Kick Off Your Summer With These 10 Travel Ideas

Make the most out of all those extra hours of sunshine.


NOTE: We know COVID-19 is continuing to impact your travel plans. As of April 2021, official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention states that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk. Should you need to travel, be sure to familiarize yourself with the CDC’s latest guidance as well as local requirements/protocols/restrictions for both your destination and home city upon your return. Be safe out there.

We’ve rounded the corner of Memorial Day; now it’s full speed ahead to warm weather, blue skies, barbecues and coolers full of icy beers. There are rivers that need floating, tents that need pitching, and beach boardwalks that need patrolling. Early summer is always tingly-exciting, but this year even more so as Covid-19 restrictions across the country continue to slacken. Heck, you might even get to take a proper summer vacation this year

With plenty of Pride, Juneteenth, and even Father’s day events happening this month, there’s a lot to get out there and celebrate. Here’s how to make the most out of  all those extra hours of sunshine.

Hit the road for a classic West Coast road trip

Buckle up for road trip season, and allow us to offer a suggestion: If you’ve never driven down the PCH, aka California 1, aka one of the most gorgeous drives in America, start there. It’s a great time to do it: After a series of winter road closures, the PCH finally reopened in April. Start at the southernmost Dana Point, with prime dolphin and whale watching. Then motor your way up and hit the big guys like Long Beach, Malibu, Santa Barbara, and Big Sur. But don’t sleep on the opulence of Hearst Castle, the sweeping vistas of Point Reyes, and the sea caves of Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo, where you’ll also find the oh so glamorous and kitschy Madonna Inn. Be sure to pull out your camera for the scenic Pebble Beach 17-mile Drive. It’s $10.75 per vehicle, but it’s worth it for your Instagram money-shot.

… And maybe make some boozy overnight stops

Maybe you like to camp out on your road trips. Maybe you like to plan pit stops to sample local brews. Here’s a bright idea: combine the two! Breweries and wineries all over the country will not only let camp out on their property, but let you partake in their boozy product as well. We found a winery in Florida that also has car shows, the perfect glamping set-up on Seneca Lake, a Texas two-fer with wine and incredible views, and more.

Treat dad to some BBQ

For those who celebrate, June 20th is Father’s Day. Why not treat him to the greatest summertime pairing: meat and a grill. Hit up one of the best BBQ spots in America, from Decatur Alabama’s Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que (originator of the now-ubiquitous vinegary mayo sauce), to the smoked brisket tamales at Blu’s in Dallas, to the fancy Wagyu brisket at Illinois’s Beast Craft Barbecue.

You can even send him to Barbecue University, a three day course over Father’s Day weekend at the Montage Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina. Hosted by grilling expert Steve Raichlen of PBS’s Project Fire, attendees will learn everything from the basics like, say, how to light and control a fire, to the five methods of live-fire cooking, to smoking all aspects of the meal from appetizers to desserts. We’re intrigued… somebody get us some smoked dessert!

Hang out in South Carolina

When you’re all full up on BBQ in Bluffton, why not stick around the Carolina coast for a few lazy Lowcountry beach days of golfing at Hilton Head, surfing at Folly Beach, or just doing straight up nothing at Pawleys Island (one of our favorites)? Or head up to Myrtle Beach, where from June 10th to 13th, you can catch acts like Luke Combs and Darius Rucker at the seaside Carolina Country Music Fest.

Alternatively, clear across the state, go see for yourself whether the booming beer and food scene in Greenville lives up to the hype. Bike the 22-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail, stopping off at top notch bars, cafes, and breweries along the way, or just stick to the city’s ridiculous scenic downtown.

Show the oceans some love for World Ocean Day

If you love the ocean as much as we do, join a beach cleanup effort in honor of World Ocean Day on June 8th. If there’s none to be found, simply find a beach you love, grab some friends and organize your own. Then spread your towel, slather on the sunscreen, and thank Mother Nature for her bounty. 

No beaches nearby? Vaccinated travelers can take advantage of relaxed Covid requirements at spots like Puerto Rico-where the mofongo and bioluminescent bays have been waiting for you-or the Bahamas, where a first-rate dive or scuba session in electric-blue water will definitely instill some awe and urgency to save our great oceans. Not quite ready to be around other humans? Rent your own island. We’ve rounded up the best island rentals on Airbnb, which are surprisingly affordable.

Or get your dose of summer fun out on the lake

Sand and sharks not your bag? Lucky for you there are some 125,000 lakes in this country, whether your style is to party on a pontoon, or just float in tranquility (good thing about a lake, if you float away there’s usually not that far to go).  Some of these lakes even come with quaint vacation towns, and some of those vacation towns even come with fudge. We’ve rounded up 20 of our favorite lakeside destinations, from the mysterious Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the Caribbean-blue waters of Washington’s Lake Chelan (which also happens to be in wine country… booze and views, baby).

Show your Pride

Big city Pride marches are partially virtual this year for safety reasons (though we can’t wait to see how people get creative with masks, and parts of the body where masks aren’t usually worn). Los Angeles Pride is hosting a free virtual concert with Charlie XCX on TikTok (note to self: download TikTok); the Grammy Museum has a lineup of online events including a session with singer-songwriters Brandi Carlile and Melissa Etheridge on June 3, and a panel discussion, “Personal Identity and the Art of Songwriting,” on June 24. NYC Pride is hosting a free online family film night on the 17th, a virtual film festival on the 18th, and a three-day virtual symposium of changemakers in the queer community from the 21st to the 23rd. 

But Pride is also flowing from small towns and unexpected Red states-like did you know Anchorage, Alaska, has one of the best gay bars in the country? (Tagline: “Over 22 years of fabulous in the last frontier. We’re all a little mad here.”)? They’re hosting a week of events including a drag pageant we might just fly out to enter. And though Blue Ridge, Georgia, has pushed their Pride festivities to September, every Independence Day their PFLAG chapter marches through the streets in full drag. Give this town our money.

Commemorate the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre

This May marked 100 years since the Tulsa Race Massacre, when the bustling Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma-then known as “Black Wall Street”-was destroyed by a white mob in race riots. All month long, the city commemorates the tragedy with festivals and educational seminars: On June 2nd, they’ll unveil the new world-class historical center, Greenwood Rising. June 3rd marks the National Day of Learning, with a free discussion about the massacre facilitated by Dr. Cornel West; also debuting is a limited run of a new historical play about the massacre, told through true stories. On June 6th the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra joins Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to present All Rise (Symphony No.1), which “was written with themes of unity and spiritual ascendance.”

Explore the meaning of Juneteenth throughout the south

June 19th commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the US. Even though Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation took place in 1863, it wasn’t official until June of 1865, when more than 250,000 enslaved people were finally freed in Galveston, Texas. This year, the city will unveil a new 5,000-square-foot mural, “Absolute Equality,” in Old Galveston Square.

Once the epicenter of the domestic slave trade in North America, Richmond, Virginia now recognizes Juneteenth as an official state holiday. On the 27th, Elegba Folklore Society’s A Freedom Celebration will feature a symposium, performances, a Freedom Market, and a Torchlit Night Walk on the Trail of Enslaved Africans. 

Continuing a month of events commemorating the Greenwood Massacre centennial, Tulsa, Oklahoma will throw a Juneteenth Festival from the 17-20th for a free weekend of music, food, arts and entertainment. Visitors will have the chance to see paintings by Amy Sherald (who also did the official portrait of Michelle Obama). 

And in Montgomery, Alabama, the Rosa Parks Museum will hold a special Juneteenth Celebration with local food and merchant vendors, live music, and complimentary museum tours. While you’re there, stop by the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace & Justice, and visit the Legacy Museum, whose deeply powerful exhibits educate visitors on the history of racism in the US, from past to present.

Gawk at natural phenomena

For two weeks every spring, fireflies light up the night in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, flitting their bioluminescence to the delight of all who see them. This year, catch their synchronized light dance (also known as their mating display) from June 1st to 8th, with tickets obtained through a lottery. If the lottery eluded you, maybe just look around your backyard? Fireflies are everywhere, right?

There’s also an annual solar eclipse on June 10th, when some lucky folks can see the “Ring of Fire,” (insert Johnny Cash soundtrack here) when the moon is framed by a blazing ring of the sun (check this map to see if you’ll be privy to at least some of it). And of course, June 20th marks the summer solstice (or winter solstice, if you’re in the southern hemisphere). Plan something extra fun to take advantage of the longest day of  the year; if you’re in Alaska, maybe check out a midnight baseball game. Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat!

Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist’s Senior Travel Writer. She once fell into a burning ring of fire. It burned, burned, burned.


Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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