Top 15 liquid adventures
Best time to go: For beginners, June.
Stay: Sitting at the base of the cliffs, the 10 Muddy Creek Cabins have mountain views. From $109; muddycreekcabins.com
Best time to go: Try winter, for storm-watching.
Stay: Captain Whidbey Inn in Coupeville is 100+ years old, with throwback nautical charm. From $103; captainwhidbey.com
Best time to go: For fewer crowds, November.
Stay: Teddy Roosevelt and Al Capone stayed at the 1890s Hotel Colorado back in the day. From $99; hotelcolorado.com
Best time to go: February or March, when winds kick up around 9 a.m. and last until 4 p.m. for great sailing.
Stay: The Jamaica Bay Inn has a tropical-mod feel and a pool overlooking Mother’s Beach. From $197; jamaicabayinn.com
Best time to go: April or early May, for great weather and fewer crowds.
Stay: The newly renovated Beach Street Inn (pictured) has ocean views and a firepit. From $189; beachstreetinn.com
Best time to go: June, for best weather.
Stay: Hastings House is a Tudoresque group of buildings in a protected bay on Salt Spring, one of British Columbia’s Gulf Islands. From $499 U.S., 2-night Crab Patch package from $1,405 U.S.; hastingshouse.com
Best time to go: May, before the crowds and after the rainy season.
Stay: The Hanalei Colony Resort is end-of-the-road quiet, with some rooms overlooking the sea. From $295; 3-night min.; hcr.com
Best time to go: June, for lowest tides.
Stay: The oceanside Sooke Harbour House makes culinary magic with seaweed finds. From $301 U.S.; meals $$$$ U.S.; sookeharbourhouse.com
The region has its plush side—just sample the Citron cocktail at sunset at Sardine Lake Resort—but its true heart is easygoing, low-key, and thrifty. There are more than 10 public campgrounds, including Sardine Campground, where every site has a view of the jagged Sierra Buttes. You can rent boats at Sardine Lake Resort. Or hit the area’s dozens of trails: Families can wander the easy 0.5-mile path to Frazier Falls; intrepid hikers can climb about 2.5 miles to the top of Mt. Elwell or conquer the mighty pinnacle topped by the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout, a 7-mile round-trip.
Stay: Spots at Sardine Campground can be reserved ($21; recreation.gov). Gold Lake Campground is first come, first served ($10), as are some sites at Lakes Basin Campground; others can be reserved (from $18; recreation.gov).
Stay: On land, spend a few days poking around Rupert, with its small inns and cafes. From $187 U.S./person plus $425 U.S./vehicle; bcferries.com
More: Explore Catalina