4. Bond on the Klamath in Northern California
Outfitter: Orange Torpedo Trips
Action: **** Culture: * Wildlife: **
Back in 1968, kayaker Jerry Bentley did an exploratory paddle down Oregon's Rogue River with his wife and kids. He liked it so much he convinced the Sevylor kayak company to sell him sole licensing rights to the bright orange inflatables they had used. A year later he launched Orange Torpedo Trips. Today his company designs many of its itineraries specifically for families. "We'll run inflatable kayaks, an oar raft and a paddle raft," says marketing director Erik Weiseth. "Family members can have different levels of adventure--a spouse who wants a mellower experience can ride in a raft--while still being together." Most often, Weiseth says, those who start out rafting will want to switch to a kayak, so guides always bring extras. The Klamath is a good entry-level camping trip, suitable for kids ages four and up. Those 12 and older usually paddle their own kayaks (some as young as ten can handle certain stretches of whitewater). Before starting out, everyone gets a thorough paddling orientation, and by the second day even the youngest students feel confident. "Kids actually do best," says Weiseth. "They're lightest, so they go right through the waves." Nights are spent camping on the beach. Details: $549 per person; orangetorpedo.com
5. Sail a Three-Masted Schooner Through the Greek Isles
Outfitter: Aegea Adventures
Action: **** Culture: **** Wildlife: *
Book with Greece specialists Aegea Adventures and this July you'll have a crewed, 90-foot, three-masted schooner all to yourselves. It comes with its own fleet of toys (kayaks, bikes, fishing rods and snorkeling gear) too. Aegea's fleet plies the blindingly blue waters of the Argo-Saronic Gulf, which harbors 9,000 miles of coast and 1,400 islands. You'll trek the Greek ruins on Poros and Hydra Islands, as well as the third-century B.C. theater in the city of Epidavros. "Kids go wild running up and down the steps at Epidavros," says Colleen McGuire, Aegea Adventures' managing director. "The acoustics are so dead-on that if you stand on the stage and whisper it's like talking into a microphone."
For a bit of two-wheel action, take the hybrid bikes off your yacht for a spin on the 15-mile loop around Spetses Island. Additional must-sees on the Peloponnese Peninsula: the 3,000-year-old Mycenae beehive tomb of King Agamemnon and the 999-step Palamidi fortress. After a full day of island-hopping, take a dip off your boat into 75-degree seas and dig into a feast of calamari and eggplant meze, souvlaki, fresh grilled fish and homemade baklava. Details: $4,296 per adult, $3,437 per child; aegeaadventures.com
6. Kayak Among White-Tipped Reef Sharks in the Gal?pagos
Outfitter: Lindblad Expeditions
Action: *** Culture: ** Wildlife: *****
"I made my first trip to the Gal?pagos in 1966 when I was 16," says Lindblad's president, Sven-Olof Lindblad, whose late father, Lars, pioneered outfitted expeditions to remote destinations. The trip obviously made a lasting impression. "It's unlike any other adventure vacation on Earth," he says. "The animals have grown up with zero fear of humans. You can be sitting on a beach and a sea lion pup will come up and sniff your toes." Lindblad Expeditions (a National Geographic Society partner) has such a long history with the islands that Ecuador's national park service even named a newly discovered Gal?pagos moth Undulambia Lindblad in Sven's honor. Lindblad's philosophy is that vigorous and respectful adventure travel can help sustain and repair a region. Still, the government of Ecuador recently asked UNESCO to add the Gal?pagos to its roster of endangered places, which could mean restricting the number of visitors.
Bottom line? Get there while you can. Lindblad has two ships to choose from: the 48-passenger NG Islander and the 80-passenger NG Polaris. Zodiacs launched from either vessel take you to reefs where you can snorkel with 306 species of fish or to beaches where giant tortoises roam freely. Each excursion is customized according to the group's age range and ambition level. You could hang with motionless marine iguanas on lava rocks or paddle alongside white-tipped reef sharks--it's your call. Focusing the trip on up-close-and-personal interactions, rather than physical activities, provides common ground for everyone. "There's something endearing and comical about having a mockingbird undo your shoelaces, whether you're four or 40," Lindblad says. Details: $4,320 per person; expeditions.com