With gas prices still high, make the most of your fleeting warm weekends
with a road trip that requires just one stop at the pump.
With gas prices still high, make the most of your fleeting warm weekends with a road trip that requires just one stop at the pump.
by Claire Martin
Los Angeles to Big Bear Lake, CA
Start your engine at the ocean, and in less than 100 miles you’ll be tucked into the San Bernardino Mountains at 7,000 feet (a trip that would have taken two days by horse-drawn carriage in the gold-rush era). Big Bear Lake is emerging as a biking mecca, with more than two dozen mountain bike trails and a road cycling scene galvanized by weekly Tuesday evening rides organized by Bear Valley Bikes (from $25 for half-day rentals; bvbikes.com). Big Bear Mountain Brewery lures cyclists for a nightcap with special $2 pints of Oktoberfest Brew (mountainbrewery.com). Most local hotels offer $25 gas coupons to guests who book two-night stays, but Stargazers Inn is the only one with its own private observatory to take advantage of the area’s clear night sky (no smog, no light pollution). The inn’s location — one mile from mountains, town, and lake — means you can leave your car parked during your stay. Each of the five rooms are named for constellations. We recommend Perseus; it has the best views (from $200; stargazers inn.com).
Boston to Cape Elizabeth, ME
A massive eco-renovation has rendered the 22-year-old Inn by the Sea a veritable preserve. Perched on a promontory above a mile-long scallop of white sand at the southern entrance to Casco Bay, the five-acre grounds are a certified wildlife habitat. (Rounding out its eco-résumé, the hotel is heated with biofuel, the swimming pool is solar panel–heated, and its recycling program is aggressive.) The drive up from Boston is a cinch: just 100 miles on I-95. Then ditch the SUV for a canoe, golf cart, or hiking boots. From the lobby you can see clear out to the bay, and every room is just as luxurious as it is green. Choose from fireplace rooms, spa suites with oversize bathrooms, and garden suites overlooking the ocean. At the nearby Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center you can take a self-guided canoe trip through marsh comprised of wispy salt hay and tall cordgrass — a classic Maine estuary ecosystem ($15 per hour for rentals; maineaudubon.org); the more adventurous can charter an afternoon, evening, or overnight sail on a wooden schooner with Portland Schooner Company ($35–$240; portlandschooner.com). There are seven golf courses within 15 minutes of the inn; Purpoodock, with challenging dune grass and tight fairways, is the crown jewel. It’s a private club, but lucky for you, Inn by the Sea has a membership and can arrange a tee time that puts you at the 18th hole as the sun is setting ($90 greens fee). Back at the inn, the Sea Glass restaurant serves a deliciously innovative take on local ingredients: Maine scallops and parsnip puree with truffle butter emulsion, and blueberry panna cotta ($289; innbythesea.com).
Miami to Big Pine Key, FL
Big Pine Key, a patch of serious wilderness in the Lower Keys, is the choice one-tanker from Miami. The island is dominated by Bahia Honda State Park, whose gumbo-limbo trees, endangered silver palms, and wild poinsettias serve as a refuge for 50 animal species, including tree frogs and four types of turtle. Following U.S. 1, you’ll island-hop south through the bustling Upper Keys to the wilds of Big Pine Key. Here, all you really need is a kayak and a snorkel; conveniently, both are available for rent at Bahia Honda park. Spend the day circumnavigating the island, taking dips along the way to scope out bottlenose dolphins and nurse sharks ($30 per half day for a single kayak, $10 per day for snorkel and fins; bahiahonda park.com). Then decamp five miles away to Deer Run B&B, named for the tiny, endangered Key deer that roam the inn’s coral sand beach. The B&B combines Caribbean elegance with Key West kitsch. Of the four rooms, Heaven is where you want to be: It boasts Brazilian cherry floors, pecan-wood furniture, and a screened porch overlooking the ocean (from $175; deerrunfloridabb.com).
Chicago to South Haven, MI
Powdery sand dunes and lonely lighthouses might conjure images of the Outer Banks, but that’s exactly what you’ll find driving east of Chicago along the folds of the Lake Michigan shoreline. Your first stop should be Warren Dunes State Park, where the payoff for a hike up the 250-foot Tower Hill dune is a view of the lake and the Chicago skyline. Pick up road snacks (apples, fresh cider) at one of the many farm stands en route to South Haven, an under-the-radar beach town with a red lighthouse and streets lined with galleries, bookstores, and an old-fashioned general store. There’s a new water trail on the south branch of the Black River; pop a kayak in, paddle downstream, and you’ll eventually slosh into the lake (kayaks $40 per day; outpostsports.com). Clementine’s restaurant, located in a 19th-century former bank, serves a killer version of South Haven’s culinary specialty, lake perch, which goes down especially well with the restaurant’s own brew, Ruppert’s Dark Ale (ohmydarling.com). A collection of cottages on the lakeshore two miles north of town, Sleepy Hollow Beach Resort is perhaps the swankiest hotel in the area; it combines a 1930s art-deco aesthetic with classy Hamptons beach house decor (from $185 for a one-bedroom cottage; sleepy hollowbeach.com).
Seattle to Orcas Island, WA
There’s still a swath of wilderness less than 100 miles from downtown Seattle: Turtleback Mountain Preserve. The longtime retreat of a timber baron, this 1,578-acre parcel of wetlands, cliffs, oak woodlands, and wildflower-covered meadows is dominated by its namesake peak. The views of Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, and the Canadian Gulf Islands start at 1,000 feet and don’t stop as you climb toward Turtleback’s 1,519-foot summit. Located just across the street from the main trailhead, Turtleback Farm Inn is by far the most convenient accommodation — but it’s also incredibly charming. Rooms at the farm’s Orchard House, a cedar barn surrounded by apple trees, have claw-foot bathtubs, fireplaces, and decks looking into the preserve (from $225; turtle backinn.com/orchard.html). Orcas Island is very bike-friendly: Rent a mountain bike at Wildlife Cycles in nearby Eastsound ($30 per day; wildlifecycles.com) to get to the Sunflower Café for a late-afternoon espresso made from local beans (thesunflowercafe
This article originally appeared in the October 2008 issue of Men’s Journal.