Family Vacations, Summer 1996
Things To Do Few actually risk total immersion in Seaside's frigid, 55-degree water without wetsuits. Kids happily splash around in the surf, however, and people play on the beach in other ways--sandcastle-building, kite-flying, skimboarding on the hard, wet sand, and pedaling around on low-to-the-ground beach tricycles. The waves are good for surfing and bodyboarding, and surfboards and wetsuits can be rented at Cleanline Surf Shop (503-738-7888). Outdoor Fun for All (503-738-8447) rents bikes, mopeds, in-line skates, and kayaks. Kayaking is safe and easy in Nehalem Bay, an estuary of the Necanicum River that flows through town. Boardsailors point their sails to Fort Stevens and Youngs Bay, 20 miles north on the Columbia River. Hikers head to Ecola State Park, seven miles south, for matchless views from trails out to Ecola Point and Tillamook Head.
Where To Stay The Shilo Inn (doubles, $168-$220; 503-738-9571) is a five-story hotel with a heated pool and fitness center. Two Prom-side contenders are the Hi-Tide Motel (doubles, $120; 503-738-8414) and the Best Western Ocean View Resort (doubles, $80-$172; 800-234-8439).
For More Info Seaside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau; 800-444-6740.
SIESTA KEY, FLORIDA
Things To Do The Gulf of Mexico, needless to say, is an inviting swimming hole (average summer water temp is 85 degrees). Crescent Beach is great for walking and running; Turtle Beach, farther south, is best for shelling. Snorkelers can poke along the reef off Point of Rocks looking for snook and grouper. Sweetwater Kayaks (941-346-1179) leads tours of the gulf and bay; on some you'll paddle alongside dolphins ($25 per person). For mechanized fun, All Watersports (941-921-2754) rents boats and watercraft (Jet Skis, $45-$65 per hour; motor boats, $25 per hour); and offers charter fishing, waterskiing, and diving trips. Siesta Key Parasail (941-346-5052) specializes in its namesake activity ($45 per person). A wide walking/biking path makes Ocean Boulevard and Beach Road safe for cyclists and in-line skaters. Everything from bikes to boats can be rented at Mr. CB's Saltwater Outfitters (941-349-4400).
Where To Stay Captiva Beach Resort (doubles, $315; 800-349-4131) and Sara Sea Inn at the Beach (doubles with kitchenettes, $75; 941-349-3244) both have pools and are within 500 yards of the beach. Many families rent condos for a week or longer ($600 and up); for a list of available properties, contact the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce (see below).
For More Info Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce; 941-349-3800.
CAPE MAY, NEW JERSEY
Things To Do Bird-watching is a year-round obsession in Cape May. For the low-down on shorebird, raptor, and songbird migrations--plus info on guided walks--call the Cape May Bird Observatory Hotline (609-884-2626) or drop by the headquarters on East Lake Drive. The Village Bicycle Shop (2 Victorian Village Plaza; 609-884-8500) rents everything from two-wheelers to surreys. You can pedal the quiet side streets checking out the Victorians (there are 600 houses on the National Register of Historic Places) or head out to Cape May Point State Park, three miles south of town. Park visitors climb the 199-step Cape May Lighthouse and hike the three short trails that meander over freshwater marshes and soft-sand beaches. Kayak tours of Cape May's sounds, tidal creeks, and harbor are led by Aqua Trails (two- to four-hour trips, $30-$50; 609-884-5600).
Where To Stay The venerable Marquis de Lafayette (doubles, $148-$228; 800-257-0432) has occupied its ocean-view spot for decades. A three-story motel adjoins the six-story, all-suites hotel with heated pool. To arrange a stay, call the Cape May Reservation Service (609-884-3191), which represents 70 percent of the town's B&Bs, hotels, motels, and guest houses.
For More Info Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May; 609-884-5508.
HILTON HEAD ISLAND,
Things To Do There are 29 golf courses and 300 tennis courts, but the beach beats 'em all. The sand is hard enough for bicycling; for rentals try Hilton Head Bicycle ($10 per day; 803-686-6888) and Peddling Pelican Bike Rentals ($10-$25 per day; 803-785-5470). Shore Beach Service (803-785-3494) rents catamarans, aquacycles, bikes, Boogie boards, and more. April through October is offshore fishing season for grouper, king mackerel, and shark. Arrange half-day fishing trips for up to six people at Harbor Town Yacht Basin ($195-$365; 803-671-2704) and South Beach Marina ($250-$300: 803-671-3060); both also rent out watercraft. You can hike along several miles of trails in 650-acre Sea Pines Forest Preserve, home to herons, egrets, and ibis.
Where To Stay Hilton Head's high-end hotels--such as the towering beachfront Westin Resort (doubles, $150-$290; 800-228-3000)--make life easy on families by providing a camplike children's program with arts and crafts, swimming, and games. The island has thousands of hotel and motel rooms as well as villas and homes for rent. For listings, contact the Visitors Information Center (see below).
For More Info Hilton Head Island Visitors Information Center; 803-785-3673.
Things To Do A wide concrete walkway runs along Carlsbad State Beach, where people jog, cycle, and skate at all hours. The summer surf is tame on this lifeguarded ribbon of sand and pebbles, making it safe for families. Witt's Carlsbad Pipeline (619-729-4423) sells surfboards, skateboards, and bodyboards (they'll rent you the latter as well). Agua Hedionda Lagoon--south of Carlsbad State Beach on either side of Carlsbad Boulevard--is a good spot for swimming, fishing, and waterskiing. California Water Sports (619-434-3089), on the lagoon at Snug Harbor Marina, rents kayaks, Wave Runners, and water skis, and offers waterskiing lessons. Batiquitos Lagoon, east of South Carlsbad State Beach, is an ecological reserve with miles of shoreline trails.
Where To Stay Top-of-the-line in Carlsbad is the La Costa Resort & Spa (doubles, $225; 619-438-9111), a world-famous golf-and-tennis getaway where there's Camp La Costa for kids five to 12. Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort (doubles and suites, $140-$198; 800-235-3939) is less expensive and closer to the beach. Camping at South Carlsbad State Beach will place you even closer to the waves, but reservations (call Destinet at 800-444-7275) are essential.
For More Info Carlsbad Convention & Visitors Bureau; 800-227-5722.
GULF SHORES, ALABAMA
Things To Do Sportfishing is king in the Gulf Shores area, which calls itself the Red Snapper Capital of the World. From Little Lagoon to Lake Shelby, Cotton Bayou to Perdido Bay, and out into the blue waters of the open gulf, world-record snappers, cobias, and triggerfish are hauled in. Charter a fishing boat at Perdido Pass Marina ($500 for a six-hour trip for six people; 800-844-6481), eight miles east of Gulf Shores at Alabama Point. Rent watercraft in the marina at Perdido Pass Parasail & Waverunner (334-981-5505). Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge (334-540-7720) occupies the peninsula west of town, where migratory birds make landfall after a 600-mile trans-gulf flight. Beautiful beaches, three miles of trails, a small lake, and scads of tired flycatchers and hummingbirds can be found here. Part of Gulf State Park (334-948-7275) is a state-run resort with three freshwater lakes, a two-mile beach, an 825-foot fishing pier, and five short hiking trails.
Where To Stay A building boom on Alabama's Gulf Coast keeps bringing new properties to Gulf Shores, such as an all-suites addition at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites (doubles, $130; suites, $225; 800-662-4853). The Lighthouse Resort Motel (doubles and apartments, $71-$145; 334-948-6188) claims 620 feet of private beach. Gulf State Park has its own 144-room beachfront hotel (doubles, $99; 800-544-4853), plus 17 rental cabins on Lake Shelby and a whopping 468 campsites ($11-$25 per night).
For More Info Alabama Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau; 800-745-7763.
Copyright 1996, Outside magazine