A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Silver Lake Sand Dunes Panorama

Tag: tour

Kayaking Pictured Rocks

Kayaking towards Lover's Leap Arch

This past summer I got to do something that has been a dream of mine for over ten years, kayak Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I have hiked the Lakeshore Trail and seen the rocks from the water on the boat cruise, but I have wanted to get up close and personal with the rocks since my first visit. So, when we were able to score a campsite at the lakeshore, I started doing my research for kayak tours.

Before I get into the tour, I want to talk a bit about Lake Superior and boating safety. Lake Superior is notoriously rough and can be dangerous if you are not in the proper boat. It is not recommended that you take a recreational kayak to see the rock formations. A sea kayak with a spray skirt is the recommended boat for this trip. If you are not a seasoned sea kayaker, it is best to see the rocks on a guided tour.

Pictured Rocks Kayaking Boat

There are many companies that offer tours of Pictured Rocks, but we decided to go with Pictured Rocks Kayaking (paddlepicturedrocks.com) for one main reason: they launch from a boat (left). Most of the tour operators launch from a beach in the park and you paddle from the beach out to the rocks and back. With the boat, Pictured Rocks Kayaking is able to take their guests out farther and allow them to paddle the most impressive rock features. The boat follows the tour and if someone needs to go to the bathroom or gets too tired, they are able to go back to the boat.  Also, if a storm blows in fast, they are able to get everyone back on the boat to safety.

As of 2022, Pictured Rocks Kayaking offers two tours, the shorter (2-3 hour) Miners Castle Tour which gets paddlers up close to the famous Miners Castle rock formation, and the 4-5 hour Ultimate Kayak tour. Being a bucket list experience, of course we chose the Ultimate Kayak Tour.

Paddling through a cave

Our tour started in Munising where we had a quick kayak basics and safety demonstration before getting on the boat for a 40-ish minute ride to the spot where you get in the water right from the boat. The water was unbelievably calm on the day we did the tour. You can see in the pictures, the water was like glass and it was a very easy paddle.

It was amazing how close we were able to get to the rocks. We paddle into caves and felt the water dripping from the rock above (above). We got to paddle under the iconic Lovers Leap arch (top). The tour ends at Chapel Rock where we headed back to the boat to eat our picnic lunch while the boat took us back to town.

Kayaking Pictured Rocks

My only complaint about the tour was the speed it went. As pretty avid kayakers (and experienced tandem kayakers at that) we had a hard time going as slow as the tour dictated. I understand that it is a long time on the water and we didn’t want to tire anyone out, but my back go sore sitting in the seat before my arms were tired.

If you are visiting Pictured Rocks and want to get out on the water, I highly recommend Pictured Rocks Kayaking.  You get to see more than other tours with the comfort and security of knowing the boat is there if you need it. Our guide was friendly and knowledgeable and gave great restaurant recommendations! I would absolutely take the tour again if I was in the area.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Pin This:

One Day in St. Lucia

The Pitons of St. Lucia

Unlike some of the other ports on this cruise, once I did a little research into St. Lucia, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I saw a picture of the Pitons and knew that I had to get that iconic St. Lucia shot (above!) The question was, which tour would be the best one to take to get us there?

Back at the end of March, to leave the port area in St. Lucia, you had to be on a government-approved tour and the easiest way to do that was to book through the cruise line. We chose the tour that Royal Caribbean called St. Lucia – Island Delights. This tour advertised a drive around the island to Soufriere where you would get a view of the Pitons after driving through a few St. Lucia fishing towns. After viewing the Pitons, the tour takes you to Morne Coubaril Estate for a guided tour of the estate, and a stop at the drive-through volcano (we ended up at Toraille Waterfall, instead, though) before enjoying a creole buffet lunch overlooking the Pitons.

View of the Pitons from our lunch spot

View of the Pitons from our lunch spot

It is a long drive on narrow, twisty roads from Castries, St. Lucia to Soufriere. I was very glad I didn’t have to be the one behind the wheel, but it was absolutely beautiful to watch the scenery go by. Most of St. Lucia is a rainforest so it rained on and off throughout our drive. The photo stops we made along the way were absolutely worth the trip, but the Morne Coubaril Estate tour ended up being a highlight of this whole cruise!

Our tour guide holding a fresh cacao podWhen we got to the estate, our tour guide pointed out the local flora, and then we got to see coconuts husked and drink fresh coconut water. It got even more interesting when we got to the cocoa house and we were able to taste a ripe cocoa bean (left). Let me tell you, it tastes nothing like you would expect, almost like fruit punch. Then, they explained the fermentation and drying process and we got to see the cocoa dance (how they polish the dried beans). After that, we walked to the sugar cane mill and got to taste the fresh cane juice. I have never experienced anything like this. This tour absolutely blew me away! As a lover of dark chocolate, you can be sure I picked up a bar of their estate dark chocolate in the gift shop!

Toraille WaterfallAfter the tour of the estate, we headed to the Toraille Waterfall (right). There were changing rooms for you to change so you could swim in the waterfall. Nowhere in our booking did it say to bring swimwear so no one in our group did. The waterfall was fine to see. I have seen many waterfalls, I was much more excited for the volcano, but it seems like they are changing that out for the waterfall now on this tour.

After taking a few shots of the waterfall, we headed to our buffet lunch overlooking the Pitons. I was really glad to get an authentic St. Lucia dining experience. All of the food was delicious and you could not beat the view (above). Our tour guide told us that bananas are the biggest industry in St. Lucia, so I was not surprised to see so many of them on the buffet, I just wish I wasn’t allergic!

Morne Coubaril Estate

St. Lucia ended up being our favorite port on the cruise and it may even be my favorite port stop on all of my cruises! If you have the opportunity to visit St. Lucia, take it! Definitely check out Morne Coubaril Estate and do the estate tour. It was an experience unlike anything else I’ve experienced in my life! I left my heart on this island and I cannot wait to return!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Island a Day Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Pin This:

St. Lucia Pinterest Graphic St. Lucia Pin

Rainy Day Tour of Austin

Our recent trip to Austin, Texas was a short one; we only had 2 days to spend in the city. And of course, our first day was chilly and rainy. We talked about doing the double-decker bus tour that day as a way to see the city, but tours were canceled because of the weather.  So we went back on TripAdvisor looking for a Plan B and we found a tour of Austin and the Hill Country from AO Tours instead.

The tour was a small group in a Mercedes Van which was much nicer than the recent bus tours we’ve taken in Belize and Beaver Island. The tour provided a pre-recorded narration of the sites with our guide peppering in her thoughts and updates as we went along.

The tour started in South Austin before heading to the Hill Country, which was not something I was planning on seeing on this trip, but absolutely blew me away. We ended up renting a car on our second day to see more of that area. We returned to the city and saw the Capital and the University of Texas campus. We also got to hear about the history and see up and coming East Austin.

Overall, this tour was a great way to see the city and pointed out places that I would not have checked out otherwise, including The Austin Public Library, and Mount Bonell. We learned some of the history of the area and it was a great way to relax and stay out of the rain. Our tour guide, Ari also gave a lot of good restaurant recommendations as well.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to come back next week to hear more about our trip to Austin! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Pin This:

Cruising out of New Orleans

One of the reasons we chose this cruise was because it sailed out of New Orleans, and even though I had been to Louisiana several times, I had never made down to the Big Easy. We only had one day to explore the city and there really is so much to see.

Beignets from Cafe Beignet

We got up early (not early by our standards, but early by NOLA standards) and headed to the French Quarter. The line at Cafe du Monde was already around the block so we decided to try Cafe Beignet instead. The beignets were pretty good, but I didn’t really get the hype. After getting off the ship, we went to the Cafe du Monde in the river walk, which is right by the cruise terminal, and I understand it now. You really have to try them to get it!

Before we left on this trip, we decided that with so little time to explore the city, we wanted to take some kind of guided tour. There was only one tour that I found that took you around the whole city and that was the Hop on Hop off Trolley tour. The tour was very fragmented that day because of various events happening around the city. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if we were going to be there for three days, but with only one day to see the city, it was frustrating that the tour was cut short in the French Quarter because of the St Joseph’s Day parade. Apparently this happens a lot in parade season (January-March) so be prepared for that. The tour that we got was very interesting, talking about the early history of the city, Katrina, and Madrid Gras. Honestly, I’m torn over whether or not to recommend this tour. If you’re visiting outside of parade season or have several days to use your ticket, this may be a good tour for you.

Live Oak at the New Orleans Museum of Art

We also made the trek over to the New Orleans Museum of Art. The museum is located in a beautiful building next to City Park. Their collection is relatively small, but they have a lovely sculpture garden that was beautiful at the end of March. I could’ve spent a lot more time there, but it was under construction.

Everything I read about New Orleans said you don’t have to rent a car in New Orleans. I’m going to take that a step further and say DON’T rent a car in New Orleans. People drive like crazy and the pedestrians are no better! I watched a lady walk in front of a moving bus! It is a very walkable city and there is a good public transit system. Uber and Lyft are all over too so you can watch a professional get frustrated with the traffic. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it.

I will have to return to NOLA another time because there was still so much we didn’t get to see. I wish we would’ve had more time to explore the garden district. I also would’ve liked to check out the a World War II museum. We thought about taking a riverboat ride, but then I realized we were going to be taking a large boat down the river the next day.

Thank you for stopping by! Be sure to come back next year as we board the Breakaway and head south to Mexico! To read more about our trip, click here! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Pin This:

Acadia from the Water

Egg Rock Lighthouse

After exploring the Park Loop Road we decided we wanted to see Acadia from the water. After looking online, I found Acadian Boat Tours and decided to take the sunset cruise. Luckily, tickets were still available. I was concerned about it getting cold out on the water after the sun set, but after the unseasonably hot day, it actually felt pretty good.

A waterfront Bar Harbor “cottage”

After leaving Bar Harbor, the boat hugged the shoreline and we got the view of some beautiful “cottages” near the park. In the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century, Bar Harbor was the vacation destination of America’s 1%. These cottages were owned by Rockefellers, Pulitzers, and Vanderbilts. Unfortunately, the great fire of 1947 destroyed 237 homes on Mount Desert Island, burning over 18,000 acres (Bar Harbor Historical Society). With the economy of the 1940s, most families didn’t have the money that they had when the cottages were built so they were unable to rebuild and many chose to donate their land to Acadia National Park.

Harbor seal relaxing on a rock

Being a lighthouse fan, I really enjoyed getting up close to Egg Rock Lighthouse (top). Of course, the highlight of the tour for me was all the wildlife we saw. Harbor porpoises jumped near the boat. Harbor seals and puffins were relaxing near the lighthouse. I had no idea that seals and puffins lived on the east coast so that was a pleasant surprise.

Unfortunately a storm rolled in so we didn’t get a sunset on our sunset cruise, but everything else we saw was definitely worth it. This boat ride was a highlight of our trip. The guide was very informative about the area and very interesting. If you are in Bar Harbor and you want to get out on the water, definitely check out Acadian Tours!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to come back next week as I share about our experience hiking Jordan Pond! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Pin This:

Detroit Architecture

One Detroit CenterThis past weekend, we headed to The D for the first Pure Detroit Skyscraper Tour of the season. The tour starts at the Guardian Building (a view of the interior of the building can be seen below) which is an Art Deco marvel unlike anything I had ever seen before. From there the tour guide, who is a historic preservationist and urban planner, takes you around several blocks and tells you about the history of skyscrapers and architecture in Detroit. It was interesting learning about the history of the city from original 1701 Detroit settlement to the Renaissance Center, or as our tour guide like to call it, GM’s Galactic World Headquarters,. The building pictured to the left is one of the newest buildings featured on the tour, One Detroit Center, which was completed in 1993 and is the second tallest building in Michigan (second only to the Renaissance Center). The best thing about this tour? Its free! Pure Detroit offers this tour as well as tours of the Guardian Building and Fischer Building that are free and open to the public every Saturday and Sunday. Visit PureDetroit.com for times and for more information. I’m making it a goal to go back and do a tour of the Fischer Building this summer.

Guardian Promenade

The downside to doing a skyscraper tour is that is was hard to get a good shot because everything around us was so, well, tall. And, the few shots I got inside the Guardian Building didn’t really turn out because I had my aperture too wide so one point is in focus while the rest of is fuzzy and while that is great for portraiture, it doesn’t look right in architecture photography. The photo above was actually taken with my iPhone. I will have to go back to the Guardian Building and try it again with different settings.

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! To see inside my camera bag, check out my recently updated Gear Page.

Pin This!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén