Thursday, May 31, 2012

3-day Road Trip in Canada: Vancouver-Calgary

See some mountains and inland waterways with this trip through southwest Canada This is ski country, but the scenery is stunning for a summer road trip too!

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Day 1: Vancouver- Kelowna

Vancouver has a stunning setting between the Coast Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The city is consistently ranked as one of the best to live in, and is certainly great to visit! Sizeable Stanley Park with many walking trails is a highlight, as are the bustling markets of Granville Island and the Vancouver Aquarium.

by Alan Bruce Flickr Creative Commons

Head out of the city on the Trans-Canada Highway/ BC-1 following the beautifully braided Fraser River. Hope is a gorgeous town where this river meets another. A stop here will give you a chance to admire the beauty of the area. After Hope, get on the BC-3, then merge onto BC-5/Coquihalla Highway following beside the Coquihalla River. For a great rest stop, try the Coquihalla River Recreation Area or the Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area for a picnic and recreation spot.

 Coquihalla River
by Pete Flickr Creative Commons

Just before Merritt, get off the BC-5 onto 5A, following signs for Kelowna. Only a little bit out of the way is Merritt- once called Forksdale, the town is in possession of a number of historic ranches and hotels and is branded the Country Music Capital of Canada.

The drive to Kelowna is getting into mountain country and beautiful, with many small lakes dotted around. Near to the city are several major ski resorts for winter trippers- and in summer, the city on Lake Okanagan is a beautiful mountain resort.The opportunities for entertainment are endless- hike in the mountains, go boating or fishing in the lake, do some wine tasting at vineyards, play golf, or experience the great restaurants, bars and beaches of the picturesque city.

by Darren Kirby Flickr Creative Commons

Day 2: Kelowna- Revelstoke

Leave Kelowna on BC-97N, and you should soon pass Kalamalka Lake, and several park areas to enjoy the view from there. Several golf clubs can also be found along this route for those who are fond of a round- try the Vernon Golf and Country Club or Spallumcheen Golf Club, these being on either side of Swan Lake.

This drive is all about the nature- with few towns along the way. It is also not a long drive, so take the opportunity to stop at one of the National Parks and Protected Areas along the way for walking, picnicking and more.

Sicamous is one of the few spots of civilisation- a small town with many houseboats whose population doubles during the summer months, due to its position on both Mara and Shuswap Lakes. Snowmobiling is popular in winter, and water sports in summer. Sicamous is also where you should get back on the Trans-Canada Highway.

 Lake Shuswap
by Reg Natarajan Flickr Creative Commons

Continue the nature appreciation along the highway until you arrive in Revelstoke. The city and nearby mountain resort and National Park are popular amongst holidaygoers- the resort being a major ski destination. The National park is a beautiful place to explore in summer, with a variety of landscapes from rainforest to tundra. Enjoy this amazing city!

by Stuart Flickr Creative Commons

Day 3: Revelstoke- Calgary

Continue on out of Revelstoke on the Trans-Canada Highway and through Glacier National Park in an area of steep mountains. Keep a look out here for Grizzlies, mountain goats and Caribou! Further along the route, Golden is a very popular holiday town due to its proximity to some of Canada's most stunning National Parks. Golden is home to the longest covered, free span timber frame pedestrian bridge in Canada, spanning the Kicking Horse River. There is also a centre for Wolf Conservation, and a district museum.

 Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge
by Angela MacIsaac Flickr Creative Commons

The highway continues through several amazing National Parks to Banff. Banff is also a big name in skiing and another city blessed with amazing mountain views. The Banff National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a visit to Banff is guaranteed to be a feast for your eyes!

 Banff Mountains
by Pascal Flickr Creative Commons

Enjoy views of river, lakes and ponds as you keep on along the Trans-Canada Highway and into Calgary. This is an eclectic city -a great scene with many eating and drinking venues. For shopping, try the Core Shopping Centre, and for some things to see and do, downtown there is the Calgary Zoo, the chinatown district, the Art Gallery of Calgary and Prince's Island Park.

by Brian Flickr Creative Commons

Check here for great deals on RV Rental in Canada!

Author: Phil Wright+

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jacksonville-Miami Road Trip

See Florida's eastern coast with this two-day trip.

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Day 1: Jacksonville- Merritt Island

Start your beachy road trip in the city of Jacksonville situated on the banks of the St. Johns River, not far from the Jacksonville Beaches on the coast. Waterways abound in Jacksonville, and it is Florida's biggest city so get out and about and explore the many bars, restaurants and entertainment options. To begin the trip, head out of the city on the I-95. There are a few State Parks not far from Jacksonville, one of which is the Matanzas State Forest which protects the last remaining salt marsh in the surrounding Research Reserve. Adjoining Faver-Dykes State Park borders Pellicer Creek which is popular for birdwatching.

by Guillame Capron Flickr Creative Commons

Continue south, hitting many coastal communities as you go. The most famous of these is Daytona Beach, not too far out of Jacksonville. Take a break and hit the beach. Surfers frequent the waves here, and from May to October, you might spot a sea turtle. The city has several historic attractions too if the beach is too much fun! Further down the coast is New Smyrna Beach, consistently voted one of the 'best beaches' and considered a great fishing spot.

 Sea Turtle
by davidd Flickr Creative Commons

The coast along here is a fascinating jumble of lagoons and islands, and the Canaveral National Seashore is a great way to see it. Get off the I-95 onto Stuckway Road and follow signs- you can swim in the ocean or fish the lagoon, and stroll the woods or shore on this untouched section of unique coast.

Canaveral National Seashore
by TruffShuff Flickr Creative Commons

Merritt island is a centre for intergalactic activity- close to  the NASA shuttle landing facility and of course Cape Canaveral! There are several RV parks on the island and in the surrounding area to park up for the night. You can visit the parks and conservation areas on the island or mainland, including the 140,000-acre Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The Kennedy Space Centre is open every day except Christmas and you can visit the centre, watch imax space films and take tours of the various interesting space program places.

Day 2: Merritt Island- Miami

From Merritt Island, get back on the I-95 to continue down the coast- again there are many beachside communities just off the interstate, and all are great to visit. Palm Bay and Vero Beach will give you a multitude of options for restaurants and cafes with a view of the ocean,  and further down Fort Pierce has a variety of galleries and museums, and even a Manatee Observation and Education Centre! Nature areas along the way include the Savannas Preserve State Park and Jonathan Dickinson State Park.

 Fort Pierce Inlet
by Jeff Muceus Flickr Creative Commons

The coast becomes more built up towards the bottom of Florida, with the interstate passing behind and through Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale. See the cruise ships in Fort Lauderdale, a major cruise port all year round. This city is also known as the Venice of the USA due to its canal systems!

 Fort Lauderdale
by Roger Wollstadt Flickr Creative Commons

Miami is a beachy party city right down at the bottom of Florida. One of the stunners in the area is the Everglades-to explore, get onto the I-75 also known as Alligator Alley! The National Park is accessible all year round. You can hike by yourself, or take a guided tour to see the alligators and other wildlife. Airboat tours are a popular way of seeing the Glades.

 Everglades National Park
by Thierry Flickr Creative Commons

by John Spade Flickr Creative Commons

Park up at Miami and try some of the many eating places and dancing places!

See here for great deals on USA RV Rental!

Author: Phil Wright+

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Gulf of Mexico Road Trip

See the US of A's southern coastline with this Gulf of Mexico road trip- y'all will definitely appreciate the trip through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas!

View Larger Map Day1: Tampa- Tallahassee

Start your trip in sunny Florida, in the seaside city of Tampa. Head out north on the Suncoast Parkway/FL-589 until you can veer left onto the I-98 which merges with the I-19. The stars of this route are the State Parks along the coast, like the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. This is a huge area of wilderness that is famous as the southern wintering site for the reintroduced Whooping Cranes, as well as being home to over 250 species of birds, over 50 species of reptiles and lizards and many mammals including the West Indian Manatee in the coastal area and swamps. Further along is the Crystal River Preserve State Park- exit onto W Ozello Road to explorer this natural wonder. The incredible coastline is a maze of rivers and islands, and there are 7 miles of trails to walk or bike. You can also kayak the waters- just don't get lost!

 Tampa Bay
by Nick Ares Flickr Creative Commons

 Crystal River State Park
by Kolin Toney Flickr Creative Commons

Passing through the city of Perry, one of the attractions is the Hampton Spring 4 miles out of town. This is a ghost town and natural spring which once had a bustling hotel built over it and has now fallen in to disrepair and ruin after a fire, making it a spooky and interesting place to see! After the small town of Lamont, you will arrive at Tallahassee.

Tallahassee is Florida's capital, home to several colleges and universities. There is lots to see and do here. For the nature-lovers, National Parks and lakes surround the city, including the huge Apalachicola National Forest. If history interests you, visit the Museum of History and Natural Science, or the Museum of Florida History. Try some seafood straight out of the gulf, and have a drink at one of the many bars in the city.

Day 2: Tallahassee- New Orleans

The I-10 will take you between these two cities. Cross the Chattahoochee River and if you like, take a look in at Marianna off the interstate where the Main Street has been restored to its historical charm. A bit further out past the city is the Florida Caverns State Park, where visitors can explore limestone caverns. Chipley is another great place to stop, just off the interstate. On the other side of the highway is Falling Waters State Park, a system of underwater caves, sinkholes and springs, once used as a hideout by Indian warriors! There are also beautiful waterfalls, and many activities available for visitors. Continuing the water theme, Defuniak Springs is further along the route and is a town of springs and small lakes!

The highway passes right through the great city of Pensacola. A sea port, Pensacola has had a chequered history, having been under the control of Spain, France, Great Britain and the Confederate States at some point in its history. It also has some beautiful beaches which have been ranked among the best in the country, so make sure you stop and dip your toes into the Gulf of Mexico.

After passing several bays and harbours along the coast, arrive in the amazing city of New Orleans! It is recognised as one of the world's most fascinating places- a diverse mix of influences, culture, food and music. You'll find aspects of Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and beyond in this city that is rebuilding itself after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Many festivals, large and small, are staged around the city and jazz-lovers will rejoice with the amount of jazz in the city. For eating out, the variety of restaurants is huge, so have a wander and see what's out there!

Day 3: New Orleans- Houston

You can either leave New Orleans on the I-20, or take the I-310 and US-90 for a loop closer to the ocean through Morgan City, known for fine Cajun cuisine, and the surrounding areas of lakes, rivers, creeks and wetlands. It is a soggy coast! The Interstate route will take you through Baton Rouge, capital of Louisiana and rich in culture, entertainment and heritage. Both routes meet at Lafayette, which also has a major cajun influence and a city that is highly regarded for its climate and standard of living.

Lake Charles, both the city and the body of water, lie further along the route. Surrounded by waterways, the city is a great place to stop to eat with a view, or get out on a boat. If you are interested in wildlife, further along the I-10and off along LA-109 is the Sabine Island Wildlife Management Area. Surrounded by rivers and only accessible by boat, this inland island is a paradise of birds and mammals. A great way to explore is the Wetlands Walkway, which you can find out about at the Visitors Centre.

Cross into Texas and you will come across Orange and Beaumont. In Orange, you can visit the W. H. Stark House, a fully restored house that gives a glimpse into life as a wealthy Texan in the Victorian era. The Stark Museum of Art also showcases a bit of the midwest. In Beaumont, there is a huge collection of museums, and also the Gator Country Adventure Park, where you can get face-to-face with a crocodile, presuming you want to.

by Patrick Feller Flickr Creative Commons

Houston is next along the road, the end of this leg. It is the largest city in Texas, and sprawls over a huge area. The Midtown and Montrose areas are the most dense and walkable, so are probably the best places to go to familiarise yourself with the city a bit. Have a look around and try some southern-style food!

by Mike Renlund Flickr Creative Commons

Day 4: Houston- Corpus Christi

Head out of Houston on the US-59 for this short drive which leaves you the chance to explore the big city before heading out. First city along the route is El Campo, once a railroad camp and now a growing city. Ganado is next, and there you can visit Lake Texana where the fishing is good.

 Lake Texana
by The Sharpteam Flickr Creative Commons

Edna is a patriotic city, known as the 'Flag City' since 1968 when un-patriotic activities were condemned and stars and stripes displayed along all streets until peace was secured in Vietnam. Flags are still displayed daily in downtown Edna. Before the journey reaches an end, you will also pass Victoria, where the 562-hectare Riverside Park is home to Texas Zoo where you can find native texan creatures, picnic tables, an exercise trail and sports facilities. The city also has several historical attractions and museums.

Corpus Christi, final destination, is a coastal city and popular with tourists. North Beach is an especially interesting area for visitors, with the Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington floating Museum on the Bay. The Lexington was part of the set for Pearl Harbour, and is a part of the Corpus Christi seafront. Near the ship is the museum district, where those museum lovers can browse to their heart's content. The botanical gardens are downtown, along with a host of restaurants, bars and plenty of things to keep the visitor busy!

See here for great deals on USA RV Rental!

Author: Phil Wright+

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