The Maine Coast
Rugged shoreline and the freshest lobsters you'll ever eat
Best stretch: The 175 miles between Portland and Bar Harbor capture quintessential Maine. The mostly two-lane Route 1 hugs the coast almost the entire way, passing fishing towns, lighthouses, and maritime scenes straight out of a children's book set in New England. And under those buoys bobbing in the bay—lobster traps, of course.
Coolest thing to do: Even in the height of summer, that gorgeous water is chillingly cold (it averages about 60 degrees), making it far more pleasant to sail than swim. It would be a shame to be near all this deep-blue water and not get out on it. Schooner Olad, a restored 1927 sailboat, departs from Camden Harbor, on Penobscot Bay. Captain Aaron Lincoln and his crew let the wind decide the course, along the way giving you a history of the area and pointing out wildlife: seals, bald eagles, and whales, if you're lucky (Camden, 207/236-2323, maineschooners.com, two-hour tour $35).
Fuel up: Too many lobster rolls are drowned in mayo and assaulted by celery, but at Red's Eats, a seaside shack with a walk-up window in Wiscasset, it's all about the meat. Each roll has more than a pound of delicately seasoned lobster piled high on a toasted and buttered split bun. There's drawn butter on the side, too, but with ingredients this fresh and sweet, you'll probably forget to dip (Main St. and Water St., Wiscasset, 207/882-6128, roll market price—usually around $14).
Rest your head: Staying at Canterbury Cottage, a 1900 shingled house turned B&B, feels like visiting New England relatives. Owners Martha and Rob and their two dogs greet you upon arrival, each of the four rooms is decorated differently, and breakfast is served at an antique table in the dining room. The house is a two-minute walk from downtown Bar Harbor and a five-minute drive from Acadia National Park, where you can hike and kayak. Keep your eyes peeled for Martha Stewart—she has a house in nearby Seal Harbor Village (12 Roberts Ave., Bar Harbor, 207/288-2112, nterburycottage.com, from $85). —Beth Collins
Alaska's George Parks Highway
Expansive wilderness and glaciers just beyond your dashboard.
Best stretch: From Anchorage to Denali National Park & Preserve, 237 miles of the Parks Highway run north past icy-blue lakes, dense thatches of pines, and the home of a certain former vice presidential candidate. About 115 miles north of Anchorage, the pullout at Trapper Creek leads to stunning views of Mount McKinley rising into the clouds.
Coolest thing to do: At Mile 64.7, Iditarod musher Vern Halter and his veterinarian wife, Susan Whiton, operate the Dream a Dream kennel, where they offer tours that include dogsled rides—they use sleds with wheels when there's no snow—and wilderness hikes with the pups (Willow, 866/425-6874, vernhalter.com, tours from $69).
Fuel up: The tiny town of Talkeetna, about 113 miles from Anchorage, serves as a base camp for the hundreds of climbers who attempt to summit Mount McKinley each year. Pre- and post-hike, you'll find them at the new Twister Creek Restaurant (next door to Denali Brewing Company), which serves a mean breakfast burrito (13605 E. Main St., Talkeetna, 907/733-2536, burrito $6).
Rest your head: The 460-room Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge is right in Denali National Park, along the banks of the Chulitna River. Guests gravitate to the Great Room, with a huge stone fireplace and three-story windows framing views of Mount McKinley (Milepost 133, Parks Hwy., 800/426-0500, princesslodges.com, from $99). —A. Christine Maxfield