1. Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. The largest estuary in the United States is 200 miles long and bordered by the Susquehanna River on the north and the Atlantic Ocean on the south. Visitors to Maryland and Virginia will find their way to the bay for kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and feasting on the region’s famous blue crabs, oysters and clams. Stay in Annapolis – home of the U.S. Naval Academy as well as restaurants, shops and museums – or in one of dozens of small, historic towns that dot the shoreline.
2. Bay of Fundy, Canada. You’ll find this stretch of water on the northeast end of the Gulf of Maine between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Known as home to the highest tidal range in the world, you’ll learn about what it means when the seawater flow from one tide cycle equals the combined flow of the world’s freshwater rivers. Expect a dramatic coastline with scenic hiking trails, national and provincial parks, lighthouses and cozy harbors. Visit museums and artist studios and feast on a bounty of local seafood.
Contact: (800) 895-1177; fundyfun.com
3. San Francisco Bay. What is being called the world’s largest light sculpture now shines nightly above the famous bay that shelters one of the country’s most exuberant cities. As part of a 75th anniversary celebration, the 1.8-mile west span of the Bay Bridge has been dressed up with 25,000 LED lights that will entertain locals and visitors for the next two years. The public art installation, designed by Leo Villareal, can be turned on and off from his laptop and gives new life to the span that has long played second fiddle to the flashier Golden Gate Bridge nearby. The free light show is visible from boat tours, parks and restaurants along the shoreline.
4. Biscayne Bay, Fla. In 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon sailed into what he called a “bright, great bay.” He would certainly be in awe of how the region has developed. The largest estuary on the coast of southeastern Florida is now home to the Port of Miami and Biscayne National Park, and it is a popular location for sailing, boating, snorkeling, fishing, sunbathing and swimming. A visit to this sunny destination offers families the chance to blend the best that nature has to offer with the big-city vibe and variety of Miami.
5. Half Moon Bay, Calif. This small California enclave is an ideal spot for a relaxing getaway. Appreciate the surf crashing on a craggy coastline. Visit the historic main street for shopping, galleries and restaurants where nearby farms showcase their fresh offerings. The state’s magnificent redwood forest is a short drive away. There, you and your family can hike and picnic under the canopy of awe-inspiring trees. Stay in small seaside inns or more luxurious cliff-side digs.