YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE
Fly Like a Seagull
The thrill of a seaplane isn't just in the water landing. Here's what you'll see on North American flights.
Sheep-spotting along the Chugach Mountain Range, searching for beluga whales over the Turnagain Inlet, greater Anchorage. Rust's Flying Service, 800/544-2299, flyrusts.com, 30 minutes, $95.
The Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, downtown San Francisco, Pacific coastal islands (including Angel Island and Alcatraz), and Marin County cities Tiburon, Belvedere, and Sausalito. San Francisco Seaplane Tours, 888/732-7526, seaplane.com, 30 minutes, $139.
Key West, Fla.
Fly 40 minutes to historic Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas for two-and-a-half hours of snorkeling, bird-watching, and/or touring the fortress, the largest brick building in the western hemisphere. Seaplanes of Key West, 800/950-2359, seaplanesofkeywest.com, four hours, $199.
Panama City Beach, Fla.
Dolphins, stingrays, and large schools of fish in the emerald-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico off Panama City Beach. Wet 'N' Wild Adventures, 850/234-1532, wetnwildtours.com, 15 minutes, $25.
Honolulu Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial, Diamond Head crater, snorkelers in Hanauma Bay, and the Robin Masters estate (of Magnum, P.I. fame) near Waimanalo Beach. Island Seaplane Service, 808/836-6273, islandseaplane.com, 30 minutes, $119.
The French Quarter, the Superdome, and a marsh landing on the bayou. Detours over hurricane-stricken neighborhoods like the Ninth Ward upon request. No photos; the company doesn't want to be seen as exploiting the area as a tourist attraction. Southern Seaplane, 504/394-5633, southernseaplane.com, 30 minutes, $125.
Downtown Seattle, Ballard Locks (where the salmon make their way upstream), the Olympic Mountains, and, on a clear day, Mount Rainier in the distance. For a flyover of Bill Gates's mansion on Lake Washington, just ask. Kenmore Air, 800/543-9595, 25 minutes, kenmoreair.com, $75.
Greenville Junction, Maine
Vertical rise of over 700 feet to Mount Kineo and a look at its sheer cliff face. Spot moose in the shallow ponds near Moosehead Lake (three hours north of Portland), where the tour starts and ends. Currier's Flying Service, 207/695-2778, curriersflyingservice.com, 25 minutes, $40.
Downtown Vancouver (including Burrard Inlet), Grouse Mountain, and Stanley Park, where, during the fall months, you can see red and golden leaves on the vine maples and alders. Harbour Air Seaplanes, 800/665-0212, harbour-air.com, 20 minutes, $99.
Murray River, P.E.I.
The Prince Edward Island coastline--with its dunes, white-sand beaches, seal colonies, and historic lighthouses--as well as Panmure Island and Cape Bear. Tartan Air, 902/962-2122, tartanair.com, 30 minutes, $102.