The world is full of incredible destinations – plenty of which you know well. But the number of gems this wonderful planet has to offer that you don’t know is immeasurable. Here’s just six of them….
Thousand Islands (Gananoque, Canada)
Once you behold the majesty of this region, you’d be surprised to know that even some Canadians don’t know this gem of a destination exists. Situated on the border of the US and Canada, south of Ottawa, where it’s separated by the St. Lawrence River, is a group of incredible islands (1,864 islands no less), dubbed the “Thousand Islands”. And yes, this is where the famous salad dressing came from. But it’s the views you’ll be coming here for…
Some of the islands form a national park, other are privately owned. Another, Heart Island (which is technically on the US side, so requires you to go through US customs to visit), has a mother-flipping-Castle on it (Google Boldt Castle – its story is quite amazing and worthy of its own article). Others barely even fit the house that sits on it. You can kayak around it, fly over it on a Helicopter, take a cruise… all departing from Gananoque.
The town on its Canadian side, Gananoque, is a remarkable and quaint in its own right. Best visited during the Summertime, this is a destination you have to add to your bucket list.
Of course there’s Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, but when it comes to travellers, Yokohama is without a doubt Japan’s forgotten city. Located just a 40 minute local train ride from Shibuya, this bayside city is technically the second largest in Japan, with over three million inhabitants. It’s home to some of the best ramen in the country and probably the largest collection of food museums in the world. Its sprawling – though maybe at times too clean – urban layout is the prefect antidote to the manic, Tokyo-induced claustrophobia many suffer when visiting Japan. It also has the largest China Town in the country.
Standing on the northern point of Denmark (on the mainland), where the North Sea meets the Baltic Sea, Skagen (also known as “The Skaw”) is one of Scandinavia’s best kept secrets. Beautiful, peaceful and unrivalled photo opps, this is worth the visit to Denmark alone.
See what we mean?
For a beer aficionado, the fact that Bend, Oregon is the original home of Deschutes Brewery may be enough to get your tail wagging. But Bend really is a gem for a wide variety of reasons. Like most destinations in Oregon, you’ll find year round outdoor activities from fat tyre biking up to the Tumalo Falls (which I did as the snow fell – something which was rather remarkable) to skiing, kayaking down the Deschutes River and more.
There’s also a phenomenal food and drink scene beyond Deschutes which makes this a fantastic destination for more than just a quick weekend away. In addition to the offerings from Deschutes, look out for the Bend Brewing Company, Silver Moon Brewing, Bridge 99 Brewery, Atlas Cider Co., The Brown Owl… OK so there are a lot of breweries. This is Oregon after all! You can see a lot more of them HERE. And check out Dogwood for some cocktails!
And no visit to Bend is complete without a stop off to The Old St. Francis School by the iconic company McMenamins, who revitalise old spaces, turning them into incredible destinations for music, food and accommodation. Here, they’ve constructed around an old private girls school, featuring hotel accommodation with hidden rooms, a massive restaurant and great bars. If you look hard enough you might even find your self in the Broom Closet.
If you’re driving down from Portland, which takes a few hours, there are a tonne of hidden gems along the way there, too. One direction will take you through the quaint town of Sisters – Western themed to a tee (though I enjoyed an exquisite French meal there, of all things, at The Cotton Wood Cafe). Another direction will take you through another Americana town, The Dalles, famed for its seemingly endless collection of murals. It’s here you’re going to find one of the best bars I’ve ever been to – Route 30 Bottles and Brews. We’ll be giving this hidden gem a feature of its own in a later article here on AU Abroad.
Waitomo Ruakuri Cave (North Island, New Zealand)
The longest underground cave in Waitomo; Ruakuri was once used by the Maori as a burial site, who believed it to be an entrance to the underworld. Its unusual limestone formations, underground rivers, hidden waterfalls and abundance of glow-worms make for an out-of-this-world experience!
The best way to see it is by taking a Black Water Rafting tour, where you’ll have the chance to jump over plummeting waterfalls and float down a river of darkness- illuminated only by the neon lights radiating from the glow-worms. You get the feeling that you’re drifting in the nights sky, and its not until the river reaches the end of its course that the sunlight from the Waitomo forest awakes you from the dream (in the nicest way possible). If you’re going to New Zealand, it’s a must add to the itinerary!
American Visionary Art Museum (Baltimore, Maryland)
While you may have heard of Baltimore, Maryland, chances are you haven’t heard of this truly one-of-a-kind Museum that is worth the trip to the city alone. It is described as “America’s official national museum and education center for intuitive, self-taught artistry”. Chances are you will know next to none of the artists on display here, but that’s not the point.
Opened in 1995 by the visionary Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, the museum itself is an art work; the building covered in a glass and mirror mosaic, created by’s Baltimore incarcerated and at-rick youth. A stunning Icarus sculpture moves and rotates up and down the stairwell that connects the floors of the Museum’s main, architecturally impressive building. A giant whirligig and a bus sit at its entry.
When I visited earlier in the year, I saw the Swedish Chef from The Muppets made from 4000 peeps, a giant gummy sculpture of Wayne Coyne (made by “Wayne Coyne and the Gummy Bear Guy”), walls of strange food facts, a giant ship made of match sticks and a rarely seen and even a shirtless Johnny Depp (if you looked hard enough).
The Great Mystery Show is their latest exhibition, which opened over the weekend (7th October 2017), and features – among many others – a remarkable, relatively unknown Australian artist by the name of Peter Eglington, for which this exhibition will be the first ever of his work. Learn more about the museum at their official website.
And finally, this one you just may have heard of, but our writer Kara Bertoncini couldn’t leave without reminding you that it has to be on your must-visit list: “The Amalfi Coast is one of the most beautiful coastlines in Italy, and Positano is unlike any other place on the planet. 16 years ago my family and I vacationed there, before it was widely known. Nowadays, it is a world hot spot. Stay in a hotel amidst the cliffs, dine alfresco under the twinkling night sky, or laze by the beach all day. If you haven’t been yet, now’s your chance!”
Looks terrible, right?
Contributors to this article include Lucy Dayman, Kara Bertoncini, Giselle Bueti and Sofie Kim. Photos by Larry Heath unless mentioned.