Home Archives 2011 May

Monthly Archives: May 2011

A recent conversation with a friend made me realize that for all the time I spend planning vacations and outdoor recreation, I certainly haven’t covered it all. Or perhaps I should say that I have been covering it all! My friend, who I thought I knew very well, revealed that she grew up in a family of naturists – folks who prefer to spend their days clothing-free.

clothing-optional vacationer laying out on the beach

Prior to our conversation, I would have imagined that clothing-optional vacations would only take place in wild, hedonistic tropical resorts. As it turns out, naturists enjoy the same outdoor activities fully clad folks do: hiking, fishing, golf, relaxing on a beach… and destinations all around the world cater to this clothing-optional clientele. Naturist vacations even have their own name: Nakations.

For those of us unaccustomed to mingling with a naturist crowd, an extended stay at a clothing-optional resort might just be too much sharing—and too much visual overload. For those curious whether they’d love a nakation, it would be possible to try it out for a day or two, by planning a daytrip or two to a clothing optional destination within a longer vacation. After the clothing optional day, retreat to your vacation rental to regroup and decide what the next day holds… clothing or not!

Here are some ideas for clothing-optional day-trips within a short drive of beautiful vacation destinations.

HIKERS heading to Germany might want to pack their hiking boots and rucksacks (and nothing else!) for a trek through the Harz Mountains. An eighteen-kilometer trail, newly designated as clothing-optional, meanders from the town of Dankerode to Wippertalsperre. Or for a more restful German naturist experience, simply join the sunbathers in the Englischer Garten in Munich on a sunny summer afternoon.

GOLFERS go au naturel on the west coast of France at La Jenny Naturist Golf Course. Considering some golf fashions, the appearance of the golfers here may be an improvement! It’s a short course, but I’m guessing most folks aren’t really here to work on their game. Best ball, anyone?

BEACHCOMBERS don’t need to head to the Caribbean to beach it in the buff. At Haulover Park in Miami, Florida, not even an itsy-bitsy teeny-weenie bikini is required. Almost a third of the 1.5 mile shoreline is clothing-optional, making tan lines a thing of the past.

ANGLERS can fish for bass in the lake at Cedar Waters Village in Nottingham, New Hampshire – an easy drive from any of the popular recreational lakes in the state. This picturesque private park and campground truly is family oriented, and offers more than a spot to drop a line – there is an activity for every nakationer: tennis, shuffleboard, paddleboats, and more.

Suzanne Johnson lives, writes and plays in the Cascade mountains of Oregon with her family of adventure-prone boys. More of her writing can be found a SuzanneMyhreJohnson.com.

Let's not squabble over timesharesThere’s more to vacation rentals than single family rent-by-owner houses, cabins and cottages. Over the past couple years, FlipKey has been growing rapidly and we have adapted our listing specifications to accept a larger variety of properties, simply because there are so many great vacation rental experiences to choose from. Given the range of listing applications we receive, from intimate B&Bs to properties with many cottages for rent, we sometimes have to step back and ask, “what actually counts as a vacation rental?” In recent months we have begun accepting some more diverse properties. Not only has our inventory grown, but we have also opened up the opportunities for these properties to get high quality bookings from FlipKey and TripAdvisor travelers. Overall, expanding the range of options on FlipKey has been a great success.

But opening the door to new property types has also brought us many questions from homeowners regarding whether their rentals are suitable for listing on FlipKey. If someone comes to us with a 20-room hotel, or a one-week timeshare unit, we still have to turn them away because those types of properties cannot fairly be described as vacation rentals.

Since we get these types of questions so often, I wanted to address the specific guidelines we have in place, and explain the reasoning behind these limitations. This information will help future owners when considering FlipKey as an advertising medium for their property.

Timeshares

Timeshares must be available for at least 6 weeks in one calendar year to qualify as a vacation rental, though consecutive weeks are not mandatory. This policy is a regulation put in place to make it worthwhile for you, the homeowner, to take advantage of FlipKey. If you only advertise a property for one week out of the entire year, then listing on FlipKey would probably not be beneficial for you. If you are listing instead for 6 weeks of the year, then that’s 6 opportunities we have to secure a booking for you and 6 times the amount of money that you can earn from placing your listing. While this policy is sometimes a frustration for timeshare owners who can’t get to their unit at the appointed time, we promise, we do it for you.

Hotels and Resorts

We do not list hotels or resorts on our website because there are plenty of hotel-focused websites out there already. TripAdvisor excels at hotel listings, so we leave hotels to the experts there and list only properties that we at FlipKey know best – vacation rentals. Listing hotels requires attention to an entirely different set of details than vacation rentals because the experiences are worlds apart. Vacation rentals offer all the comforts of home, and as such a much more intimate experience for the traveler. We like to focus on that experience, and provide travelers with access to the best vacation rental accommodations possible.

Bed and Breakfasts

 

Bed and Breakfasts are a new feature on our website, and one we’re really excited about. We now accept B&B’s that have 8 rooms or less because these establishments maintain the intimate experience that our travelers value. In an 8-room B&B, your stay feels more like home and less like a hotel with hundreds of guests. The B&B experience features the comfort of home, along with other amenities like home-cooked breakfast or afternoon tea, which you can’t get with all vacation rentals. Adding B&B’s gives travelers more options when choosing a place to stay.

Still have a question about suitable accommodations? Please don’t hesitate to let us know.

Destination Wedding Rental

Anyone who has planned or attended a wedding knows that there is one very important issue that must be addressed for out-of-town guests: where to stay. More often than not families or wedding planners will contact a local hotel to reserve room blocks at a special rate for wedding guests, taking the guesswork and worry out of what could be an unnecessarily stressful situation. This system works pretty well for the most part, but things get a little more complicated when the wedding in question is a destination wedding.

Why’s that? Well, in a destination wedding, not only do guests require out-of-town accommodation, the same goes for the bride and groom, their families and the wedding party. Expenses can be through the roof not only because of the extra bookings involved, but also because space considerations usually demand booking superior rooms and suites. Will the entire bridal party be comfortable getting ready in a tiny twin room? Not likely.

Renting an apartment or house for a destination wedding is a great solution to the dilemmas of space and cost. If a large rental is available – perhaps a multi-room beach villa – most of the family can be accommodated together so that they can truly celebrate the occasion (don’t worry bride and groom, there surely is a private bungalow nearby to rent for some peace and quiet). A rental is a great staging area for the bridal party to get together. Instead of trekking out to a salon to do hair and makeup, the professionals can come to you. And depending on what kind of ceremony is planned, many rentals have their own private gardens or beaches, so everything can be done on site! Most catering companies have worked parties at private residences, so food should not be an issue.

Even if the wedding itself is held elsewhere, a rental will still come in handy. For the budget conscious, a rental is the perfect place to host brunch the day after the wedding. Many rentals in the Caribbean or as far away as Bali come with private chef perks. Or you can DIY! Renting an apartment or house saves the need to book venues for the welcome gathering, rehearsal dinner, brunches and more, thus cutting down considerably on expenses.

Before you leave for your big day, here’s a checklist to help with some common destination wedding issues:

  • Do you have your officiant in place? It’s easy to find registered officiants in the popular destination wedding locales – a quick google search should do it.
  • Do you need to bring birth certificates, divorce certificates or any other supporting documentation from your home country? What documents do you need after the ceremony to make sure the wedding is legal back home? Do you need them translated?
  • Does your bridal fashion pack well? Do you know a highly recommended local dry cleaner for last minute wedding dress/suit pressing?
  • Have you contacted a local florist for decor?
  • Which are the trusted caterers in the area? Do any local restaurants offer catering services?
  • If you plan on cooking your own meals at the rental, where are the closest supermarkets and food shops?
  • Have you booked beauty and grooming appointments? Can the stylists come to you?

Mary-Elizabeth O’Neill is a New York based event designer who has lived in Paris and London. She travels frequently, loves writing about her adventures and appreciates your comments! You can find Mary-Elizabeth on Twitter as @m_oneill_nyc.

Stay Healthy on VacationVacation gives you the time you need to relax and stimulate your mind and body. It can also be the perfect time to indulge. But unless you’re traveling to a raucous bachelor party, you should return home feeling refreshed – not feeling like you gained weight, got too much sun, and generally overstressed your system. Here are some fun, easy, and affordable ways to make your next trip a healthy one.

  1. Walk, bike, paddle, swim, dance. Pursue active ways to explore your new surroundings, and your body will thank you. Besides burning calories, you could learn a new skill and uncover delightful details that you couldn’t see from a car or from your beach chair. Whatever your travel style, you can find an activity that involves exercise: picking blueberries from a canoe in Maine, snorkeling to ogle at colorful fish in Hawaii, biking across the historic Brooklyn Bridge in New York, or taking salsa dance classes from professionals before hitting the clubs in Miami.
  2. Learn to enjoy the shade. In addition to the well-known dangers of sunburns, skin cancer, and premature wrinkles, spending too much time in the sun just makes you dehydrated, which affects your body’s overall health. Some ways to limit your sun exposure without limiting your fun include investing in a sturdy beach umbrella under which you can read your juicy paperback; treating yourself to a fabulous wide-brimmed hat or celebrity sunglasses; covering up family members by burying them in the sand; playing a board game inside after lunch.
  3. Bring your own food for your journey. With just a little extra preparation, you can start your vacation off right by bringing your own meals and snacks for the drive, flight, train or bus ride. If you’re scrambling to get ready and really don’t have time to pack food for the road, at least look up a few healthy places to stop when the kids get hungry. The Eat Well Everywhere map can help you find better alternatives to fast food meals and gas station snacks.
  4. Don’t eat every meal out. When you arrive at your vacation rental, one of your first activities can be a trip to the local grocery store for perishable items: stock up on ingredients for easy meals that will prevent you from spending a fortune at restaurants. To make things even easier for yourself, consider bringing frozen homemade meals that you can just heat up for dinner during your vacation. That way, you won’t have to spend so much time cooking and doing dishes, and your digestive system won’t protest either.
  5. Limit drinks and desserts to the most special spots. If you do your research to track down the best locally brewed beer in Vermont or the best key lime pie in Florida, you won’t be as tempted to over-order every place you go. Not only will you save money; you’ll also be able to truly appreciate the treats you do indulge in. No matter how hot it is or how much of a sweet tooth you have, it is actually possible to eat too much ice cream.
  6. Factor in some down time. For those of you who like to plan a million and one things to do and see, remember: you’re on vacation to relax. So bring a book or some playing cards, and don’t be afraid to stay in for the night or leave an entire day unplanned. Without this down time, you may get burnt out from the constant sightseeing – and return from your trip almost as frazzled as before. Besides, the best travel moments often come when you least expect them.

Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.

Some folks seek serenity on their vacations. Others plan around Broadway shows, museum exhibits, or concerts. And then there are those of us who yearn to escape the day-to-day by throwing a little adrenaline into the vacation mix. If you fall into this category, we’ve put together a list of our top ten favorite adventure-inspiring destinations from every region of the United States to help jumpstart your vacation planning.

Snorkel off Sanibel Island, Florida

The string of islands ringing the harbor into Fort Myers resounds with wildlife, both above and below the ocean surface. Snorkelers and scuba divers head to Cayo Costa State Park to dive in right from the beach, or take a guide boat out to the artificial reefs and sunken vessels scattered on the ocean floor around the islands. After a full day under the water, break out the binoculars and explore the surface at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, home to over 230 species of migratory birds.

Surf in Newport Beach, California

Surfers don’t flock to Newport Beach to escape the crowds – it’s a hugely popular spot. Newport Beach is a magnet for its surf culture, easy access, and variety of beach spots with surf action that ranges from novice-sized waves to full-on curling tubes of water. Experienced surfers should head to the beach as early as possible to beat the crowds; beginners would be well-advised to sign on for lessons rather than learn on their own.

Fly-fish Hood River, Oregon

Look up from any point in the Hood River area and you’ll see the glacier fields of Mt. Hood seeming to float in the distance. Most fly-fishers, however, spend their time looking down into the clear, bubbling waters of the dozens of rivers and creeks that flow through the area, including the mighty Columbia, the lower Deschutes, the Clackamas and the Sandy rivers. A vacation rental in Hood River makes a perfect base camp for the fly-fishers who crave full days of landing steelheads and trout, followed by evenings in a town of brewpubs and excellent casual dining.

Hike in Stowe, Vermont

Stowe may be better known for its winter sports, but don’t miss the chance to experience Vermont in the fall when the hiking trails meander through blazing fields of autumn leaves. Nicely situated between the White Mountains to the east, the Adirondack Park to the west, and the Green Mountains to the south, Stowe is just the place for a fall hiking vacation. For a real challenge, summit Mt. Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont!

Soar above the Outer Banks, North Carolina

Those who’ve experienced the Outer Banks know the incredible spectrum of beach adventures available here, from boogie boarding to kite flying. In the spirit of the Wright Brothers, who tested their Flyer on these beaches in 1903, let’s focus on getting airborne. The inner sound of the islands create a wind channel the supports phenomenal kiteboarding; those of us who may be less athletic, but still yearn to soar above the water, try parasailing, where the boat does all the work! Either way offers a bird’s eye view like no other.

Nordic Skiing in Winter Park, Colorado

Think about a ski vacation in Winter Park, and the first picture that comes to mind probably involves shredding down the slopes in alpine gear. Fewer people are aware that Winter Park offers some of the best cross-country trails in the country, and is a mecca for nordic skiers of all abilities. Nordic skiing has several advantages: the trail passes are far cheaper, the cardio workout level is much greater, and there’s no line to the chairlift! Grand Lake Nordic Center and Snow Mountain Nordic Center are both terrific resources and within an easy drive from most vacation homes.

Canoe out of Grand Marais, Minnesota

When people call Minnesota the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” they’re not exaggerating – they’ve just lost count. The lush ruggedness of the northern woods is truly best experienced from a canoe. Where else can you round a rocky shore and spot a long-legged moose ambling through the reeds? Grand Marais hugs the shore of Lake Superior and provides the last bastion of civilization before the legendary Boundary Waters stretches off into Canada, and many visitors spend a few days in the local vacation homes either before or after a Boundary Waters canoe camping expedition.

Shred it up at Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Really, forty-six feet of snow is just too much to fathom! That is, however, the official measurement for the 2011 season at Jackson Hole. If it’s steep and deep you’re seeking, start planning your trip to Jackson Hole. The variety of runs, groomed and ungroomed, plus terrain park features for the freestyle crowd, make Jackson Hole appeal to every sort of snow rider, whether on skis or on a board.

Mountaineering at Yosemite National Park, California

It may have been the incredible biodiversity that inspired UNESCO to designate much of this area a World Heritage Site, but it’s really the awe-inspiring granite cliffs that draw mountain climbers from all around the world. Yosemite is considered the heart of mountaineering in America, with legendary features like El Capitan and the Merced River Canyon. A successful trip to Yosemite requires knowing the ropes, both literally and figuratively! Guide services and lessons are a great idea, and as with all outdoor recreation, leave no trace behind when you go.

Sea Kayak the San Juan Islands, Washington

Sitting right at the ocean surface, surging forward by the force of your own paddle, waiting for that unmistkable black and white Orca nose to poke through the water… this is an experience that should be on every adventure enthusiast’s bucket list. The San Juan Islands, north of Seattle, are accessed by ferry or by seaplane, and offer the ultimate Pacific Northwest adventure. Whale-watching by kayak is fantastic, but even paddling close to shore along the tidal zones gives views of smaller wildlife that can’t be beat.

Suzanne Johnson lives, writes and plays in the Cascade mountains of Oregon with her family of adventure-prone boys. More of her writing can be found a SuzanneMyhreJohnson.com.

Tips for Guests

One great thing about going on vacation is that you don’t have to pay the energy bill – everything’s included! Which, unfortunately, makes it all too easy to waste resources.

When you’re away from home, it sometimes feels like certain things “don’t count,” so you might scarf down extra handfuls of potato chips, leave the lights on, or take longer showers than usual. But the truth is that your choices have just as much of an impact on the environment on vacation as they do at home. You do have control over your use of energy and resources, especially if you rent a vacation home.

Here are some tips to make your relaxing vacation easy on the planet as well…

Use windows, curtains, and blinds strategically. During hot weather, if you open windows during the cooler nights and mornings, and close them as soon as the outside temperature warms up, you can avoid the need to run the air conditioner all day long. Likewise, you can use the curtains and blinds to regulate indoor temperature: filtering out the sun during the day will naturally keep the inside air cool.

Use the dishwasher. If you wait until the dishwasher is full to run it, you’ll use much less water (and energy to heat the water) than if you washed a few dishes here and there. Besides, it will leave more time for lounging and playing while on vacation. Open the dishwasher door to air dry the dishes afterward. In a rental without a dishwasher, you can save up a pile of dishes and do them all at once, using a bucket of warm, soapy water to avoid running the water too much.

Make yourself at home. Chances are, you don’t leave all the lights on, blast the air conditioning or heat all day and night, and take extra long, hot showers when you’re in your own home. Just having a comfortable, personal experience in a rental home with character can make you take full responsibility for the environment while on vacation. So choose a place that you know you’ll love and care for, rather than one that’s akin to an anonymous hotel room.

Tips for Owners

Everyone is going green these days, and your vacation rental business should be no exception. Vacationers will be increasingly looking for places to stay that are in lign with their Earth-friendly values. Besides, making your property more energy efficient is just good business sense.

Here are some tips on cutting down on your property’s environmental impact—and the bills—while enhancing your guests’ vacation experience…

Buy into renewable energy. If your electric company gives you the choice of paying a few extra cents for wind or solar energy, consider it seriously. Not only will you feel better about your environmental impact; you will also be able to highlight your responsible energy choices in your listing. As a result, you may actually attract environmentally conscious guests who will keep energy usage to a minimum.

Switch to CFL light bulbs and energy efficient appliances. Compact fluorescent light bulbs require much less energy than incandescent bulbs – and they last a lot longer too, reducing your maintenance duties. For refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves, and other appliances, investing in newer models with the Energy Star label will help renters reduce their energy usage.

Install low-flow showerheads and toilets. Good low-flow showerheads won’t take away from the comfort and luxury of your guests’ experience; they will lower your water and energy bills. Two-button, low-flow toilets are not common yet, so you may want to place a small sign in the bathroom showing guests which button is which.

Put in high quality windows, curtains, and blinds. These window dressings serve as great insulators and temperature regulators in any weather, reducing the need to blast the air conditioning and heat. You should also make sure that the bottom of the door is draft-free.

Stock the cabinets with green cleaning products and supplies. There’s no need to expose your renters and the planet to harmful fumes and chemicals just so they can clean up after themselves. Look into natural, safer products (see GoodGuide and Green Depot), and provide guests with reusable supplies like microfiber cleaning cloths and a clothesline and clothespins.

Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.

Guest Post by Alan LeStourgeon

About three years ago my wife and I discovered the quaint beach towns of South Walton County in the Florida panhandle. Many people vacation along this 18-mile stretch of route 30A to enjoy the shopping, great restaurants, beautiful state parks, small community feel and easy access to the fine white sands that line the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Coastal Dune Lakes

But, beyond the relaxing resort atmosphere and just behind the tall dunes marking the end of the beach lies an unspoiled secret that few tourists take advantage of, and many may not even know is there. The secret treasure is a phenomenon known as coastal dune lakes and they can only be found in six locations worldwide (when you visit, don’t go climbing all over the dunes, but approach the lakes from the proper access points).

Australia, Madagascar, New Zealand, Oregon, South Carolina and Walton County Florida are the only places on the planet that feature this scarce natural attraction. Walton County is home to 15 of these lakes that usually average about 5 feet in depth and can contain varying levels of salinity – the hardest coastal dune lakes to come by contain completely fresh water. They range in age from 2,000 to 10,000 years old and are vital to the ecosystem in which they exist.

Many of the lakes protect the coastal regions as retention ponds that minimize flooding during hurricanes. They can also act as breeding grounds for insects that form the beginning level of various natural food chains. They also contain unique species of flora and fauna and are home to a variety of wildlife including otters, turtles, and little blue heron. Warning: some are home to alligators, so be careful as you wander around the shorelines. Just because you are near the beach doesn’t mean you won’t encounter Florida’s largest reptile.

Because of their proximity to the ocean, these lakes are sometimes fed by storm surge and exceptionally high tides that may only occur one or two times a year. Excessive rain occasionally fills the lakes to overflow capacity, at which point they empty into the gulf and can be counted as a unique experience if you ever get to witness an outlet bursting open.

Two of the rarer lakes are located in Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and are unique because they contain completely freshwater. Stand on the shore of either Campbell or Morris Lake and you are looking at a completely unspoiled ecosystem that hasn’t changed much in the last 5,000 to 10,0000 years. It is worth the short hike off the main park access road to view these unspoiled treasures that also boast some of the highest beach sand dunes in Florida at over 25 feet tall.

Enjoy everything there is to see and experience on your next vacation to the quaint little resort communities that grace Highway 30A in the Florida panhandle. There are a variety of gorgeous vacation rentals, superb restaurants, exclusive shops and beautiful beaches to spend your days simply relaxing on, but don’t miss the hidden treasure of the rare lakes just beyond the dunes.

Alan LeStourgeon works at home writing on a variety of subjects including his travel adventures around the United States. You can read his travel blog and follow him on Twitter @Affconfession for more updates.

For many, Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of summer, regardless of the traditionalists and their radical “position of the sun” theory. Consider the finer points of the holiday: warm weather, barbecues, patriotic celebrations, and for most, the elusive three-day weekend. While Christmas or Independence Day might fall in the middle of the week, good old Memorial Day is always celebrated on the last Monday in May, meaning it’s a lock for a minimum three days of no work, school, or hot dog-free living.

Of course, there is a rather serious side to the holiday as well. Long before the mega sales, beach trips, and the Indianapolis 500 became part of our traditions, Memorial Day was created as a day of remembrance for U.S. soldiers who died while serving in the military. When making plans for this extended weekend, it’s important to set aside some time to pay tribute to those who sacrificed everything in order to protect the freedoms we enjoy today.

With a holiday as significant as this one, you’ll find celebrations taking place in every town, big or small across the country. It’s the perfect time to get away and do something amazing, especially for those of you planning on padding your three-day weekend with some extra time off. When it comes to selecting a destination for your ultimate Memorial Day weekend getaway, take a cue from these two cities, both of which have easily accessible airports (important with this being one of the busiest travel weekends of the year) as well as a wide variety of entertainment and Memorial Day service options.

East Coast Getaway – Washington, D.C.

Our nation’s capitol is arguably the perfect Memorial Day destination for American history enthusiasts. With so many monuments dedicated to those who served our country, you could easily fill up an entire week trying to visit them all. The most poignant of these memorials is the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, built in honor of American service members who died without their remains being identified.

On the evening before Memorial Day, one of the most popular events in the D.C. area is an outdoor concert held on the Capitol’s west lawn, sponsored by PBS. The concert is free to attend, and features celebrity hosts, the national symphony orchestra, and a series of powerful tributes to America’s fallen heroes. The following day is marked with even grander celebrations, such as the ceremonies held at the U.S. Navy, World War II, and Vietnam Veterans memorials. Without a doubt though, the biggest of them all is the annual Memorial Day Parade, which carves a path from the National Mall to the White House, offering spectators over 200 separate elements, including active military units, veterans, floats, music, and celebrities.

West Coast Getaway – Seattle, WA

Memorial Day in Seattle comes with a fun twist, in that the anchor event for the entire weekend is the annual NW Folklife Festival, one of the largest folklife celebrations in the world. Featuring over 7,000 participants in more than 1,000 performances on 27 indoor and outdoor stages, this 4-day event has been a Seattle institution since 1972. You’ll experience the rich cultural heritage of the Pacific Northwest through performances, workshops, exhibits, films, crafts, food, and an overarching theme of encouraging others to celebrate, share, and sustain the vitality of traditional folk arts for present and future generations.

On Memorial Day, head over to the annual Memorial Day Service at Evergreen-Washelli Memorial Park, to witness as they honor America’s fallen and salute the flags on the “Avenue of Colors”. There are also commemorative performances by several artists, such as the Pacific University Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Drum Corps. Directly after the service is a moving and informative guided tour of the Veterans Memorial Cemetery, which is done around a narrative delivered by David Bloch, son of Orville Emil Bloch, Medal of Honor recipient.

Jay Ferris is a Seattle-based writer, husband, and father of three, whose penchant for outdoors-based travel is rivaled only by his dependence on a steady internet connection and spider-free existence. Follow him on Twitter at @jayferris.

Yoga on the BeachIn a town known for dive bars, drag shows and Jimmy Buffet, it quickly becomes clear that there is something in Key West for everyone. Here are some of the best opportunities to do as the locals do and get outdoors in the Florida sunshine if daytime is more your speed than nightlife…

1. Yoga on the Beach

Yoga on the Beach is an absolute joy in Key West. Don Bartone and Nancy Curran run this daily ocean-side yoga class. Most of the classes take place in Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, on a beach that’s preferred by locals. There are three styles of yoga: Yoga for Everybody, a more traditional hatha practice; Yoga Rhythms, a non-conventional yoga that focuses on dancing and movement; and YinYoga, which slows down movements and holds poses for five minutes or longer. Thanks to the contemplative music and the sound of waves lapping against the shore, the $18 class fee is worth every penny, as it includes park entrance and equipment rental in addition to making you feel as if you are practicing yoga on the set of the most tranquil DVD shoot. Check the website for dates and times as Dan and Nancy head north for the summer.

2. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is also a great place to explore on your own. The beach where the yoga practice takes place is, in my opinion, the most beautiful beach in Key West (a great find on an island not exactly celebrated for its beaches), and a perfect place to spend the day under the pines if you are looking for some seaside shade. The fort itself was built in the mid-nineteenth century as a defense against the Spanish and can still be visited, with tours available daily. Fishing and snorkeling are encouraged in the park, and there are bike paths and nature trails for visitors to enjoy.

3. Rent a Bike

Renting a bicycle is another great way to get out and enjoy the island. Key Lime Bike Tours has reasonable rates by the hour, day or week and offers a $39 guided tour (which includes bike rental for the day). The tour focuses on the history of the Conch Republic, stops at island sites such as the Southernmost Point and Ernest Hemingway’s House, and finishes off with a piece of Key Lime Pie. Lloyd’s Tropical Bike Tour is an “eco-tour” of Key West that takes visitors through quieter, lesser known streets and seeks out the tropical flora and unique architecture of the island.

4. Go Fishing

If you’re looking to go fishing independently while you’re in Key West, then you can rent equipment and buy bait at the Key West Bait & Tackle Shop in Old Town. For a little more adventure, why not try a boat excursion? The Tortuga IV departs Conch Harbor in Old Town for two fishing trips daily, from 9am-1pm and from 2-6pm. An additional night fishing trip leaves at 7pm. Rod, reel, bait and license are included. The galley is fully stocked and the crew will even clean your catch for you when you return to Key West. A fishing trip is a great idea if you are a fan of yellowtail snapper!

5. BYOF (Bring Your Own Fish)

A fun local trick is to bring your catch of the day to a restaurant and have the house cook it for you. The Hogfish Bar and Grill on neighboring Stock Island is a little tricky to find, but it’s a real local favorite. They charge $10.95 per pound to cook your fresh catch and serve it with rice and veggies, a fun alternative if you are craving a little island atmosphere and don’t feel like cooking at home. Also great are their buffalo shrimp, Baja-style tacos and daily happy hour – on an island that celebrates Jimmy Buffet, you deserve that margarita.

Mary-Elizabeth O’Neill is a New York based event designer who has lived in Paris and London. She travels frequently, loves writing about her adventures and appreciates your comments! You can find Mary-Elizabeth on Twitter as @m_oneill_nyc.