Where to Eat: Enjoy some of the Cape's freshest seafood at The Lobster House, where you can relish a platter of steamed crustaceans at the dockside tables or in a schooner bobbing in the harbor next to the restaurant (www.thelobsterhouse.com, 609-884-8296).
Where to Stay: The 130-year-old Chalfonte Hotel, prides itself on its genteel Southern hospitality and wrap-around verandas. (Prices for doubles from $135; go to www.capemaytimes.com/hotels/cape-may/chalfonte-hotel.htm for more information. ) Or pick from a number of three-bedroom cottages, such as Meadow View ($1,500 per week in August, $900-$1100 in September, 212-732-2148, www.capemaytimes.com/rentals/rizzo.htm).
5. Minnesota: Harbor Beach/North House Folk School
Sand isn't part of the experience at Harbor Beach, which fronts the quaint village of Grand Marais. But you won't miss it. Instead, you'll eat up hours skipping the beach's perfectly rounded stones into Lake Superior. After you've toured the Coast Guard Museum just a few blocks away, your kids will be inspired to try the family boatbuilding class at the North House Folk School. There's also a ready-made option: a five-day Lake Superior schooner adventure to the Apostle Islands ( 888-387-9762, www.northhouse.org).
Or forget school altogether and head out for an epic hiking adventure on the Lake Superior Hiking Trail, a 205-mile wilderness path, accessible from many points along Lake Superior's North Shore. It's the closest you'll come to Rocky Mountain hiking in the Midwest.
Where to Eat: For scrumptious dishes prepared with locally-caught fish and farm-fresh produce, swing by the Angry Trout Café, a tastefully converted fish shanty on the edge of Grand Marais harbor. (Go to www.angrytroutcafe.com or call 218-387-1265.)
Where to Stay: The 80-year-old Naniboujou Lodge and Resort in Grand Marais is a classic North Woods getaway, with a 200-ton native rock fireplace in the massive 30 x 80-foot Great Hall. Be forewarned: There are no TVs or telephones in any of the lodge's 24 bedrooms (doubles from $95; 218-387-2688, ww.naniboujou.com). The Grand Marais Municipal Campground right next door to Harbor Beach has more than 300 lakeside or wooded tent and RV sites, an indoor pool, sauna, hot tub, and a public boat launch (800-998-0959; www.grandmaraisrvparkandcampground.com).
6. California: Francis Beach, Half Moon Bay/Sea Kayaking
Drive south from San Francisco on scenic Highway 1 to the once-sleepy beach town of Half Moon Bay, where you'll find Francis Beach, part of the Half Moon Bay State Beaches. With summertime water temperatures ranging from 55 to 65 degrees, a wetsuit for swimming and surfing is highly recommended. Although it's often foggy, on clear days you can see out to Pillar Point Harbor, a commercial and sport fishing site.
Rent a sea kayak from Half Moon Bay Kayak Co., the first kayak company in the country to outfit their boats with a GPS tracking device. Paddle 45 minutes from their Pillar Point Harbor location, and you'll be at legendary surf wave, Mavericks ($15 per hour; 650-773-6101, www.hmbkayak.com).
Hikers and runners will relish the sea breezes along the waterfront oceanside trail, connecting several beaches, or at the conifer-lined trails of Pursima Cree Redwoods Open Space Preserve in the hills above town.