“We like to think John Dougherty was a sea captain,” says designer Megan Butcher of the inspiration behind her firm’s latest project: JD House, an eight-room retreat in the quaint coastal village of Mendocino. Named for its 19th-century former owner, the recently restored bed-and-breakfast—which includes a historic water tower and a cabin with Dutch doors—got a makeover that stripped away the doilies and updated the interiors with white shiplap walls, patinated wood floors, and furnishings fit for city-slicker visitors. Midcentury-style beds with caramel-leather headboards and clear acrylic coffee tables are juxtaposed with antique writing desks and Persian rugs. Sparse yet cozy amenities (soaking tubs, wood-burning fireplaces) do little to dominate your attention—and that’s precisely the point. “When you look out the windows, all you see is ocean,” says Butcher of the upstairs guest rooms. And when a picnic basket of pint-size Fido jars filled with breakfast arrives on your doorstep, there’s nowhere you’d rather be on a fog-socked Northern California morning. From $139; bluedoorgroup.com. —Alison Van Houten
Modern Hawaiiana is the name of the game at Oahu’s most eye-catching new lodging. Your phone may die before you can capture every gorgeous detail. The refreshed Shoreline Hotel Waikiki—the first Aloha State project of Dan Mazzarini’s BHDM Design—deftly straddles tropical exuberance and tongue-in-cheek interiors. Island flora painted by DJ Neff adorn a stairwell leading to the rooftop pool; faux ‘i‘iwi and other native birds descend on rattan-cage light fixtures in the open-air lobby above custom furnishings. “We said, ‘What if our space was kind of an eternal sunset?’” notes Mazzarini, whose hand is evident throughout. He even captioned a 3-D map of Hawaii affixed to a wall in each of the 135 guest rooms. “It’s like my signature on the place—a fun wink,” he says. This design demands a double take. From $219; shorelinehotelwaikiki.com. —Alison Van Houten
Known for her envy-inducing Instagram account (@laura_austin), as well as her work for clients such as Nike and Google, 28-year-old self-taught photographer Laura Austin recently embraced a new challenge: towing a Nest by Airstream around the U.S. for two months, solo. Here, the Los Angeles–based creative shares three lessons learned along the way. —Alison Van Houten
An extreme sports mecca, New Zealand is home to a city that proclaims itself the adventure capital of the world—and for good reason. One day in Queenstown will show you how frighteningly easy it is to hurl yourself from bridges and planes willy-nilly. Whether it’s from the exercise or simply out of fear, you’ll be burning off plenty of calories, which means there’s no need to feel guilty about digging into the (other) best part about traveling in New Zealand: the food. From freshly caught seafood to lamb meat everything, the delicious yet frequently underrated cuisine the country offers should top your foodie-travel bucket list. These five spots are some of the most uniquely kiwi ways to wine and dine your way through Aotearoa.
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(Photo courtesy of Coromandel Mussel Kitchen.)
No more excuses—it’s time to check Russian River canoe camping off your bucket
ALISON VAN HOUTEN
Lined with lush stands of Coast Redwoods and Sonoma County’s seemingly
ubiquitous vineyards, the lazy backwater of Northern California’s Russian River is a
must-visit destination for any nature lover. Follow the watercourse from the inland
valleys all the way out to Jenner, where the river spills into the Pacific, for a crash
course in wine country’s allure. No canoe? Don’t fret. Myriad outfitters and
campgrounds mean there are options for every adventurer.
When to Go
The dog days of summer are a safe bet. However, early autumn can be equally
enjoyable: The weather is still pleasant, but a fraction of the people will be on the
water come September and early October. And because seasonal dams erected
near Johnson’s Beach and Vacation Beach usually come down after Labor Day, fall
paddlers don’t have to portage boats, either. (It’s wise to bring a lightweight,
portable kayak dolly in the summer.) During the winter months, storms can swell
the river, creating strong currents and hidden obstacles. Suppliers may not open
shop again until mid-May or later, so June through September is the ideal window
for planning trips in advance.
Who to Go With
Outfitters can set you up with anything from kayaks to tour-ready stand-up paddle
boards, although a classic canoe is the best choice for those toting large coolers.
Forestville stalwart Burke’s Canoe Trips (from $68; burkescanoetrips.com) have it
dialed in. They’ll turn you loose with a canoe (or kayak) plus paddles and life jackets,
and shuttle you back to your vehicle in a big white school bus afterward. For a more
structured experience, hire guides from Healdsburg’s Russian River Adventures
(from $45; russianriveradventures.com) or River’s Edge Kayak & Canoe Trips (from
$50; riversedgekayakandcanoe.com) on the upper section of the river. Keen on
getting some river time on a stand-up paddle board? SUP Odyssey east of
Guerneville offers hourly and multi-day rentals (from $25; supodyssey.com).
What to Bring
Although it’s feasible to grab last-minute items in Forestville or Guerneville (Big
Bottom Market is a favorite for day-one lunch), stock up on food and camping gear
before you exit U.S. 101. In addition to the essentials—sunscreen, dry clothes,
sunglasses, and plenty of food and water—be sure to bring swimming gear. You’ll
find innumerable spots for a quick dip, from naturally formed jumping rocks to rope
swings fashioned by the locals. Bring bungee cords to secure everything should
your boat tip as you clamber out. Water shoes and dry bags will also make your trip
more enjoyable, as will binoculars.
What You’ll See
Great blue herons and hawks are among the most common birds in the area, and
Western pond turtles are frequently glimpsed too (identify them by their mottled
heads and dark-patterned shells as they sun themselves on fallen trees). Keep your
eyes peeled for stealthier species, such as bobcats, mountain lions, and even
elusive red foxes. And don’t forget to look down—in the water, endangered Coho
salmon swim alongside countless aquatic species, including rare river otters.
Where to Go
Over 100 miles long, the Russian River is most digestible if you focus on the lower
section—especially for weekend warriors. While you can set out anywhere with boat
access, make sure to have a plan in place as cell service on the North Coast is spotty
at best. If you have two vehicles able to haul boats, meet in the town of Jenner and
set up a two-car relay system. Be sure to hit up the Jenner Visitors Center just off
Highway 1 (707/865-9757) to brush up on your local knowledge before embarking.
Leave another vehicle (or get dropped off) in Guerneville, where you’ll have your
pick of Johnson’s Beach, Guerneville River Park, or the less formal Vacation Beach,
about two miles south of town, for unloading. Those on a prolonged schedule can
start upstream in Forestville—Wohler Bridge and Steelhead Beach Regional Park
both have suitable launches—or even Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach if
you’re feeling ambitious. However, you may have to portage boats near Johnson’s
Beach or Vacation Beach. Meandering downstream, you’ll pass an abundance of
private docks. Somewhere around 90 percent of the Russian River watershed is
privately owned, so respect private property signs as you get a sneak peek of this
wonderful zone. And don’t be surprised if a passing paddler gives you a friendly
blast of water—it’s a river tradition! Refuel on the go as the leisurely summer
current conveys your boat, or sidle up to any old sandbar at lunchtime.
Where to Roll out Your Sleeping Bag
Camping is another story. All overnighters must sleep in designated sites, but the
proliferation of campgrounds along the waterfront means it’s no problem. We
recommend camping at River Bend Resort in Forestville for the first night of a multiday
journey (from $56, 2-night minimum on weekends; riverbendresort.net). You can
even sleep in a cabin or tricked-out bus refurbished with reclaimed wood. Prefer to
rough it? Ditch the boats at Schoolhouse Canyon Campground’s private beach and
cross River Road to their tent sites (from $40, first come, first served or 2-night
minimum for reservations; schoolhousecanyon.com). Downstream in Duncans Mills,
Casini Ranch Family Campground (from $51, 2-night minimum May-Sept.;
casiniranch.com) has several beachfront sites you can practically paddle up to.
Situated right on the water on a huge horseshoe bend, it’s a good hitching post for
a night or two if you have a yen for amenities like a general store, guided hikes, and
weekly bonfires on the beach during high season. For a more natural experience
(read: no plumbing), continue on to picturesque Willow Creek Environmental
Campground ($25; first come, first served; https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=451). It’s
not much farther to the boat ramp by Jenner Visitors Center, which is a good thing
because strong winds often pick up late in the day and you’ll want to make it back
to the estuary early. Remember, you’ll need time to retrieve your vehicle and refuel
at one of the Bodega coast’s numerous chowder shacks on the drive home. Plan on
4-5 hours of actual paddling each day (or up to 7 hours if traveling by canoe), but
allow plenty of time for distractions. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?