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Make The Most Of Summer Travel – 3 Unspoiled Destinations

Written by: Kathleen Hesketh, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Summer of 2023 promises to be just as popular for travel across U.S. destinations as the revenge-inspired travel trend of 2022, but that doesn’t mean you have to vacation with the masses. Travel to one of these three off-the-beaten path U.S. destinations and get away from the crowds.

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Waterfalls and Caves, Exploring Oregon’s Often Missed Scenic Pleasures

While summer travelers to Oregon’s picturesque destinations congregate in the Columbia River Gorge or Crater Lake National Park, we use the warmer months to explore some of the lesser known scenic spots located in the Willamette National Forest. Here, the aptly namedOver the River and Through the Woods Scenic Byway traverses the twisty course of the McKenzie River. With forgotten stops that pass by some of the region’s most tranquil pleasures, you’ll find space and quiet to enjoy nature free from crowds.

A short detour down Highway 126 leads to one of Oregon’s not-to-be-missed sights. Kayaking Clear Lake is an eerie commune with the underworld as crystal blue waters provide a fathom deep view into a watery grave. Fortunately, the victims aren’t human inhabitants but a petrified forest of 3,000-year-old trees.

The spring-fed lake averages summer temps of 37 degrees Fahrenheit, so you won’t see many swimmers, but it’s easy to set out by boat. A lakeside restaurant rents kayaks and rowboats by the half or full day, and if you arrive before noon Monday through Thursday, you likely won’t need a reservation.

Leaving your kayak behind, it’s time to take a hike. The McKenzie River National Recreation Trail is a short jaunt down Highway 126 and boasts not one, but two of the landmarks for which the state has gained national recognition. Koosah Falls measures a cascade of 74 feet and invites the daring to tempt their fate at cliff jumping. The larger Sahalie Falls lures slackline walkers out onto ribbon thin twines in a balancing act that puts even Olympic gymnasts to shame. If you prefer to explore the falls at ground level, a loop trail follows the course of the river and offers optimal viewpoints at multiple points along the way.

After jumping back on the scenic byway, watch for views of iconic mountain peaks, such as Mount Washington and Three-Fingered Jack. Turnouts are available and include way signs to help guide your view.

To say the landscape here is surreal may sound trite, but you won’t find too many other places where the ground is littered with volcanic rock or where the remnants of the earth’s eruptions are so clearly evident. Depending on the length of your visit, we recommend a stop at the Dee Wright Observatory, and to extend your summer travel, a trip to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Both offer beautiful depictions of the earth’s volatile history, with interpretive signs or guided excursions to add a little extra education to your journey.

Lava River Cave near the Newberry National Monument offers the chance to explore a lava tube. As plasma flows covered the area and retreated, they left hollow channels in their wake. While such phenomena dot the landscape in this region, the Lava River Cave is a way to safely explore the remains, while still experiencing the unique pleasure of underground discovery.

To learn why savvy travelers visit Oregon in the summer. Read my article on Oregon summer travel here.

Summer Travel in the Northern Wilds

While over a million people will seek the stunning sandstone arches at places like Bryce Canyon in Utah, you can explore majestic cliffs and beautiful sandstone sea caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in relative seclusion. Located in the northernmost corner of Wisconsin, this archipelago of 21 or 22 islands—depending on the source—is often called the jewel of Lake Superior.

For up close views of the sea caves, travelers head out on boat, paddling a trek through breathtaking arches. Others take a different course, hiking over 50 miles of mainland trails.

The Lakeshore Trail is a 6-mile pursuit covering stunning and sometimes challenging terrain, but the effort is worth it. Hikers can peer into the depths of seaside caves as kayakers paddle below and waves crash in a chorus of blissful sounds.

While hiking and paddling your way around the islands might sound like a strenuous summer travel adventure, there is plenty of relaxation to be had if you know where to look. For most vacationers who find the Apostle Islands, that means heading over to Madeline Island by car. The Madeline Island Ferry operates several trips daily and welcomes both your vehicle and dogs.

This is the largest island in the archipelago, so you’ll find plenty to do. Visit art galleries or pitch a camp chair on the beach to enjoy a few hours of sun and surf. Once your energy levels start to rebound, you can drive the perimeter road or rent a bike or moped and take your time exploring the beauty of the island and Lake Superior.

To experience all that the archipelago of islands has to offer, consider taking a cruise. The Islands are home to 7 lighthouses, and Apostle Islands Cruises visits many. For added insight, narrators will also highlight historic shipwrecks, uncovering voyages where more than a light was needed to guide the way.

Back on the mainland, you can take an orchard tour. The area offers prime growing conditions, so you’ll easily find the best of native produce, including apples, raspberries, blueberries, cherries and pears. Many establishments offer to pick your own fruits and farm stores where you can find your fill of fresh goodies.

Exploring New England’s Summer Playground

What state is New England in? It’s a question we get often, but New England is defined by more than geographical boundaries. Some would say it’s a state of mind. After all, the heritage of our nation was forged in the revolutionary fires of states like Connecticut and Massachusetts, home to one of the most famous hotbeds of colonial discontent.

However, the 6 states that make up the New England region offer far more than history, including dramatic cliff shores, white sand beaches, traprock ledges and some of the most compelling hikes in the country. Best of all, the small size of each New England state makes it easy to cross borders and visit multiple summer destinations in a single summer vacation.

Head out for a week, and you can easily fly into Bradley International Airport just north of Hartford. Its small size makes it easy to navigate and a perfect starting point for a trip to some of the nation’s less traveled summer destinations.

From there, drive north toward Boston, where colonial history and the downtown funk of the city center await. Explore the past on a Duck Tour, traversing both land and water. Head to the New Bedford Whaling Museum to gain a deeper feel for how this unique part of the country evolved or get up close to the creatures themselves on a whaling cruise.

After exploring the sites of Boston for a day, head north again to the beaches of Maine. This rocky coastline is dotted with white sand oases and enough seafood shacks to keep you from feeling peckish for a day or two. That gives you plenty of time to lounge surfside in Ogunquit and walk the famed Marginal Way cliffside trail.

A day in Ogunquit is the perfect way to restore your senses before continuing your northward journey toward Acadia National Park. This is the only national park in the northeast and features two drastically diverse landscapes: Mount Desert, an island off the mainland coast, and the inland pleasures of the Schoodic Peninsula.

Guests can hike more than 150 miles of hiking trails or 33 miles of scenic roadways, but one of the best ways to explore the island is by horse or horse-drawn carriage. Routes traverse 45 miles of old carriage roads once built by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Of course, Acadia might be the most famous for Cadillac Mountain. If you don’t mind rising early, you can be one of the first people in the U.S. to watch the sunrise from this sky-high vantage—the eastern most point in the country.

From Acadia, you’ll continue your summer travel by heading south again, winding through New Hampshire and the White Mountains. Hiking trails are plentiful as are scenic mountain vistas, cool streams and shady roads. It’s one of the best places to enjoy the outdoors and spend a summer day or two, with kitschy seasonal destinations like Clark’s Bears, formerly Clark’s Trading Post. Here, live black bears come out to entertain guests and other roadside attractions continue to lure in road tripping travelers.

To commune with nature, stop at Flume Gorge and take the 2-hour hike through a granite ravine. New Hampshire is called the granite state and after walking in step with the gorge’s 70-to-90-foot rock cliffs, you’ll soon understand why. Before you leave the area, be sure to also stop at Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves to explore small cavelets and stunning views via a series of walkways.

Heading south again, it’s worth taking a small detour west in Massachusetts to visit the Berkshires. Once the summer playground of industrial age millionaires, the area remains a summer travel escape for New Englanders. You can set out on foot to explore the unique terrain on hikes such as Ice Glen or tour gilded age “summer cottages.” Ventfort Hall and The Mount, home of author Edith Wharton, are 2 prime examples open to the public.

Other famous inhabitants include Norman Rockwell, who created most of his iconic works from a studio in Stockbridge. The small cottage building remains today, part of the art museum that bears his famous name. Here, you’ll find installations from Rockwell’s extensive line of work as well as rotating exhibits from other artists.

From the Berkshires, continue south again until you reach Connecticut’s shoreline. While it might not be the most off the beaten path adventure, New York City is only a train ride away. With Metro North trains departing throughout the day from Union Station in New Haven, it’s an easy way to catch a Broadway show, tour the famous museums, visit Central Park or do some shopping of the Big Apple.

Looking for more things to do in New England? Find some of the best adventures here.

Get Away from It All This Summer

Exploring off-the-beaten-path summer travel destinations can be the perfect way to get away from it all and create special memories that last a lifetime. Places like New England, Oregon and Apostle Islands National Lakeshore offer unique adventures that defy the crowds of more popular locations.

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Kathleen Hesketh, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Kathleen Hesketh is a top business and travel writer. With more than a decade of experience in writing and a passion for travel, Kathleen has the knowledge to craft compelling stories on explorations covering both popular and out-of-the-way destinations. She is the author of the popular travel blog, Seconds to Go, which she publishes with her daughter, Ali. Together, they explore the U.S. coast to coast and offer their perspective on unique travel adventures, as well as those tucked away, hard-to-find places. Since its inception, the blog has grown to provide travel inspiration covering some of the country’s most fascinating locations. With her unique perspective, passion for storytelling, and unusual insights.



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