First time casters and veteran anglers enjoy the natural places that enable a fly fishing vacation. Test your tippet deep in the wilderness or perfect your back casts on the resort lawn.
Gather your gear. Then enjoy the beauty and art of fly fishing:
Gore Creek Fly Fisherman. Vail, CO.
Give your kids (and perhaps yourself) a taste of this lifelong sport during daily casting clinics offered each day in the scenic Vail Village along the Gore Creek Promenade. When you are ready for more, book a half or full day walk and wade trip or sign on for a float trip through Rocky Mountain beauty.
Contact: 970-476-3296; www.GoreCreekFlyFisherman.com.
LL Bean Outdoor Discovery School. Freeport, ME or Columbia, MD.
The knowledgeable instructors at LL Bean can jump start your family into the wonderful world of fly fishing with their one or two-day introductory courses. You’ll learn about fly-tackle, delve into knot tying, fly tying, and fish-food identification, then move outside to practice casting skills in a nearby pond. Continue the analysis and improvement at home once you’ve viewed their video of your newly acquired skill. Contact: LL Bean experts are available for fishing advice on their hotline between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m EST every day; 1-800-347-4552.
For class registration: (888)-552-3261); www.llbean.com/outdoorsOnline/odp/courses/flyfishing/fly-fishing-essentials1-maine.html
Chetola Resort. Blowing Rock, NC.
The only Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lodge in North Carolina has plenty to offer the entire family. Pack a rod for a half day trip to “The Refuge” on Boone Fork Creek, a destination deemed ideal for beginners and families. When not casting a line, check out the children’s camp, a heated indoor pool, fitness center and nearby rafting and golf.
Contact: (800) 243-8652; www.Chetola.com.
Match the Hatch. Livingston, MT.
Spend a day on the Yellowstone River with Eric Adams and your family members will go home with more than basic casting skills. His educational background in ecology means you’ll learn to “match the hatch”, fish pocket water from a raft and how to maximize a day on the famed Yellowstone River or nearby spring creeks. You are sure to enjoy time on the Yellowstone, the longest stretch of blue-ribbon trout habitat in the nation.
Contact: 406.223.2488; www.MontanaFlyFishingGuides.com
Fishing on the Farm. Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN.
With two ponds and a stream on site, plus more than 700 miles of fishable trout streams in the neighboring Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this gem of a property offers the novice or experienced fly fishing family the opportunity to enjoy great water as well as a sea of additional activities. Horseback riding, mountain biking, cooking schools, the Farmhouse Spa and charming accommodations on 4,200 pastoral acres, combine to create a picturesque haven for a gathering clan. Contact: (800) 648-4252; www.BlackberryFarm.com.
Whether you're seeking the ultimate fly fishing experience, the most authentic cattle drive, or a haven for your children and family to run free, a dude ranch vacation may be your best connection to the great outdoors. Browse through these ten ranches to find your perfect dude ranch.
Get close to creatures of the sea for a wild family adventure. Here are four ideas to consider:
1. Swim With Whale Sharks.
Swimming with the largest fish in the sea is a thrill worth seeking. Whale sharks are massive, reaching lengths of 40 feet and 15 tons. Despite their imposing presence, the gentle creatures peacefully share the warm seas with visitors who arrive via boat from the shores of nearby Cancun. Two at a time, along with a guide, you’ll don a life jacket or wet suit and fins, before jumping in for a swim with these plankton slurping vegetarians. No touching is allowed (the mega-fish are considered a “vulnerable species”) but you can swim alongside as they thrust forward their super-sized square jaw and begin filtering everything in their path like a water-born vacuum cleaner.
Contact: www.Cancun.travel; www. solobuceo.com.
2. Swim with Stingrays.
Wade into the warm Caribbean Sea at the Stingray City Sandbar for your family’s chance to pet the dozens of sea creatures who visit the area for a little love and a few tasty treats. Today tour operators will assist in your introduction to the Southern stingray, taking over for the fishermen who originally attracted the rays to the area by cleaning fish and tossing the remnants into the water. Soon the stingrays associated the sound of boat motors with breakfast. For a more pleasurable experience, avoid visiting when cruise ships are in port.
3. Alaska up close.
Kayak among whales, sea lions and past puffins when you explore Alaska with Inner Sea Discoveries and American Safari Cruises. With only 22 to 86 guests on board on their well-planned vessels, you’ll wind your way into narrow passages and into wilderness areas that the bigger ships cannot access. The adventuresome in your clan can don a dry suit and use a Stand Up Paddleboard to get even closer to Alaska’s extraordinary wild riches.
Contact: 888-862-8881; www.InnerSeaDiscoveries.com
4. Adventures with alligators.
No one wants to get too close to an alligator. But at this park, home to more than 800 gators ranging in size from eight inch babies to 15 foot, one thousand pound adults, you’ll learn about the ways of these fierce creatures, from a safe distance. As you wander through natural swamps and marshes you’ll also encounter turtles, lizards, giant frogs and exotic birds. Lectures and live shows add to the experience.
Contact: 843-361-0789; www.alligatoradventure.com/
Stand Up Paddle surfing (SUP) is considered an ancient form of surfing, traced to early days in Polynesia. More recently, in the 1940s, surf instructors on Waikiki beach in Hawaii are said to have used the skill to allow them a better view of their students. Today, families can indulge in the sport at many resorts and recreation areas.
Here are five to consider:
When I was a kid, my mom would retain her sanity each summer by sending me off on a 10-day YMCA backpacking trip with a bunch of strangers (which, by the way, I highly recommend for all you over-protective parents out there). Not only did these hiking trips get me out of the house and into the mountains, they also taught me life-long lessons about ecology, weather, navigation, and self-reliance. So do your kids a confidence-building favor and take them hiking this summer—they’ll forgive you in the end.
For many families, summer is a time of transition. Family schedules and structures take on new shapes and sizes. When September rolls around, will there be more school supplies to buy? Or will the nest soon be emptying? This year, the warm summer breeze reminds me of an adventure we experienced years ago.
Not far down the sandy bank, I could see my 18-year-old son Alex rhythmically casting his fly into the Salmon River, intent on luring a trout. He was tanned and relaxed. His smile came easily as his angling efforts paid off.
I was looking for some uncomplicated time with my middle son before he went off to college. Perhaps selfishly, I wanted his full attention. Not those moments diluted by phone calls or text messages, the lure of the evening’s social activities or side glances to catch the latest on ESPN. So off to the wilderness we went.
Our backcountry choice was the Salmon River, referred to as the River of No Return by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. What we found in Central Idaho was a river corridor of exceptional beauty meandering through two million acres of wilderness, exciting whitewater, calm river pools, white sand beaches, and traces of American history not likely found in any other river valley in North America.
I was more than willing to share our time on the water with my youngest son Ted, who was about to miss his older brother as much as I would. From Boise, we climbed aboard a plane so small it felt like a bathtub toy. And we seemingly floated into Salmon, Idaho after enjoying up close and exhilarating views of the rugged mountain wilderness near Stanley and Sun Valley.
We were met by our charming host Wayne Johnson, owner of Salmon River Rafting, who would eventually impress us as a jack of all river trades. He informed, organized and otherwise herded us from our Salmon hotel to the water’s edge.
We were in the good company of a father, his son and two grandsons from Michigan, a couple from Minneapolis and our guides Wayne, Steve and Megan. Once afloat, our group of ten was dispersed among two kayaks, a rubber raft and the swift boat that carried our supplies down river.
Some of us were eager for the extra challenge (and exercise) provided by the kayaks. Others were just as content to relax in the boat, enjoying the near perfect weather and the surrounding Frank Church Wilderness. That is until we heard the rumble of rushing water ahead.
From the beginning, our guides carefully coached us to take the white water seriously and keep our feet first and down river should we end up in the drink. And it was a good thing!
Over the course of five days, rapid after rapid, we screamed, splashed, strategized and steered our way in and around giant boulders, swirling holes, and foamy waves that crashed over our heads.
My kayak partner Mark and I high-fived in pride for having stayed right side up more often than my two muscular teens traveling in tandem.
Evenings were spent enjoying hearty food prepared by Wayne and his capable crew, then stories and poems around the campfire, and the company of our fellow adventurers. The biggest decision of the day was whether to assemble the tent or enjoy a peaceful night under the stars.
Wayne Johnson is a veteran of the river, having spent most of his adult life guiding through this wilderness corridor. His love for the flowing water, the natural surroundings and the significant history provides tremendous added value to the trip. As travelers on the Main Salmon River we found ourselves immersed in an historical gold mine with Wayne as our guide, telling tales of hermits and homesteaders, while leading us past grave markers and abandoned log cabins. We saw Indian pictographs and happily immersed ourselves in hot springs considered medicinal by the early Indian settlers.
On our final afternoon, Alex and I headed up a small creek from our campsite and spent the afternoon gleefully catching the most colorful trout either of us had ever seen. It was one of those magical afternoons, suspended in time, only the wilderness can provide.
Explore our underwater world during a family dive vacation. Here are great places to consider:
1. Small Hope Bay Lodge, Andros Island, Bahamas.
Check into one of this family-run resort’s 21 cottages and prepare to explore, relax and enjoy a special holiday. Young children can begin by participating in the young naturalist program before moving on to shoreline snorkeling lessons, a snorkel reef trip and then on to SASY (Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth) Diving. The latter enables kids 7-9 to experience the underwater world wearing a small tank and other dive gear. At age ten, the Discover Scuba program is available for those interested in pursuing the next level. The resort’s on site dive staff will provide scuba lessons for one or more. The all inclusive resort offers complimentary babysitting from six until nine pm.
2. Florida Keys.
Explore the only living coral reef system in the continental United States during a visit to this scenic South Florida region. For kids eight and older: the Summer Marine Science Camp at Pigeon Key, an historic site 100 miles southwest of Miami, offers programs that include information about reef fish, coral reef systems, underwater photography and the gathering of specimens. Kids can get scuba certification during a camp session or brush up if already certified. Also included: underwater obstacle courses, volleyball, and snorkeling. Also in the region: the Wreck Trek Passport Program," spotlighting the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail, where certified divers can explore a string of sunken vessels and artificial reefs with local dive instructors.
3. Brac Reef, Cayman Brac
From this small, family-friendly island, families can enjoy a dive vacation that includes exploring the waters around Cayman Brac as well as the Russian Frigate and the Bloody Bay Wall near Little Cayman Island. The on-site dive shop provides personalized attention to the soon-to-be certified as well as the seasoned diver. The all inclusive, beach front resort also offers free bike rentals to explore the island, spa services and volley ball. Ask about special packages for families.
Contact: 1-800-594-0843; www.BracReef.com.
4. Grand Wailea, Maui.
For families who choose to blend a luxury resort holiday with a scuba experience, this resort fits the bill. Give the sport a try by joining instructors twice daily in the comfort of Hawaii’s only specially designed scuba pool. Interested in learning more? Certification classes are offered at every level. Once the instruction is complete, escorted ocean dives are available. Meanwhile, families can enjoy the super-cool pool on the property, an expansive beach, as well as a spa and numerous family-focused resort programs.
Contact: 808-875-1234; www.GrandWailea.com.
5. Harbour Village, Bonaire.
Children ages five to 12 can join the Kid’s Great Adventure program at this Caribbean resort. They will learn about the Bonaire Marine Park, snorkel, identify fish, and get comfortable with the SASY (Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth) program, a wonderful precursor to SCUBA.
Children eight and over can take part in the PADI Bubblemaker program, which enables young enthusiasts to breathe with a regulator in shallow ocean water. At ten, kids can earn their Junior Scuba Certification. Currently, the second diver in your party dives free when you book the Dive Into Luxury Package. Children under 16 stay free in the room with their parents.
Contact: 1-800-424-0004; www.harbourvillage.com.
This page is brought to you by Pride of Maui offering fun-filled, action-packed snorkeling/sailing trips to Maui's Molokini.
Snorkeling is a great way to explore the beauty of our underwater world.
Here are six places the family can learn about coral reefs, colorful fish and more: