You know that feeling you get when you’re a big fan of a song, or a movie, or an athlete before they really take off and storm into the public consciousness? I’m happy to be able to have that feeling right now, as I share this list of vacation rental destinations that are about to launch into the stratosphere. The typical vacation spots are well-trod ground and overdone – but we want to tip our caps to the risers, the climbers, and the dreamers who have exploded onto the scene in 2015. Fantastic eateries, fascinating history, beautiful views, pristine beaches, and of course, incredible vacation rentals set these places apart and aid their growth.
So here are the dirty details on the data: we looked at the web traffic to all of our available locations on FlipKey (tens of thousands) and these were the hottest, most in-demand vacation destinations in the first half of 2015 vs the same time period in 2014. We cut the list off at those with 500% growth, because these are the cream of the crop, and you should immediately add them to your “Must Visit” list. Here are the rising stars of vacation rentals, along with a bit about each location.
Saint Petersburg, Florida —> +2600%
Knows as the “Sunshine City,” St. Petersburg is a bustling city with amazing culture, restaurants and nightlife. Swing by the Salvador Dali Museum and check out the largest collection of Dali’s work outside of Spain. After that, walk the waterfront to get some stunning views of Tampa Bay, and even spot a dolphin or two.
Grand Lake, Colorado —> +1800%
Known as the “Western Gateway” to the Rocky Mountain National Park, the charming setting of Grand Lake makes folks feel at home. Stroll down the historic boardwalk with over 60 shops, restaurants, and galleries, or take in a show at the new Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater. Fish, bike, hike, ATV and more on the massive lake – and during the winter the area becomes a snowmobiler’s heaven.
Seacrest, Florida —> +1300%
In South Walton, along Scenic Highway 30A, you’ll find tranquil, relaxing Seacrest. Besides the titular beach and some of the highest dunes along the Emerald Coast, there are dozens of sea activities and ecosploring at your disposal. A lively community gathers in Seacrest’s Peddler’s Pavilion for shopping and nightlife, as well as access to one of the rare coastal dune lakes in South Walton—Camp Creek Lake.
Utica, Illinois —> +1300%
Both Matthiessen State Park and Starved Rock State Park are located here, famous for its St. Peter sandstone rock formations. Alternatively, you could head to August Hill Winery or Illinois River Winery for a tasting.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee —> +1269%
The soaring popularity of Pigeon Forge is no surprise as it sits within the Smoky Mountains and is home to Dollywood, Titanic Museum, WonderWorks, incredible shopping and of course, outdoor activities.
Dunedin, Florida —> +1100%
Offering small town charm but big city amenities – explore a top-notch state park (Honeymoon Island) or catch a Toronto Blue Jays spring training game. Minutes to major cities such as Clearwater, Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Miramar Beach, Florida —> +1034%
Leave Dunedin and head along the Emerald Coast Parkway and you’ll be in Miramar Beach, a postcard perfect strip of Florida along the Gulf Coast and Choctawatchee Bay. Golf, spas, boat adventures, and of course, flawless beaches await you here.
Cleveland, Ohio —> +1000%
A big city experience without the big city price, lakeside situated Cleveland features 3 professional sports teams, outdoor music venues, a growing presence on the convention circuit and hip eateries and bars.
Crystal River, Florida —> +1000%
Located along Central Florida’s “Nature Coast,” Crystal River is one of the few places where you can swim with manatees. The springs flow at a constant 72 degrees, making the waters attractive to all sorts of swimmers. Here, water, golf and fine dining are the primary calling cards.
Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Canada —> +900%
The four season tourist destination of Salmon Arm offers access to the gorgeous Shuswap Lake, rolling farmland, forested highlands and mountains for hiking. Visitors come for bird watching, water sports, golf, cycling, winter activities, agri-tourism, history and the arts.
Boulder, Colorado —> +800%
Feed your wild side in Boulder – an outdoorsman’s dream in all four seasons. With Rocky Mountain skiing and snowboarding near by, as well as famous trails for hiking like Chautauqua and Flatirons, you’ll never run out of fresh air or things to do.
Get in touch with nature in North Vancouver – parks and forests with old-growth trees. Three local mountains – Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain (in West Vancouver) and Mount Seymour – are the bases for many popular outdoor pursuits found on “The Shore.”
Port Saint Lucie, Florida —> +800%
Small, quiet Port Saint Lucie has been making a lot of noise lately as a go-to Florida vacation spot. North of the Saint Lucie River and east of the Atlantic Ocean, there are plenty of sunset cruises to take and sunny days to soak in. For sports lovers, the PGA Village has a 51-hole golf complex and the New York Mets host their spring training here.
Shenandoah Valley, Virginia —> +800%
Songs and poems have been written about the sheer beauty of the Shenandoah Valley. Historic and charming little towns meet the sweeping tableau of mountains, forests, and hills. Caves, rock formations, hiking trails and gorgeous foliage mark the area as well as a rustic feeling of country due to endless fairs, festivals and celebrations.
Blairsville, Georgia —> +700%
Find Blue Ridge hospitality at the bottom of Bald Mountain in Blairsville. Scenic trails and hidden valleys dot the landscape and you’ll feel like a real adventurer staying in these Georgia hills. Enjoy fly fishing, hiking, horse back riding and more.
Carlsbad, California —> +700%
Safe, clean and sunny beaches are the hallmarks of Carlsbad, CA in San Diego county. An extremely family-friendly destination, Carlsbad has The Boulevard for bike riding, Legoland for building with your imagination, and Carlsbad State Beach for a full day splashing in the waves.
Chelan, Washington —> +700%
The titular Lake Chelan is a major vacation spot for both Washington residents and tourists from all across the Northwest. 50.5 miles of lake, surrounded by vineyards, mountains and small-town charm, promise an array of activities as unique as the people who come here to play or make Lake Chelan their home.
Indian Beach, North Carolina —> +700%
Touching another very popular North Carolina vacation destination, Emerald Isle, is Indian Beach. 92 permanent residents call this Crystal Coast upscale getaway home. Lush maritime forests buttress Indian Beach and give a woodsy aesthetic to a top beach spot.
Indian Lake, New York —> +700%
The Adirondack Mountains come to life at Indian Lake. Three hundred miles of hiking trails, dozens of annual festivals, pristine ponds and lakes, two mountains for skiing and white water rafting along the Hudson are all awaiting you here. You’ll feel completely relaxed as you leisurely shop at the country stores, drink a few pints at the local pubs, and put your feet up in a cabin rental.
WaterColor, Florida —> +700%
WaterColor is an unincorporated master-planned community located in Seagrove Beach on the Northwest Gulf Coast of Florida, near Destin and Santa Rosa Beach. The neighborhood hosts many luxury spas and fine dining establishments, as well as a clean beach, perfect for a day of more relaxation.
Pensacola Beach, Florida —> +700%
In addition to a number of water activities to take part in including boating and fishing, the friendly locals ensure that your time in the area will be relaxing and worry-free. Via de Luna Drive and Fort Pickens Road are the two main streets in the area and have plenty of great seafood restaurants and boutique shopping to explore. Go to Casino Beach (the best one in town) and the Portofino Boardwalk for a full day of fun.
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia —> +650%
Located along the southern Australian coastline, Melbourne is one of the most important cultural hubs of the continent. This port city played a central role in the early European establishment of punitive colonies in Australia, as Melbourne’s museums and historic sites can attest. After spending the day playing on Melbourne’s emerald green golf courses or relaxing in its elegant spas, sample some creative culinary masterpieces in the city’s world-class restaurants. The diverse plant, animal, and marine life of Melbourne can offer endless exploration opportunities for those who are interested in hiking and scuba diving. Explore Queen Victoria Market for a day of shopping or drive along the Great Ocean Road for a bird’s eye view of the Great Barrier Reef.
Anchorage, Alaska —> +600%
The cosmopolitan port city of Anchorage has a thriving arts community, an increasingly large nightlife scene, and plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors. While you are here, visit the historic sites of the downtown area, take in the beautiful coastal views of West Anchorage, and enjoy the fine dining and shopping throughout Midtown. Watch the street parades and fireworks throughout downtown Anchorage during the Fourth of July celebrations, listen to top Alaskan bands perform at the Alyeska Blueberry Mountain Arts and Music Festival in July, or attend the truly unique event known as the World Championship Sled Dog Race in January.
Dubai Marina, United Arab Emirates —> +600%
Opened in 2003, the man-made marina runs along a 3km stretch of shoreline. The marina hosts regular community events and markets, and is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon or evening. Spectacular at night when the skyscrapers glisten, you can enjoy dinner on the beach next to the sea here. The Walk at Jumeirah Beach is a pedestrianized stretch leading to a new development: The Beach. It’s a popular place to show off your supercar for an evening, so watch out for Lamborghinis, Maseratis, and Ferraris in abundance.
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada —> +600%
Southwest of Toronto you’ll find Mississauga which offers almost 500 different parks and woodlands for exploring. It’s also called Ontario’s shopping capital, with everything from shopping centers and outlet malls to picturesque village-style shopping streets. Port Credit has outdoor activities for all ages, so grab your kayak and head over.
Seychelles, Africa —> +600%
The Seychelles are composed of 155 islands that lie in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa. Mahe, probably the most popular of the islands, is the home of the capital city of Victoria. The island of Mahe is bordered by more than 60 picturesque beaches, and Victoria is a bustling lively metropolis of cafes, restaurants, bars, casinos, and shopping districts. The coral reefs and preserved forests here have been called the Garden of Eden, and many of them are UNESCO world heritage sites that provide shelter to some of the rarest wildlife and plant species on earth.
Sri Lanka, Asia —> +600%
The picture-perfect paradise of Sri Lanka features breathtaking beaches, ancient cities, and six World Heritage Sites. For animal lovers, nothing beats a trip to the Pinnawalla elephant orphanage or the lagoon of singing fish. For history and architecture buffs, the numerous temples (Dambulla Cave Temple, Lankatilaka Temple) and shrines are sure to impress.
Goa, India —> +600%
The beaches are the most well-known reason for visting Goa, as well as the temples, wildlife sanctuaries, and historical sites. Spice Village provides guests with an excellent opportunity to learn all about the spices and how they appear in their natural environment. The Periyar Reserve is the most famous wildlife sanctuary in South India, known for its tigers. Dubbed “The Queen of the Beaches,” Calangute Beach is one of India’s best stretches of sand. It lies on the shores of the Arabian Sea and features beautiful white sands looking out onto clear, crystal blue waters. The Sree Mangueshi Temple is an exquisite structure that includes a seven-story tower of oil lamps, known as Deepmal, which are lit to honor Lord Shiva.
Austin, Texas —> +550%
Surprising that such a popular city in the USA continues to grow in traffic at such a rapid rate. The live music capital of the world hosts a major annual event with the South by Southwest Festival, as well as Austin City Limits. By now, Austin has a distinct identity based on Western culture, top notch BBQ and Southern dining, a growing music scene, and plenty of activities and adventures within the city to keep all members of the family entertained. Not to mention pleasant weather year round.
Christ Church, Barbados —> +550%
Christ Church is located on the southern end of the island of Barbados, home to the vibrant South Coast. The island is laid back but you can have a full trip’s worth of activities if you want to push the pace. There’s an ancient, award-winning golf course, shipwrecks and reefs to dive next to, surf schools, and of course, miles of flawless beach to lounge on, among many other things.
Daufuskie Island, North Carolina —> +500%
Daufuskie Island has all the ingredients for a relaxing and tranquil getaway. Stroll by all the waterfront homes in the Historic District, take in the beautiful views coming from Bloody Point, or explore the trendy restaurants throughout Oak Ridge.
Key Colony Beach, Florida —> +500%
Charter and sport fishing are the ultimate activities here at Key Colony Beach. Located in the heart of the Florida Keys, most residences are on canals with quick access to the Gulf or Atlantic Ocean or have ocean views which make the city ideal for fishing and boating activities.
Ludington, Michigan —> +500%
On the shores of Lake Michigan you’ll find Ludington, full of waterfront parks, lighthouses, and family-friendly activities. You’ll find miles of clean, sandy beaches along Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake. Stearns Park is the most popular beach, with free parking, concessions, playground, skate park, mini golf, and shuffleboard. Set sail on the S.S. Badger Carferry which is part cruise ship, part theme park with restaurants, video arcades, and more. The boat sails to Wisconsin and back six months per year and can hold up to 650 people and 180 cars.