Spice up any summer cruise with one (or more) of these 13 unusual activities.
A summer cruise is definitely the time to see old friends, enjoy a meal at an old standby on the pier, grab a beer at a harbor dive bar and maybe get pampered at the spa in a trusted waterside resort. But even if one has cruised the same waters many times, perhaps there’s something new to find.
We have no problem with kitsch. Heck, the waterfront would be a boring place without it. Perhaps, however, there’s something even better and different just off the beaten path — or even on it. Perhaps it’s time to shake things up on your annual cruise. Perhaps one of the following 13 West Coast places or activities is just the thing to put some pizzazz in that port stop.
What: A Tree Graveyard
Where: Rialto Beach, Wash. Visiting boats can check for slip availability at the nearby Quileute Marina in La Push, just south of Rialto Beach. Visit quileutenation.org/marina or call (360) 374-5392.
The Skinny: Washington’s breathtaking Olympic Coast includes Rialto Beach, a spectacularly scenic shoreline known for its views of offshore sea stacks and its sea life–filled tide pools. But look back toward shore from the beach and you’ll notice a coastline covered in the remains of thousands of trees. Massive logs uprooted during storms have drifted ashore here. The bleached and scoured trees appear ghostly white and form a stark contrast to the dark sands of the beach and the deep green of the trees still holding on to the coast.
Insider Tip: Keep an eye out for werewolf and vampire fans. The beach has gained popularity in recent years, as the area is featured in author Stephanie Meyers’ hit books and movies in the “Twilight” series.
What: Seattle Meowtropolitan Cat Café
Where: 1225 N. 45th St., Seattle. Boaters can get four hours of free moorage at Fisherman’s Terminal (go to portseattle.org or call (206) 787-3395) and take a 10-minute cab or Uber ride to the café.
The Skinny: If you can’t bring your feline friend along for the cruise but still want to get a cat fix, Seattle has you covered. The Meowtropolitan Cat Café serves cat-inspired coffee drinks — “catpuccinos” and “meowchas” — to visitors at the coffee lounge, who can then enter the cat lounge and enjoy snuggling up with napping and purring kittens strewn about the facility. The melding of cats and caffeine came from Japan and first opened its doors in Seattle in 2015.
Insider Tip: Book a reservation. Only 10 visitors are allowed in at a time, to keep from overwhelming the cats. Get the full scoop at seattlemeowtropolitan.com.
What: Tailgating, or Sailgating, at Husky Stadium
Where: University of Washington, Seattle
The Skinny: Pick a Saturday in September or October when the University of Washington’s Husky football team is in town and head for a tailgate tailor-made for boaters. Moor in Lake Washington, in the shadow of Husky Stadium, and enjoy the views of the Cascade Mountains. Then, as kick-off approaches, climb aboard the shuttle boat service to the stadium. Don’t let the college sports atmosphere fool you: Hotdogs don’t cut it here. Seafood is the main fare for this unique setting.
Insider Tip: Make sure to get a moorage or charter permit before game day. Go to huskystadium.com or call (206) 543-4895.
What: Oregon Coast Scenic Steam Railroad Tour
Where: 402 American Ave., Garibaldi, Ore. Guest moorage rates start at $25 per day at Garibaldi Marina, and the train depot is within easy walking distance of the docks.
The Skinny: Take a trip back in time in Tillamook County, where the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad offers guests regularly scheduled steam-powered train rides from Garibaldi to Rockaway Beach in the summer months, and specially scheduled rides throughout the year. While rail travel has changed, nothing changes on the Scenic Railroad, where guests still purchase tickets on the train in the caboose — which doubles as a gift shop.
Insider Tip: For a schedule of the upcoming train trips, visit oregoncoastscenic.org.
What: North Coast Craft Beer Trail
Where: Astoria, Ore. Port of Astoria’s 335-slip West Basin Marina has guest moorage available on a first-come, first-served basis. Call (503) 325-8279 (office) or email the marina manager at email@example.com.
The Skinny: Six of Oregon’s finest craft breweries are located within one and a half miles of Astoria’s West Basin Marina, making the destination a big draw for beer lovers. Some of the hotspots, according to The Oregonian, include Rogue Ales Public House, which opened in 2007 in what used to be a Bumble Bee tuna cannery on Pier 39; Fort George Brewery, maker of Vortex IPA, 1811 Lager and seasonal favorites such as 3-Way IPA and Suicide Squeeze; and Buoy Beer Co., which has a Columbia River view.
Insider Tip: Use the Astoria Riverfront Trolley to hop from brewery to brewery. For more information, visit oregoncoastbeer.com.
What: Glass Beach
Where: MacKerricher State Park, Fort Bragg, Calif. It’s a seven-minute car ride from Noyo River Basin, where guest slip rates range from $18 to $26 per day. Call (707) 964-4719 for availability.
The Skinny: A beach site owned by a lumber company was Fort Bragg’s dumping grounds for decades, from 1906 until it was closed in 1967. Since then, the sea’s pounding waves have been cleaning the beaches and shaping glass shards into small, smooth, colored pebbles that cover the shoreline. Today, the site is part of MacKerricher State Park.
Insider Tip: Removing the glass is prohibited. “All park cultural features are protected by law and may not be removed or disturbed, including glass found at Glass Beach,” a note from the State Parks says.
What: The Wave Organ
Where: 83 Marina Green Dr., San Francisco. Visiting boaters can check for guest mooring availability at the adjacent San Francisco Marina, (415) 831-6322, or Pier 39 Marina, which is one and a half miles east, (pier39marina.com).
The Skinny: If Dr. Seuss created a nautical musical instrument, this would be it. The Wave Organ, located on a jetty in San Francisco Bay, is an acoustic sculpture that amplifies the sounds of waves in the bay. The sculpture was built by Peter Richards in collaboration with the Exploratorium, in 1986, and is made out of crushed granite and marble from a demolished cemetery.
Insider Tip: The organ has 25 pipes that plunge below the surface of the water, picking up different wave sounds at various depths, which can rise and fall in pitch with the tides.
What: Mystery Spot
Where: Santa Cruz, Calif. The Mystery Spot is situated in the redwoods just outside of Santa Cruz, so boaters should plan on renting a car to reach the “gravitational anomaly,” after they berth their boat in Santa Cruz Harbor (santacruzharbor.org), which offers daily slip rentals on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Skinny: The visual illusion–based tourist attraction keeps visitors on their toes. The site, discovered in 1939, is based around a “mystery shack” that was built on the side of a hill, where strange gravitational forces appear to be at work. Balls roll uphill, visitors appear to feel lighter or heavier, and feelings of seasickness can kick in on dry land. Speculated reasons for the peculiarities include cones of metal secretly buried in the ground by aliens, carbon dioxide permeating from the earth, a nearby magma vortex and more.
Insider Tip: Buy tickets online at mysteryspot.com.
What: Sea Otter Kayak Tour
Where: Elkhorn Slough, Moss Landing, Calif. Boaters can check on slip availability at the Moss Landing Harbor District by calling (831) 633-2461.
The Skinny: Elkhorn Slough is the largest expanse of tidal salt marsh in California outside of San Francisco Bay. That habitat is key to sustaining wildlife such as the Southern sea otter, a species whose greatest California concentration happens to be in the slough. For a guaranteed chance to see the charismatic marine mammal, head out on a guided kayak or standup paddleboard tour offered by Kayak Connection (kayakconnection.com) or Monterey Bay Kayaks (montereybaykayaks.com).
What: Wine Tour on a Bike
Where: 113 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, Calif. Visitor slip fees run $1 per foot per day. Contact the harbormaster’s office at (805) 564-5531 for more information.
The Skinny: Santa Barbara’s I Bike Wine Tours (ibikesb.com) bring fitness and fermented fruits together on a guided tour through Santa Barbara’s wine country. A shuttle van picks up patrons and whisks them to the back country where the bike tour starts. The tour includes a nine- to 15-mile long bike ride (depending on locations chosen), with a guided tour of the wine country, tastings at two local wineries, an olive oil tasting and a complimentary lunch.
What: Pitch and Putt with a View
Where: Back Bay Golf Course, Hyatt Regency, 1107 Jamboree Road, Newport Beach, Calif. Guest boat slips are available at Newport Dunes Marina (newportdunes.com), just half a mile from the course; call (949) 729-1100 to check on availability.
The Skinny: Want to hit the links but don’t have the time (or maybe the green) to tackle a full 18-hole course? Newport Beach’s Bay Golf Course is nine short holes — with views of Upper Newport Bay — that duffers can squeeze in before breakfast or in place of lunch. For more information, or to schedule a tee time, call (949) 729-6193.
Insider Tip: For an extra challenge, golfing at night with glow-in-the-dark balls can be arranged.
What: Quality Time with the Dog
Where: Coronado Dog Beach, San Diego. Nearby guest docking includes overnight stays at Glorietta Bay Marina, (619) 435-5203, or temporary docking at SeaForth Boat Rentals, (619) 437-1514.
The Skinny: Nestled between a Naval Air Station and the shimmering Hotel del Coronado lies Coronado Dog Beach. Your pup might not appreciate the picturesque beauty of the spot, but you can — and Fido can enjoy being off leash at all hours here. Be sure to keep an eye on your dog if the swells start picking up.
What: Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch
Where: 5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, Calif. The closest marina is Oceanside Harbor (about a nine-mile drive), where guest slips can be reserved at cityofoceanside.net or by calling (760) 435-4000.
The Skinny: Carlsbad’s more than 50 acres of flower fields are the stuff of dreams. From March through May, full blooms of purple, red, orange and yellow ranunculus cover the hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Visitors can either walk and frolic among the blooms on foot or hop aboard an antique tractor for a ride through the fields. Admission is $14 for adults, $13 for seniors 60 and up, $7 for children between the ages of 3 and 10, and free for children under the age of 2. For more information, go to theflowerfields.com.