Summer is upon us, and though I’ve spent my first few weeks at home in sunny, Washington, DC, my suitcase is crying from neglect.

“Now is the time to travel!” says just about everyone to me. School’s out, the warm weather wants us to celebrate, and the mountains and seaside are calling.

Of the Four Seasons of Travel, summer is the most obvious. When I was a young child, summertime was the only season to travel—and it was the season to watch parades, to jump into cold lakes, to run barefoot in the forest, and scale sun-warmed boulders.

My list of favorite summertime places represents a clear northern hemisphere bias—right now, Cape Town is cold, India’s in monsoon, and it’s snowing in parts of Tasmania. But the following are also the places I love most—places I have traveled to in summers past and places that I long for every time the air turns warmer and the days become longer.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

No beach will ever compare to my first, with its long band of white sand and rough, navy blue surf. I am forever nostalgic for the clapboard beach houses, the gaudy boardwalk that smells of saltwater taffy and steamed crabs, and even the dead horseshoe crabs and bulbous jellyfish that litter the sand. I really do love Rehoboth and still try to go and get pummeled by the waves at least once ever summer.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

One of my fondest summer memories was getting stuck in a monumental hailstorm in the beautiful Badlands of South Dakota. The sun-bleached mountains look like shark teeth and in a matter of minutes, the skies switch from blazing blue to ominous storm fronts. This is one of the wildest corners in America and I love its moody and unpredictable nature.

Saguenay National Park, Québec, Canada

It’s no secret that I adore Québec, especially the wild woodlands around the Saguenay Fjord. I have fond summertime memories of hiking these steep hills and watching baby beluga whales (they’re pink!) spouting in the fjord. Phenomenal kayaking, outstanding wildlife, fun French culture and the glorious local cuisine make this my no-fail vacation spot.

Seneca Creek, West Virginia

When I want to go camping, I escape to wild and wonderful  West Virginia. Just a short drive from Washington, DC, the Spruce Knob National Recreation Area is a personal favorite. My friends and I love to come here for a long weekend, backpack in, cook over a fire and swim in the natural rock pools and waterfalls. (If you’re lucky, you’ll see black bears.)

Bermuda

I cannot count all the ways that I love Bermuda. Just a two-hour flight from America’s east coast, this Atlantic isle is a summertime paradise of empty pink beaches, coral-stone houses, and everywhere you look, the warm turquoise ocean. I love the history, the lighthouses, and the very real British flair of this island in the sun.

Moorea, French Polynesia

The island that is not Tahiti is an easy 30-minute ferry ride from Papeete but a whole world away from the bustle of that city. Moorea is perfectly pleasant—warm, soft, and tropical—with coconut groves, secluded beaches, green volcanic peaks, and a committed Polynesian culture. June to September represents the Polynesian “winter”, which means 80° F temperatures, no rain . . . and no shoes! Moorea might be my favorite island for doing absolutely nothing.

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan

Far up on the pinky finger of Michigan’s hand, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore has a natural purity that is rare to find. Though the crystalline waters of Lake Michigan are frigid, the lake is alive with giant salmon, and the surrounding pine forests are summer epitomized. My family used to vacation here and I have very fond memories of cartwheeling down the massive dunes and nighttime campfires on the lake shore.

Faroe Islands

Out in the midst of the tempestuous North Sea, the wave-worn Faroes are for me, a kind of grey and sullen poem of a place. Yes, there is fog, and wind, and rain, but the sun shines, too, and in summer, these mossy green islands shine like emeralds. I love the noisy birds, the odd Nordic islanders, the quirky music scene, and the wistful feeling of such an isolated spot on the map. (My favorite island? Suðuroy)

Val-André, Brittany, France

As a self-confessed shameless and sycophantic Francophile, I can’t leave out my beloved France, and what better place to embrace summer than Brittany’s northern coastline? An hour west from the better known port of St. Malo, Val-André is a grey-stone Breton town at the edge of a massive half-moon bay that simply glows in summer. The beach is fine, but it’s the sailing and seafood that draws visitors (like me).

Feodosiya, Crimea, Ukraine

The Black Sea coast has long been the haunt of Russian nobility, and the seaside town of Feodosiya is a personal favorite. Wedged between the steep Crimean mountains and the rocky seacoast, the historic town still harbors an air of old Russia. My favorite spots? The pristine beach at Koktebel, the old Genoese castle of Caffa, and the impressive Aivazovsky Art Gallery.

Furano, Hokkaido, Japan

Come summer, Japan’s northern isle explodes into fabulous colors when the fields of roses and tulips really come to life. In July, the hills around Furano turn into bright stripes of purple as the lavender blooms, and the air smells incredible. It’s quite easy to drive yourself around the island, but plan on stopping lots for photos, to bathe in the hot springs, and to eat ramen in Sapporo.

Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Today’s weather report for Snowdonia reads, “Sunny spells leading to a low risk of sunburn.” Exactly. You won’t get sunburned in Wales, even in summertime, but you will have beautiful light, refreshing temperatures and unbeatable scenery. The high mountains of northern Wales are as romantic as their Welsh names. I can’t think of a better summer break than renting a cottage in Snowdonia and balancing daily mountain walks with evening visits to hidden village pubs.

Ruaha National Park, Tanzania

Yes, I was just here last December, but July is a much better time to visit. Just below the equator, Ruaha’s temperatures hover around the lower 80’s in July, when the rains have stopped, the grass is drying up, and the wildlife is abundant. Meanwhile, the Serengeti is in peak season and a mob scene not worth fighting.

Copenhagen, Denmark

My first to Copenhagen was in August about ten years ago, when I rented a bike and sped through the cobbled streets. I fell in love with Denmark’s capital in a heartbeat, not only for the canals and exquisite architecture, but really for the city’s many beaches, all of which are clean and swimmable. Come summer, the capital of Nordic cool plays hard into the long hours of sunlit-night. If you’re looking for an unconventional urban getaway, this is it.

Lake Rosseau, Ontario, Canada

Muskoka represents a lovely Canadian summertime ritual, and while Lake Muskoka may have all the big, fancy lake houses, it’s the placid blue water of Lake Rosseau that I love most. I remember counting Saturn’s rings through a telescope, eating crumbly homemade butter tarts from the local general store, and shrieking every time my bare torso hit the lake. Add a wooden speedboat and it’s a summer that I will never forget.

Podravska, Slovenia

Saving the best for last, Slovenia in the summer simply makes me sigh–ahhhh!  For me, Slovenia’s strange Mediterranean/Alpine mix is like no other place in Europe, and though quite small on the map, on the ground, Slovenia is a vast and rippled landscape of high mountain villages and spectacular forests. My favorite spa town is Zreče, where after a day of thermal soaking, I felt totally renewed. And isn’t that what summer’s all about? Renewal, rebirth, and relaxation?

And so, friends, there is my list. Now, please add some of your favorite places in the comments! I love hearing about the destinations that you love most and why. Like I always say, travel is personal and infinite, so don’t take my word for it–go, travel, and find out for yourself (Happy Summer!)

Comments

  1. Brad
    Canada
    June 27, 2013, 8:35 am

    Having grown up in Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada, I am biased towards Gros Morne National Park – a UNESCO world heritage site. Having grown up on the island’s east coast (which provides amazing icebergs, frolicking whales, etc) it amazes me each time I go to Gros Morne of the contrast between the east coast and the west coast of Newfoundland. The massive mountains and stunning freshwater fjords are enough to amaze visitors. You can get up close with local wildlife (after 15 years, I still talk about being amazed as a moose walked no more than 20 ft in front of a group of us tourists), hike the amazing trails, etc. I also recommend talking with the locals in some of the picturesque communities! Amazing!

  2. Katelyn
    Canada
    June 27, 2013, 4:08 pm

    I’m with Brad on this one, I LOVE NEWFOUNDLAND! It is such a spectacular place, however, it’s just shy of my favourite. Ajawaan is a small lake located in northern Saskatchewan. It was the home of Grey Owl for many years (mainly because this guy had two pet beavers). The lake is quite hard to get to, either by boat and portage or a 20+km hike, but the peace on this lake is one that can’t be matched anywhere in the world! It may not have mountains or an ocean, but silence is its best feature… HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

  3. Alain
    Saint-Félicien Qc
    June 29, 2013, 11:04 pm

    I live close Saguenay River which is indeed a very nice place to have vacation. But last summer I had the chance to spend two weeks in the area of Gros Morme N.P. I cannot help but agree with Brad. There is nothing so magnificent in Eastern North America. And the people are very nice.

  4. Christina @ Packed Suitcase
    Washington, DC
    July 1, 2013, 10:31 am

    I love that you started off your list with a hometown favorite. Rehoboth Beach is where I spent many a summer when I was younger, as well. And while it’s always fun to go to far away and exotic destinations, sometimes the nearby nostalgic places can be equally rewarding.

  5. Frank Thompson
    Overland Park, Kansas, USA
    July 1, 2013, 1:12 pm

    Fascinating list – surprised to see Snowdonia on the list, was there in April and found it to be an intriguing place, worthy of far more than the few days we spent in north Wales. A number of locals commented on how few Americans they saw there, most of those being devotees of Rick Steves’ television shows.

  6. paul baranofsky
    Cape Cod and the Islands
    July 2, 2013, 7:52 am

    Here in the northeast/new England area Cape Cod and Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket Islands are popular vacation spots.The best way to get to the Islands is by car(if you can afford the expense)or leave the car behind and take the ferry service out of Woods Hople,Massachusetts.You can reach either island that way or for a cheaper alternative take the Island Queen out of Falmouth over to Marthas Vineyard.Rent a bike for the day and when you get done the best place of a late lunch or early dinner is the Lookout Tavern in Oak BLuffs.The Cape is a popular spot as well.I usually go for a week to either Hyannis or Falmouth.Plenty of beaches and shops and places to dine there.In Falmouth Liam McGuires Irish Pub is very good.Irish and American food and they play irish music nighty.The Boathouse is another popular spot in Falmouth.In Hyannis down by the marina Trader Eds is a great place to party.Indoor bar looks like a scene out of a Hemingway novel that would take place in Key West,Florida.Also the food is excellent as well.And if you dock your boat at the nearby marina you can use the outdoor pool and bar they have as well

  7. Panoramic Journeys
    UK
    July 5, 2013, 4:26 am

    After a discussion in the office we came up with the three places we’d rather be: Ngapali Beach, Yangon, Burma; Altan Ulgii, Khentii Aimag, Mongolia; and Uma Punakha COMO Shambhala spa, Bhutan. we even blogged about it!

  8. Kirsten Alana
    NYC
    July 15, 2013, 10:33 am

    Really glad to see Sleeping Bear Dunes listed. I too grew up going there as a kid in the summer, followed by camp in the Upper Peninsula.

  9. [...] their beautiful (and big!) book celebrating all Four Seasons of Travel. Back in June, I listed Sixteen Summer Destinations I Love, but now that September is here, I present you Fourteen Favorite Fall Destinations. Once again, my [...]

  10. […] celebrated all Four Seasons of Travel with our book by the same name. Back in June, I listed 16 Summer Destinations I Love, and in September, I presented my 14 Favorite Fall Destinations. Now that it’s December, I give […]

  11. […] celebrated all Four Seasons of Travel with our book by the same name. Back in June, I listed 16 Summer Destinations I Love, and in September, I presented my 14 Favorite Fall Destinations. Now that it’s December, I give […]

  12. Phil
    http://www.tourstogo.com.au/blog/
    January 19, 11:05 pm

    Have you been out to Australia before Andrew? Some stunning summer destinations here that might fit into your future lists!