3 of the best cool climate destinations to visit this summer
San Juan Islands, Washington
Wildlife-watching opportunities are magnificent in the San Juan Islands — 172 named islands and reefs in the Salish Sea between Anacortes, Washington, and Vancouver Island. Filling the waters and sky are three pods of resident killer whales (orcas), minke whales, Steller sea lions, seals, otters and bald eagles.
And the views aren’t too shabby either. “The Olympic Mountains, the Cascade Range and the Canadian coastal range offer a 360-degree view of snowcapped rugged mountains,” says Jennifer Hanna, captain of motor yacht Jamal.
Begin your five-to-seven-day vacation in Bellingham, Washington, and cruise toward uninhabited Sucia Island’s Echo Bay, where you can set crab pots, hike some of the 10 miles of trails and tour nearby Clements Reef’s seal colony.
The next morning, cruise south to the archipelago’s largest island, 57-square-mile, horseshoe-shaped Orcas Island, docking at Rosario Marina. Here, explore the hiking trails in Moran State Park, then climb or drive up 2,409-foot Mount Constitution for views over the San Juan archipelago, Vancouver and the mainland, including Mount Baker and Mount Rainier.
Over the next several days, continue exploring the archipelago, stopping into San Juan Islands’ Friday Harbor, a two-square-mile town with galleries, bookstores, boutiques and whale and historical museums; Vendovi Island, a preserve with several short hiking trails; Stuart Island, with its one-room schoolhouse and famous Turn Point Light Station; and Lopez Island, the least hilly island and, thus, particularly conducive to cycling.
Orcas typically appear in groups of 20 to 80, and the best time to observe them is between late May and mid- October. Their favorite feeding grounds include the waters off San Juan Islands’ Lime Kiln Point State Park, Stuart Island Marine State Park and Sucia Island Marine State Park.
With half the rainfall of nearby Seattle and temperatures hovering around 70 degrees Fahrenheit in summer, this temperate destination is ideal for adventurers who might not suffer intense heat well, but still want to wear shorts occasionally.
On Orcas Island, dig into local oysters, Northwest seafood chowder and seared scallops in the historic Rosario Resort & Spa’s Mansion Restaurant, near the Rosario Marina.
Sips around town
Exploring makes one thirsty — so it’s a good excuse for sampling these locally produced drops: San Juan Vineyards’ Madeleine Angevine, Island Hoppin’ Brewery’s Elwha Rock IPA and Westcott Bay Cider Traditional Dry.
Sunrise and sunset are consistently magnificent on Iceland’s west coast during the summer. In Reykjavik, the capital, the sun sets around midnight on June 21, creating a gold and pink blaze, then lingers just below the horizon before rising a few hours later. While four days might be enough time to overnight at the following destinations on charter, you may find that you, too, would prefer to linger and let the night sky show and the country’s activities enchant you for a week or more.
Begin in Reykjavik, in the southwest, where by day you can soak in a geothermal open-air pool, bike along the city’s coastline and visit nearby Hafnarfjördður (home of the “hidden folk” - elves, dwarfs and other mystical beings) and then spend the bright night partying in the city’s bars, pubs and clubs. Alternatively, head inland to Thingvellir, don a dry suit and drop into the Silfra freshwater fissure, the narrowest section of a crack between the North American and Eurasian continents. While underwater, you can touch two continental plates at the same time, putting it at the top of many people's diving bucket list.
At dawn, cruise north around the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Grundarfjörður, home to Kirkjufell Mountain (which recently starred alongside Ben Stiller in the 2013 film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”). Scale this striking mountain with a guide, wander around the Viking village in the center of town, visit a puffin colony on a nearby island and then tour the mystical, 4,744-foot Snæfellsjökull glacier.
Continuing north, pause in Ísafjörður, a fishing port and the largest town on the dramatic Westfjords peninsula. Participate in a 10K or half marathon during the Runners’ Festival in July, play a game of golf amid the mountain scenery or head to the valleys of Tungudalur and Engidalur to photograph waterfalls, hike or ski.
Finally, cruise east to energetic Akureyri, where you can absorb the sun drenched scenery, including the spectacular, 100-foot-wide Goðafoss waterfall and, afterward, grab an icy treat from local favourite Brynja, which makes its ice cream with milk instead of cream.
From June 22 to 25, play round-the-clock golf at The Arctic Open Golf Championship, a 36-hole tournament held at the Akureyri Golf Club.
On the menu
The menu at Reykjavik’s Dill Restaurant is subject to change, but might feature cured cod with parsley, watercress and cod cream; Arctic char with sunchokes and spruce; dried catfish with burnt butter; reindeer with beetroot skins; and beetroot with meringue and crowberries. Five or seven courses are available.
Unless you’re soaking in a geothermal pool, you’re unlikely to feel the heat in Iceland. In Reykjavik, in the south, July’s average high temperature is 55 degrees Fahrenheit, while in Akureyri, in the north, it’s a few degrees cooler.
Nova Scotia, Canada
With more than 4,300 miles of inlet, cove and harbour-dotted coastline, maritime heritage and delicious seafood concoctions, Nova Scotia is a cool choice for summer cruising. Plus, it’s a strategic destination for expeditions headed to Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Passage and Greenland, as well as a worthy extension to New England and Maine cruising itineraries.
Begin in Halifax, on Nova Scotia’s east coast. Spend your first day around the historic waterfront. Stroll one of the world’s longest (2.5 miles) downtown boardwalks, which hugs 10 city blocks, and visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. You can add to your yacht’s provisions at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market and indulge in a bowl of seafood chowder at Waterfront Warehouse or a plate of lobster poutine at The Grill at CUT. Then end the day with live music at the Lower Deck Bar & Grill or Stayner’s Wharf Pub & Grill.
The next morning, leave the yacht and drive an hour northwest to the Annapolis Valley wine region, the perfect place for wine tasting you will sample L’Acadie blanc, the signature white grape of Nova Scotia. Later, pause for lobster and scallop chowder, Nova Scotia mussels and shrimp cakes at the Grand Pré Winery’s Le Caveau Restaurant before returning to Halifax.
From here, cruise southwest, passing the red-and-white-striped Sambro Island Lighthouse, the oldest standing and operating lighthouse in the Americas. Overnight in pretty Lunenburg, wandering its World Heritage-listed Old Town, North America’s best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement, and checking out the historic Bluenose II (Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador).
Finally, cruise northeast to the Northumberland Shore via the Canso Causeway and spend a couple of days enjoying the view from scenic, seaside golf courses and exploring Pictou, known as the “Birthplace of New Scotland.”
On December 6, 1917, a miscommunication between two ships in the Halifax harbour resulted in a terrible explosion that killed 2,000 people, injured 9,000 people and reduced the city to ruins. Halifax’s Maritime Museum of the Atlantic maintains a permanent exhibit, “Halifax Wrecked,” covering this dark day in the city’s history. Other exhibits explore Halifax’s somber connection to the Titanic.
At Lunenburg’s Fleur de Sel, award-winning chef and proprietor Martin Ruiz Salvador — a lover of classical French cuisine — creates five- and seven-course tasting menus inspired by the sea. Opt for the pan-seared Adams & Knickle scallops, as well as the Nova Scotia Bluefin tuna.
Factor in some ocean breezes with Halifax’s 71-degree Fahrenheit July high temps, and you’ll hardly break a sweat.
Halifax hosts numerous summertime festivals and events, including the Eastern Shore Cold Waters Seafood Festival (June 4-5), Canada Day (July 1), the Maritime Fiddle Festival (July 8-11), the Halifax International Busker Festival (July 27-August 1) and the Halifax Seaport Beerfest (August 5-6).