Explore America

Amazing Aqua Adventures – 5 Places in the U.S. to Cool Off This Summer

The pool, lake and beach are great places to beat the sweltering summer heat. But, if you’re looking for an amazing aqua adventure here are five unique water experiences in stunning scenery from the West Coast to the East Coast in the United States.

Swampy Boat Adventure in the Southeast
Cypress Gardens is in Moncks Corner, near Charleston, South Carolina. After being heavily damaged during historic flooding in 2015 then Hurricane Matthew 2016, this unique swamp destination is flourishing. My friend Wendy and I recently did a self-guided tour in a flat bottom boat through the blackwater swamp with cypress and tupelo trees. You can also go on guided tours, for an extra fee, offered every hour. The swamp has been featured in movies like The Notebook and television series like Outer Banks. Read more about this adventure in post on Cypress Gardens.

Escape to the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are a prime water fun destination in summer with a plethora of fishing, swimming, and boating opportunities. Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, is home to a truly unique experience. After you watch
the Soo Locks from the observation deck, go kayaking near the freighters on a guided tour with Bird’s Eye Outfitters. You can even kayak through the locks on a tour. I did it on a cool rainy morning. It’s exhilarating and scary at the same time as you get close, but not too close, to the huge cargo ships in St. Marys River, which connects Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Here’s an interesting tidbit: there are two Sault Ste. Maries. One is in Michigan and the other is across the river in Canada.

Kayaking Adventure in the Rockies One of my favorite mountain towns is Grand Lake where you can kayak in the largest and deepest natural lake in Colorado. You can go boating, paddle boarding, and jet skiing in Grand Lake too. We rented kayaks from Mountain Paddlers and had so much from we rented kayaks again the next day. Grand Lake is also the west entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park and the best area in the park to see moose, just make sure to keep your distance. Some trails in RMNP like Green Mountain Trail are still closed because the region is still recovering from East Troublesome Fire and Cameron Peak Fire in 2020. For more on what to do here, check out post on the Western Gateway to RMNP.

Boat Ride in a National Park
Jenny Lake at Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming, is a popular spot with visitors. You can hik around the lake, but for a fun water adventure in a national park, take the shuttle boat across for easier access to Hidden Falls (1 mile RT) and Inspiration Point (2 miles RT). Round trip rides are: $20 RT adults, $12 child, $17 senior. You can also rent a canoe or kayak for a paddle adventure on Jenny Lake. When I did the boat ride to hike there was a lot of wildfire smoke, which can be pretty common across the West in summer and fall. Even with smoky skies, the Tetons are phenomenal.

Cliff Jumping in a Desert Oasis This one is for adrenaline junkies like my friend Lisa while we were exploring Greater Zion for a few days. Sand Hollow State Park is near Zion National Park and St. George in the southwest corner of Utah. The blue water contrasting with the colorful sandstone landscape almost seems like something out of this world. There is a designated cliff jumping area. Ask a ranger as you drive into the state park. Jumping heights range from 5 feet to 35 feet high above the water. For something a lot more relaxing, head to the beach area of the state park. For more on what to do near Zion National Park, check out post How to Spend 3 Days in Greater Zion Utah.

Whale Watching on the West Coast
I recently had my first whale watching experience while exploring San Luis Obispo County, California. SLO CAL, as its nicknamed, is home to a phenomenal 80-mile stretch of California Highway 1, which is part of the iconic Pacific Coast Highway. Whales are observed year-round in and near the picturesque bays along the Central California Coast. From Morro Bay, I went out on an incredible whale watching excursion with Sub Sea Tours and saw multiple humpback whales along with pelicans, sea lions, and otters. The crew of Captain Dakota and April were phenomenal at spotting wildlife. Humpback whales are commonly seen in April-October. Gray whales migrate along California’s Central Coast going south December-February and going north March-May. Blue whales are somewhat common and orcas have been spotted too. From Morro Bay, head north to see elephant seals. North American Hemisphere’s largest seal population 4.5 miles north of Heart Castle, which is also a must when in SLO CAL.

Author Jennifer Broome loves exploring the United States. She has visited all 50 states. Check out the Explore America section for more adventures.