In central California, a mile-long boardwalk leads to Oso Flaco lake and on to the coast.
5. GUADALUPE, CA
A lake among dunes The Central Coast's Oso Flaco Lake is inset like a blue sapphire within white dunes ― and it makes a top spring hike as the yellow blossoms of giant coreopsis and the violets of silver bush lupine dab the dunes with color. Getting there is an adventure: You reach the freshwater lake after bouncing down a farm road running between broccoli fields. A causeway leads to a boardwalk that edges and crosses the lake. Continue a bit farther and you'll reach one of California's longest and wildest stretches of beach. $5 per vehicle; www.dunescenter.org; 805/343-2455. -Matthew Jaffe
6. MONTEREY, CA
Taste wine by the waves What's better than an ocean view? An ocean view with wine, that's what. Housed in a 90-year-old building on Cannery Row, A Taste of Monterey is a contender for the most spectacularly located tasting room in the world ― a second-story, glass-walled aerie where you gaze out at seals, otters, and kayakers while enjoying some of Monterey County's best wines. The offerings include hard-to-find vintages from the county's smaller wineries. $5 tasting fee; www.tastemonterey.com; 831/646-5446. -Peter Fish
7. DEPOE BAY, OR
Top whale-watching Twice a year, gray whales cruise past Oregon's shoreline between summer feeding grounds up north and the winter breeding scene off Baja. From late March to June, as many as 18,000 whales will pass by, some feeding close to shore. At Depoe Bay's seawall, one of the best spots to watch on the entire Oregon coast, whales may even swim between the seawall and whale-watching charter boats. If the weather sours, watch from the shelter of the Whale Watching Center. Call for hours; on U.S. 101; www.whalespoken.org; 541/765-3304. -B.H.