Budget vacations from Seattle: Bainbridge Island

I arrived in Seattle on my birthday last week, which just happened to be the city’s hottest day in history. Temperatures across Puget Sound reached 106 degrees! Needless to say, I needed a break from the heat — and a break from long hours of driving up the northern California and Oregon coast. A mini-vacation on Bainbridge Island was an ideal break from both the heat, the car, and the city.

With a resident population of less than 2,000 around 24,000, Bainbridge Island is a unique weekend getaway that is just a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle. Ferries leave for the island from Seattle every hour from Pier 52, and downtown Bainbridge is a short 5-minute walk from the terminal. You can walk ($6.80 per person RT), bring your bike, or drive your car ($10 RT) onto the ferry.

Where to stay
There are three places to stay that are conveniently located close to the center of town.

  • Best Western Bainbridge Island Suites (350 High School Road NE; #206.855.9666): This pet-friendly option is nestled among forested hills and quiet harbors, yet is far enough away from the bustle of downtown Bainbridge that you’ll be able to have a little peace and quiet.
  • Island Country Inn (920 Hildebrand Lane NE; #206.842.6861): Escape the “sameness” of chain hotels and experience the casual, yet professional appeal of the island country inn, which is a perfect retreat setting.
  • The Eagle Harbor Inn (291 Madison Ave S; #206.842.1446): The Eagle Harbor Inn offers a unique “petit hotel” experience, with just five one-of-a-kind rooms and three custom town homes — all built around a garden-filled courtyard.

Where to eat

With over a dozen eateries to choose from, you will not be short on food. The most popular restaurants are all within walking distance from the ferry depot.

  • Harbour Public House (231 Parfitt Way SW; #206.842.0969): Its fish and chips are legendary and the patio seating has great views of the harbor. Only the best local brews are on tap.
  • Four Swallows Restaurant (481 Madison Ave N; #206.842.3397): This is the finest dining experience you will get on Bainbridge, but unless you splurge heartily your bill for two will still run you less than $100. The Four Swallows specializes in Northwest cuisine.
  • Town and Country Market (343 Winslow Way E; #206.842.3848): This great little market in the center of downtown Bainbridge has great coffee and other local goods for reasonable prices.

What to see and do
Whether you are walking, biking, or driving around, there is plenty to keep you occupied on Bainbridge for a full weekend.

  • Walking or biking: There’s a helpful Bainbridge Walker and Bicyclist map that you can pick up upon arrival at the ferry terminal that gives you the complete lowdown on things that are withing walking and biking distance. Nearly every month in the spring and summer there are cool walking and biking events on the island.
  • Kayaking: Bainbridge is an ideal size to explore by kayak. There are two outfitters in town that can help you rent water gear: Back of Beyond Boathouse and Exotic Aquatics Scuba & Kayak.
  • Wine tasting: There are at least three wine tasting rooms within the three block along downtown’s main strip. Tasting fees are $5 per person, and all wines are locally harvested.
  • Shopping: There are more than twenty shops and boutiques within downtown Bainbridge, and bargains are easily found!

Check out more budget summer vacations here!

Budget summer vacations from Boston: Newburyport

Just one hour north of Boston, sandwiched between the Merrimack and Ipswich Rivers and the Atlantic Ocean is the adorable town of Newburyport — population: 7,500. This quaint coastal town, with its New England charm, boutique shops along State Street, and brick-lined pedestrian mall, makes a perfect weekend getaway. The great thing about Newburyport is that it’s easily accessible by train or by car. Either hop on the I-95 North and head east on Route 113 or take the commuter rail from Boston and walk to the center of town. Whatever you do, make this quintessential New England town your homebase for coastal explorations.

Where to Stay

  • Essex Street Inn: Built in 1880, the Inn stands on the site of Lucky Livery Stable, which burned down in the Great Fire of 1811. The old stable was razed and built into a conservative Victorian home. This cozy bed and breakfast is less than a block from the main action of State Street, and has a warm New England charm. Rooms start at $120 per night.
  • 167 Water B&B: Whether you are seeking a peaceful retreat, a romantic getaway, or simply want to experience a natural wonder, you will find comfort in this charming riverside home. There are just two rooms with a shared bath — both with tasteful European and African decor. Rooms start at $85 per night.

Where to Eat

  • Fowles Diner (State Street; M-F 7-3 p.m., Sat-Sun 7-4 p.m.): Having been a part of Newburyport since 1865, Fowles is a community icon. Part diner, part café, the place is always buzzing with locals and weekenders alike. Delectable breakfast dishes are served until 11 a.m. on weekdays and noon on weekends. Even more appetizing is Fowle’s Summer Coolers, which filled with goodies for catered picnics ($14.99/adult; $9.95/kids under 12). Fowles Diner is not to be mistaken with Fowles Gourmet Market, located at 341 High Street (#978.465.9028), which since 1903 has been Newburyport’s main meat market and deli.
  • The Purple Onion: Serving up eclectic wraps and sandwiches since the fall of 2000, this is not your average fast food joint, the Onion’s generous portions and pleasantly bright seating area and courtyard make it one of the coziest places to grab some midday grub.
  • Agave Mexican Bistro (50 State Street, #978-499-0428): Newburyport’s only authentic Mexican restaurant with three floors of dining, each bringing its own unique atmosphere. The menu includes a wide variety of dishes.
  • The Grog: Newburyport’s ever-lively pub is the best place to drink some local brew and have a decent dinner at the same time. Closing in on 50 years of service, the Grog is Newburyport’s most beloved watering hole.

What to See & Do

  • Oldies Marketplace: An antique lover’s delight! Score some great deals at one of the state’s biggest antique market. From toy cars to old chests, this place has a perfect vintage feel and the best deals in New England.
  • Tannery Marketplace: If the Oldies’s knick-knacks aren’t your thing, head to the Tannery Marketplace for local gift shopping and relaxation. There’s a vibrant farmers market on Sunday’s from 10-2 p.m.
  • Plum Island: Take Water Street east of Newburyport and cross over the Plum Island Turnpike and Bridge to the quaint island of Plum Island. Check out the island’s photogenic range light on its northern peninsula, which borders the Merrimack River, or simply enjoy the sun on its sandy eastern shores. The salt-water marshes on the western edge of the island make Plum a popular migratory route for piping plovers, geese, ducks, and other birds.
  • Bike the Salisbury coastline: Bring your bike and hit the paved and bike-friendly roads of Salisbury’s eastern shores. Developed by the coastal trails coalition, Salisbury has some really scenic routes between Beach Road and State Reservation Road.

Check out more budget summer vacations here!

Budget summer travel from New York: Burlington, Vermont

Check out that gorgeous sunset vista. With that kind of view and a beautiful body of water nearby, you’d probably guess this was somewhere tropical. The Bahamas? Wrong, try again. San Diego, perhaps? Not that either. This sweet view can only be found in Burlington, Vermont: a little gem of a town nestled in the northern half of the state along the shores of mighty Lake Champlain.

Let’s be honest – unless you’re into winter sports, Vermont is an awfully cold place to visit during the winter. Which is exactly why Summer is when the state of Vermont comes out to shine (pun intended). The state’s beautiful virgin outdoor spaces are green and in bloom, ready to be explored, hiked and camped. Its many picturesque lakes lie cool and still, waiting to be plied by swimmers, kayaks and sailboats. And unique Vermont cities like Burlington offer a surprising wealth of activities, ranging from top-notch food and shopping to cultural attractions galore.

Not only is Burlington the perfect base for some summertime Vermont exploring, it’s also relative easy (and cheap) to get to from the major urban centers of the East Coast, including New York and Boston. Click below and let’s explore Burlington, shall we?
The City Sights
Although Burlington has a population well under 100,000, it packs a big city punch, including plenty of great activities you wouldn’t expect for a town of its size.

Most visitors start their day downtown, home to a picturesque collection of shops, cafes and restaurants. The biggest concentration of stores is along the Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian-friendly outdoor shopping district fronted by stores representing locally made Vermont products as well as larger national chains. Meal options are also readily available and refreshingly eclectic, ranging from Brazilian to Thai to pizza and burgers.

If you’re in the mood for dessert, stop by the Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop on Church. The now-famous ice cream franchise got its start in Burlington back in the 1970’s. Ice cream junkies can arrange tours of the company factory in nearby Waterbury. Church Street is also a great spot for people watching – Burlington is home to the University of Vermont, ensuring a cosmopolitan mix of students, tie-dyed hippies, urban professionals, outdoor lovers and out-of-town visitors passing by. Snowboard aficionados should also make a pilgrimage to Burton Snowboard Flagship Store. The now famous snowboard and apparel manufacturer is another homegrown Burlington favorite.

During the Summer, Burlington weekends are also packed with all manner of local festivals. The first two weeks of June bring Burlington’s annual Discover Jazz Festival, featuring big-name Jazz artists like Branford Marsalis. Come July, beer lovers congregate at the Vermont Brewers Festival, featuring sud samples from 30 craft brewers located across New England. In August it’s time for the annual Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival, pitting local teams in a friendly race for charity.

The Great Outdoors

Chances are if you’re coming to Vermont, you’ve heard about the state’s legendary natural beauty and want to experience it firsthand. Thankfully, Burlington makes a great base for exploring all manner of natural Vermont landscapes, all within easy driving distance.

Before jumping in your car however, spend some time along the shores of nearby Lake Champlain. Burlington is situated along the edge of one of the Northeastern United States’ biggest lakes, covering more than 430 square miles filled with unspoiled islands, hiking and wildlife. Any sunny Summer day will find the lake dotted with a mass of tiny sails – want to try yourself? Visitors can rent a sailboat to ply the lake’s scenic shores. If you’re feeling less ambitious, consider hiring a charter sailboat captain or renting a kayak for some mellow paddling around the calm waters. The Burlington Department of Parks and Recreation also has plenty of information about nearby campgrounds, hiking, swimming and other great summertime activities.

Just an hour south of Burlington is the unspoiled enclave of Green Mountain National Forest, situated on more than 400,000 acres of pristine wilderness, waterfalls and mountain trails. The park has activities to match just about any interest, ranging from horseback riding to hiking to camping and fishing. Make sure to stop in at nearby Middlebury, Vermont on your way back for some small-town Vermont charm.

Where to Stay
Burlington has all kinds of accommodation options, ranging from the small and quaint to the traditional brand-name hotel chains. Thrifty travelers should check out the Burlington Sheraton, well-situated between both the airport and city’s downtown. Though you’ll need to drive to most attractions, the hotel typically offers some good deals, starting at around $120 per night. Guests also speak highly of the Doubletree Burlington, located a few miles away in South Burlington with rates starting as low as $118 per night.

Those looking for the quintessential Vermont Bed & Breakfast experience should check out smaller properties like Lang House, located in an 1880’s era Victorian mansion, or the Willard Street Inn. Though the rooms at both B&B’s are a bit pricier (starting at $145 per night), the unique old world atmosphere will more than makes up for the difference for some travelers.

The Post’s 100 weekend destinations from New York

The Summer of Travel is around the corner, and the New York Post has just compiled the most authoritative list of vacation spots within a stone’s throw of New York City.

Similar to Gadling’s Budget Summer Vacation guides, the Post’s 100 destinations are all within a few hours of the city, from Wilmington to Saratoga Springs to Manchester, Vermont. Each city on their custom destination page is clickable, giving information on how to get there, what to see, what to do and insider tips on how to maximize your visit.

Alternatively, you can sort the destinations by activity, filtering out City Breaks, Cool Towns or a variety of geological features.

The site is a massive resource for destinations on the East Coast, each city with comprehensive travel information, pictures and recommendations for where to stay and eat. Even if you’re not planning on traveling any time soon, stop by and peruse the destinations — you might get inspired.

Budget summer vacations from Honolulu: Molokai

If you made the journey all the way across the Pacific to Honolulu and promptly determined that the hustle and bustle of the busy city is not for you, you might want to consider heading to an outer island. While the more popular islands of the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai offer unique ecological and cultural sights, the island of Molokai is the most laid back and local of the bunch. Its hub, Kaunakakai, is just a lazy little country town that resembles Oahu’s Haleiwa town but is even smaller.

With tons of outdoor exploration to be had and the island’s fascinating history surrounding Father Damien, Molokai is a must-see for adventurers willing to blaze their own path into rarely charted territory.

Getting there

  • By air: There are daily flights out of Honolulu to Molokai’s lazy Hoolehua airport (MKK).
  • By boat: You can also take the ferry over to Maui and back. Ferries leave twice a day between Kaunakakai and Lahaina.

The Sights

  • In Kalaupapa National Historical Park, you can take a memorable three-mile mule ride around the island’s northern peninsula. The seascapes and vistas on the peninsula are absolutely breathtaking. You can also learn about Molokai’s well-documented leprosy colony and visit Father Damien’s gravesite and church.
  • Take a boat along Molokai’s northern shores to view the world’s tallest and most breathtaking cliffs.
  • Drive to the east until you reach the end of the road. There, sacred Halawa Valley awaits you, with hiking paths through lush tropical forests. The impressive, double-tiered Mooula Falls is a perfect place to rest your feet and have lunch.
  • Visit the town of Kaunakakai for a tasty of laid-back town life. Peruse the gift shops and boutiques along the main drag, Ala Malama Avenue, or stroll along the state’s longest pier, where local fishermen and tour boats call home.

The Food

  • The Saturday market in Kaunakakai (8 a.m. – noon) is a surprisingly lively affair for food lovers and souvenir shoppers.
  • If you’re looking for some tasty bakery delights, head to the famous Kanemitsu Bakery in Kaunakakai. Its onion-and-cheese bread will fill any void in your belly.
  • The Kualapu’u Cook House (at 102 Farrington Avenue) is a charming little local eatery in Ho’olehua. Customers continue to rave about its brunches and all around hospitable hosts.

Where to Stay

  • Camping is popular at various sites on Molokai, but all require either a permit or minimal entry fee. The most popular site is the Palaau State Park in the central part of the island (call #808-567-6618 to obtain a camping permit). Papohaku Beach Park (which fronts Hawaii’s longest white sand beach) and One Alii Park on Molokai’s west side has restrooms, drinking water, outdoor showers, grills and picnic facilities (call #808-553-3204 for $3 permits per person, per night).
  • The Pu’u O Hoku Ranch near Kaunakakai is an old-style Hawaiian lodge with a separate cottage and grove house. The entire ranch sits atop a hill with breathtaking ocean views and is surrounded by lush forest and tropical gardens. Rooms start at $120 per night.
  • The Castle Kaluakai Villas on Molokai’s Maunaloa coast offer more resort-like accomodations that start at just $110 per night.

Check out more budget summer vacations here!