Best Beachside Cities in Florida

By: Ben Holdt

Spending a few days at the beach is a great way to get away from the daily stresses of life and relax. With over 8,000 miles of coastline, Florida is second to just Alaska for the amount of land they have touching, sparkling ocean waters. However, the Sunshine State has the upper hand on being near the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. While there may be a lot of towns and cities dotting the Florida coast, there are only a few that indeed offer the best quality of life. Check out the best beachside cities in Florida for your next beach getaway.

Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach Rentals

Panama City Beach Skyline

With 27 miles of white sandy beaches, Panama City Beach is widely known for its ability to ease away any stress that you brought with you on your vacation. This famous town offers waterfront restaurants as well as plenty of scuba activities thanks to its nearby artificial reefs. Families will enjoy the many water parks in town as well as two state parks that offer an up close and personal look at nature. There are plenty of nearby amusements to fill a vacation at the beach when the sand castle building is all done.

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach House Rentals

Cocoa Beach House Rentals

This popular surfing destination is just south of Cape Canaveral along the Atlantic Ocean. Cocoa Beach is known for the waves that descend upon its shores at the end of the hurricane season that offers a great opportunity for avid surfers. Check out local events to book a vacation with plenty of action out on the water as you soak up the sun from the beach. You’ll also find many things to explore in the area including tours of the Kennedy Space Center, the Dinosaur Store, and many fishing charters.

Destin

Destin Florida Vacation Rental homes

Destin Sandy Beaches

Located in Northwest Florida, Destin features plenty of sugar white beaches and sunshine. As a popular destination point for many Midwesterners, the area is well known for its wide range of fishing activities as well as shopping opportunities. You’ll find excellent fishing charters as well as plenty of events year-round to make your vacation unique. Local restaurants feature fresh seafood from the gulf, and you’ll also find plenty of golf courses in the area as well.

Palm Beach

This widely known beach is as far East as you can get on the Florida coastline. Palm Beach features beautiful palm trees along white sandy beaches and plenty of luxury. The beach sits on a 16-mile-long island that is just 0.5 miles wide with plenty of beach area all around. Many wealthy families choose this area for winter homes which have created a luxury experience in town. You’ll find the most excellent restaurants and upscale shops when you’re not enjoying the beautiful beach.

Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach House Rentals on the beach

Fort Walton Beach

The beautiful emerald waters along Fort Walton Beach are enough to attract plenty of visitors each year. Located between Pensacola and Panama City, the beach is in an excellent location for visitors to get to from other parts of the country. Fort Walton Beach has powdery white beaches and offers plenty for the family to do once a day at the beach is done. You’ll find golf courses, aquariums, and many other attractions that help make this destination a vacation to remember.

There are plenty of places to choose from when looking for a great vacation on the beach in Florida. White sandy beaches mixed with enough great food and nightlife to keep you busy after a long day on the beach is standard for many of these hot spots. Consider any one of the best beachside cities in Florida for your next vacation to the Sunshine State.

Ben Holt is a fresh air enthusiast and loves writing about it. Ben is always looking to make the most of a summer day, whether he is relaxing in his garden, hiking on an off-beaten trail or entertaining friends on his newly renovated patio.

Basking in the Beach: Eight of the Best Beaches in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a city so glitzy that sightings of superstars are commonplace. It is home to Hollywood, itself a must-see destination. It also boasts of an assortment of attractions, like Universal Studios Hollywood, Griffith Park, and Getty Center. It is even a certified sports city, with several professional sports franchises calling Los Angeles their home. That list includes the Lakers and Clippers of the NBA, the Sparks of the WNBA, the Dodgers and Angels of the MLB, the Galaxy and FC of the MLS, and the Rams and Chargers of the NFL, which is, of course, a staple of American society itself. 

The City of Angels is also known for its beaches, each of which is described by Culture Trip as having its “own style and flare.” That being said, here are eight of the best beaches in Los Angeles:

Santa Monica State Beach

The busy Santa Monica State Beach

The busy Santa Monica State Beach

IMAGE CREDIT: Wikipedia



The busy Santa Monica State Beach

A favorite among both tourists and locals, this expansive beach boasts of a historic pier that signals the end of Route 66. It has a classic, retro vibe, with great surf spots along a three-mile stretch. It is quite popular, and can be overcrowded at times, though the many resorts can handle the trove of visitors coming over. It also helps that there are plenty of other things to do here aside from swimming and sunbathing. A walk downtown, for instance, can be quite gratifying, as is relaxing under the shades provided by Tongava Park.

El Matador Beach

A view of El Matador Beach

A view of El Matador Beach
IMAGE CREDIT: Pinterest



A view of El Matador Beach

Nestled deep in Malibu is the El Matador Beach, which is known for its extremely rocky terrain. It can be a pain to get there, but it is worth checking out nonetheless. The views are breathtaking, the water is crystal clear, and the place is pretty much all yours. That it is one of the cleanest beaches in Los Angeles is a plus. Without doubt, El Matador Beach is perfect for those seeking to take a clear break from the hustle-bustle of life.

Venice Beach

The famed bike path in Venice Beach


IMAGE CREDIT: Pinterest

The famed bike path in Venice Beach

The famed bike path in Venice Beach

Like Santa Monica State Beach, Venice Beach is also quite popular, and like the former, it can get crowded, too. But that is actually one of the inherent charms of this beach. With the plethora of people visiting Venice Beach, there is this palpable energy that never seems to run out. It is a surfer’s haven according to CBS Los Angeles, and it boasts of a host of other attractions apart from the beach. There’s a bike path, for instance, that will take you all the way to the aforementioned Santa Monica State Beach.

Paradise Cove Beach

Paradise Cove Beach

Paradise Cove Beach
IMAGE CREDIT: Pinterest



Situated beneath the cliffs of Malibu is the public-private Paradise Cove Beach. This understated beauty is mostly under the auspices of Paradise Cove Beach Café, which offers all necessary amenities. Swimming and surfing, though, are free; but for a full appreciation of Paradise Cove Beach, it is best that you rent a private terrace (or even just a beach bed or lounge) and just pass time away in arguably one of the coziest, most relaxing spots in Malibu.

Carbon Beach (Billionaire’s Beach)

Carbon Beach (Billionaire's Beach)

Carbon Beach (Billionaire’s Beach)
IMAGE CREDIT: Pinterest


There’s a reason Carbon Beach is also called “Billionaire’s Beach”: It is a public beach that looks and feels like a private one. It is home to the homes of some of the city’s wealthiest locals, and is as secluded an area as there is in all of Los Angeles. It offers a long, tranquil, yet scenic stretch of fine sand and clear waters, where you can swim and relax with little to no disturbance. It is, in a way, similar to El Matador Beach, only with a more private beach feel.

Malibu Lagoon State Beach / Surfrider Beach

Malibu Lagoon State Beach / Surfrider Beach

Malibu Lagoon State Beach / Surfrider Beach
IMAGE CREDIT: Pinterest


Los Angeles’s beaches are by and large surfers’ havens, and that is exactly the case with Malibu Lagoon Beach, otherwise known as Surfrider Beach. The latter designation is much deserved, as this beach is known as a great place to surf — all throughout the day! But like beaches of Santa Monica and Venice, Surfrider Beach can get overcrowded at times. Then again, people go here because it is one of the city’s very best.

RAT Beach

RAT Beach

RAT Beach
IMAGE CREDIT: Pinterest


Before anything else, RAT here stands for “Right After Torrence”, and not for that nasty rodent. It is located just south of Manhattan Beach and boasts of the scenic Palos Verdes Cliffs. Moreover, it is a silent stretch of sand and crystal-clear water, which means it is perfect for those who want a quiet getaway away from the crowd.

Point Dume State Beach

Point Dume State Beach

Point Dume State Beach
IMAGE CREDIT: Wikipedia


Right at the end of Malibu and just jutting out into the Pacific is Point Dume. It is home to a dramatic cliff’s edge that descends to a stunning crescent-shaped beach overlooking the mighty Pacific Ocean. The turquoise-colored water is crystal clear, and the horizon is an endless view of the ocean, with its cascading waves. It is known as a great scuba spot, with sea lion encounters commonplace. It is also a great spot to learn the basics of rock climbing.

Los Angeles, again, isn’t all about Hollywood. It offers an assortment of attraction for everyone, including several spectacular beaches. They are certainly perfect for getaways, though you can choose to live in the beach if your heart so desires, as in the case of Carbon Beach’s affluent residents. In that case, just feel free to check out all the California Beach Houses for Rent and for Sale at Beachhouse.com. We’ll help you get the beach house of your dreams!

Newport Beach, California – More Than a Day at the Beach

Synonymous with great surf for decades, Newport Beach, on California’s sunny coastline, is no one trick pony. Newport Beach’s unique culture and climate can probably be chalked up to the juxtaposition of the luxury homes, storefronts and restaurants that are occupied and frequented by sun-kissed beach bums.  I like to think of it as sand between your toes chic.

Newport beach vacation rentalsLocated in the heart of Orange County’s beachfront between Huntington Beach (to the North) and Laguna Beach (to the South), Newport Beach is home to a handfull of the most beautiful beaches in the state, and arguably, the world.
 
Including the beaches on the harbor and back bay, there is over 15 miles of beaches to discover, which I definitely plan on doing! 
Some of the beaches include Balboa peninsula beaches, The Wedge, Corona del Mar beaches and Crystal Cove State Beach, plus some back bays, the Newport Dunes, and some small community beaches.
Each beach has its distinct attributes that set it apart from the others – Balboa Beach, Newport Municipal Beach and the West Jetty View Park with The Wedge are flat, sandy expanses along the peninsula where Corona del Mar, Newport Dunes and Crystal Cove, have cliffs, rocky points and tidepools.

Best Newport Beach Rental

Of Endless Summer fame, The Wedge is one of the best surf breaks, thanks in part to the improvements (done in the 1930′s) to the rock jetty on the North end of Newport’s harbor. South swells reflect off the jetty creating a second wave, which meets up with the following wave of the set and forms a peak. This series of events is the perfect recipe for creating waves that are often several feet larger than waves at other south facing beaches in Newport on any given day.

Newport Beach Rental Property

Newport Beach Rental Beach Houses

Newport Beach offers mostly outdoor shopping in little boutique stores but is also home to the shopping Mecca known as Fashion Island. Fashion Island is an outdoor shopping mall in the heart of Newport Beach where shop-a-holics go to see and be seen. With department stores such as Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, and Macys, many appreciate the fact that Fashion Island is also welcoming of your furry friends.

Back on the mainland other attractions include Pelican Hill Golf Club, a luxurious 36-hole championship golf course, that is said to rival Pebble Beach, and, The Orange County Museum of Art, a premier visual arts museum.

Considering a beach vacation? Book your beach house today through BeachHouse.com! Find our most popular Newport Beach Rentals here!

5 of the Best Beachside Cities in California

5 of the Best Beachside Cities in California
By: James Witts

Every beachside area will have the same key ingredients: sun, sand, and water. It’s no wonder residents in SoCal move from city to city within California to experience these beachside towns. It is the charm of the local town or city that makes a beach trip great? Check out these best beachside cities in California for your next beach getaway.

1. Santa Cruz
Located off of Highway 1 in Northern California, Santa Cruz offers a laid back and retro environment. Step back decades as you stroll down the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and peruse the many vintage shops that line the way. You’ll see a historic carousel as well as plenty of good old fashioned family fun with coasters and arcade games. Santa Cruz is one of the best beachside cities due to its proximity to other forms of nature. You’ll be able to catch a glimpse of whales from the ocean as well as tour nature at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Wineries also dot the countryside near Santa Cruz offering their other version of perfection by the bottle. Rent a beachhouse in Santa Cruz here.

2. Carmel
Officially known as Carmel-by-the-Sea, this quaint little town sites on the south side of the Monterey Peninsula south of San Jose. It’s tucked in location offers a quiet and relaxing beach getaway. You’ll enjoy time on the white sandy beaches as well as the windy conditions of the Point Lobos State Reserve. The Mission Trail Nature Preserve is also located nearby with many trails to explore. The town of Carmel itself offers a more mature beach trip with streets full of galleries and fine dining establishments. Rent a beach house in Carmel here.

3. Malibu
There is a reason why this beach is so famous for both residents and visitors. Malibu is a beautiful beach that stretches out for more than 30 miles making this an excellent option for those wanting to take a long run along the water. Malibu is the prime spot for surfing and is well known as one of the significant places that celebrities and athletes call home. The ocean waves are well suited for both beginner and advanced surfers making this a great spot to learn more about the sport as well as see professional surfers in action. You’ll also find amazing fresh seafood dishes at the many restaurants that are located on the pier or right off the beach as well. Rent a beach house in Malibu here.

4. Catalina Island
If you’re a California resident looking for a vacation that is easy to get to but feels a million miles away, Catalina Island is the place for you. This island located just 22 miles off the coast of California feels like an entirely different world with its peaceful community and magnificent sunsets. There isn’t even a traffic light on the entire island making this a common getaway destination for many residents who spend hours a day sitting in traffic. Catalina Island boasts beautiful beaches as well as a casual atmosphere that is sure to put you on island time.

5. Venice Beach
Known for its eclectic style, Venice Beach is a favorite spot for those looking for some far-out beach time. You’ll find piazzas and canals much like its Italian counterpart as well as quaint little shops that line the boardwalk. Venice Beach is a great spot to be entertained by street performers as well as spend an afternoon watching all of the diverse people stroll by. Chic boutiques and food trucks are favorite stops for both residents and tourists alike as well.

California is full of great little beachside towns and cities that create the perfect backdrop to a beach getaway. From the laid-back atmosphere of Santa Cruz and Venice Beach to the surf-loving area of Malibu, to the peaceful getaways of Carmel and Catalina Island, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from for your next beach vacation. Consider all of these best beachside cities in California for your next trip.

James Witts is an eco-conscious home improvement writer. He is constantly trying to find new ways to live off the grid while living in a tiny home with his wife, Andie.

The Perfect Wave of Oahu’s Legendary North Shore Beaches

The beautiful North Shore of Oahu is an exceedingly popular vacation destination in Hawaii.
Breakfast on the Balcony!The North Shore is renowned for its beaches that offer breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, stunning pineapple plantations, orchards, and enjoyable water-activities including world-class surfing. The area has legendary beaches including the Sunset Beach, Ehukai Beach, Waimea Bay, and Pupukea Beach The gorgeous beaches are ideal for swimming in the summer, snorkeling, picnicking, relaxing, and surfing. The beaches are a haven for surfers; in fact, if you were to envision a perfect wave, you are likely to find it at the beaches of Oahu’s North Shore where the waves are as picturesque as you can get! The seven mile long stunning beaches host some of the world’s leading surfing competitions including the Super Bowl of wave-riding and the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.


2773305082_27c5f70fb2Oahu’s North Shore is comprised by several, unique communities. Waialua, one of the communities, is a beautiful town that promises a memorable vacation for everyone! Waialua has some of Hawaii’s most renowned beaches including the Kaiaka Bay Beach Park, a beautiful, verdant park by the Waianae Mountains, and the Haleiwa Aii Beach Park, a breathtaking beach park with dazzling blue waters, are located in Wailaua. The beaches are ideal for picnicking, reading, and unwinding—you can spend the entire day relaxing and appreciating the exceptional beauty of the beaches. In addition, you can go sailing, scuba diving, swimming, surfing, and you can enjoy the abundant life underwater by fishing and snorkeling! Moreover, Waialua has stunning rainforests, waterfalls, tropical orchards, and art galleries that you can visit. The ideal way to enjoy the Waialua’s exquisite natural beauty is to take an unforgettable helicopter ride around the island. Waialua is only 30 miles away from downtown Honolulu and it is a popular vacation destination among tourists. Tourists often stay at luxurious beach houses to feel at home away from home in this beautiful town of Oahu’s North Shore.

There is never a dull moment in this captivating area of Oahu! The North Shore offers an exceptional dining experience that caters to every taste. You can choose from a wide variety of options including a simple Hawaiian lunch, fresh, indigenous shrimp, casual sandwich shops, and exquisite, upscale restaurants of every cuisine. In addition, shopping is superb in the island as you can purchase quintessential and exclusive Hawaiian items such as home furnishings, gems, pearls, wonderful souvenirs, and clothing. At Oahu’s North Shore, you are bound to have an outstanding vacation experience! You are warmly welcome to stay at a beach house in one of the communities, such as Waialua, and enjoy the activities and beauty of this paradisiacal island.

Travel America – Michigan City, Indiana

Ever have that itch to get away?  Sometimes I just need a vacation – but then reality sets in…I can’t take any more time off of work.  Who would watch the dogs?  Can I even afford an overseas flight?

Lucky for me – and now those of you reading this - my job has allowed me to discover offbeat destinations right here within this glorious country of ours!  I say “offbeat” because haven’t we all either been a college student on spring break in Daytona, participated in the Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, or, at the very least, seen the Baywatch crew run in slow-motion on the beaches of Los Angeles?  If you’ve been there, done that, and are looking for some variety, our “Travel America” articles will explore the hidden gems across the United States – cities and towns waiting for you to arrive…

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana

I’ve never been to the Great Lakes, but ever since that 2003 surfing film depicted guys riding the waves off of Minnesota, I’ve wanted to visit.  There are many small towns dotting the lake’s coastlines, but one town in particular, Michigan City, Indiana, piqued my interest.

Michigan City has long been a vacation destination for the residents of Chicago (it’s only about 50 miles east of the windy city – on a clear day you can even see the Chicago skyline!) and for residents of nearby areas of Indiana, but it is gradually becoming better known by the rest of the US.

Plan your trip to Michigan City for one of the summer months if you plan to hit up the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore – nearly 25 miles of beaches, sand dunes, marshes and woodland forests along the southern shore of Lake Michigan.  The Lakeshore is home to over 35o species of birds and has one of the most diverse plant communities of any National Park in the US.

Visit the Lighthouse Place Outlet Mall for Michigan City’ s best shopping and some great dining options.  The outlet was named after the Old Michigan City Lighthouse – one of the state’s few lighthouses.

And if birds and lighthouses aren’t quite your thing, pony up at The Blue Chip Casino!  The largest riverboat in Indiana, The Blue Chip Casino, offers 24/7 boarding and a 65,000 square foot gaming floor.  Casino’s are fun and all, but I am on a budget here.  I think I’ll check into the casino’s entertainment scene, which attracts National acts to the 15,000 square foot Stardust Event Center.

While Michigan City has a variety of accommodations, ranging from camping to hotels, my friends and I would rather rent a house or apartment. And I confess,  because I rarely travel the US without my fur-babies, it can be hard to find a short term rental that allows my dogs to stay with me.  I am booking my stay at the “Miami” – a lakefront home I found that has panoramic views of the dunes, beach, and Michigan City’s famous lighthouse. There is not going to be anything between me and the fine sandy beach but a foot path through the sand dunes to the lake!

Let your hair down at Bald Head Island

Wonderful Bald Head Island view from indoor

If you are looking for a fantastic vacation that your whole family will enjoy, look no further. Bald Head Island provides a fun and unique experience for all types of vacationers. Located in North Carolina, this island spans only 12,000 acres, making it one of the smallest inhabited islands on the coast of theAtlantic Ocean. With over 14 miles of pristine beaches and relaxing climate,Bald Head Island,North Carolina, is one of the most beautiful locations on the East Coast to rent a relaxing beachfront property. Rentals can start from as low as $1,500 per week, which makes them some of the most affordable beach houses on the Atlantic coast.

 

Lounge with family and friends

Popular activities available for tourists include ocean activities such as surfing, scuba diving, and many more. With so many beautifully located Bald Head Island rental properties to choose from, planning a vacation for your traveling party can be easy and fun!

Renting a beach property also saves significant amount money on for vacationing groups, which is perfect for cost-efficient travelers! Complete with a full kitchen and dining area, these one of a kind beach house rentals allow you to prepare meals in the comfort of your vacation home, saving you the money of eating out every night. You can also arrange for any special dietary needs for yourself or your family, as you will be purchasing the food yourself, not relying on a stranger to avoid your food allergies.

 

Breath-taking beach houses

Many of our rentals also offer you the opportunity to belong to one of the several exclusive clubs on the island. Located in communities with club memberships, our rentals will offer you the opportunity to take advantage of large-hotel amenities such as tennis courts, golf, swimming pools and fitness centers, while having the added convenience of staying in your own private rental. This way, travelers seeking an exclusive getaway can avoid the problem of having to share their hallways and dining areas with the hundreds of other guests in large hotels.

Amazing view from the Island

For more information and to see a complete listing of Bald Head Island rentals, please visit www.beachhouse.com, which contains the largest selection of beach rentals for vacationers. Listings are updated every day, so you never know when the home of your dreams will become available. You can also view photos of the different homes and even see the availability of local entertainment. These features make BeachHouse.com one of the most comprehensive web sites available for renting properties by the sea!

Top 5 Popular Water Sports for Adrenaline Junkies

Anyone who loves the water knows there are many fantastic water sports, ranging from the peaceful escape of fishing to the rush of water skiing, but true adrenalin junkies have taken these sports to the extreme.  Here are five of the most popular water sports, and their extreme counterpart:

Fishing:
Fishing is easily one of the most popular of all water sports, a great way to relax with a great sense of accomplishment when you reel in the “big catch.” It is also one of the least expensive water sports, as anyone can fish for the cost of a fishing license, a fishing rod and a few other essentials such as bait. You can fish from the banks of a river, from a pier, or from a boat.

Those looking for a rush and the thrill of the fight, however,  should look into deep sea fishing.  In order to battle with the seas largest beasts, you must head hours away from shore where you’ll find sharks and giant marlin.  Just watch the video:

Water Skiing/Wake Boarding:
There is no adrenaline rush like putting on some water skis and holding on tight to the ropes streaming from the back of a motor boat – hitting the waves at speeds surfers could only dream of. You can enjoy the fresh air as it hits you head-on and blows past your ears. Water skiing is not to be missed if you love water sports at their most exciting.

In the past 10 years or so, tow sports has been invaded by another extreme: wake boarding.  The snowboard equivalent of water skiing, you’re strapped into a single board (feet sideways) as you glide over the water.  Huge aerials and insane tricks are this extreme sports mantra.

Boating:
Boating is a huge category of water sports and includes many of the most popular water sports. Some people enjoy kayaking, canoeing, or white water rafting, while others enjoy sailing or fishing from a boat. Some prefer the adrenaline rush and noise of a motorboat or personal watercraft, while others prefer to enjoy the fresh air floating along on a sailboat or a luxurious yacht.

Adrenalin junkies can find a variety of ways to get their kicks on boats.  White water rafting, and speed boat racing are probably the most obvious.  But if you’ve never seen what true sailors endure, you’ll see there’s something much more thrilling out there.  This is Yacht Racing:

Swimming and Diving:
Swimming is some of the best exercise available, from swimming at a local pool to swimming in the ocean or in a lake. Some people, however, prefer to see what is under the waves, and engage in such activities as snorkeling and scuba diving. While precautions must be taken with these (as with any water sport), there is no better way to see the sea in all its glory.

Cliff divers are a strange bunch.  If you’ve ever met someone who enjoys this extreme sport (the real 100+ foot cliffs…not the wimpy 30 foot ones) you’ll probably notice there’s something a bit off about them…probably because they enjoy doing things like this:

Surfing:
Surfing is another great water sport for adrenaline lovers, letting you ride the waves and sometimes fall into them. Some also engage in windsurfing, using a sail to ride across the surface of the water at incredible speeds.

Surfing is great and all, but most people who jump out to catch waves don’t have what it takes to be a big wave surfer. The following video is one of the best…ever:

Guest post provided by Pediro.com, a sporting goods directory and resource for all sports enthusiasts.

Top 8 Most Creative Destination Weddings

A growing number of couples are opting out of traditional church weddings in favor of something a bit more extreme. Destination weddings are truly events that will never be forgotten. They allow couples to say “I do” under the most creative situations they can dream up.

Photo:  Melanie Bowlen

Photo: Melanie Bowlen

Take a look at these 8 memorable destination wedding ideas.

  1. Scuba beach wedding—Why not get married with the dolphins and other marine wildlife? A beach wedding lets couples tie the knot about 30 feet from the water. These weddings are popular in Hawaii, California, Florida and other beautiful beach destinations. Of course, if you want to get married underwater, both you and your spouse must be certified divers. Talk about taking the plunge!
  2. Skydiving wedding—If the idea of jumping out of an airplane, exchanging your vows in mid air, and opening your parachute for a (hopefully) smooth landing sounds fun to you, then maybe you should consider a skydiving wedding. This wedding definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s certainly creative and memorable. Daring couples only need apply.
  3. Medieval wedding—Are you and your spouse fans of the Middle Ages? Medieval weddings allow you to embrace your inner renaissance man as you dress in unique period attire and enjoy a medieval feast at your reception. A word of advice: Leave the swords at home.midevil
  4. Hawaiian luau wedding—Do you love the mystical beauty of the Hawaiian culture? Have you always dreamed of having scantily clad men and women dance at your wedding? If so, Hawaiian luaus are an exciting and memorable way to get hitched…. especially because they often take place on the beach at night. If you value your facial hair though, you might want to stay away from the fire breathers.
  5. Photo:  Melanie Bowlen

    Photo: Melanie Bowlen

  6. Roller coaster wedding—Warning: Do not eat before your roller coaster wedding. Even the best destination wedding photographer can’t take a beautiful picture if the wedding party is losing their lunch during the ceremony. Saying “I do” while blazing around a roller coaster, turning upside down, and plunging from hundreds of feet in the air is truly an extreme destination wedding. Beware of whiplash.
  7. Waterfall wedding—One of the most romantic destination weddings a couple can have is at the base of a beautiful waterfall. There’s just something about waterfalls that is magical, right? And they make for gorgeous wedding photos too. The good news is you can even stay on dry ground and just use the waterfall as a backdrop. This is perfect for the couple looking for a unique yet timid destination wedding.waterfall
  8. Volcano wedding—Nothing says “I love you” like hot molten lava and smoke, but many couples have enjoyed volcano weddings. These weddings often take place in the South Pacific, and they usually feature wedding guests dressed in traditional island wear (grass skirts, feathers, etc.). Just make sure the volcano you choose isn’t too active.volcano
  9. Hot air balloon wedding—A wedding in a hot air balloon allows you to peacefully glide over the landscape with the one you love. It’s an extreme wedding destination to be sure, but hot air balloon weddings are much calmer and less dangerous than many of the other ideas in this list.

Have you been to a creative destination wedding? Share your experience in the replies!

Authors Bio: Melanie Bowlen is a creative destination wedding photographer with over 8 years of experience in the wedding and travel industries. She has a true passion for capturing people’s emotions in an artistic way.

Travel Deal: Bayview Luxury, Fort Myers Beach, Florida

15% OFF January 2010 Bookings – Inquire Today!

A peaceful bayfront paradise. Whether you are enjoying the heated swimming pool and outdoor whirlpool or “sitting on the dock of the bay”, this 2-story 5 Bedroom, 3.5 bath home is almost sure to please any guest. Laundry facilities are located on both floors. Game room with pool table, bar, and TV to keep guests entertained if they get too much sun. there is even an outside shuffleboard court as well. Just a couple hundred yards to the nearest beach access, guests get the proximity to the beach that they want with the privacy of the bay that they need to relax.

In a house with 5 bedrooms, you almost need 2 separate living rooms. With the game room on the first floor and the living room on the second floor, guests can enjoy some quiet relaxation time while the kids are downstairs watching TV or playing games. The living room one of the largest rooms in the house with 3 sets of doors that open onto a screened lanai, an entertainment center with a 36″ TV, DVD Player, VCR and Stereo. Off the living room, guests will find the kitchen and breakfast nook, the formal dining room, the Upstairs Queen bedroom and a half bathroom.

The dining room is seldom used in a vacation home like ours, but you just never know when you are going to have to do some entertaining in a more formal setting. The table is large enough to fit 8 people comfortably, although it only has 6 chairs. Folding chairs for additional guests can be found in the master bedroom closet. It’s a perfect place for a holiday dinner or to entertain friends that live in the area or are vacationing nearby. Conveniently located directly opposite the kitchen, you don’t have far to walk to bring in the food or take out the dishes.

A luxury house requires a spacious kitchen. This house is no exception. With breathtaking views of the bay, the kitchen is the center of the 2nd floor. Guests will enjoy the extra elbow room for cooking on our center island. Staying in the house with a big group requires a lot of food – and we’ve got enough cabinets for you to keep a month’s worth. If you’re staying with just a couple of friends, eat a casual meal at our 4-seat breakfast nook or at the counter with bar stools off the living room.

The recreational/game room is where most children spend their time (when they’re not swimming in the pool, that is). Guests may enjoy our pool table, TV, bar with a separate sink and refrigerator, as well as a table for playing board games. Located directly off the pool deck, it is also a convenient place to relax if you need to get out of the sun for a few hours.

FortMyersBeachFlorida3The Master Suite: Truly the highlight of staying in this home. With a screened in lanaioff this spectacular bedroom, you can wake up each morning watching the sun rise over the bay, listening to the sounds of nature. A King-size bed seems too small in this extra-spacious room. A dresser and dual king-size walk in closets will be plenty of space for you to store your clothes in while you are our guests. A small sitting area with a TV allows you to unwind in private after a busy day at the beach.

The master bath is just as spacious, including double sinks, a shower/steam room, toilet facilities and a bath that overlooks the bay. Additionally, laundry facilities are located off the master bathroom. Enjoy a relaxing bath in our extra-deep tub overlooking the bay or maybe nice hot shower after a long day at the beach. The master suite has an oversized bathroom with luxury facilities like the extra-deep soaking tub, our steam & shower room, double sinks and vanities and laundry facilities. Fresh sheets and towels are included in all rentals.

By far the most relaxing part of staying in this bayfront home is the view of the bay as you relax by the pool. Unlike other houses on the bay, the view from this house is unobstructed and contains only what nature provides. The heated pool and outdoor whirlpool are very relaxing and perfect for families. Our bayfront dock has a boat lift, should you decide to rent a boat for the week or if you happen to have one that you’ll be sailing in on. Our pool deck also has a separate patio complete with seating for 6 and a gas grill for your enjoyment.

Insider Interview: Florida’s North Captiva & Boca Grande

3435492417_cd85059273_bIt’s no wonder Sarah Rapp loves what she does.  For the last 10 years she has worked as a Broker/Realtor and advertising agent for rental properties throughout Southwestern Florida.  As the owner of her own company, Beach Vacation4me, Sarah has worked for 8 years in North Captiva and 2 years in Boca Grande and owns a private residence in North Captiva…although she divides her time between Boca Grande and North Captiva.

And who wouldn’t love dividing their time between these gorgeous barrier islands?

Property ID#19623   Tropic Ten - Dunes Of Boca

Property ID#19623 Tropic Ten - Dunes Of Boca

Sarah recalls her first visit to North Captiva, “I loved the natural beauty – it’s still somewhat untouched and family oriented.”

And untouched they are – North Captiva is only accessible by boat and there are no cars on the island, vacationers instead opting to navigate around the island by golf cart, bicycle and boat.

Boca Grande has a land bridge making car travel an option, however many still choose to get around in golf carts or on bike.

“For some people, the fact that they have to be without their car in North Captiva is a bit too much,” says Sarah.  ”So Boca Grande is the next best fit.”

Peak season for both of these lush US islands runs from March through the first part of April.  However, both of these locals have great weather year-round, so go ahead and plan your trip for the off-season when you can enjoy warm weather and great rates on vacation rentals!  And if you’re concerned about hurricanes, they are no reason to miss out on a great tropical escape.  Sarah recommends getting travel insurance if you’re planning your trip anytime between August and November.

Once in Boca Grande, vacationers have many options of activities – one of Sarah’s favorites is to head out on one of the many bike paths that wind through the city.  Sarah has also found that Boca Grande has some of the best shelling of anywhere Sarah has been, saying  ”They’re magnificent”

Gasparilla Inn - photo courtest of Florida Trend

Gasparilla Inn - photo courtesy of Florida Trend

She also recommends stopping by the charming Gasparilla Inn & Club for dinner and drinks.  The club has a variety of dining options ranging from The Main Dining Room (open for breakfast and dinner daily), The Pink Elephant, or “The Pink” as many call it (a more casual option for lunch, dinner and drinks), or the popular BZ’s lounge where patrons can lounge on the sofas and chairs and sip one of the Inn’s signature drinks: Gaspartinis, Mojitos and Planter’s Punch.

North Captiva and Boca Grande are only about a 40 minute boat ride apart from eachother – close enough to plan a day trip from one to the other.

Sarah’s North Captiva Picks

A good catch on Dennis Realy's fishing charter!

A good catch on Dennis Realy's fishing charter!

Food:

  • The Boat House Restaurant and the Island Club – chef David Kivel serves up delicious surf & turf eats, making this a great restaurant to go for a romantic dinner or to celebrate a special occasion while on the island.
  • Mango’s Island Grill & General Store – a great place to stop by for breakfast or lunch, grab your food to go or enjoy it on Mango’s waterfront patio.
  • Andy’s Seafood Market – in Matlacha, an old fishing village on the mainland before you take a boat over to North Captiva Island, has great fresh fish for vacationers to buy and take with them to cook at their vacation rental house.

Activities:

  • Dennis Realy, owner of North Captiva Charters, is the island’s “Best Kept Secret” and a master fisherman.  According to Sarah, “He knows his stuff – red fish, tarpon, shark, whatever you want to catch, he will cast and then hand you the rod.  I’ve never fished and not caught something!”
  • Visit Boats and Fun run by father, Alberto Barbero, and son, Matias Barbero, who Sarah refers to as “Mr. Fun,” for jet ski, kayak, wakeboard and boat rentals, banana boat and inter-tube rides, and scuba & dolphin excursions.  ”Matias is always smiling, always happy,” says Sarah.  Boats and Fun “has really created a great shop – you can go by and ask them when the tide is, what’s going on around town, anything.”

Vacationers who stay at one of Sarah’s North Captiva rentals that is managed by the Island Club also get to enjoy a guest membership (and all of the amenities that come with it!) to the North Captiva Island Club Resort.  The club offers tennis courts, a huge pool, fitness equipment, day excursions, a pool bar that also serves up milkshakes for the kids and more.  The staff of the North Captiva Island Club will also help assist with groceries and luggage!

At the Beach: Billabong Presents 10th Annual Cosmic Creek Surf Festival

Reserve October 3rd and 4th for Billabong’s 10th Annual Cosmic Creek Music and Art Extravaganza.  Highlights will include a retro-style surf contest, on-the-beach BBQ and silent auction.  And what better way to wrap the event than listing to the fresh and soulful music of Donovan Frankenreiter?

Judging from past festivals, Donovan won’t be alone.  Cosmic Creek will also have appearances by an amazing gathering of famous artists, musicians and surf legends.  In previous years these unannounced superstars have included Jackson Brown, Pennywise, G-love, Warren G, & Sugar Ray.

“Donny and surprise guest musicians will play their hearts out,” says event creator Eric Diamond.”It’s just a super positive symphony of Art/Music/ Food & people all gathered together for Charity,” says Diamond. “Get your tickets now – this will sell out fast.”

Silent auction items such as Italian Cordoba guitars and ukuleles, brought in by Frankenreiter and painted by well known artists including John Van Hamersveld, Wolfgang Bloc, Andy Davis, Tyler Warren, Herbie Fletcher, Jay Alders, Kevin Short, Daniel Chang, Timmy Patterson to name a few, will be on display at 7-Degrees in their outdoor event space.

The event is being billed as “part Woodstock/ Warhol Factory/ surf stomp/ & great Charity event all rolled into one evening.”  Proceeds will help local charities, along with Surfrider’s clean water campaign.

Click here for tickets and here for information about entering the surf contest.


Insider Interview: Destin, Florida

John and Dawn Foy have been in the vacation rental business for 23 years – 10 years in Destin, Florida alone.  After vacationing in Destin for a couple of days, John and Dawn fell in love with what they have heard described as, “a Hawaii in the States,” moved a couple months later and still haven’t left.  Now they are the owners of 14 rental properties.  The Foy’s were some of Destin’s first property managers to recognize what exactly vacationers look for when choosing the perfect vacation rental.  ”The number one requirement is that the house have a private pool, so we added pools to our properties,” said Dawn.  ”At first, people thought we were crazy.  Now almost everyone is adding pools to their rental properties.”

“They also want King size beds,” Dawn adds, “and views.”  And if you’re vacationing in Destin, Florida, how could you not want views once you’ve seen Destin’s almost blindingly white sand in bright contrast against the clear turquoise ocean?

“Members of Destin’s Chamber of Commerce collect little bottles of sand from wherever they visit and Destin’s is the whitest,” explains Dawn.  ”It literally squeeks when you walk on it because it is so fine and powdery.”  It’s not just local bias that makes the sand seem so white and sparkeling.  The sand comes from the Appalachian Mountains, and is made of finely ground quartz crystal, which gives it the appearance of sugar.

But there is much more to Destin than the white sand and teal ocean.

One of Destins Jettys

One of Destin's Jettys

Destin is home to virtually every water sport and activity imaginable.  The water is consistently warm with temps reaching 86 degrees in October.  Vacationers can go boating, parasailing, jet skiing, or snorkel with some of the local marine life including manatees, dolphins and sea turtles.  You don’t even have to take a charter out of the harbor to find a great snorkeling location.  Dawn offers this local’s tip: snorkel on the jettys off of Gulf Shore Drive on Holiday Isle, where you can park for free and walk down to the water.

“The snorkeling here is amazing!” Dawn says.  ”We tell our vacationers to bring frozen peas or Cheerios to feed the fish.  You’ll see fish in all colors – bright yellow, royal blue, and black and white striped ones…they’re everywhere!”

For other activities, there are dozens of golf courses, the Big Kahuna waterpark, the Gulfarium (“A cute mom and pop type aquarium that is popular with kids and families” according to Dawn) or the Harbor Docks in downtown Destin, offering free parking and a variety of specialty shops, restaurants, ice cream parlors – a great place to rent boats and snorkeling equipment.

Destin is also known for its great dining and shopping.  On the East end of town there is the Silver Sands Outlet Mall, the largest designer outlet mall in the US, and in Mid-town Destin is the newly built Destin Commons, which is home to a Hard Rock Cafe as well as a 14 screen cinema and other retail shops.

The Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin, a bustling sub-community of Destin, has lots of shops and it is a great place to take the family or head out to for a night on the town.   At Christmas they even bring in an ice skating rink and put up lights!

Taken off of Dewey Destins dock

Taken off of Dewey Destin's dock

For food, here are Dawn’s picks:

  • The Back Porch – known for their fresh seafood and oysters
  • The Crab Trap – on Scenic 98, on the beach, has a bar, restaurant (inside and outside dining), play ground on the sand for kids, ice cream bar, regular bar and is part of James Lee Park which has a public bath house, picnic tables and plenty of parking for the public
  • Dewey Destin’s (the town was named after his family!) – located on the harbor and serving up large portions of great downhome cooking
  • Pompano Joes Restaurant – its right on the beach on Scenic 98, and also has outside as well as inside dining, casual entertainment and a casual beach bar
  • Captain Dave’s on the Gulf – has been around for over 30 years and is one of Destin’s favorite waterfront restaurants
  • Bonefish Grill – good service, consistently great food, and a nice, quiet ambiance – perfect for a romantic dinner or special occasion
  • Donut Hole – a popular locals spot that has been a staple since the towns conception  - makes a great keylime pie
  • Broken Egg – fresh and nutritional food, over 130 menu items, great for breakfast, brunch or lunch
  • Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ – great southern food made from scratch
  • Fudpuckers – perfect for the family, kids can feed alligators, play in the arcade, and there is a great souvenir shop with unique local gifts
  • Ciao Bellas – they have the best pizza!
  • Cafe Grazie’s – real Italian food, great kids menu

Destin’s peak season runs from the end of May through the first part of August but “the luckiest fishing village in the US” as Destin is also known, hosts one of its main annual events in October – the annual “Fishing Rodeo” where the person with the largest catch nets $100,000 in prize money!

Angler, Jeff Satterwhite from Niceville, Florida hooked this 108.8 lb. Yellowfin Tuna

Angler, Jeff Satterwhite from Niceville, Florida hooked this 108.8 lb. Yellowfin Tuna

What keeps people returning to Destin year after year for a great vacation spot?

Dawn thinks it is the “beauty of the water – it’s turquoise, clear and breathtaking.  People can’t believe it when they first pull up to the water.”

“It’s still family oriented,” describes Dawn.  ”A quaint town – no crowds or high-rises – and the people are down to earth…good ‘ol boy people.”

Destin has managed to maintain this small-town feel, yet is only 55 miles from the Spring Break-type of vacation one can find in either Pensacola, Florida and Panama City, Florida.

And the sluggish economy hasn’t hit Destin as hard as other popular vacation destinations – perhaps due to its central location on the Froida panhandle, making it easy to get to on not too much gasoline from southern Florida, and the neighboring states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.  Destin is about to get much more accessible thanks to the addition of an International Airport that is already in the works for Destin, set to be completed by Summer 2010.

At the Beach: West Beach ’09 Music & Arts Festival

WHO: All of your favorite artists preforming over one weekend – including Steel Pulse, Ozomatli, Donavon Frankenreiter, Ben Harper, G. Love & Special Sauce, Slightly Stoopid & Pepper!

WHAT: A 100% on-the-beach music festival with 4 stages and over 50 sets to be played!  Tickets range from $30 – $50 depending on the day, or $115 for a 3 day pass.

WHERE: It’s all taking place right smack dab on West Beach, in between Stearn’s wharf and the beautiful harbor!

WHEN: This weekend – September 18, 19 & 20.  The first bands kick off Friday @ 3pm.

WHY: Great music, cold beer and a hot beach…why not?!

Now in its 3rd year, the West Beach Music Festival has established itself as the annual event for Santa Barbara.  Rallying after its dissapointing debut event in 2007  (the then one day event got sacked with rainy weather) 2008′s event saw increased crowds, thanks in part to gorgeous weather and the likes of Jason Mraz, Natasha Bedingfield, Ziggy Marley and George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelicthis.  This year is sure to top even last year’s successful turnout.

Brothers (and twins) Jeremy and Joshua Pemberton, the events orginizers, worked with hundreds of event staff to cure the few complaints that event-goers had from last year:  large event grounds, sound bleed, and poor vendor setup.  “They spoke and we listened,” said Josh Pemberton. “We took a survey last year after the fest, and we were able to make a few stellar changes. The biggest change is we are now allowing ins and outs. We didn’t allow it last year because we didn’t want to impact the neighboring businesses, but nearly unanimously, they are all in support of it. So, you can come and go as you please until 7 p.m. We’ve also brought the footprint down by 33 percent. Walking in the sand can be pretty tiring, [so] this was a no-brainer. We’ve got a great team and careful programming to ensure our stages aren’t competing with each other.”

Another factor that contributes to West Beach’s success is that the whole event focuses on the “community first” mentality – something that goes a long way in a close-knit community like Santa Barbara.  Jeremy says, “If we ever ignore the amazingly talented local acts, we’ve lost track of where this whole thing started—with the locals.”  Orginizers have conciously extended the offer for local bands to dominate some of the most sought-after positions on the lineup.  Isla Vista artists Rebelution and Iration are opening for Pepper and Slightly Stoopid, and Santa Barbaras own Sunshine Brothers are playing before G. Love & Special Sauce and Ben Harper and Relentless7.

2009′s event will also be more integrated with the Downtown Santa Barbara businesses – there will be afterparties following the final preformances each night:

Friday: @ Velvet Jones – S.B. stalwarts Shades of Day and The Naybrhood
@ Sandbar – The Aggrolites and Marc B.
@ EOS – after-party

Saturday:  @ Velvet – SOJA, Passafire, and The Movement
@ Wildcat – Shwayze
Sandbar - Sashamon

Sunday: @ Wildcat – the official post-fest shindig

*For $20, festival attendees can score a VIP After-Party Pass, which gets you into all the festivities without paying a cover fee.

Guest Blog – Loggerhead Turtles of North Captiva Island

On my most recent trip to North Captiva Island, I had the opportunity to go on a turtle walk with a conservationist volunteer who is responsible for reporting on sea turtle nests. It was a fascinating fact finding experience. We started before sunrise and walked for approximately 3 hours investigating turtle nests and crawls. This is what I learned.

Each summer from May through August, something wondrous happens along our beaches: An ancient mariner, the loggerhead sea turtle, leaves the water during the night and crawls ashore in North Captiva Island to lay her eggs in a sandy nest.

The task of excavating a nest may take her over an hour to accomplish. The turtle – weighing several hundred pounds – laboriously digs a nest cavity with her rear flippers.

turtle1

Turtle nest

She then deposits approximately 100 pliable ping-pong ball sized eggs into the chamber, covers them with sand and returns to the sea.

After roughly a two-month incubation period, a cluster of tiny hatchlings emerges from the sand and scrambles to the Gulf. Unfortunately, their sea-finding ability can be disrupted by lights from buildings and streets. Confused, the hatchlings wander inland and are crushed by vehicles or die from heat exhaustion in the sunlight.

 

 

 

 

Loggerhead Turtle Facts:

  • Loggerheads are air-breathing reptiles, scientific name Caretta caretta
  • The common name refers to the turtle?s large head
  • Loggerheads are the most common sea turtles in Florida.
  • Weighing 250 – 400 pounds, adults can grow to more than three feet in length.
  • Hatchlings are two inches long.
  • Nesting occurs from May through August. Hatching may extend through October.
  • The nest cavity is 18 – 22 inches in depth.
  • Incubation period of the eggs in their sandy nest is 55 – 65 days.

 

turtle tracks

turtle tracks

Danger of Extingtion
Most adult loggerhead turtles nest every other year or every third year, laying several clutches of eggs during a nesting season. Only a small percentage of hatchlings survive to maturity! Loggerhead turtles have existed on Earth for millions of years with little serious threat to their survival – until recently. Pollution, lighted beaches, loss of nesting habitat, drowning in shrimp nets and other fishing gear have contributed to the drastic decline of these and other sea turtles.

Mountain Retreat Vacation House in Big Sky, Montana

The Big Sky Mountain Retreat House, also known as the original Montana Escape, is located directly in the center of Big Sky, Montana. In November 0f 2003 the home was selected to be featured on Fine Living TV’s 10 Perfect Winter Wonderlands. At that time the home was lacking a master tub and a bit more space. Over the years the owners have had the pleasure of working with Alan Roos of Coyote Creek Construction in expanding and enhancing the living space – all the while keeping within a reduced footprint and budget. The end product is 3700 square feet of a perfect Big Sky Mountain Retreat House that all guests will continue to appreciate.

Big Sky, Montana is considered one of the Coolest Mountain Towns and one of the top 10 ranked by the Mens Journal.  Is it that fact that there’s no waiting in long lift lines or the crisp and fresh thin mountain air? The views? The thousands of skiable acres? Whatever the reason, Big Sky Montana is a great place to live the high life.

Visitors come to Yellowstone National Park looking for wildlife. Many will have their first and only encouter with wildlife in their lifetime. The Mountain Retreat House sits in a prime wilderness zone in Yellowstone County. It’s far enough away from the summer crowds of The Park, but remarkably close to 5 star fine dining and world class sking. Visitors to the Mountain Retreat House and to Yellowstone may find wildlife such as moose just outside The Park, in Big Sky, Montana. When Yellowstone is the busiest, is also when the wildlife population of the villages of Big Sky, Montana increases.

This home’s location, nestled among old growth trees overlooking breathtaking views of Big Sky, was selected for the easy drive to the Gallatin River, Ousel Falls as well as the Ski Runs from the Yellowstone Club to Moonlight Basin. Its located in Aspen Grove, a development of one half to three acre home sites closest to the Town Center and both Big Sky Mountain and Meadow villages. When you are at the Mountain Retreat House, you’ll feel like you’re miles away from the rush of day-to-day life, yet it is conveniently located less than a hour from the Bozeman airport – It’s only a 40 minute flight from Salt Lake City!

Whether you and your family enjoy world class powder skiing or fishing for that trophy rainbow trout, Big Sky is the place and this is “The House”. It has 4 private suites, each with its own bath; one with a wet steam room and one with a huge soaker tub and a walk in shower. All bedrooms have mountain and forest views. The main master bedroom is steps from a private 5 person hot tub. Enjoy spectacular night views that include shooting stars and the milky way. The hot tub and steam shower are perfect after a long day of carving the ski slopes.

This little guy was born on the property just steps from the patio!

This little guy was born on the property just steps from the patio!

Winter at the Beach – Clearwater Beach, Florida

Fort Desoto Park, Florida

Fort Desoto Park, Florida

On this particular winter vacation, our family opted for jet skis over snow skis and was happy not to wait in long lift lines. We may be trading our snow skis for water skis next year as well!

Our Beach house vacation rental was on Sand Key, just outside Clearwater Beach, Florida and a few minutes from two of the top 10 best beaches in the US: #3 Fort Desoto Park and #8 Caladesi Island State Park. We experienced the best December weather in the country with pure blue skies and highs in the upper 70′s (one day it got to 81). The beach was clean and the sand was like fine powdered sugar. In other words, it was perfect!

island way grill

Island Way Grill

We did everything from feeding Alligators to Parasailing & rented jet skis directly off the beach just steps from the Sand Key State Park. Having jet skied in California, ocean water in the face can be quite cold even in the summer. This, surprisingly, is not the case in December when jet skiing in Clearwater Beach, Florida. Decembers mild humidity made for a perfect air temperature and the spray of the ocean was invigoratingly refreshing. The large ocean shelf off the Florida’s gulf coast reduces the chop and tends to keep the waves perfect for jet skiing and even more perfect for swimming. During our stay, there were several times when the ocean was like glass and calm, allowing for some awesome jet skiing donuts and spins. Florida law provides that if you are at least 14 years of age and pass a test online, you can be certified to legally drive a jet ski. This was great news for our 14 year old son and gave his parents a glimpse of his car driving future!

Caladesi Island State Park, Florida

Caladesi Island State Park, Florida

After a day at the Beach, there’s nothing better than eating conch fritters and fresh grilled grouper stuffed with crab. One of the best restaurants (only five minutes from our beachhouse vacation rental!) was the Island Way Grill. It’s worth the wait if you want to eat outside on the bay.

If your next winter vacation plans include spending hours in traffic to drive to the ski lifts or potentially getting stuck on a plane waiting to de-ice, I would highly recommend that you consider finding that perfect Clearwater Beach house vacation rental and book a flight! Your snow skis might become outdated before you know it!”

- Beachhouse.com’s own Ski Beach Bum

Top Southern California Beaches

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Southern California is known for its beautiful people, great weather, and gorgeous beaches. All along the most southwestern tip of the USA are an assortment of beaches with surf and sand to enjoy at almost all times during the year.

Whether you’re looking for surf, excitement, a family beach, or the prettiest views on the coast, there are plenty of options to fulfill every desire you have.

Newport Beach offers decent waves and a relaxed atmosphere. Newport’s beaches aren’t too crowded despite the beautiful surrounding, making the area a great place to skim or just read a book while soaking in some sun. Newport also offers several oceanside cottages for rent, making staying there an attractive option for people looking to “get away” at a more affordable price.

Huntington Beach is known for its excellent surfing. The beaches tend to get more crowded, but offer the excitement of a social atmosphere as people throw footballs, play volleyball, and walk the enjoyable Huntington Beach Pier. Huntington is a great place to start an exciting weekend off right.

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach offers secluded, beautiful beaches. There are family-friendly areas that tend to be more crowded, but travel further down the surf and you can find beaches where you can isolate yourself and enjoy some gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. The sand is hard-packed and easy to walk on, making a romantic walk on the beach a great idea for blossoming Southern California lovers.

Santa Monica is one of the most popular beaches in Southern California, offering a nearby amusement park and an enjoyable volleyball scene. The world renowned Muscle Beach can also be found in Santa Monica, along with the newly renovated Chess Park.  During the summer you can also find free live concerts on Thursday nights.

Venice Beach is featured in movies such as White Men Can’t Jump and the TV show Pacific Blue. Street performers litter the coast, offering entertainment for all who are willing to watch and participate. You can also find small beachside shops that make shopping while enjoying some rays an easy endeavor.

Santa Monica Pier

While these five offer some of the most diverse and enjoyable locations for spending your day on the coast, there are several other beaches to enjoy in the Southern California area. Generally, you can’t go wrong. Beautiful weather and clean beaches can be found almost everywhere, so pack up your towel, a smile, and a pair of swim trunks, and you’ll most definitely enjoy your day in the sand.

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Ross Hudgens is a travel writer for Low Fares Blog. Lowfares.com is the number 1 travel website for cheap flights and discount airfare.

Guest Blog – Pass-Crabbing in Florida

Pass Crab Fishing, Boca Grande, Florida

Pass Crab Fishing, Boca Grande, Florida

On my most recent trip to North Captiva Island, I had the opportunity to go “pass – crabbing” with my friends Captain Dennis and Captain Gretchen. I must say it was a blast! While Dennis and my husband were fishing for the “big fish,” Gretchen and I had our nets out for the pass crabs. Crabs are great bait for many species in Florida waters.

Pass Crabs are almost identical to Blue Crabs in shape, but they only grow to approximately four to five inches in width. You can catch Pass Crabs in south Florida during the outgoing tide on the surface, usually floating along with grass as it flows toward the Gulf.

Tarpon Tales Beach House Vacation Rental, Boca Grande, Florida

Tarpon Tales Beach House Vacation Rental, Boca Grande, Florida

You simply take a long handled net and dip them out of the water. There are a few bait shops in south Florida that sell them, but they are few and far between. The primary use for pass crabs is for tarpon in the Boca Grande area, but they are just as good, maybe better, than blue crabs for a variety of fish. Hook them in the same way as blue crabs – through the back leg hole and out the top shell.

Guest Blog – North Captiva’s Historical Ice House

Fish house following hurricane Charlie - It has since been restored

The Calusa Indians, who dominated South Florida for more than a millennium, were skilled sailors and fisherman. Their large canoes of hallowed out cypress logs were capable of reaching Cuba. They thrived through living in harmony with our Southwest Florida environment. Pineland on Pine Island contains some of the most extensive Calusa mound sites and canal works.

The Calusa Indians fished with nets made from Cabbage Palm fibers. After the demise of the Calusas from European conquest and the introduction of diseases like smallpox, new settlers became adept at commercial fishing. Pine Island Sound was peppered with fishing camps and later, ice houses, which eliminated the need to preserve their catch through drying and salting.

One such ice house was built in 1924 by the Punta Gorda Fish Company at the north shore entrance to Safety Harbor at North Captiva Island. One story rests on a wooden platform supported by wood pilings. The Ice House is one of few remaining buildings documenting the system of remote, water-based fish industry ice houses.

The structure was built as an ice house to serve the fishermen and run boats in the loading, unloading and storage of freshly caught fish. The structure is a specialized form designed to function under potentially adverse weather conditions, relative isolation, and the possible requirement to relocate the building to follow the migration of the fish.

California’s Central Coast’s Beach Communities

Cambria – Located just off of California’s Pacific Coast Hwy 1 is Cambria – a picturesque artists community set amidst the pine trees and foothills half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Head to Cambria’s “East Village” for a selection of small restaurants and cafe’s set between gardens and old historical buildings. There is a cute downtown village area with boutiques, antique shops, flower stores and art and jewelry galleries. Cambria has a selection of great hotels to choose from.  The FogCatcher Inn has beautifully appointed rooms – I highly reccomend a stay in one of the oceanview rooms. Centrally located, Cambria is a great place to head out on day-trips from.   Vacationers can head a short distance to tour either Hearst Castle or to San Simeon, home to one of California’s largest populations of elephant seals. Moonstone Beach is also nearby, which is a great place to walk the beach before dining at one of the delicious restaurants while you take in some amazing ocean views.

Morro Bay – Surrounded with natural beauty, Morro Bay is a great place to spend the day or the weekend.  Whether you like shopping, hiking, boating or all of the above, this harbor town has it.  Morro Bay’s Natural Estuary has great hiking trails, and is home to the Museum of Natural History and a Heron Rookery Preserve.  Continue down Morro Bay’s Coast and you will find more bluff trails, the Elfin Forest and the Sweet Springs Preserve.  The entire bay is home to many different species of birds making it a bird-watcher’s dream.  Morro Bay also has a great beach, with certain parts that are dog-friendly.  Local surfers enjoy “the Rock” – not only does this break have a killer view of Morro Rock, but the water is a few degrees warmer than the surrounding water thanks to the

Avila Beach – For a funky little beach town that’s not much larger than a neighborhood, Avila Beach sure knows how to make headlines. In the late 90′s and into 2000 the community got an almost complete makeover after it was discovered that a Union Oil Co underground pipeline had been slowly seeping oil into the ground for decades. But now Avila is back and better than ever, with a re-vamped boardwalk that hosts a farmer’s market each Friday afternoon, delicious deli’s and an assortment of upscale eateries. Locals and visitors enjoy Avila for its unpretentious and friendly atmosphere where flip flops and sandy toes are practically a uniform. Looking for some great grub? Be sure to wander over to nearby Port San Luis to Fat Cat Cafe – it’s so good that Sunset Magazine wrote about it!

Shell Beach – Unlike the others on the list, Shell Beach doesn’t have a central downtown or main street, per se, and really is more of a neighborhood. If you turn down Silver Shoals Road off of Shell Beach Road, you will dead end into a grassy area on the bluffs of what the locals have dubbed “Silver Shoals Beach.” This park is a great place for picnics and people watching. There is a dirt trail that leads down to the beach where, even on a windy day, is perfect for sunbathing as the sand is protected from the elements by the sea wall behind you. Feel free to bring your furry friend – the crowd is usually mellow and on the younger side so nobody minds that you are voilating the “no dogs on the beach” policy that most California beaches seem to have.  If you’re looking to stay in Shell Beach, check out the lux Dolphin Bay Inn – not only is is gorgeous, set atop the bluffs with panoramic views of the Central Coast, but the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean stayed there while they were filming on the nearby dunes!

Pismo Beach – If you want some action, Pismo is the beach for you – there is more going on and much more to do here than at any of the other beaches on this list. Pismo Beach offers great shopping. Vacationers can find everything from surf stores, antique stores, candy shops, souvenir stores and more.  Pismo’s sandunes are a great place to camp, go off roading and ride horses.  The pier at Pismo Beach is a great place to fish, people watch and get tasty treats including hot dogs, ice cream, and snow cones to name a few. As you stroll the beach, look for the volleyball nets – there is often pickup games and the courts are also the location of tournaments during certain times of the year. You must allot time for a trip to Splash Cafe. Be prepared to wait, but I assure you that even a half hour wait is well worth it. There is a lot to choose from on the menu – and all of it is good – but this place is famous for their clam chowder.

Restaurant Review – The Temptation, Boca Grande, FL

Boca Grande Florida Best Little Beach TownRestaurant: The Temptation
Location: 350 Park Avenue, Boca Grande, Florida
Cuisine: Fresh Seafood, etc.
Price Per Plate: Lunch – around $20; Dinner – around $50
Verdict: Thumbs Up!

On our recent trip to Boca Grande, we had the pleasure of enjoying lunch at the Temptation.  Located at 350 Park Avenue, this Boca Grande bistro says welcome the minute you walk in the door.  The staff greeted us like we were family.  They were very courteous and attentive to our needs.

I enjoyed the strawberry chicken salad which was extremely fresh, light and tasty.  Bronzed grouper was my daughter’s selection.  The menu summed this dish up correctly as they stated it was an “Island Sensation.”

Clearly my daughter enjoyed this immensely as she had the first clean plate in the group.  The grouper was prepared on a bed of sautéed Brussell Sprouts With Roasted Garlic, Shallots, Prosciutto, & Parmesan Cheese
Topped with an Orange Beurre Blanc.  My husband enjoyed the fried grouper fingers.  Typically he does not order fried food, but he described this being extremely light and some of the best fish he has ever tasted.

You can read more about the Temptation HERE.

A Recipe From Each Continent of the World (3 of 7)

North America:  America’s Best Burger Ever

(Recipe excerpted from ABC’s Good Morning America, host of Chef Emeril Lagasse’s Best Burger Ever Challenge – the winner was Allison Koplan’s Stuffed Bacon-Cheddar BBQ Burger)

Burger Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground chuck
  • 1 lb. ground round
  • 2 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tbsp. garlic salt
  • 8 oz. block of sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
  • 1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 medium Vidalia onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 bottle of sweet barbecue sauce (of your choice)
  • Hamburger buns
  • Lettuce (optional)
  • Tomato (optional)
  • 1/2 cup Onions
  • 1/4 cup Barbecue sauce for basting

Winner Allison Koplan and Chef Emeril Lasasse

  • Combine ground round, ground chuck, salt and pepper in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the coarsely shredded sharp cheddar and cooked bacon pieces. Let bacon and cheese mixture sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes to get soft. Then, shape mixture into balls (for however many burgers you would like to make)
  • Form 2 patties of meat and place one cheese/bacon ball in between them. Pinch the sides together to seal in cheese ball. Gently press formed patty, to spread out cheese ball. Continue until all patties are formed
  • Cook burgers on grill over medium flame for about 7 minutes on each side. While burgers are grilling, slice sweet Vidalia onions and saute them in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of butter. Once onions become translucent (about 4 minutes), add some sweet barbecue sauce
  • Flip burgers, and baste the cooked side of the patties with the same sweet barbecue sauce used in the onions. After about 7 minutes longer, the burger should be done (these are big thick burgers and may take longer to grill to your liking). Baste again with sweet barbecue sauce before removing from grill. Butter hamburger buns and place on top rack of grill for several minutes, until toasted
  • To build burger, take toasted bun, add patty, and top with smothered barbecue onions. You can add tomato or lettuce, if you’d like, but the flavors are great without them

Top 5 Most Romantic Beaches in the World

It’s hard to say what, exactly, makes a vacation HOT.  It’s more than the just weather, as Heidi Klum and hubby Seal could tell you – he infamously popped the question in a snow cave atop a glacier – but you can bet their engagement night was anything but frosty.  And while canopy beds, private hot tubs and candles can’t hurt, they can’t do all the work either.

We’ve gathered the top 5 most romantic beach destinations in the world as a starting point for your next X-rated escape.  There’s everything from a private island to a sizzling Latin locale – so pack your suit and anything else you may need…that is, if you even plan on emerging from your hotel room – yeah, we know your type…

Hayman Island, Australia – There must be a heap of  too-hot-for-TV Gilligan’s Island clips on someone’s cutting room floor.  I mean, after being stranded on that island for so long, wouldn’t the Professor ever get the urge to play doctor with Mary Ann?  Surely Ginger got into character and role played with Gilligan at least once?  If you’ve ever had the urge to reenact your very own “stranded on a deserted island” fantasy, look no further than Hayman Island (and not to worry – even though it’s far less populated than most places, it still isn’t completely deserted). Part of the world wonder that is Aussie’s Great Barrier Reef, Hayman Island is paradise found – an Eden that unabashedly flaunts its beauty that will have you asking your Lovey, “Who’s your Skipper?”  This sultry tropical setting has sprawling pure silica-white-crystal beaches and is where wildlife flourishes – it’s common to see everything from cockatoos and swans to bats and butterflies. At night, the stars seem to light the ink-black sky like perpetually frozen fireworks, so go ahead…get your Gilligan on.  Where to stay? Hayman Island Resort

Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica – Do you like your romance on the wild side?  Go au-natural at this raw eco-tourism haven…it’s hot and sticky most of the year, and Corcovado has a masterful balance of dense rain forests that open up onto stunningly beautiful beaches.  You and your sweetheart can experience the park’s virgin beauty with its green-sand beaches, wild mix of animals, and lantern-lit tent camps – the perfect location for you to reenact that unadulterated “In the jungle…” moment a la Ace Ventura…except at Corcovado there’s not a noisy headboard to give you away!  Afterward, you’ll want to cool down with some tropical cocktails, frolic in the warm surf, or strip down and rinse off in a fresh-water stream as it spills out from the jungle.  It may be taxing to get there, but just think of it as foreplay.  A-weema-weh A-weema-weh A-weema-weh… Where to stay? Corcovado Tent Camp

Shell Beach, California – Why should places like Paris, Ipanema and Santorini have all the fun?  You don’t have to travel out of the country to fall in love again – rekindle the passion amidst a wine-soaked love-fest on California’s picturesque Central Coast.  Shell Beach (and its neighbor Silver Shoals) feature the region’s famous dramatic rocky coastline.  If you can take your eyes off each other, enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific, Point Conception and Avila Bay from the bluffs or walk down the cliff trail to access the secluded beach, where you can swim, surf, or sunbathe.  Afterwards, take your sun-kissed bods to one of  the areas infamous vineyards.  There are plenty of romantic tasting rooms scattered throughout the rolling hills of San Luis Obispo county, so pick up a bottle of wine and perhaps some edible chocolate body paint and head back to your hotel to see where the night takes you!  Where to stay? Dolphin Bay Resort

Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico – Just like Dancing with the Stars’ Gilles Marini could make your heart skip a beat without missing a beat, this steamy setting will leave you and your partner feeling hot and bothered.  You two are sure to feel the energy of the Latin culture at this secluded sandy beach that was named after the hot and sensual dance.  Framed by lush, green hills, the 1.5 mile wide horse-shoe shaped bay offers a wide, pink-tinted sandy beach and aqua blue, translucent and calm waters that almost resembles a swimming pool – perfect for snorkeling.  As daylight fades and temperatures cools a bit, the regions magical ocean bioluminescence are revealed.  This natural wonder, paired with the brightness of the starry night sky make Flamenco Beach about as romantic as you can get and will have you feeling HOT HOT HOT!  Where to stay? Bahia Marina Condo Hotel

Happy Bay, St. Martin – Two words – clothing optional.  After passing the last bar at Friar’s Bay, a short walk down a dirt path leads you to the sweeping views of Happy Bay beach. Fairly undiscovered, there isn’t much at this beach to interrupt your afternoon or to distract you from each other – no crowds, noisy restaurants, or traffic sounds. Don’t forget to pack your suntan oil – exchange sensual massages and you and your love can melt away on Happy Bay’s powdery white beach.  And if things get too steamy, there are plenty of palm trees lining the beach for shade or, uh-hem, added privacy.  Afterwards, stroll the wide beach and take in the vibrant, breathtaking vista.  If you’re up for more exercise, dip into the calm waters to enjoy some of the best snorkeling St. Martin has to offer.  Go ahead – leave your inhibitions and your tan lines behind.  Where to stay? Happy Bay Villa

Guest Blog – North Captiva Island


Mangoes ready for the takingby Sarah Rapp
Resident, North Captiva Island

Did you know that besides Florida, no other states report the production of mangoes? Consequently, Florida is the main United States producer of this fruit. Mango Mania is a festival held at the German American Social Club (2101 S.W. Pine Island Road, Cape Coral during the month of July).

Festival-goers can taste and buy their fill of just-picked mangoes of assorted varieties, many of which are not available in supermarkets. Additionally, they can learn how to grow their own and buy a tree. There’s music, dancing and even some non-mango comestibles for anyone who simply can’t live on mangoes alone.

If you don’t have time to go to the festival, order mangoes from the market, or stop at one of the local fruit stands on the way to the marina. The fruits vary in shape (kidney, round, oblong, oval) and weight ranges from a few ounces to five pounds.  Although the fruit will ripen on the tree, it is usually picked green and will ripen quickly. The fruit is just delicious…so why not celebrate your own mango mania while visiting North Captiva!

 

Mango Salsa
Fresh mango salsa is easy to make and perfect with halibut or salmon or as the salsa in fish tacos.
Ingredients:
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 Jalapeño chile, minced (include ribs and seeds for a hotter taste if desired)
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste. Also good with diced red bell pepper
Directions:
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the salsa ends up being a little too hot or acidic for your taste, you can temper it by adding some diced avocado.

Mango Salsa

Fresh mango salsa is easy to make and perfect with halibut or salmon or as the salsa in fish tacos.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Jalapeño chile, minced (include ribs and seeds for a hotter taste if desired)
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste. Also good with diced red bell pepper

Directions:

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the salsa ends up being a little too hot or acidic for your taste, you can temper it by adding some diced avocado.

In Honor of Father’s Day…

OK, so you’ve already given your dad that customized necktie embellished with your photograph on it, now you have a little down time while your dad is out getting acquainted with the new gas grill your mom gave him.  Before your family sits down to eat, now’s your chance to read up on Beachhouse.com’s  picks for the top baseball parks to visit….maybe next Father’s Day, instead of giving him some cheap cologne that smells like Robert Downey Jr. trying to cover up after a bender, you can spare your dad the hassle of faking that he loves your gift and give him something he will truly enjoy – tickets to a baseball game and some quality bonding time with you…and a couple of ball park brews never hurt anybody – emphasis on couple.

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs

Wrigley Field is one of the oldest and most notorious fields in the United States.  Despite the field’s notoriety, the Chicago Cubs haven’t exactly made a name for themselves – unless you count the fact that they have never won the World Series, and now that the Red Socks have won theirs, the Cubs are officially the worst cursed team in the league.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself at the home of Ferris Bueller’s infamous day off, deep dish pizza and organized crime.

AT&T Park, San Francisco Giants

If your dad likes the finer things in life, he’d love to be treated to a day at the on-the-water AT&T Park.  Some of baseball’s greatest call this park home, including Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and all time home run leader, Barry Bonds.  The park has every amenity your dad could ask for and all kinds of classic and not so expected stadium food – the crab sandwiches and Cuban cuisine (in honor of Orlando Cepeda – former Giant) are some of the fan favorites.  And if your dad is the kind to get a little out of hand after a couple brewskies, it won’t faze this crowd – they’re used to scandals (Steroids anyone?)

PetCo Park, San Diego Padres

It may seem biased to have more than one California stadium on this list, but if you lived here, you’d know why we’re biased.  Even though the National League West is quite possibly the weakest division in sports, the Padres stadium and ambiance of the surrounding cityscape’s is unparalleled.  It’s always sunny and there’s plenty to do – so if the team ain’t winning, go surfing or get tipsy with the college kids.

New Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees

One of the most loved (and hated) franchises in all of sports, as of the 2009 season, the Yankees have a brand spankin new stadium to call home.  They left their monument to baseball history behind them and started this season with a new coach.  Besides being the most winningest team in the history of baseball, they have, arguably, the most loyal fans in the game…so you and your dad, foam fingers and pin-stripes in place, will fit right in.

Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox

Fenway Park is the oldest stadium in the US, making it a perfect place for a dad who loves the classics.  With 2 recent championship titles under their jockstrap, the Red Sox are one of the most intimidating teams to compete with and one of the most exciting teams to watch.  Not for the faint of heart or dad’s with young kids (and virgin ears) Sox fans are hard drinking and curse like sailors…they’re also overwhelmingly passionate about their team.  After the game’s over there’s still plenty to do in one of the oldest city in America – so buy a pint, start dropping your r’s and you’ll fit right in.

Destin, Florida has it all!

Destin is an all-encompassing destination spot located on the Emerald Coast of Florida. Destin is also referred to as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” as it has the largest fishing vessel in Florida.

Attractions and activities in Destin include high-end shopping and dining, golfing, fishing, boating, water-sports, renowned beaches, forests, scenic state parks that are perfect for hiking, Broadway shows and well-known art galleries. This beautiful city truly has something for everyone!

Destin has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world with crystal clear water and white sand. The emerald green surf of the Gulf of Mexico is breathtakingly gorgeous and it is bordered by Destin’s beautiful beaches. There are fourteen gorgeous beach communities on this wonderful vacation spot and an abundance of water-related activities offered, including fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and boating.

There is a magnificent festival called Autumn Tides in South Walton, which is just ten miles away from Destin. This festival takes place on the beaches of South Walton and it offers a music concerts, art galleries, wine tasting, nature and cultural events, theatre, and film presentations. It is the perfect way to experience the uniqueness and beauty of the beaches around Destin!

In addition to the beaches, Destin offers a host of activities and attractions. The Gulfarium is a renowned marine park just across the bridge from Destin that has live marine shows and an enjoyable dolphin interaction program. Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park has over 40 exciting water activities including body fumes, speed slides and the world’s biggest man-made waterfall. This park is enjoyable both for the family and for couples.

Golf is very prevalent in Destin; the city has some of the best golf courses in the country including the Emerald Bay Golf Course with its three large, tropical mini-golf courses.

You ought to visit the Indian Temple Mound Museum which displays the lives of Native Americans that lived in that area 10,000 years ago. The preserved temple mound was used for political and religious ceremonies; it is an amazing site that is a must-see for everyone.

Destin also has amazing shopping malls including Alvin’s Island Tropical Department Stores and Silver Sands Factory Stores. These malls have pretty much any store that you can think of!

Finally, Destin is also known for its world-class dining; some of the restaurants in this city are nationally rated. There is a wide range of restaurants and cuisines to choose from.

Destin is truly an extremely exciting and versatile city that has something for everyone!

The Heavenly Seven-Mile Long Community of Boca Grande

Boca Grande is a peaceful seven mile long community in Gasparilla Island, Southwest Florida.  This paradisiacal location is ideal for a get-away-from-it-all location as it offers a tranquilizing alternative to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Boca Grande does not have any high rises or traffic lights and the mode of transportation for most people is golf carts.  At Boca Grande, you can enjoy the pristine beaches, aquatic activities, fishing, golfing, dining, and shopping.  Luxurious beach vacation homes are very popular among tourists on this island as they capture the true essence of this serene destination!

Boca Grande is widely known for its gorgeous, white sand beaches; that is not surprising because the island has perpetually gorgeous weather averaging 75 degrees.  At the beach, you can enjoy the beautiful view, soak in the sun, people watch, talk a walk, and read.  In addition, you can indulge in more active ventures including swimming, shelling, surfing, and scuba diving.

If you stay at a beach vacation home, you can have access to the beach twenty-four seven!  Not only will you experience ultimate luxury, you will feel as if you are at home away from home.

At Boca Grande, you can also go for boating and sailing by tour or on your own.  Boating and sailing are enjoyable activities and you encounter some exotic species like dolphins, white pelicans, and ospreys.  Boca Grande is a haven for people that like to fish because Southwest Florida is globally acclaimed for its fishing.  In fact, fishing is an integral part of the culture of Gasparilla Island. The waters of Southwest Florida are replete with game and food fish.  Tarpoon in the spring is a key fishing season and between August and November, offshore fishing is excellent for grouper, snapper, and kingfish while inshore fishing is great for snook and redfish.  Nevertheless, recreational fishing is an exciting sport in Boca Grande throughout the year by means of your own boat, a rental boat, or one of the many local fishing guides.

Along with the aquatic activities and beaches, Boca Grande offers scenic beauty, great restaurants, unique shops, theatres, and art galleries.  One of the most special aspects of Boca Grande is that it seeks to protect its distinct atmosphere and its quality of life.  The art galleries have works of local artists that have admirably captured the spirit of Boca Grande.

All the restaurants in this community have a unique style and they all specialize in fresh, local seafood.  Moreover, the restaurants offer a vast variety of international cuisines with mouthwatering flavors and upscale ambiances.

Boca Grande has served as a backdrop in many movies including Denzel Washington’s Out of Time and the movie based on Carl Hiaasen’s book Hoot.

During your vacation at Boca Grande, you can also visit some of the beautiful islands that are very close to it including North Captiva, Cayo Costa, Cabbage Key, and Useppa Island - all are all beautiful, exciting and excluive.

Boca Grande is a community that is ideal for an unwinding, relaxing vacation. A trip to Boca Grande is a memorable one that will keep you coming back for more!

Dana Point – Harboring the Good Life!

Dana Point is a beautiful city located in southern Orange County, California.  The motto of the city is “Harboring the Good Life,” which is manifested in the life of residents of the city.

This city is a popular vacation destination because of its serene natural beauty, gorgeous beaches, shopping, beautiful parks, and host of activities that it has to offer.  A prominent point of interest in the city is Dana Point Harbor which offers boat rentals, fishing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, boat charters, shops, and restaurants.  Vacationers thoroughly enjoy the lively atmosphere and activities at the Harbor.

Dana Point has 23 beautiful parks, including Chloe Luke Overlook, Creekside Park, Crystal Cove Park, and Salt Creek Park.  The renowned parks are free of charge for visitors and are perfect for picnics, barbeques, relaxing, walking, biking, and playing sports.  You can reserve the parks for large parties and you can also have a memorable wedding at one of the parks.

Dana Point has world-famous beaches and a number of beach-related activities and facilities, such as boat rentals and surf shops.  Some of the beaches include Capistrano Beach, Doheny State Beach, and Salt Creek Beach.

Capistrano Beach is a beautiful beach that offers sports, cycling, fishing gear and beach supplies.

Doheny State Beach has an impressive picnic area and is famous in the state of California for its swimming and surfing.

Salt Creek Beach is also popular for surfing and is located in Salt Creek Park.

Dana Point is referred to as the “Whale Capital of the West” because a variety of whales use the city as a navigational landmark on their migrations. Thus, whale-watching is a popular activity that proves to be a majestic experience particularly in the months of January and February.  Moreover, Dana Point is a well-known fishing area and Dana Point Harbor offers fishing trips for everyone.

The Ocean Institute is a valuable resource that provides an authentic ocean experience by means of children’s day camps, boat excursions, and wildlife cruises.

Dana Point has a prominent shopping culture; the city offers shops that sell a broad range of items including Indian artifacts, custom-designed jewelry, designer sunglasses, well-known art galleries, and high-end clothing.  The city has something exciting for every shopper.

Dana Point Harbor also has seventeen, well-known and diverse restaurants to choose from.

Dana Point has annual events every season including boat rides with Santa Claus, Festival of the Whales, Doheny Blues Festival which is a vibrant event that celebrates the coming of the summer, Fourth of July fireworks, and Shakespeare by the Sea which is a free Shakespeare production.

Dana Point also has a great location as it is close to a number of attractions.  Disneyland and other theme parks are about forty-five minutes away and the gorgeous Newport Beach is nearby as well.  San Diego is an hour away and Hollywood is about an hour and a half away.

Dana Point is a magnificent city that promises a memorable vacation for everyone!