12 Sep Visit These 6 Undiscovered North American Gems Before Everyone Else
Ready for a quiet getaway? Hate crowds? Visit one of these six little-known (at least, during certain times of year) North American vacation destinations before the secret gets out.
1. Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Tucked in a picturesque cove between Portland and Bar Harbor on the craggy North Atlantic coast, Boothbay Harbor is Maine as it should be. To be fair, this quaint little town is only half-undiscovered: from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the compact downtown swells with gawking tourists, keeping savvier travelers at bay. Come up in early October, during peak foliage season, when the leaf-peeping masses head inland and the hungry lobsters bite extra hard.
2. Hecla Island, Manitoba
Hecla Island isn’t quite as rocky as the Maine coast, but it’s no less beautiful. Head out to aptly named Sunset Beach for one of the best sunsets in the Prairie Provinces, then drive down to Hecla Village for a look at a frozen-in-time Icelandic-Canadian fishing village circa 1920. Hospitality options abound here, from camping on Sunset Beach to entrepreneur David Janeson’s Gull Harbour Marina. Even in summer, the crowds never get overwhelming.
3. Walla Walla Valley, Washington
Walla Walla is a long way from the misty Puget Sound. It’s sunnier, drier, and less humid, too. But the real draw is the wine: thanks to family-owned stalwarts and newcomers like Bledsoe Family Winery (from former Buffalo Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe’s clan), this is one of North America’s top up-and-coming destinations for wine aficionados. If you’re wondering what Napa was like in the 1970s, this is about as close as you’re going to get.
4. Silver City, New Mexico
Silver City is a funky little town in the mountains of western New Mexico, not far from the Arizona border. Good luck finding it on a map; on a good day, it’s three hours from Tucson and four from Albuquerque. But the isolation is part of the charm. People do their own thing here, and it’s tough to imagine a more beautiful place for it.
5. Brevard County, Florida
Speaking of doing your own thing: Brevard County is in the heart of Florida’s overlooked Space Coast region, a sandy, scrubby stretch of Atlantic coastline between Jacksonville and Melbourne. The main attraction here is Cape Canaveral, home of the Kennedy Space Center, but savvy visitors keep to themselves on nearly untouched strips of sand like Playalinda Beach.
6. Thunder Bay, Ontario
Thunder Bay might be the largest city on this list, but don’t let that fool you. There’s a lot of unspoiled real estate in these parts — more than enough to earn Thunder Bay and greater northwestern Ontario an honorary “undiscovered gem” title.
Local highlights include a poignant memorial to athlete Terry Fox, near where Canada’s most inspirational cancer activist ended his 3,300-mile Marathon of Hope in 1980; Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, named for the striking headland towering above Lake Superior near downtown Thunder Bay; and Kakabeka Falls, a little-visited cataract nicknamed “Niagara of the North.”
What’s Your Favorite Undiscovered Gem?
Whether you’re a certified beach bum or a seasoned outdoor adventurer, you’ll find something to love about at least one of these six undiscovered North American gems. But chances are pretty good that you have a few undiscovered gems of your own in mind. If you’re willing to let the rest of us in on your secret, we’re all ears.