs parallel to the Lake Superior lakeshore taking you to a campground and Au Sable Point Lighthouse. Again, the road extremely narrow, twisting, and now increasing congested with sightseers created yet another problem, one which involved trying to avoid hitting opposing traffic. There were no panoramic views of the big lake, even though we were traveling long side it within a few hundred yards perched high about its banks. Though the road was beautiful, at times I felt driving on it was a little more stressful than enjoyable due to it’s rough terrain and high volume of travelers.

Three and half hours later, in dire need of a restroom, a bit famished, nerves shot all to hell, and traveling with two grown men chanting “FIND BEER,” we arrived at Grand Sable Dunes (meaning Big Sand) where you find the Log Slide. We quickly found the restrooms. Though not the modern flush type I prefer, they severed its purpose. Picnic tables are also available for your use near the parking lot.

History tells stories how loggers once rolled logs down long dry wooden chutes to the lake below to be loaded onto lumber schooners. They recall accounts of the chutes generating enough frictions to cause the chute to actually catch fire. This log slide was also very instrumental in the re-building of Chicago after it’s great fire. Today the chutes are all gone, but the lumberjack stories still remain.

A 1000 foot groomed trail awaits you, and leads you through the woods to the Log Slide Overlook to see some of the world’s most pristine perched dunes, Grand Sable Dunes. The Dunes covers a 5 mile stretch between the Sable River and Au Sable. Once on the path you will pass a large exhibit explaining some of the history here, which displays an enormous Big Wheel to observe as well as an old horse-powered log-roller that was used to transport logs from the forest to the Log slide. The walk is for the most part flat on a easily paved path. There are signs directing you to the observation deck for optimal viewing. Sign are posted for you to stay on the path or deck as widespread areas of poison ivy are commonly found off the trails.

Once you arrive at the overlook platform, and take a moment to gasp at the crystal clear waters of Lake Superior on the horizon, you’ll become breathless by the beauty of the panoramic views the dunes present. For a brief moment, all of life’s stresses and any memories of the rough journey leading you here are left behind. All you are left with is a sense of euphoria. Now I understood while so many list this place as a must see.

Shortly after we arrived, the fog had started to roll in and views were slightly obstructed. The dunes which go on for 5 miles in both directions and soaring 300 feet high were cut off by the thick fog rising from Lake Superior’s waters. The Au Sable Lighthouse was visible to the west but not good enough to snap that perfect postcard picture. The Grand Sable Dunes outweighed all my expectations. I had only wished my photographs could have better illustrated the magnificent beauty they behold, and that my camera lens had not flattened out their massive stature.

We opted not to climb the grand dunes as I heard the climb back up is grueling but the guys did manage to make it up one of the smaller dunes to have they photos taken to trick others into thinking they actually did. Now a nice walk back to the parking area to continue our trip. First head east to the quaint little village called Grand Marias for some food and beverages, then off west in search for a much needed car wash, then evidently end up back at the cabin.

I definitely will return here, hopefully on a day that offers much clearer views, and I will be taking Hwy 77 north to get here. Travel time from the Mackinaw Bridge is approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes, but worth every minute to see this.

Tahquamenon Falls

Whether you are a history buff and thoroughly enjoy walking in the footsteps of famous explorers from our past, or are a nature lover who longs for picturesque sites in tranquil settings, then look no farther than Tahquamenon Falls. They offer a little for everyone. Two falls, located about 4 miles from each other are located in the state park, the upper and lower are hidden amidst the forest along the Tahquamenon River, which was made famous in the Longfellow’s poem “Song of the Hiawatha.” A walking path allows you to get between both. According to Indian lore, its name Tahquamenon comes from the water’s amber or brownish color, which is the result of leaching of tannic acid from the cedar and hemlock swamps that feeds the river and not rust or mud.

The Upper Falls is the one most folks come to witness, and with it width spanning over 200 feet and its vigorous cascading drop of almost 50 feet, as well as the 50,000 gallons per second of water flowing over the edge, it’s understandable and truly a magnificent site to behold. The parks paved (handicap accessible) path leading from the parking lot is an easy walk of about ¼ miles through a thick forest to a wooden viewing platform to get to the falls. You can elect to go down to another observation deck directly above the falls to feel its force and spray, but it’s down a lot of stairs and I don’t recall the number, but I do remember the pain of the burn on the way up.

Although the lower falls are not as dramatic and actually not one but a series of five smaller waterfalls, they still are beautiful and worth a peek. You have excellent viewing by either strolling down the pathway or rivers bank, or by renting a rowboat (available at the park) to reach the small island across the river. Either way, it’s easily accessible and perfect for those seeking quiet and solitude moments.

Tahquamenon Falls is located in the State Park bearing its same name, in the NE section of Upper Peninsula just north of Newberry. Known as the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi, Niagara being larger. The river’s total watershed encompasses more than 790 miles. Besides the rust color water of the falls, you will also witness extensive amounts of white foam floating down the river which is caused by three natural occurrences; soft water, its turbulent action, water containing an organic matter much like egg-whites.

Tahquamenon Falls is open all year long and spectacular during all seasons. Springtime times bring abundant increased flowage with its snow run-off, summer offers lush green forest to explore, fall brings brilliant colors as well as the sounds of crunching leaves under your feet on your journeys, and winter transforms the falls into spectacular ice-sculptures.

Once at the falls you can also enjoy camping, 40 miles of hiking trails, 13 inland lakes, in these 40,000 acres of unspoiled paradise. State Park sticker is required.

When life gets hectic, my husband frequently recommends us buying and moving into an old lighthouse, promising us a peaceful solitude life, long walks on the beach, and endless water portraits at every glance. Though the thought of it at times seems tempting, a much more practical avenue would be to spend the night at one instead, and now at Whitefish Point, you can. Located next to the Whitefish Point Light Station is the recently restored U.S. Coast Guard Lifesaving Crew Quarter that for $150 a night it’s possible.

Whitefish Point is the oldest active lighthouse on Lake Superior and is highly visited by around 90,000 people each year. Located at the northeastern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, about a 2-hour drive from the Mackinac Bridge, take N-I-75, to M-123 north about 11 miles along Paradise to get here. The lighthouse tour is only one thing that brings the tourist flocking here, the others are its Shipwreck Museum, the Bird Observatory, and the stunning sites of Lakes Superior’s shoreline.

The 80 mile stretch that extends from Whitefish Point west to the Pictured Rocks (Munising, MI) is called the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes” and for good reason, as this is the site of over half of the 550 known shipwrecks on the lake. The most recent sinking was the 711 freighter called the Edmund Fitzgerald, which lost her entire crew of 29 men on Nov. 10, 1975, 17 miles NW of Whitefish Point, by breaking in two and lodging herself into the bottom of the lake in 535 feet of water. She surrendered to the violent gale force winds that November day, proving more powerful then her.

Whitefish Point, today a quiet peaceful spot that holds historical tragic tales of the many unfortunate ships that have met there demise in the dangerous waters it resides on. The carefully restored lighthouse to the 1920 period is in exceptional condition and is open for touring with an admission fee. While touring you will learn about the hard and lonely life of keeper Robert Carlson, while he served from 1903 to 1931, and see the living quarters how they once stood. Many interesting artifacts, plus many original furniture pieces, are displayed here.

The shipwreck museum for some is the highlight of the trip. Here you enter into the haunting world of underwater shipwrecks — lights are dim, eerie somber music can be heard, and numerous sunken artifacts discovered from the depths of the waters are at your side to explore. The original ships bells from the Edmund Fitzgerald, and the Niagara can be found here as well as its anchors, the actual hull from the SS Independence, a 19 foot clamshell, lighthouse lens, old dishes, coins, as well as other fantastic artifacts discovered by divers are proudly displayed here. Also on exhibit here of old diving equipment once used, replicas of many ships, maps, charts and numerous legends that make these tragic stories come to life.

If you are into birding as I am, then you will love the Bird Observatory. Birds flock the point to find a refuge during their spring migration (March to mid-May). They rest and feed until they continue on northward to Canada, then return back to the point in the late fall for their return trip to the south. The eagles arrive in mid-March, followed by large hawks (red-tailed), then falcons, 10-species of owls, and finally the waterfowl and songbirds. The visitor center is located directly across the lighthouse and provides lots of information on the migration birds seen here, outside offers wooden walkways that have been constructed to allow visitors the optimal viewing experience.

Another thing to do while at Whitefish Point is to trek down to the beach and walk along the shoreline in search of driftwood, and unique colored and shaped rocks. A large deck is now offered for those who rather just look but not get sands in their shoes. Either way, the sights are awesome.

Don’t miss seeing the short narrative movie made by the Discovery Channel and played regularly near the lighthouse in a very tiny theater. It cost a few bucks to watch but it’s chuck full of information and facts of the Edmund Fitzgerald’s last journey. While departing, no words are spoken, eyes are filled with tears, Gordon Lightfoots song “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” plays, and the bells chime 29 times — once for each man lost that November day. It’s a powerful presentation and one that leaves you totally understanding while the Whitefish Point Shipwreck Museum stands today.

Before leaving, make sure to check out the gift shop located next to the museum. Its jammed full of cool books, maps, artwork, shirts, and many other trinkets exclusive to the point. A small store is also found here which offers snacks and sodas if needed. Expect to spend a couple hours here or more, as there lots of things to do and see. In the five times I have visited this place, each time I find something new and exciting and ready to explore. Hours of operation are 10am to 6pm daily , from May 15th through Oct. 15th. A large parking lot awaits you and gets very full with visitors, but dontt worry about this place feeling crowded as its offers lots of areas for people to wander around and discover.

Categories
Beach

Shhhh! It’s our Hawaiian Secret!

Author: omegaindl
Date of Trip: April 2006

Our family has been travelling to Hawaii for the past 10 years. Although each island has some of the most awesome beaches you could imagine, my all-time favorite is Poli Hale Beach on the Island of Kauai.

It’s actually a state park, but you would never know it when trying to get there. You will have to drive to the end of the road around the Southwest side of the island. It was raining on the east side of the island one day and we started talking to some locals and they told us about Poli Hale Beach. (It hardly ever rains on the west side of the island). You have to drive through a sugar cane field to get there and the road is pretty rough and can swallow a rental car if you’re not careful.

The first time I made the trip, my wife was having a fit and kept telling me to turn around and that we were lost. I guarantee it’s worth the trip. You end up in front of some sand dunes and can’t see the ocean from most of the road. Once you park and climb the sand dunes you will be treated to one of the most spectacular views you will ever see. The beach stretches for 6 or 7 miles and abruptly ends with the Napali Cliffs rising from the ocean to several thousand feet.

Use extreme caution if you plan on swimming. The waves are huge and there are many rip-tides. There are a couple of “spits” of sand that jut out into the ocean. These are best places to swim, but don’t turn your back on the waves.

We try to get out there at least once or twice every trip for sunset. They are spectacular and with the waves crashing on the shore, you will be treated to a sensory overload that’s not quickly forgotten.

Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone. It will be our little secret.