One of the best things about editing the Explore series in Coastal Living is that I get to dispatch immensely talented writers on unique journeys to coasts near and far with the expectation of something truly new. And back they come, with tales of islands off the coast of Norway where the world's most esteemed eiderdown is collected, of stalking elusive bonefish from the crystal flats of the Bahamas, from tiny restaurants in Alaska that draw foodies from around the world, and from islands off California and in the Caribbean with such powerful allure that they draw writers back again and again.
As much as I love every one of these destinations, what I love even more is the writing. Here, then, are eight travel tales from our Explore column that inspire and delight me—I hope they will you, as well. Because it's one thing to travel well ... it's another thing entirely to write about it with such clarity, poise, and style.
The Teaser: "I studied the Lånan Web site. For a $35 donation, I could officially sponsor a mother duck. My name would be painted on a sign above the entrance to her temporary home, and I would be e-mailed photos of her as she sat on her nest. Of course, this was a must-do. Then I spotted this: 'Would you like to experience the life of an eider keeper? Sleep under a genuine eiderdown duvet? Now is your chance!' It didn't take long to hatch my plan. I would adopt a duck, and then pay her a personal visit. All I had to do was fly from Boston to Oslo, Oslo to Trondheim, Trondheim to Brønnøysund, and then hop a ferry to Vega Island and look for a little boat called the Lånan II, which would be waiting for me at the end of a long pier." —Meg Lukens Noonan
The Teaser: "In fact, after just one bite of that pickled salmon it becomes clear that all of the salting and cubing and pickling and waiting is worthwhile. 'It tastes like candy,' I say, swooning. And like candy, one order is not enough. Neither are two. After the third, my waiter gives me a gift of a jar full of glowing red pickled salmon to take back to Homer, perhaps the best gift a man has ever bestowed on me." —Ann Hood
The Teaser: "Put it on the list of things that should be impossible: pieces of glass more than 700 years old. I can't even keep glasses alive in my kitchen for more than a few seasons. But then that's why I've come to Murano, and to its Glass Museum—to see the possibilities. This island in the Venetian Lagoon is the world's greatest producer of glass, an island devoted to nothing but what happens with sand and heat and alchemy." —Edward Readicker Henderson
The Teaser: "That's when I finally spot them: a flicker-fast battalion of shadows headed our way, a school of maybe 20 or 30 bones. These do not seem like mere fish—more like fish behind the wheels of expensive silver sports cars. Excitedly, Rolle tells me to release the cast—to lay the pearlescent fly at the end of my line directly in their path—but as I do, I lose my balance just slightly, and my bare heel knocks the platform with the gentlest of thuds. By the time my fly hits the water, the bonefish have turned, all at once, and vanished—spooked into a blue-green oblivion." —Jonathan Miles
The Teaser: "Pulling into Avalon Harbor and glimpsing its tight arc backed by gentle slopes, I always feel like I'm arriving at some dreamy combination of Positano and Villefranche. I love listening for the Chimes Tower, which has tolled every quarter hour between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. since 1925; in the quiet morning hours, you can hear those notes reverberate across the waterfront. And there at the harbor's entry sits the round, whitewashed casino, a symbol of Catalina as the Eiffel Tower is of Paris—iconic and unforgettable." —Peter Greenberg
The Teaser: "And this is what I always come back to. Yes, I love the beaches, the water, and the anachronism of old-world architecture in the subtropics. I love the entrepreneurial dynamism of dolphins and submarines. But that's not why I keep coming back." —Adam Pitluk
The Teaser: "We take in the open-air splendor that is Parador La Huella, a culinary mecca for sandy-footed seafood lovers built right on the beach in the tiny Uruguayan town of José Ignacio. The breeze is gentle but the drinks are strong, and we are all thinking the same thought: How had we overlooked this glorious spot before, and why in the world are we leaving tomorrow?" —Victor Maze
The Teaser: "There is something deeply old-fashioned about the style of vacationing enshrined on this 850-acre island. Flicking through the guestbooks stacked in the lounge room of the main house, I notice that the background doesn't really change. The perms, hexagonal sunglasses, and sideburns might come and go, but change on Guana Island moves at a glacial pace, and that's just its appeal." —Emma Sloley
Here are other things I love: