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North America is a diverse continent, with plenty of incredible off the beaten path destinations to be found throughout Canada, the Caribbean, Central America, and the USA. Millions of people swarm to places like Times Square, Niagara Falls and Chichen Itza each year, yet a number of beautiful spots remain relatively untouched by mass tourism. For those willing to get off the beaten track in North America, the reward is the chance to see some truly unique destinations. Many of these destinations are up-and-coming, while some of them are simply too remote to be on the tourist trail. The one thing they have in common is that they aren’t heaving with tourists like many other hotspots around the continent. Even if you want to get off the beaten track though, it can be hard to figure out which spots are worth your time and which aren’t. That’s why we asked 32 travel bloggers to give their recommendations of the best off the beaten path spots to visit in North America during 2019!
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Hopkins Village, Belize
Located on the Caribbean coast of Central America, where it is bordered by Mexico and Guatemala, Belize doesn’t get nearly as much media attention as neighbours such as Costa Rica. But the country is important from an ecological perspective, forming part of the MesoAmerican Biological Corridor (a natural land bridge for animals migrating between North and South America). And it’s rich in history, from the incredible ancient Mayan ruins to the colonial architecture of the era when the country was known as British Honduras.
But for my money the most intriguing aspect of Belize’s history is the culture of the Garifuna people. The Garifuna are mostly of mixed ancestry, including African, Caribbean, European, and Arawak blood. Their ancestors migrated to Central America (including Guatemala and Honduras) when the “Black Caribs” were exiled from the Lesser Antilles (primarily Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) after a series of slave revolts. As a result, they managed to hold on to many of their African and Afro-Caribbean traditions, which they still celebrate today.
Hopkins Village is arguably among the best places to learn more about Garifuna culture. The town is located right on the Caribbean in the Stann Creek District, about 30 minutes by car from the city of Dandriga (which also has a sizeable Garifuna population). Some local hotels can arrange transfer from Dandriga, and there are public buses that depart twice a day.
There are lots of things to do in the Hopkins area, but most activities centre around the gorgeous beaches and the Belize Barrier Reef System that lies just offshore. This UNESCO World Heritage Site stretches over 190 miles, comprising more than a third of the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest coral system in the world. It’s also Belize’s top tourist attraction by far, drawing around 130,000 visitors annually.
As a result, Belize is arguably the most exceptional place for snorkelling and Scuba diving in the western hemisphere, with a diverse array of walls, pinnacles, and reef flats to be explored. It’s also one of the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems, providing home to over 100 species of coral, 500 species of fish, and hundreds of invertebrates. During our two dives we saw Reef Sharks, Spotted Rays, Lobsters, Pufferfish, Seahorses, a Moray Eel, Lionfish, and even a Sea Turtle.
There are also Mayan ruins and wildlife sanctuaries to explore, and several great restaurants serving up delicious local cuisine (the one at Hamanasi Dive Resort was our favourite). If you dig music, check out the Tuesday jam nights at Driftwood Beach Bar and live music at Sher’s Diner and Luba Laruga Restaurant. But for a real taste of traditional Garifuna culture, sign up for a drumming lesson or catch an impromptu jam at the Lebeha Drumming Center.
Contribution by Green Global Travel.
San Ignacio, Belize
San Ignacio is often skipped by visitors to Belize, who generally stick to the beach destinations on the coast. But this is a grave mistake! The town is a great base for exploring the country and should be on anyone’s Belize itinerary. There are lots of things to do in San Ignacio for history buffs, adrenaline junkies and nature lovers.
A must for every visitor to San Ignacio is the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave tour. It is expensive at around $100 USD per person, but exploring these magnificent caves and getting up close and personal with Mayan skeletons is not something you get to do every day.
There are several Mayan archaeological sites in and around San Ignacio. Cahal Pech in San Ignacio is unique as it is more like a maze than the more common pyramid temples you find at Xunantunich, another site in nearby Benque. A great way to visit Xunantunich is on horseback, which can be arranged as a tour from San Ignacio.
Not too far from the town is the wonderful Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. The reserve is a huge natural park, where you can visit caves, waterfalls, swimming holes and the Caracol archaeological site.
In San Ignacio, my favourite thing to do was to visit the Iguana Sanctuary at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel, where you can learn about their conservation efforts to protect and breed iguanas. If you prefer something a bit more active, then hire a canoe to paddle up the river, arrange cave tubing with one of the tour agencies, or take a swim in the river with the local families.
The street food in San Ignacio is another reason to visit the town. There are plenty of delicious and cheap street food stalls all around the centre of San Ignacio – you haven’t lived until you have tasted a Belizean fry jack. The crispy deep-fried pastry filled with chicken and cheese is to die for!
Contribution by Tales of a Backpacker.
Anguilla, British West Indies
Beachside bars and restaurants, fresh seafood, delicious street food and postcard-perfect beaches are enough to make anyone visiting Anguilla fall in love. This tiny 35-square-mile island has a beach that has been voted number one in the world many years in a row. And even so, not many people have heard of Anguilla, British West Indies.
Anguilla does have an airport that mainly caters to private jets. The only international flight to and from the island is to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Even then, if the flight is not full it can get cancelled. Your best bet is to fly to Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of Saint Martin island, and ferry over to Anguilla. It’s a 20-minute ferry ride from the French side (Saint-Martin) and double that time from the Dutch side (which is where the international airport is located).
Besides admiring and relaxing in one of the 33 incredible white-sand beaches in Anguilla, there are many watersport activities you can do around the island. Learn to Kitesurf, a combination of wakeboarding and windsurfing, in the ideal destination where isolated beaches and constant wind make the perfect recipe for this sport. One of our favourite watersports is stand up paddleboarding, and the best place for this is at Da’ Vida Restaurant where you can paddle over to Little Bay; a quiet cove that can only be reached by water or climbing down dangerous rocks. Little Bay is also one of the best places to snorkel on the island along with Shoal Bay East, Sandy Island and Prickly Pear.
If watersports are not your cup of tea, there are still plenty of things to do around the island that don’t involve actually getting in the ocean. Golf, tennis and bicycles are offered by some hotels so these are always a choice during your stay. Alternatively, Seaside Stables offer horseback riding along the beach, with the option of getting in the water with the horse should you wish. It’s perfect for first time or experienced riders.
Contribution by Travel Fun Fam.
Alexandra Falls, Canada
In 2017, my dogs and I drove across Canada in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation. The fact that admission to all National Parks was free and I wanted to visit as many parks as I could may have been a big part of that goal. I did not plan to visit Alexandra Falls after we left Wood Buffalo National Park but I am glad that we did.
Alexandra Falls is part of the Twin Rivers Gorge Territorial Park and is a great place to take a break from driving. Unlike Niagara Falls, there are no major cities nearby and no signs announce that, at 32 metres high (or 105 feet), it is the third highest waterfall in the Northwest Territories. Combined with the fact that there are no barriers between visitors and the water makes this a very special place to visit. There is something so humbling about being able to sit with your feet dangling over the edge as water thunders past you.
There are trails along the Hay River and two viewing platforms that allow for a view of the falls, or you can make your way over the flat slabs of limestone to sit at the water’s edge in the day use area. A 3 kilometre hike will take you to the campground at Louise Falls, the other waterfall of the Twin Falls. As Wood Buffalo National Park is close, that is another area that is available to camp, where you can share the road with wandering bison.
Twin Rivers Gorge Territorial Park is accessed from the the MacKenzie Highway (Highway 1) and is only 10 kilometres from Enterprise and 31 kilometres from the town of Hay River. The park is not open during the winter which means the trails are not cleared, but you can still hike or cross country to the river, which may be completely frozen. You can take advantage of the opportunity to go to the lower gorge and look at the falls from below. Travelling at night can be dangerous because of bison, moose, and other large wildlife, so try to be off the roads by dusk.
With a low number of visitors and a remote location, Alexandra Falls is well worth the trip.
Contribution by Adventure Dawgs.
Eastern Townships, Canada
The Eastern Townships region of Quebec, Canada, is a well kept secret. Located around an hour outside of Montreal, the area is home to a number of wineries and has been listed as one of the top underrated wine regions in North America. Here you will find varietals such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Vidal to name just a few.
Start your day with a visit to one of the oldest wineries in the region, Vignoble Domaine Des Cotes D’ardoise. The best part about this vineyard is the views. After your tasting, grab a bottle of your favourite and head on over to a table to enjoy the amazing views. Another brilliant choice is Val Cladiles. This is a great place for a picnic as their grounds are stunning. What is better than enjoying a bottle of wine with lunch overlooking the beautiful mountains?
If wine is not your thing there is plenty more to do. If you find yourself in Eastern Townships in the summer make sure to check out VeloVolant. For those that are not ready to go ziplining but are looking for a fun and thrilling ride this is for you. VeloVolant is a recumbent cycling course that is suspended over the treetops in Sutton. The 1,000 metre course will take you over waterfalls and features amazing views of the mountains. The best part is that you can go as fast or as slow as you like. It’s a great experience for all ages.
The winter is also a welcome treat. With so many accommodations overlooking the snow capped mountains it is equally a romantic getaway and fun girls weekend. This is a winter lovers playground. The winter activities are endless. From skiing, snowboarding and tubing to soaking in a hot tub while the snow falls around you. There is something for everyone.
The Eastern Townships make for a great weekend getaway. With so much to see and do, you will find yourself falling in love with this hidden gem.
Contribution by Poor in a Private Plane.
There are plenty of reasons to visit North America, making many destinations full of tourists and visitors. However, there are lesser travelled parts if you’re looking to avoid the crowds and soak in the natural beauty. Nestled between the Canadian Rocky Mountains and Columbia Mountain Range in British Columbia is the small town of Golden.
Surrounded by mountains, this stunning town is close to six national parks, amazing skiing and snowboarding terrain and so many other unforgettable activities that should put this tiny town high on your list of off the beaten path North American destinations.
As Golden is so close to many protected parks, hiking through pine forests and towering peaks is a great thing to do all year round. Both day and overnight hikes are a short drive from downtown Golden, making this tiny town a great base for nature lovers.
During the chilly winter months, Golden is home to some of the best snow sports terrain out there. Kicking Horse is the local snow-covered mountain that showcases all different types of runs, from beginner to advanced. You won’t leave the hill without getting a great day shredding.
In summer, the things to do don’t stop. Mountain bike riding is a local favourite. Multiple places around the town offer downhill trails and once again, cater to all experience levels. White water rafting is another adrenaline rush experience offered in Golden. Hold on as your tour guide navigates your raft through surging rapids in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
Although Golden has plenty of great activities and stunning alpine scenery, backed up by snow-capped peaks, it’s a beautiful off the beaten path spot in North America that is worth going out of your way to explore.
Contribution by Horizon Unknown.
Haida Gwaii, Canada
Haida Gwaii is one of the world’s best kept secrets. This archipelago, formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands, is off the north west coast of Canada. Alaska is nearby to the north and Vancouver Island is to the south. You can get there by ferry from Prince Rupert or plane from Vancouver. There are a few roads around the two main towns, Skidegate (population 781) and Sandspit (population 297), but the southern islands, which form the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, are accessible only by boat or seaplane.
Taking a kayak trip or sail boat is the best way to see this untouched wilderness, as it deserves a slow pace to fully appreciate the beauty. Kayak trips start with a 3.5-hour journey further south in a fast (and cold) zodiac. Days are then spent paddling slowly from one island to another. The chances of seeing humans is small. There’s a much better chance you’ll see bald eagles and ospreys, sitka deer and black bears, sea lions and seals, orcas and even humpback whales.
Nights are spent camping on pristine sandy or pebbly beaches or in mossy glades in the spruce forests that cover the islands. Long strands of golden giant kelp float on the surface and stretch far below. This is nature at its finest.
The absolute highlight, though is SG̱ang Gwaay Llanagaay (also known by its English name Ninstints), an abandoned village of the Haida people, now home to a haunting ‘village’ of wooden totem poles. They gaze out sea, bleached by the sun and slowing decaying. You can feel how special this place is to the Haida people; it is a privilege to share this space with them for a brief time.
There is truly no place like this on earth. It is far from civilisation, but the few who make it here never fail to be impressed.
Contribution by Travel Collecting.
Port Renfrew, Canada
Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the old growth rainforest, Port Renfrew, British Columbia, is a great off the beaten path destination in North America. It’s a logging town that is slowly reinventing itself as an eco-tourism hub.
Port Renfrew is just 2 hours by car from Victoria, British Columbia’s capital. However, there are lots of great places to stop along the way including beautiful beaches and hikes to hidden waterfalls. You can also make your visit a circular road trip by looping back to Victoria via Lake Cowichan on the Pacific Marine Circle Route.
If you love the outdoors, you’ll love Port Renfrew since there are so many activities to do. If you want to get out on the ocean, there’s a good surf break at the river mouth, there are lots of fishing charter boats or you can rent a kayak. For a land-based ocean adventure, head south of town to Botanical Beach, with its incredible tide pools. The marine life here is so diverse that scientists have been studying it for over 100 years!
Port Renfrew is also a great town for hiking. It is the start/finish point for two of Canada’s great coastal trails: the famous 75 kilometre long West Coast Trail and its little brother, the 47 kilometre long Juan de Fuca Trail.
You can also visit some huge old growth trees since Port Renfrew is the tall tree capital of Canada. Be sure to head to Avatar Grove, home to Canada’s gnarliest cedar as well as some towering old growth Cedars and Douglas firs. If you have a 4-wheel drive (or are up for a bit of hiking on a gravel road) you can also visit Big Lonely Doug, the world’s second tallest Douglas fir. He got his name after all the trees around him were clearcut in 2012. Now he stands all alone.
Port Renfrew is truly an out of the way place – it doesn’t even have cell service. If you’re planning a trip, book ahead as accommodation is limited and can fill up. There is also a great campground right in town run by the Pacheedaht First Nation (the local indigenous people) where you can camp right on the beach. Outside of town you’ll find a few rustic forest service campsites where you can pitch your tent in the lush rainforest.
Contribution by Happiest Outdoors.
With a population of less than 40 million and a land mass that makes it the second-largest country on Earth, Canada is about as wild as it gets. Almost the entire population lives in the deep south, neighbouring the border of the United States. However, the more North you go, the more wild it gets.
First, there’s the Northern parts of each province and then there’s the three territories – Yukon, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories. If you go even further North, to the Northern tip of the Northwest Territories, you’ll find a little town called Tuktoyaktuk, sitting on the edge of Canada’s Arctic. This little Inuvialuit hamlet has a thriving indigenous scene where everyone subsides on wild game, such as caribou and beluga whales. Up until 2018, this community was only accessible via float plane, boat, or a frozen ice road in the winter, which was really limited to those prepared for tepid conditions and temperatures as low as -60 degrees Celsius (-76 degrees Fahrenheit).
In the beginning of 2018, however, Canada opened the countries first highway to the Arctic, opening the area up to more opportunities. Don’t get me wrong, this is not your typical drive. First you’ll have to drive all the way to Dawson City in the Yukon, before embarking on a 2-day trip up the Dempster Highway, a 700 kilometre dirt road with only one service-stop along the way. Almost everyone gets a flat tire on this road and it’s advised to be prepared. Once you complete the Dempster Highway, you’ll be in the town of Inuvik, which is the gateway to the Mackenzie Delta and the road to Tuktoyaktuk.
While Tuktoyaktuk is growing in popularity, it’s too secluded to be overrun by tourism. It takes an adventurer to make it there and for that reason along with the chance to experience authentic indigenous culture, it’s an incredible place to visit. With a population of just under 1,000, you won’t find dozens of museums and coffee shops, but you will find a lot of outdoor adventure, including boat trips on the Mackenzie Delta, wildlife encounters, dog-sledding, fishing, and so much more.
Contribution by Must Do Canada.
Montezuma, Costa Rica
Costa Rica has quickly established itself as a prime holiday destination, priding itself on its eco-conscious ways and friendly people. Places like Manuel Antonio National Park are now crowded with tourists, however it is still possible to find smaller, off the beaten path destinations. Montezuma, which lies on the southernmost tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, is a small, bohemian beach town and is the perfect place to relax without hoards of other tourists. The town has a stunning beach, and a handful of cute cafes and bars that overlook the ocean.
The most popular attraction is the waterfall, which is around a 45 minute walk out of town. The waterfall isn’t too strenuous to reach, and is a magical sight. The pool at the bottom is perfect for cooling off in after the walk there, and for those who dare there are some spots which can be jumped from.
Montezuma is also famous for its turtle hatchery. It is run by volunteers, who work around the clock to ensure turtles eggs are not stolen from the beach. Every night, staff patrol the beach and transfer any eggs laid there to the secure sanctuary, so they cannot be stolen by poachers. Here, they keep them until they hatch. Every afternoon, you can watch as the newly hatched turtles are released and waddle into the ocean. It’s a beautiful sight.
For those who like to surf, or perhaps want to try, there are great beginner spots nearby. There is also the chance to go on a boat tour and do some snorkelling around Tortuga island. If you explore a little down the beach away from town, you are likely to come across the resident monkeys that like to swing from the trees.
Although Montezuma is attached to mainland Costa Rica, the easiest way to reach the town is by ferry. Take the ferry from Puntarenas, and then a local bus to Montezuma.
Contribution by Around the World with Her.
Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
If you are in search of some fantastic out of this world nature in North America, be sure to head to Costa Rica. While the whole country is wonderful and eco-friendly, our favourite spot was the Osa Peninsula.
The Osa Peninsula is considered the most biodiverse region in the planet, with nearly 2.5% of the planet’s species packed into a tiny area. It lies in the southwestern part of the country, in the Puntarenas Province, jolting out into the Pacific Ocean. This is also where Corcovado National Park is, a true gem of Costa Rica where many visitors go on safari. As wildlife lovers we couldn’t resist visiting, so we made the long drive down. It did not disappoint. Within our first hour of arriving we found 13 scarlet macaws eating. The next day we got great views of anteaters, armadillos, fer-de-lance snakes, and tapirs.
One of the best things to do here is go on a safari and game drive in Corcovado National Park. Or you can stay at the amazing Lapa Rios Eco Lodge and try a night walk or waterfall hike! Lapa Rios is one of the pioneers of ecotourism in Costa Rica and, although a stay here is expensive, it is well worth the experience of being in one of Costa Rica’s best eco-lodges. It’s one of the best places to stay in Costa Rica for families, so if you are traveling with kids you can easily keep them entertained with all the wildlife and nature here. Don’t forget to pack clothes that can get dirty and are bug repellant. The Osa Peninsula is mostly jungle and the critters can get annoying if you aren’t well prepared with the right sort of clothes.
Contribution by The World Pursuit.
San José de la Montaña, Costa Rica
There is more to Costa Rica than flawless beaches and happy people. If you’re in San Jose and want to get off the beaten track for the day then San José de la Montaña could be the perfect place for you. I came here to get some peace and tranquillity after being in the city for an extended period of time.
The mountain is located in a very unique position and is home to some of the freshest, cleanest mountain air you can find in Costa Rica. Best of all, it’s only around a 45 minute bus journey from downtown San Jose. The journey is full of breathtaking scenery. Upon arrival, you almost feel like you’re positioned somewhere in the Swiss alps. Make sure you take a sweater though as it gets cold after a while and it’s not unusual for it to rain.
As an avid backpacker, I found various mountain activities that one can do without the need of a paid guide. I had two local friends with me and we hiked around the mountain freely. On arrival you’ll find many trails with different levels of difficulty.
It’s worth mentioning that the view of San Jose from the top is breathtaking. It’s the perfect place to travel with a drone and get some aerial shots. You can also find other viewpoints that give you panoramic landscapes of the city and the surrounding area. You’ll also find the Braulio Carrillo National park close-by, which is famous for its evergreen forests, pristine rivers, tall mountains and much more.
San José de la Montaña is an ideal location to have a picnic, but there are restaurants scattered around the mountain area if you’d prefer to eat there. All in all, remember that if you’re in San Jose and want to get off the beaten path, San José de la Montaña awaits you.
Contribution by Layer Culture.
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Often referred to as the capital of the Caribbean, Santiago de Cuba is one of the most off the beaten track destinations on the island, but not for long. In 2019 there will be direct flights to this remarkable city from the United States.
Santiago de Cuba, in the island’s eastern province of the same name, is Cuba’s second most populated city after Havana. The city was founded in 1515, sits on a stunning bay and is a picturesque collection of hilly streets and red-tiled rooftops. You can see the vibrant mix of French, Spanish, African, and Haitian cultures in the faces of the friendly and helpful local population.
Many important battles took place here in both the Cuban War of Independence against Spain as well as the Cuban Revolution. Among the many interesting historical and cultural attractions in this elegant, colonial city is the recently renovated Catedral Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion (Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption) in Cespedes Park, the city’s main square, dating from 1522.
Near the cathedral is the Casa Velasquez, the oldest standing house in Cuba, named after Diego de Velasquez, the first Spanish governor of Cuba. This location is now a museum displaying articles from three different centuries in Santiago’s history, each on a separate floor.
The city is also home to the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, a massive 17th-century fortress built to protect the key city of Santiago from pirates. It is one of the best-preserved examples of Spanish-America military architecture in the Americas. Other important sites include Sanctuary of La Virgen de la Caridad, Cuba’s patron, and the meticulously landscaped Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, burial site of many notable Cubans.
But Santiago de Cuba is not all history and colonial structures. It is also the site of many exciting music venues. Casa de la Trova features traditional Cuban music in a family atmosphere. Club 300 and Iris Jazz Club, offering top-notch jazz, are two more of Santiago’s many music clubs. On weekends, you can head to Plaza de Marte, where the locals go to listen to music.
Santiago is frequently overlooked by travellers pursuing the Havana, Vinales, Trinidad circuit. Soon travellers will realise what an underrated destination it is and begin flocking to it. The city is well worth a visit, and you should spend at least four days there to do it justice.
Contribution by Travels with Talek.
Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador
Winding through brightly coloured colonial towns and coffee plantations, the Ruta de Las Flores in El Salvador is a beautiful day trip. It officially starts in the town Sonsonate, which is easy to reach from San Salvador, the country’s capital city. The route is named after the colourful wildflowers growing along the road.
The five main towns on the Ruta de Las flores are Nahuizalco, Salcoatitán, Apaneca, Ataco and Juayua. Walking through the picturesque streets of these little colonial towns admiring all the vibrant murals is an extremely pleasant way to spend your time. Don’t miss drinking some of the best coffee in Central America made from beans of local plantations in small coffee shops. Following your coffee from bean to cup is a great experience at some of the coffee plantations on the route.
Accommodation is available all over the route, but Juayua is the most popular place to stay and is consequently the most touristy. That being said, it isn’t overly busy and so I feel it is still off the beaten track.
Don’t miss the food festival ‘Feria Gastronomica’, a very popular event in the central square of Juayua. This gathering of locals and tourists to eat local dishes and drink a couple of beers has a very festive atmosphere. Mouth-watering traditional dishes are served by local restaurants including plenty of barbecued meats, chorizo, shrimp sticks and fish.
Another great activity here is the 7 waterfalls hike, a 6 hour hike that starts in the town and goes through coffee fincas and pristine tropical forest to the beautiful waterfalls. In Apaneca the canopy tour is very popular. It has several ziplines, with the longest one stretching for 420 metres over the jungle.
The way to explore the Ruta de Las Flores is by local transport. Take the colourful local ‘chicken buses’, which are a fun and relaxed way to cruise from town to town on this day trip.
Contribution by Stingy Nomads.
Santa Ana Volcano, El Salavador
If you’re looking to go off the beaten track in Central America, El Salvador is one of the most underrated countries with an endless amount of things to see and do. With such a diverse landscape, you can literally be working on your surf skills in the Pacific Ocean one day, and then up hiking in the mountains the next.
One of our favourite trips in the whole country was hiking the Santa Ana volcano, El Salvador’s highest and most active volcano. You don’t need to book an expensive tour to do this one day trek. Instead, just hop on the public bus that leaves the city of Santa Ana around 7.30am and find the park entrance at the base of the volcano.
The group tour starts hiking at 11am, which means you’ll have some time between when your bus arrives at the park and when you start the hike. You will need to be escorted to the top by armed policemen to ensure you don’t get robbed along the way. But don’t worry, you’ll be safe with the protection of your guides!
We spent about 4 hours round trip, including some time at the top to soak in the views. The hike itself isn’t too strenuous, but it is an uphill climb so you will need a basic level of fitness. As you get closer to the top you’ll start to smell the sulphur coming from the crater. Once you reach the top you’ll be treated with beautiful views of the surrounding park. The real attraction here is the bright turquoise sulphur lake in the middle of the crater. This stunning lake might look like the perfect place to cool off after a big hike, but you definitely don’t want to be jumping into that!
Contribution by Don’t Forget to Move.
Sololá is a charming town in the Guatemalan highlands with no tourism industry and in a convenient location. As is typical in the highlands, indigenous women wear typical handwoven clothing of huipil (shirt) and corte (skirt), and in Sololá the colours are fluorescent pink, purple, and black. Men wear pants with the same colours, plus a cowboy hat.
Sololá is the largest town in the state of Sololá, and is in fact the state capital. Despite this, it’s not large enough for a movie theatre or mall. Visit on a main market day (twice a week) when vendors come from the entire region and sell everything from wooden furniture and dried fish to flavourful fresh fruit and fragrant flowers. The most touristy item for sale is the local handwoven cloth.
Take a short walk downhill to the colourful cemetery, which offers an unrivalled view of Lake Atitlán and the surrounding volcanoes. Be sure to bring your camera!
For lunch or snacks, visit a taco stand for delicious fried meat and onion on a fresh tortilla, Pollo Campero for fried chicken or a comedor for a delicious plate of food and a glass of deep pink rosa Jamaica iced tea. All are on the central plaza. In the market itself, women sell tamalitos steamed in leaves that are unbelievably flavourful. Vendors are not permitted in the central park, so you can relax there and observe the local scene, but don’t pet the dogs unless you have a rabies vaccine or want fleas.
Things to Know Before You Go: The town is a 20-minute bus ride uphill from Panajachel, which hosts the vast majority of the tourists. If coming from Antigua, Sololá is the final stop before Panajachel. You can easily hike, bike (make sure your brakes are in excellent condition) or bus back down the steep road to Lake Atitlan. If visiting on a market day, bring only the money you will need. There are plenty of ATMs if you need more money.
Contribution by Longest Bus Rides.
Utila is a 12 square mile island off the coast of mainland Honduras. Travellers often skip Honduras because of its dangerous reputation but the Bay Islands, including Utila, are perfectly safe to visit. Honduras sits between Guatemala and Nicaragua so if you plan to travel overland through Central America it is a logical and easy stop between the two countries.
The main reason to visit Utila is to learn to dive. Utila borders on the Mesoamerican barrier reef system, the 2nd largest reef in the world after the Australian Great Barrier Reef. Utila has over 100 different world-class dive sites to choose from that offer many interesting things to see such as colourful reefs, caves and wrecks, and hundreds of species of fish including the whale shark – the largest fish species on earth.
Not only does Utila have beautiful dive sites, but it is one of the cheapest places in the world to become a certified diver. As a first time diver I was nervous that the quality might be jeopardised for the cost, but this was not the case. I completed my PADI open water certification at Underwater Vision and the staff were very professional, while still making the experience fun. The total cost of the course is $290 USD, which includes accommodation.
Locals will say there are two things to do in Utila: dive and party. In my experience that’s pretty accurate, but I loved every second of my time there. The island is mostly dive shops and bars but everyone who lives in Utila is super friendly and down to earth. From beach clean ups to all-night parties, the island has a great vibe about it. I’ve been to many dive towns since Utila and nothing compares to my experience there. If you want to get your diving certification, I can’t recommend Utila and Underwater Vision enough.
Contribution by Explore With Lora.
Located close-by to the Mexico-Belize border, the Mexican town of Bacalar lies adjacent to one of the bluest lakes in Central America. The town is relatively easy to reach, as it’s just a 3 hour-bus journey from Tulum. Currently only a couple of buses run each day, so it’s best to book in advance to guarantee a spot! Although Bacalar is easy to reach by bus, it’s a perfect spot for those looking to get off the beaten track in Mexico.
The main attraction of the town is the stunning Lake Bacalar. It’s known as the lake of seven colours for a reason, and its beautiful crystal clear waters do not disappoint! One of the best things to do here is just find a jetty and take a swim in the lake. You can easily spend hours floating in the unbelievably blue waters as you soak up some sunrays. Alternatively, visit Balneario Ecologico – a small complex with a restaurant, designated swimming area and a water slide! This small spot only costs 15 pesos to enter and is a great place to have a drink or two on the shores of the lake. It’s also a great place to meet some locals, as very few tourists seem to visit.
The best way to see the lake itself is on a day trip, which can be arranged at hostels and hotels around the area. These tours involve taking a boat to several spots around the lake, with tours generally visiting the same areas. Two spots you are likely to visit on the tours are Cenote Negro and Cenote Esmeralda. If you don’t know what a cenote is, it’s a deep natural well of water. Although many cenotes are found in caves, Cenote Negro and Cenote Esmeralda are actually found in Lake Bacalar itself.
Another unique place to visit is the Canal de los Piratas. In days gone by, pirates would enter Bacalar lagoon via the canal in order to raid the town. Nowadays, tourists visit to take advantage of the mud in the area that naturally exfoliates your skin. Leave it on for 10 minutes and you’ll thank me later!
For the perfect relaxing off the beaten path destination in North America, look no further than Bacalar.
Boquillas del Carmen, Mexico
Boquillas del Carmen is a small village on the border of Mexico and the United States. While many around the world have a preconception that all US/Mexico border towns are riddled with violence and drugs, crime is not an issue in Boquillas del Carmen. The tiny, colourful village is so far from the beaten path that the typical problems that plague most border towns don’t impact the residents in Boquillas del Carmen. It is hours away from any other town in either Mexico or the USA.
With just two restaurants, a bar, a grocery store and roughly 200 residents, Boquillas del Carmen survives solely off tourism. Each day, a handful of people visiting Big Bend National Park in far West Texas cross the Rio Grande River by rowboat to make the short trip to Boquillas del Carmen. The Boquillas Crossing is the only legal border crossing in the United States that is not manned by border patrol. Instead, a friendly park ranger greets those who want to make the unique venture across the river.
From the Rio Grande, Boquillas is about a three quarters of a mile trek through the desert. Those who don’t want to walk can take a donkey or horse ride into town for about $5 USD. While there isn’t a lot to do in Boquillas del Carmen, the colourful village is a fascinating look at extremely rural life in Mexico. The locals do not shy away from conversations about border issues or politics, and are happy to take you on a tour of their town.
You definitely want to stop in for some authentic and delicious Mexican food at one of the small restaurants in town. Local artisans also sell handmade crafts outside their homes. Consider buying something when you go, because every penny spent in this humble community is what keeps it alive.
Contribution by Parenthood and Passports.
Mexico City is one of the most exciting cities on earth, and there are a few amazing towns outside the city limits that are relatively unknown to tourists. Each is worth your time to discover and to visit.
One of these towns is Mixquic, a small village about a 1.5 hour drive from Mexico City. Here, you can walk around a classic small Mexican town with quiet alley roads, a small town centre with a market, and a stone church surrounded by a graveyard. Don’t miss the stack of real human bones and skulls in the church courtyard! Mixquic is also home to several small museums.
Along the streets, you’ll find macabre murals with flowers and skeletons – depictions of the Day of the Dead celebration, for which Mixquic is famous.
Once a year, during the Day of the Dead, Mixquic’s quiet ambience and alleyways become a huge festival and celebration. The streets are lined with stalls, with everything from carnival games, street food, ceramic skull decorations, heaps of fried grasshoppers, and Day of the Dead bread. It is a mind-blowing collection of vendors!
If you have seen the Pixar movie Coco, you can relate to many things in Mixquic. Locals flock to the town’s graveyard with fresh marigolds and other flowers, and light up candles at night. Houses are decorated with papel picado ornaments, as well as trails of marigolds leading spirits back to their homes.
The Day of the Dead celebration is often described as a bizarre, unique, and exciting festival. Instead of avoiding the subject of death, Mexicans embrace it by celebrating and honouring their departed ones with ornate flower displays on graves. And while doing it, they throw in a festival with lively street vendors, band stages, and open house museums.
It is a surreal celebration, but you will have to plan ahead if you come for the Day of the Dead celebration in Mixquic. We recommend arranging your own transportation to and from Mixquic in advance, or even staying overnight.
Contribution by The Round The World Guys.
Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
American tourists flock to Cancun and Mexico City, but did you know that world class wine is available just two hours south of San Diego? When I visited recently, I couldn’t believe I could enjoy such a magical travel experience without a 12 hour plane trip. There are more than 75 wineries on the Ruta del Vino in the valley.
Winemakers have been making dozens of varietals here for years, but it’s only recently that they’ve become recognised in their own right. In 2018, San Diego-based tour companies for wine tasting really geared up for customers visiting Valle de Guadalupe. So if you’re willing to trade a little flexibility for convenience, you can skip the driving and still enjoy a wonderful wine tasting experience.
A weekend in Mexican wine country is a study in contrasts. You’ll drive down lots of pothole ridden dirt roads only to emerge at a sparkling world-class winery with atmosphere to spare. One is an uber Instagrammable Frida Kahlo themed winery with a rooftop bar decked out in brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows. Another feels like Old Mexico (you can even enjoy beer tasting here – try the ‘Hot Blonde’). And yet another is an architectural marvel of steel sculpture and glass.
The best Valle de Guadalupe wineries offer a range of great wines, friendly service and unique ambiance. Just remember, U.S Customs only allows you to bring back one bottle of wine per person duty-free into California. Don’t risk a hefty fine for smuggling!
Not a wine taster? The valley is also an up and coming foodie destination with everything from gourmet fare at food trucks to four course meals from world-renowned chefs. Or how about a sunrise view of the valley in a hot air balloon? Or a hike to hot springs. Valle de Guadalupe is also less than an hour’s drive to Ensenada at the coast for surfing, stand up paddleboarding and sunset cocktails on pristine beaches.
Contribution by Explore Now or Never.
Corn Islands, Nicaragua
The Corn Islands are two islands off the Caribbean coast of Southern Nicaragua. One is Big Corn Island, the other is Little Corn Island. I would plan to spend a day on Big Corn and the majority of your time on Little Corn. I think I stayed there for a week and could easily have stayed four more if I had the time.
Big Corn Island is quite a bit bigger than Little Corn. It has an airstrip and roads, unlike the other. No matter what, you have to go through Big Corn. I would recommend checking out the Island Bakery and Sweets because they’re delicious, but I would not recommend getting anything to drink there. It was not made with safe drinking water and I got sick. The treats were great though. There is a little beachy area across the street too.
There are two well-maintained beaches to visit. Watch a baseball game or two on Sundays. Check out the art installation on the top of Quinn Hill. And finally, treat yourself to some delicious and affordable seafood.
Little Corn Island is much smaller and can easily be walked around in an hour or two. There are no roads, just a path around the island. But, for how small the island is, there is actually a lot to do. You can get certified in SCUBA diving or take a new course, go snorkelling, walk around the island, hike to the lighthouse thing, treat yourself at the Turned Turtle, rent a kayak, try stand up paddleboarding, watch the sunset, relax in a hammock, and of course, lay around on the beach for hours. Little Corn Island felt like a holiday on a holiday. There is limited electricity (2pm to 6am), very little wifi, no phone reception, no ATM, and almost no stores, so if you plan to buy snacks, do it before you get there.
Getting to the Corn Islands is pretty easy. There are two options: by land and sea or by air. You can take a series of buses and boats from Managua to El Rama to Bluefields to Big Corn to Little Corn, or you can simply fly from Managua. I went by land and sea on my way there and it was not as bad as the Internet makes it seem, but it did take a couple of days. I would do it again, just take Dramamine if you get seasick. I flew back and it was way faster, so if you’re short on time, just fly. Costs were pretty comparable between the two.
Contribution by Red Around the World.
Want to see a totally different side of Panama? Head to the mountains in the west, where you’ll find sleepy Boquete nestled in the cloud forest of the Chiriqui province. This lovely town of just 19,000 people offers attractions for travellers of all types, as well as the opportunity to just relax amidst the stunning views and perfect temperatures.
Many visitors come to Boquete for outdoor activities. There are lots of great adventures to enjoy including hiking, horseback riding, zip lining and even rafting. Visitors coming between February and May have a good change of spotting the stunning blue and green quetzal bird. If you prefer food and culture, don’t miss a visit to Boquete Bees where you’ll find a working coffee farm to tour, a delicious honey-making endeavour and a stunning tropical butterfly collection. There really is no shortage of great things to do in Boquete.
In terms of eating, Boquete has some wonderful options. For traditional (and extremely affordably) food, head to nearby Caldera for a visit to Melissa’s. If you’re in the mood for Italian food, you’ll find it at RetroGusto in town.
Boquete is a wonderful dot on the map, but word is getting out about the fantastic scenery, activities and peaceful pace of life: the town’s population is now approximately 15% expats, mostly from the US, Canada and some others from South America. You’ll find a surprisingly diverse population, including some members of the area’s numerous indigenous communities.
Boquete is roughly equidistant by private car between Panama City and San Jose, Costa Rica: approximately 7 hours by car from either major airport. If you don’t plan to drive yourself, the other option is to fly 1 hour from Panama City to nearby David, where you can rent a car from any of several companies. It’s very helpful to explore the Chiriqui region by car, as public transportation is limited.
Contribution by The Family Voyage.
Bequia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
A cruise introduced me to several Caribbean islands that were never on my radar, one of which is Bequia. I immediately fell in love with this English Caribbean island after hearing that one of their beaches was named after Princess Margaret. After all, being a big fan of The Crown, I am basically obsessed with all things royal – royally associated islands included.
This sleepy little island covers approximately 18 square kilometres and is part of the Grenadines. A short hike takes you to a small fort, which affords lovely views as it overlooks the sea. If you decide to vacation in Bequia, a variety of adorable guesthouses are situated overlooking the aqua waters, and there are daily flights from larger airports nearby.
Another endearing part of this island is the activity of the locals. Many are expats, which allows for uniquely handcrafted souvenirs and accounts for the plethora of boats in the small harbour. While you are there, be sure to share rum punch with a companion and also take note of the handcrafted directional sign. It boasts distances as little as 29 metres away and adds a quaint feel to the hub of town.
And Princess Margaret Beach? It doesn’t disappoint. A sturdy walkway has been constructed around the perimeter of the island so that this respite is easily reached. A brief walk – with restaurants and bars along the way – leads to soft sand and rolling waves. It is the perfect place to while a few hours away in the sun or under a shady tree if you prefer.
Bequia may be small, but for those searching for a quaint island respite, it is definitely a highlight of the Caribbean worth considering.
Contribution by Hill City Bride.
Badlands National Park, United States of America
I think the Badlands might be one of our favourite national parks in the whole of US. There are plenty of opportunities to wildlife spot in the park. We personally loved seeing Bison and Prairie Dogs just off the loop road at Roberts Town. Children are bound to love it, just don’t let them get close! The loop road offers many easy to walk trailheads as well as many viewpoints on the roadside, which makes seeing the best this park has to offer with kids really easy. On top of that there are some great family friendly walks.
But one of the best things about the Badlands National Park is that, by comparison to many of the other parks, it is exceptionally quiet. As a result you really feel like you are in touch with nature. It is also close to other hidden gems such as Custer state park, which anywhere else would be worthy of national park status, as well as more national parks and monuments such as the famous Mount Rushmore and the stunning devils tower.
No visit to the Badlands is complete without a visit to Wall Drug. As you drive between Rapid City and Sioux Falls there aren’t many noteworthy markings except for the constant advertising billboards for Wall Drug in either direction! Wall Drug often features in lists of the world’s best Roadside Attractions and is a great spot to buy souvenirs, grab a coffee and soak up the atmosphere.
Badlands is best visited by car so you can drive the loop road at your own pace and leisure. A great base is Rapid City as the park is only around a 50 minute drive away. Staying in the city allows you to see all of the other attractions that the area has to offer too.
Contribution by Wandermust Family.
Bannack State Park, United States of America
The first territorial capital of Montana, Bannack, was founded in 1862 when gold was discovered in the creek. Once a thriving western town, it is now abandoned, but it remains a well-preserved example of life in the wild west during the gold rush. After the inhabitants of Bannack moved on, the State took over care of the town and declared it a State Park.
There are over 60 buildings in the park, ranging from dilapidated to fully restored with recreated decorations inside. You can wander through humble houses, check out the local lodging in the old hotel, see where you would have gone for a drink at the old saloon, visit the doctor’s house, and learn to read at the local school.
If you visit Bannack State Park during the month of June, you can attend Bannack Days where you’ll see actors in period costume, reenactments of life during the glory days, and demonstrations of pioneer skills like wool spinning, quilting, wagon wheel making, basket weaving, candle making, and gold panning. You can eat meals in the old hotel and try some old-fashioned goodies. You can also take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage or ride down the main road in an old Model AA. You can enjoy bluegrass, gospel, and fiddle music, but watch out for gunfights that might break out in the streets!
If you’re planning on visiting Bannack for a few days and want a true pioneer experience, try camping at Bannack State Park nearby. Bannack State Park is about a 2-hour drive from Missoula, Helena, and Bozeman, Montana which are all great places in Montana to explore as well. You can easily make Bannack a day trip from any of these destinations.
Contribution by Wanderlust Crew.
Death Valley National Park, United States of America
Despite being the second largest national park in the US, and being located in a state as populous as California, Death Valley doesn’t get the love that many of its neighbouring parks do. For many people, the only time they hear of Death Valley is in the summer when its record setting temperatures are broadcast on the news. And I must admit that the name alone deters people. However, this is a park worth the trip. The combination of beautiful and other-worldly sights will make anyone glad they came.
Death Valley is in the middle of nowhere, so visitors living on the West Coast of the US will likely drive here. Beyond the West, visitors can fly into a number of airports including Los Angeles, Ontario and Burbank. International visitors often make Death Valley a part of a California trip that may include San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. This can also be combined with a trip to Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes.
Some of my favourite sights in this park include Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Badwater Basin, and Artist’s Palette. There are many great hiking options, but our favourite was the trail through Golden Canyon and up to Red Cathedral. There is a very helpful visitor’s centre staffed by National Park Rangers at Furnace Creek. Accommodations are also available in the park. We stayed at The Ranch, which isn’t luxurious, but is conveniently close to the major sights.
One of the most important things to consider is when to visit Death Valley. The ideal times are November through April. Outside of this time frame the temperatures are often above 37 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) with peak summer temperatures hitting 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit).
Contribution by Empty Nesters Hit The Road.
Denali National Park, United States of America
On a clear day, a 20,310 foot tall mountain dominates the skyline. This mountain is Denali and she is the centrepiece of Denali National Park. Located in central Alaska, this massive 6-million-acre national park is a unique place to visit.
Denali National Park is a unique park in many ways. It is one of a handful of parks you can visit entirely by public transit. The Alaskan Railroad train stop is just inside the entrance of the park and there are free buses into McKinley Park (where all the hotels are). All of Denali National Park’s campgrounds are accessible via the bus system. The two closest major airports are Fairbanks and Anchorage.
Access in Denali National Park is limited. There is only 92 miles of road for the entire park and only 15 miles of the road is accessible to public vehicles. To travel the remaining 77 miles, you have to take a bus. Bus tours range from 4-16 hours long depending on how deep into the park you are going to explore.
There are two types of bus tours into the park – the tour bus or the shuttle bus. Tour buses are a guided tour with specific stops and a specific time frame. The shuttle bus will pick-up and drop off hikers and campers anywhere along the road.
Denali National Park has very few maintained hiking trails. Most hiking in Denali is off-trail in the backcountry. Most of the maintained trails are located on the first 15 miles of park road. On a clear day, the Savage Alpine Loop provides impressive views of Denali and the glacier valleys.
Another spectacular activity to do in Denali is to take a sightseeing flight. Several companies offer fixed wing and helicopter tours of the park. Some tours land on Ruth Glacier while others fly around the summit of the mountain.
Contribution by National Park Obsessed.
Oak Mountain State Park, United States of America
Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama, USA, is a hidden gem in this southern state. The park is 9,940 acres of beautiful wilderness, which makes it Alabama’s largest state park. There is a $5 USD entry fee per person to get inside the park, but it is worth it.
Two of the most popular activities in the park are hiking and mountain biking. Considering there are over 80 kilometres (50 miles) of trails it is easy to see why these two are so popular. Trails range from short loops to a decent overnight trip. The trails are identified by different colours and have connector trails that link you to different hikes. As a lot of the trails are one way (you just turn around and come back), it is nice to be able to jump on a different trail for the trip back home. The trails are all pretty easy to navigate as you are guided by the corresponding colour on a post.
My favourite hike was the South Rim Trail. I was pleasantly surprised when we got about halfway that we could go up to Eagle’s Nest Overlook. I always love going up to overlooks so I can get a good view of where I am exploring. It is a bit of a steep climb to a giant rock. When we got to the rock, there were already a few people perched up on top and enjoying the view. It was a bit difficult for me to get up with my short legs but I managed it and the views did not disappoint! We stayed there for a while and eventually the other people left. We enjoyed the views and the serenity.
The Park also has an 18-hole golf course, driving range, swimming area, fishing lakes, boat rentals and horseback riding facilities.
Contribution by Through An Aussie’s Eyes.
San Mateo County, United States of America
If you crave variety, then this hidden gem of a place is for you! You may not be familiar with San Mateo County, yet if you have ever flown into San Francisco International Airport you have already been there. The county lies just south of the famous city, yet rivals San Francisco’s to do list with its own worthy collection of places to visit. Here are just a few!
Wine lovers will enjoy visiting several wineries in the region. One of my favourites is the picturesque Thomas Fogarty Winery in Woodside. Their vineyards overlook the bay, which adds to the beauty of this location. A tasting room offers samples of delicious vintages that can shipped directly to you.
One of San Mateo County’s highlights is Filoli (also in Woodside), which is a sprawling 1917 estate with a gorgeous mansion in addition to colourful working gardens. Take home herbs grown in the property, or – if you have time – take a class on flower arranging or botanical art. You can even grab a bite to eat on-site and burn it off by wandering through their walking trails.
The more adventurous can enjoy taking surf lessons in Pacifica at Traveler, a female-owned surf shop that offers lessons and board rentals. A big plus is that they are right on the bay, so you can learn, rent, and play as the perfect waves roll ashore.
For those who want to give glamping a go, then the tented bungalows at Costanoa in Pescadero are a must. With fire pits, a fabulous on-site restaurant, and a walking trail to the beach, it’s a lovely way to spend a weekend.
Food lovers will enjoy heading to many of the eateries that are a part of the ‘As Fresh as it Gets’ program, whose goal is to tie together agriculture, fishing, beverage, and hospitality industries to create culinary delights that are…well, as fresh as it gets!
Last, but certainly not least, when you fly in and out of San Francisco International Airport, heading to downtown Burlingame is both easy and fun. With long standing, locally owned shops and unique restaurants, the town is a short ride from the airport, and it’s an ideal way to while away a few hours during a layover.
If you’d like to find out more about San Mateo County, click here to visit the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau website.
Contribution by Travel Like A Prince.
St. Simons Island, United States of America
If you’re craving an off the beaten path beach trip in the US, St. Simons Island is the place for you. Nestled in the barrier island chain of the Golden Isles, these islands were once a winter respite for the wealthy families of New England, like the Rockefellers and Carnegies. Today, they are quaint coastal communities with stretches of unspoiled dunes and beach, perfect for a long weekend. On St. Simons Island, you can travel the entire island by bike thanks to an island-wide bike path which winds beneath ancient oak trees dripping with Spanish moss.
This area is rich in colonial history. Fort Frederica National Monument on the north end of the island preserves the archaeological remnants of a fort and town built by James Oglethorpe between 1736 and 1748. It was built to protect the southern boundary of the British colony of Georgia from Spanish raids. Take a self-guided tour of the archeological site and check out the museum to see artefacts uncovered from the town and learn how some of the first settlers lived.
Another popular historic site in St. Simons is the St. Simons Lighthouse and Museum in The Village. Built in 1872, it is one of five light towers still standing in Georgia. Climb the 129 steps to the top to experience spectacular panoramic views of the coast including Jekyll Island, the mainland (Brunswick), and the south end of St. Simons Island. Learn about the island’s history and the life of a lighthouse keeper in the lighthouse keeper’s home turned museum. The St. Simons Lighthouse is still a working lighthouse for ships entering St. Simons Sound, casting its beam as far as 23 miles to sea.
Even if you’re not a history buff, you can still have a wonderful beach vacation. Explore the local beaches like Gould’s Inlet, eat plenty of seafood from local restaurants like Gnat’s Landing and The Half Shell, and shop contemporary fashions at Tibi and Cloth & Label. Just don’t forget to take in the incredible sunset at least once.
Contribution by Em’s On The Road.
Upper Chesapeake Bay, United States of America
Perhaps you’re familiar with what’s known as Maryland’s Eastern Shore. But Maryland’s Upper Chesapeake Bay region is a great off the beaten path destination you just don’t hear much about.
Situated at the top of the Chesapeake Bay and easily accessible from I-95, the region has so much to offer. Besides its accessibility, it holds the best of all worlds; quaint old towns, nature, family-friendly destinations, wineries, amazing waterfront dining and more.
Nature-lovers will never run out of things to do. If you enjoy hiking, Fair Hill Nature Reserve, a 5,656-acre reserve offers more than 25-miles of mixed-use trails for walking, biking, and horseback riding.
Don’t need 25-miles of trails? Try Turkey Point Light House located in the Elk Neck State Park. These trails perched high above the Elk Neck River afford stunning views of the Chesapeake Bay. The walk to the lighthouse is roughly a mile and an easy stroll. Both trail systems are part of Maryland’s State Parks.
And if being on the water is more your style, you can’t go wrong. Take a kayak out on the Elk or the North East River, both estuaries that feed the Chesapeake Bay. This is an opportunity to do some birdwatching. If you are so inclined, cast your line and see what you can catch.
Not motivated to catch your dinner but love being on the water? Have no worries, you can expect plenty of waterfront dining. And of course, you will want to sample those delicious Maryland blue crabs steamed and seasoned to perfection.
And for the wine-lovers, Cecil County alone offers no fewer than a half dozen wineries open for tastings. Throughout the year Dove Valley Winery hosts a number of events including hands-on art workshops, concerts, and theatre.
If you’re traveling with kids in tow, you will want to make a stop at Kilby Cream. Here you can indulge in one of more than 20 flavours of fresh hand-dipped ice cream. You’ll find fun at The Dairy Store and Farm Petting Zoo where kids can pet the calves, ponies, bunnies, and goats!
Additionally, Milburn Orchards is another family-friendly agricultural spot. Here you can visit the Barnyard, take a tractor ride, pick your own cherries, apples and blueberries. And don’t forget to grab an apple cider donut in the store. They’re amazing (and freeze well)!
Traveling with Fido? Many of these spots welcome him too.
Contribution by Gen X Traveler.
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