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San Juan Islands, Washington. Scenic view of boats and houses on the hillside.
diak | Adobe Stock

Underrated Summer Travel: Escape the Crowds and Discover Something New

Summer travel season is upon us, but popular destinations can be crowded and expensive. Paris is all the rage right now because of the Olympics, and typical popular destinations like London, New York City, Myrtle Beach, and Orlando can be insanely crowded. We’ve found unique and underrated travel ideas for those seeking an unforgettable summer experience, avoiding mainstream crowds. 

Offbeat Beach Destinations

When I think of the summer, I think of the beach. Unfortunately, so does everyone else, so beaches can be crowded, noisy, and just not relaxing. Here are some beach towns that are less popular than your typical spots, but just as beautiful. 

Aerial View of large crowd on the beach during 4th of July in Virginia Beach
Kyle | Adobe Stock

Cannon Beach, Oregon

While Oregon may not be on your radar as a summer beach destination, Cannon Beach offers dramatic scenery, wildlife viewing, and a charming beach town, perfect for a summer vacation. The beaches in Cannon Beach are perfect for beachcombing. Look for seashells, agates, and other treasures that have washed ashore. It’s also home to one the most photographed spots in Oregon, Haystack Rock, where you can bring out your inner Goonie. When you need a break from the shore, downtown Cannon Beach is perfect for a lazy walk around – it’s home to a variety of shops and galleries. You can find everything from souvenirs to locally-made art, and a variety of restaurants. Ecola State Park offers hiking trails, whale watching, herds of roosevelt elk, and great views of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. Hug Point State Park is home to a variety of tide pools, which are teeming with life during low tide. You can also explore sea caves and watch for whales and other marine life.

Where to Stay: Hallmark Resort & Spa Cannon Beach

Hallmark Resort - Cannon Beach Aerial View
Expedia

This oceanfront resort boasts the closest location to Haystack Rock, offering breathtaking views from many rooms. It features an indoor saltwater pool, a spa, easy beach access, and spacious, well-appointed rooms with some including fireplaces and jetted tubs. They also have daily complimentary cookies from 4-6pm! 

San Juan Islands, Washington

The San Juan Islands are a chain of islands in the Salish Sea, located off the coast of Washington state. The archipelago is known for its stunning natural beauty, relaxed atmosphere, and abundant wildlife. While the water of the beaches is pretty cold, it is still a beach destination. The San Juan Islands are one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. Orcas, humpback whales, and gray whales are all common sights in the Salish Sea. There are many whale watching tours available from Friday Harbor on San Juan Island and other points around the islands. If you love kayaking, you’re in luck. The calm waters of the Salish Sea are perfect for exploring the islands’ many coves, beaches, and wildlife viewing opportunities. You can rent kayaks from a number of outfitters in Friday Harbor or Roche Harbor. The beaches are gorgeous and are perfect for relaxing and exploring. Some of the most popular beaches include South Beach on Lopez Island, which is a National Historical Park,  and Grandma’s Cove on American Camp, one of the few sandy beaches in the area. There are many historical sites, loads of hiking trails, and a number of wineries to visit as well. 

Where to Stay: Snug Harbor Resort

This resort offers stylish suites and cabins, some with private decks and hot tubs. It also has a marina with loaner kayaks, canoes, and bikes, making it a great choice for active travelers.

Hoi An, Vietnam 

Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a charming town known for its colorful architecture, delicious food, and rich history. While not exactly a beach town itself, Hoi An boasts beautiful beaches nearby, perfect for incorporating into your beach vacation itinerary. An Bang Beach, located about 4km from Hoi An’s Old Town, is the perfect spot to head for a day at the beach. It offers pristine white sand, clear turquoise water, and a relaxed atmosphere. You can rent sun loungers and umbrellas, grab a refreshing drink or meal at beachfront restaurants, or enjoy water sports like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. If you’re feeling adventurous, try some beginner-friendly surf lessons. Catch some waves and experience the thrill of surfing in Vietnam’s beautiful waters. You can also take a boat to the Cu Lao Cham Islands, an archipelago off the coast of Hoi An that boasts stunning beaches, clear water ideal for snorkeling, and diverse marine life. Enjoy a day trip exploring the islands, swimming, sunbathing, and savoring fresh seafood. 

Where to Stay: Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa

Expedia

This polished beachfront resort offers comfortable rooms, some with balconies overlooking the ocean. It features an outdoor pool, a spa, a fitness center, and several restaurants serving international and Vietnamese cuisine. It’s located on Cua Dai Beach, a popular stretch with plenty of water sports options.

Embrace the Mountains in Summer

Mountain vacations are more associated with winter vacations because of the skiing, but many mountain areas also offer spectacular summer activities as well. 

Telluride, Colorado

Nestled amongst the San Juan Mountains, Telluride offers a stunning backdrop for a summer adventure. Telluride boasts a vast network of trails for all skill levels. Hike through wildflowers in wildflower meadows, challenge yourself on a climb to a panoramic viewpoint, or explore old mining roads on a mountain bike. For a more leisurely adventure, you can take a scenic ride on the Telluride Gondola for breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Enjoy lunch at the mountaintop restaurant or simply admire the scenery. Telluride comes alive in summer with a variety of festivals and events. Catch a world-renowned performance at the Telluride Jazz Festival or the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Explore art at the Telluride Art Walk or enjoy local pours and eats at the Telluride Food & Vine.

Where to Stay: Hotel Columbia

Expedia

This charming hotel offers a great location in the Gondola District, just steps from the free gondola that takes you to Telluride Mountain Village. It features comfortable rooms, a complimentary breakfast, and an outdoor pool and hot tub.

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe, tucked away in the Green Mountains of Vermont,  offers lush landscapes, outdoor activities, and a charming village for the perfect summer getaway. You’ll be able to explore a vast network of trails catering to all skill levels. Hike to scenic overlooks with breathtaking views, challenge yourself on a mountain bike adventure, or take a leisurely bike ride through the countryside- no matter what type of adventure you choose, there is something for you. Like Telluride, Stowe also has a gondola ride. Visitors can ascend to the top of Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield, on the scenic Stowe Gondola. Enjoy panoramic views, explore hiking trails at the summit, have lunch with a view at the Cliff House Restaurant, or simply relax and take in the mountain air. Experience a unique cultural encounter at a Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm. Learn about this rare breed, take a guided horseback riding tour through scenic meadows, or simply admire these beautiful animals. Stowe is also home to several breweries, cideries and wineries, and Savor Vermont offers several tours so you can visit them at once without having to worry about driving. 

Where to Stay: Field Guide Lodge

Field Guide Lodge Entry and Sign
Expedia

Field Guide Lodge is a boutique hotel in downtown Stowe, Vermont. Guests love the stylish design, friendly staff, and convenient location for exploring the town and enjoying outdoor activities. While not specifically geared towards families, it’s a great basecamp for your summer adventures in Stowe, and has a pool, perfect for cooling off after a day of adventures.

Unexpected Summer Delights

From cities to historical summer getaways, these destinations are places you may never have thought of visiting, but are glorious in the summer, and worth a visit. 

Traverse City, Michigan:

Home to the majority of Michigan’s Cherry industry, Traverse City offers visitors a wide range of activities, from beaches, to wineries and a charming downtown area- it makes for a perfect summer vacation. Laze on Clinch Park Beach on the Grand Traverse Bay, or make a day of it with the family at East Bay Park, which is equipped with a playground and public restrooms. Wine lovers can embark on a self-guided or guided tour through Traverse City’s renowned wineries. One of the most popular events in the summer is the National Cherry Festival, which features food, music, parades and more. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is perfect for hiking or climbing the towering sand dunes. It also offers scenic trails, swimming in pristine Lake Michigan, and breathtaking views. For a slower paced activity, stroll down Front Street, lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes. Explore local boutiques, and grab a bite at a sidewalk cafe for the perfect summer experience.

Where to Stay: The Baywatch Resort

The Baywatch Resort
Expedia

This resort offers a variety of condos and suites, some with balconies overlooking West Grand Traverse Bay. It features a marina, multiple pools, a waterslide, and a variety of on-site dining options.

The Berkshires, Massachusetts: 

The Berkshires burst with summer houses of New York City dignitaries during the gilded age, and continues to be a summer destination hot spot. For outdoor adventurers, there is a vast network of trails catering to all levels. Hike scenic mountains to overlooks with breathtaking views or challenge yourself on a mountain bike adventure through lush forests. Visit part of The Appalachian Trail, or the highest point in Massachusetts, Mount Greylock.  Laurel Lake, Pontoosuc Lake and the Housatonic River all offer great opportunities for kayaking or canoeing, while the Deerfield River provides excellent conditions for whitewater rafting if you’re looking for a more exhilarating option. The Berkshires is also host host to a wide variety of cultural experiences, home to Tanglewood, summer home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and hosts a wide variety of concerts from classical to contemporary music. Or check out a dance recital at Jacob’s Pillow, touted as  “one of America’s most precious cultural assets” by choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov. The Berkshire Theatre Group provides the area with professional theatre performances all summer long. The Norman Rockwell Museum is a must-stop for anyone visiting the area as well. 

Where to Stay: The Red Lion Inn

Red Lion Inn Exterior
Expedia

This historic inn is located in the heart of Stockbridge Ma, home of famed artist Norman Rockwell. Established in 1773, it’s one of the oldest continuously operating inns in the United States. It offers a blend of historic charm and modern comfort, with antique-filled rooms in the main building and contemporary guest houses scattered around the property.

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