Top 10 Staff Favorites

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Top 10 Staff Tips

France Ruffenach

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1. Hog Island Oyster Company, Tomales Bay, California
Once a year, I gather friends, bottles of Grüner Veltliner, and an over-stuffed picnic basket, and make the trek to Hog Island's old general store-turned-oyster shack. We order trays of Kumamotos, Sweetwaters, and French Hogs and head to a picnic table. As the sun dips beyond the shimmering bay, we shuck and eat, Hog Wash (the house mignonette sauce) running down our arms. Reservations recommended for weekend picnics; 415/663-9218 or hogislandoysters.com. ―Features Writer Susan C. Kim

2. Long Beach Peninsula, Washington
The joy of my first visit to this 28-mile-long strand between the Pacific Ocean and Willapa Bay surprised me like the thrill of a teenage kiss. Infatuation became love for the scenery (dunes, forests, lighthouses); the creativity of the local people (entrepreneurs, writers, artists); the history (Lewis and Clark lore galore); and the cuisine (oysters, salmon, cranberries). The peninsula's seven diverse towns still cater to my whims; 800/451-2542 or funbeach.com. ―Senior Editor Susan Haynes

3. Cliff Walk Newport, Rhode Island
Give me a few hours and I'll give you one of the greatest excursions in America. The 3½-mile-long Cliff Walk meanders past some of the most astounding homes ever built on this side of the Atlantic―including The Breakers, a 70-room palace constructed by Cornelius Vanderbilt II as a summer "cottage." Just when you think you've passed the most remarkable garden or the most incredible Chinese tea house, you'll find another surprise; 800/326-6030 or cliffwalk.com. ―Executive Editor James H. Schwartz

4. Beach massage, Montpelier Plantation Inn, Nevis, West Indies
To be truthful, I've had only one seaside massage, but I can't imagine anything topping that experience at Montpelier Plantation Inn, a 17-room Relais & Châteaux property. Under a shade tree on the inn's private beach―isolated enough to ensure privacy―a masseuse set up her table and I slipped under a crisp, white sheet. As she worked the knots from my back, her hands seemed to keep time with the waves. While this might have been my first beach massage, it certainly won't be my last; 869/469-3462 or montpeliernevis.com. ―Copy Chief Susan Cullen Anderson

5. Village Cheese Shanty, Leland, Michigan
More than 75 imported and domestic cheeses tempt taste buds at the Village Cheese Shanty, which carries everything from aged Cheddar to locally made raclette. Enjoy your favorite (or daring) find between slices of pretzel bread while dipping your toes in Lake Michigan and sipping regional wine. Open May to October; 231/256-9141 or leelanau.com/cheese. ―Editorial Assistant Jacquelyne Froeber

6. Captiva Island, Florida
Stow the car keys and grab your flip-flops. Crushed shell paths and sand-speckled walkways lead to boutique shops, art galleries, and delicious eateries―all accessible by foot on this 4.5-mile island. Relax under a pink-and-gold-splashed sunset at The Green Flash restaurant (239/472-3337), where if you're lucky, the elusive "green flash" may appear over a piña colada topped with melon liqueur cocktail created in honor of the (extended) happy hour event; Royal Shell Vacations, 800/656-9111 or royalshell.com. ―Jacquelyne Froeber

 

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