On a journey up the Northeast coast, visitors can stare into the unblinking eyes of a 50-foot-long humpback whale and up at the two-foot-long eyes of the imposing Statue of Liberty. The picturesque coastline welcomes travelers to its shores with a variety of activities for city slickers and outdoor enthusiasts alike, such as whale watching, city dinner cruises, lighthouses and historic ships.
Cape May Lighthouse
Cape May, N.J.
Sailors can still take comfort in the nightly glowing beams from the Cape May Lighthouse, which continues to raise its beacon of light to aid ocean navigation. Through the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts’ guided tours, hearty guests can climb the 199 steps to the top of the 157-foot-high lighthouse for an unobstructed view of the Cape May peninsula.
“The lighthouse is beautiful, historic, and it is still a functioning lighthouse, which is rare anymore,” said Becky Kennedy, group sales manager for the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts. “The view from the top is just gorgeous. On a clear day you can see all the way to Delaware.”
Since 1859, sailors have looked to the red-and-white Cape May Lighthouse for guidance. Bricks from an 1847 lighthouse were used to build its thick walls, which were made to withstand winds several times those of hurricane force. If visitors don’t want to view the beach from the dizzying heights of the lighthouse, tour guides will relate the history of the lighthouse and the people who kept it lit before giving the group time to wander through the Cape May Point State Park.
The park presents different options to observe the beach’s history and nature at the Oil House orientation center, the World War II Tower and the half-mile Red Trail around the lighthouse.
Skyline Princess Cruises and Catering
New York City
For many travelers, New York Harbor became a symbol of hope in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when 12 million immigrants poured into New York City. The Big Apple’s skyline and familiar skyscraper jungle continue to captivate tourists with their connection to the country’s pop culture and famous landmarks.
Aboard the Skyline Princess Cruises, up to 450 guests can glide by the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island, the South Street Seaport, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. The 120-foot-long three-level luxury motor yacht can accommodate a variety of cruising experiences from a casual sightseeing cruise to an elegant dinner cruise.
Narrated cruises can prepare groups for separate tours of the city’s attractions with tales of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge or the hardship suffered on Ellis Island. If groups elect to enjoy the stunning city views during a dinner cruise, freshly prepared buffet dinners with prime rib and chicken scaloppini can be served while guests switch back and forth from eating to dancing on the ship’s variously themed party decks.
Although the homeport of the vessel is the World’s Fair Marina in Queens, the boat can depart from several departure points in the tristate area.
Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum
Ocean City, Md.
Though the white, sandy beaches of Ocean City seem to suggest nothing but relaxation, the city’s Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum reveals the treacheries of the sea and the heroes who routinely
|Quaint towns like Ocean City, Md., above, and bustling metropolises like New York City, right, allow trips down the Northeastern coast to be action packed or relaxing retreats. Ocean City Maryland Convention and Visitors Bureau
performed rescue missions at sea. The museum chronicles how the U.S. Life-Saving Service rescued more than 100,000 lives during its 40-year history.
|New York CityPass
The museum also relates some of the harrowing tales of the 4,500 people saved on the eastern shore of Delaware, Virginia and Maryland by the predecessor of the U.S. Coast Guard. Other exhibits about beach life include nearby shipwrecks, mermaids and the new Boardwalk of Yesterday, which features the development of Ocean City’s three-mile boardwalk.
“The museum is located at the southern end of the boardwalk, and it houses Ocean City’s colorful past,” said Donna Abbott, public relations director for the Ocean City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “One of its exhibits is on old-time beachwear, which shows how swimsuits have evolved from the turn-of-the-century suits to the ’70s string bikini.”
In addition to illustrating how modesty turned skimpy, the bathing suit exhibit features sand toys, sunglasses and surfboards. Two 250-gallon aquariums are also popular exhibits, with sea horses, fish and other strange creatures found in Ocean City’s waters.
Cape Cod whale watching
Sudden flashes of flippers, giant eyes and 25-ton whales leaping from the ocean can create unforgettable memories for attentive onlookers on a Cape Cod whale-watching tour. Named one of the top 10 whale-watching sites in the world by the World Wildlife Fund, Cape Cod offers numerous cruises for groups that leave from Plymouth, Barnstable and Provincetown Harbors in Massachusetts. Most guarantee a sighting.
“It is hard for people to understand how large these creatures are unless they see one for themselves,” said William DeSousa-Mauk, vice president of Michael Patrick Communications. “Often the whales are the same size as the whaling vessel, so you can imagine how big they are.”
Starting around April and continuing through October, humpback, fin, minke, northern right and pilot whales travel to the Cape Cod area to feast on abundant marine mammals. Dolphins and harbor seals also often swim by the boats.
While naturalists explain the habits and identifying traits of the underwater giants, cruises take passengers to the 842-square-mile Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which protects these amazing creatures’ summer home.
Kalmar Nyckel Ship
In 1638, less than 20 years after the Mayflower landed in Plymouth, the first 24 Swedish settlers landed at New Sweden, present-day Wilmington, Del. The settlers crossed the Atlantic in style on the 139-foot electric-blue Kalmar Nyckel, which boasted intricate carvings and more trips across the Atlantic than any other ship of its era.
When not out sailing, a replica of the ship docks where the first Swedish settlers put their stakes in the ground
|Visitors can set sail from Wilmington, Del., in a replica of the electric-blue Kalmar Nyckel. Photo by Cynthia Sidell courtesy the Greater Wilmington Covention and Visitors Bureau
in Wilmington. For groups interested in riding the waves as 17th-century colonists did, three-hour sailing excursions are offered in warm weather from Wilmington or other ports along Delaware’s coast such as Lewes. The best way to ensure a ride from Wilmington is to visit from November through April, or by checking the ship’s sailing schedule.
Visitors can prepare for a ride on the high seas by touring the shipyard’s 2007 Sail Loft Museum’s maritime exhibits, blacksmith shop and gift shop. In addition, guests can learn more about the Swedish settlement at the Holy Trinity Church.
The 1699 church is one of the nation’s oldest church buildings still standing as originally built, and groups can take a guided tour of the structure to hear about Swedish colonial life, worshiping practices and historic figures, many of whom lie buried in Holy Trinity’s cemetery.
Seacoast Science Center
Opportunities to feel the brittle backs of sea stars or to watch the grumpy-looking red Sea Raven fish float by help visitors to the Seacoast Science Center comprehend a little about the natural habitat of the rocky New Hampshire coast. The center generates guests’ curiosity about the overlapping habitats found at sea with interactive exhibits and various outdoor programs at Odiorne Point State Park.
“Our center is on a 135-acre beautiful coastal park with seven different natural habitats,” said Karen Provazza, marketing director for the center. “The park has trails, and a lot of folks like to come out here to tide pool. We also have an indoor tide pool touch tank with a rocky shore so you can pick up creatures there without having to go out on the slippery rocks.”
Whichever way groups want to experience the tide pool’s sea urchins, mollusks and crabs, a naturalist can personalize the experience with information on how these strange-looking creatures survive. The center also houses coastal wildlife encased in aquariums and terrariums.
Nonliving exhibits keep visitors intrigued as well with a 200-pound leaded-boot dive suit and a three-dimensional exhibit that takes visitors on a dry virtual trip under the sea.