7 Affordable Northern Destinations to Beat the Heat This Summer


We know that you're tempted to stand in front of the open refrigerator while eating ice cream when the mercury starts rising to unbearable levels. Instead of wasting electricity, though, why not take a short break from the heat and head to one of these cool-weather summertime destinations?

Whether you're in for the adventure of a lifetime or a relaxing vacation on cool breezy beaches, we've got just the spot for you.

1. Newport, Oregon

If you love the ocean, you'll love Newport, Oregon. There are eight public beaches to explore, and you can even try your hand at catching your own dinner by renting or buying inexpensive crabbing or clamming equipment (you'll need to pay $19 for a three-day nonresident shellfish license, however). See sea otters and giant Pacific octopuses up-close at the Oregon Coast Aquarium ($22.50 admission fee for adults).

After a day exploring the ocean, you can check out one of the town's breweries (including Rogue Brewing, which is headquartered in Newport) and stay in a beachfront Airbnb for under $100. (See also: Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards)

2. Glacier National Park, Montana

What sounds better in the heat of the summer than visiting a glacier? You can do that in Glacier National Park, where it's all about the jaw-dropping views. Hiking is the best way to see these sights, and the park boasts over 700 miles of trails. You can also see the park from horseback, by taking a rafting tour, or via one of the historic red buses (the oldest touring buses in the world, in fact). The park also hosts dozens of Native American educational programs throughout the summer, and you can even ride a free shuttle along the park's famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.

There are several cities near Glacier National Park such as Whitefish and Kalispell where you can stay, but they start at around $200. Surprisingly, however, some of the lodges within the park itself are quite affordable, starting at $99 a night. Of course, since it's a national park, there are also plenty of cheap camping options ($10 to $23 per night) as well. (See also: 10 Most Breathtaking Day Hikes in the U.S.)

3. Muskoka Lakes, Ontario

Muskoka Lakes is a hidden gem with breathtaking waterways nestled among Ontario's dense northern forests. You can cool off on the water by renting a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard, taking a pleasure cruise, or just going for a dip in the icy water itself. For foodies and art lovers, the town has a burgeoning craft brewery and arts scene. If you need to burn off some of those calories, you can do it by hiking through Muskoka Lakes' extensive trail network, which covers about 1,500 square miles.

The best part of all? A stay in a three-star hotel can cost as little as $85, and there are plenty of options for waterfront Airbnb cabins for $100 or less per night. (See also: 7 Affordable Destinations for Nature Lovers)

4. Finger Lakes, New York

This network of 11 long, spindly-shaped glacial lakes is another waterfront cottage lover's delight. For wine lovers, even better: There are around 130 wineries throughout this region. There's still plenty here for kids, as well: Seneca Lake State Park ($7 entrance fee per car) offers a sprayground with 100 jets of water, Bristol Mountain Aerial Adventures offers a kids park for $25, and Ganondagan State Park offers a full replica village of a Seneca Native American village ($8 for adults, up to $4 for kids).

There are dozens of cute lakeside and wooded Airbnb cottages to find here priced under $100 per night. (See also: 9 Travel Destinations for Introverts)

5. Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island (pronounced "mack-in-aw") is a blast from the past. The entire island (which costs $24 per person to get to if you buy tickets online) is entirely nonmotorized, meaning that the only way to get anywhere is by walking, biking, or taking a horse-drawn carriage (even the taxis are pulled by horses). Make sure to check out the historic sites while there, like Fort Mackinac and Fort Holmes.

While there are a lot of expensive lodging options on the island (like the famous Grand Hotel; starting at $329 per person, per night), the Bogan Lane Inn, a historic 18th-century B&B, offers rooms from $105 per night.

6. Boundary Waters, Minnesota

Visiting the Boundary Waters is a different sort of summertime adventure. This remote wilderness area perched at the far northeastern end of Minnesota has no buildings, no motorized boats, and even planes don't fly over it. It's a true wilderness experience.

The way to get around the Boundary Waters is by canoe, and there are dozens of outfitters in the area that will rent you full packages, including a canoe, camping equipment, and all the food you need for less than $100 per person, per night. All you have to do is show up with strong arms for paddling, and strong legs for portaging a canoe overland as you hop between lakes. Camping is free at any of 2,200 individual campsites throughout the wilderness area, but you will need to pay a $10 reservation fee and purchase an entry permit ($16 per adult per trip).

Summertime temperatures in the Boundary Waters typically reach into the 70s (can you say, "cool?"), but remember to bring bug spray — the mosquitoes are legendary. (See also: 4 Underrated U.S. Cities You Need to See This Summer)

7. San Juan Islands, Washington

Another cool-weather Canadian border-straddler, the San Juan Islands is an archipelago made up of 172 individual islands at the top of the Puget Sound. Yet, only four islands actually have ferry service ($19.85 per person for a ferry ride from Anacortes to the main San Juan Island).

Once you're there, there's plenty to do. Take a whale-watching boat tour (from $99 per person), visit a working shellfish farm, rent a sea kayak to hop between islands, or visit one of the island's many breweries, wineries, and artisanal farms. If you can't spot one of the island's many orcas, you can still learn about them in the island's Whale Museum ($9 admission).

The island offers several budget options for lodging. Stay on a working farm on a glamping vacation from $60 per night, go camping in one of the local parks starting from $21 per night, or stay in a small inn for around $125 —$160 per night. (See also: My 5 Favorite Budget Summer Destinations for 2018)

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