Going Coastal – 13 Unique Seaside Adventures

California Condor about to take flight
California Condor about to take flight

We’re currently hugging the coast of Central California doing our best to avoid the crowds. We have been meeting sea-anemones, condors, crabs, sea lions and seals. Hiking among the wild flowers and getting sand between our toes. It brings back fond memories of some of our other coastal excursions and adventures, all over the U.S. and elsewhere. Here we’d like to share 13 awe-inspiring and unusual coastal destinations we highly recommend.

West Coast – USA

Driving an RV, we often find parking a challenge, particularly in major cities. And San Francisco is nearly impossible to park in or near for any kind of vehicle. But you can park at the Presidio for a reasonable fee, and from there it’s a short walk to the Golden Gate Bridge. And just across the bridge is a little rest stop with ample parking for large vehicles with a commanding view of the city and the Bay. Furthermore, you can park here for 8 hours, including overnight. This is our favorite spot to watch either the sunset or the sunrise — both are incredible. We shared more tips in an article we published last year titled Gallivanting Across the Golden Gate.

East Coast – USA

On the other side of the country, we have found that New England has the best whale watching (especially in Plymouth and Gloucester, Massachusetts – video) and the most interesting cruises aboard vintage sailboats and other craft. On some of these old boats, you have a chance to help hoist the sails. And on EcoAdventure Tours out of Kennebunkport, Maine, you can take a lighthouse excursion on a speed boat that jostles you like crazy and really puts the wind in your hair — it’s a combination sightseeing tour and thrill ride. Quite possible with a really colorful guide. We filmed a short video to show you what EcoAdventures is all about

Also in Maine, Acadia National Park offers memorable encounters with forests, wildlife, mountains and beaches. The most stunning view of the ocean and nearby landscape is obtained by making the daunting (and somewhat spooky) climb to the top of the dome-shaped mountain known as The Beehive. If you have acrophobia, this could be a bit of a challenge.

New England also has our favorite place to go parasailing: Newport, Rhode Island. The views are hard to match as you soar 500 feet above the water.

Much farther down the coast, the island of Shackleford Banks just off the coast of North Carolina has been home to wild horses for many generations — the legend is that they are the descendants of beasts that survived the wreck of a Spanish ship centuries ago. It’s quick and easy to get out to them by ferry, and you can spend the whole day viewing them and swimming if you wish. Just be prepared to wade, because you’ll have to do so to get on and off the ferry. And bring insect repellent and water. Oh, and be ready to improvise if you need a bathroom.

Wild Horses at Shakleford
Keeping a distance from the Wild Horses at Shakleford Banks

Even farther down the coast, we were surprised to discover that some of the beaches in South Carolina are littered with millions of little fossils, inconspicuously mixed in with the rocks in the sand. Charleston Fossil Adventures will provide a paleontologist to give you a guided tour of the beach and help you identify these relics of bygone ages. You can even keep all the ones you find!

And farther down the coast still, we stumbled upon flyboarding in West Palm Beach. Flyboarding looks like something from Back To The Future, except on/ in the water. You strap on the flyboard, which looks somewhat like a skateboard, but it’s attached to a hose attached to a jet ski. And the current through the hose lifts you up out of the water — to a height of up to 30 feet if you’re practiced enough. We managed maybe to get that high in dog feet.

Florida is also a place to have a very memorable snorkeling adventure, though you have to go a bit inland — in order to follow the manatees that do likewise. Every spring and winter, manatees make their way from the ocean to a little sanctuary at the mouth of Crystal River — and we like to get in the water with them and watch them up close. If you don’t want to take the guided boat tour and don’t mind doing a little paddling, you can rent a kayak and snorkeling gear and head out a short distance to the sanctuary. Either way, you end up where the water is shallow enough to stand. And these gentle “sea cows” come right up to you, and even bump into you. The seasons for manatee encounters are winter and spring. Try to go when there hasn’t been a heavy rain lately, so the water will be even shallower.

Manatee in Crystal River
Snorkeling with Manatees (video)

Hawaiian Islands

But our favorite snorkeling spot is at Hanauma Bay on Oahu. Because it’s a state park, it charges admission — unlike the vast majority of beaches in Hawaii, which are accessible to the public free per state law. But it’s well worth paying for, because the variety of colorful fish, turtles, octopuses and other marine life within a relatively small sheltered bay is just stunning. And they all come into shallow water, so you don’t even have to swim as such.

Over Seas

In Italy, we love visiting Cinque Terra, a set of five coastal villages dating back 1000 years or so. They’re about an hour’s train ride from Pisa, with trains leaving to and fro several times throughout the day. The two villages on the waterfront are called Monterosso and Vernazza; the latter is an especially colorful little town with very narrow, automobile-less streets that screams “movie set” at every turn. The houses are all painted different colors; according to legend, this is so the fishermen could spot their houses from offshore (and maybe keep an eye on their wives to discourage hanky-panky). It’s possible to walk from one village to another — in fact, it’s the most accessible form of transport — but it’s hilly and can be a bit strenuous. If you hike between Monterosso and Vernazza, keep an eye out for the sanctuary someone has built for stray cats (and give them food if you like).

And in mentioning our favorite seaside attractions, we can’t leave out Tokyo DisneySea, one of two Disney theme parks in Tokyo. It’s not only situated by the sea, its attractions are themed after the sea — or at least bodies of water. There’s one section that’s a convincing replica of Venice, complete with gondola rides. But there are also attractions that are not necessarily sea-related, like the Tower Of Terror — a fascinating variation of the ride of the same name found in American Disney parks. (Flashback to 2013 at Tokyo DisneySea)

Caution: Nude Sun Bathers on the California Coast

What seaside destination is on your list of best place to explore?

Leave us a comment below about your favorite coastal destination and what you love about it. We definitely have Istanbul on our radar. Both an ancient city and a very modern city (and one of the largest cities in the world), it’s packed with history, culture and intrigue. And it’s the only city on the planet that straddles two continents — a melting pot if ever there was one. But we want to hear your recommendations. What did we miss? Share your thoughts so we can dream about more ocean side getaways to explore as soon as travel restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so. We’d especially love to hear about unusual, one-of-a-kind experiences.

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