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Insiders guide to North America

By Anna Sarjeant.

So the USA is on your top-pick list? Good stuff. The US is a country of such diversity, every state feels completely different. And then there's Canada - a Kiwi fave. Here are a few of our favourite things to see and do in both countries.

1. Sunbathe on LA’s Baywatch Beach
If you’re looking for the classic LA beach, with the body builders, roller skaters and more colourful characters than grains of sand, look no further than world-famous Venice Beach. However, if you’re after a more sedate sandy spot, but one that still possesses a certain amount of LA glamour, try the Will Rogers State Beach. Referred to as ‘Bay Watch Beach’, many scenes were filmed here back in the late 90s. These days it’s a lot quieter than most, with easy access from the city, and an hours’ walk from Santa Monica Pier. That’s along the coastal skimming Ocean Front Walk, with its startling Pacific Ocean views and plenty of opportunity to stop for brunch, lunch, coffee and a cheeky vino.

READ MORE: After Venice Beach and the Walk of Fame, turn your attention to LA's lesser-known attractions. Click here for 8 more unusual things to try in the City of Angels. 

Los Angeles


2. Eat toast in San Francisco
You may think of “toast” as the trivial breakfast option; the morning choice for those in a rush, but not so in San Francisco. Oh no. Toast now has an almost legendary status here, to a point that “toast menus” are as common as your standard (and a trifle boring) lunch menu. From almond butter toast topped with seasonal fruits and fresh ginger, to a thick two-inch slice slathered in marmalade, it’s almost considered an art form. And yes, one piece will set you back approximately $5.50 NZ. The most famous toast shop of them all is The Mill on Divisadero. With options such as cornmeal rosemary bread with butter and honey, the bread is more of a wedge than a slice, and the toppings are decidedly decadent. Find it at 736 Divisadero Street.

READ MORE: San Francisco. Think you've seen it all? Think again. To experience something beyond the obvious, Click Here for 10 different things to do in Frisco. 

San Francisco

3. Get a taste for the Deep South
For all the delicious flavours of the world’s ‘soul food’, cuisine from America’s Deep South didn’t start with such an easy-to-digest past. As the former five states of slavery, dishes from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina were born from years of enslavement. Using the left-overs from whatever their masters ate, workers would craft delicious meals from scraps and inspiration from their homeland. The result was a mouth-watering fusion of meat and spice, seafood, rice and flavour.

READ MORE: You've never been anywhere quite like the Deep South. Click Here for all the intel on what you need to know before you go. 

Deep South


4. Spy on some Canadian bears
In Canada you can meet bears in the wild, safely we might add! The central coast of British Columbia is arguably Canada’s foremost destination for seeing brown bears. Boasting the largest concentration of grizzlies in the country, spring brings post hibernation awakenings (along with cubs), while in autumn, watching them catch fresh river salmon is mesmerising. Cosy lodges are generally accessible by float plane and have expert guides to take you on bear-watching excursions.

READ MORE: To discover another six remarkable things you can do in Canada, Click Here. 

Brown Bear

5. Visit Vancouver in the winter
If you want to try a bit of winter skiing in Canada, Whistler can be done in a daytrip from Vancouver. It is some place. Huge. Up on the gondolas you go (all warm and toasty), to ski/ board down numerous huge, wide runs, flanked by trees. Après Ski is right there in the village at the end of the day. Nothing like a glass of Glühwein by an open fire. And if you want to grab some second-hand ski gear, head to Kitsilano for a huge variety of stores.

READ MORE: From snow to shopping, there are a ton of things to keep you entertained in Vancouver in the winter time, Click Here to discover the best of them. 


6. Drink up star-lit nights on Rocky Mountaineer
Just when you thought stark-white mountains were the epitome of Canadian beauty, the sun fades and the stars come out. And bam, you’re hit with yet another eyeful of awesome. The alpine town of Jasper has been a 'dark-sky preserve' since 2011, meaning there’s no artificial lighting and very little light pollution. The Milky Way is spectacular. Boasting 11,000 square kilometres of preserved dark sky, you may even spot aurora borealis; more common in the winter, they have been sighted year-round. And if your Rocky Mountaineer experience departs in October, lucky you, this is an ideal time to marvel at the skies during the annual Jasper Dark Sky Festival.

READ MORE: If you're thinking about seeing Canada by rail, we can put you on the right track! Click Here for more remarkable sights you'll see on a Rocky Mountaineer journey. 

Rocky Mountaineer


7. Swap the tourist track for the real Hawai’i
Switch a standard boat trip for a lava tour and stare into a Mordor-like abyss that would make even the most hardened Hobbit quiver. Kilauea on the Big Island is Hawaii’s most active volcano. With oozing lava rolling like treacle downhill, the other-worldly terrain is marked by fiery red molten lava, and grey swathes of hardening rock. And the best bit? You can stand within metres of this geological wonder. Walk atop Kilauea and peer into her bubbling cauldrons and tubes of smooth, rasping magma. Kilauea offers the safest volcano viewing in the world and Kalapana Cultural Tours are the most notable tour company on The Big Island. Operating trips to the volcano via bike, hike or boat. Or you could embark on a dawn jaunt and the sunrise will act as the perfect backdrop to an already spectacular landscape.

READ MORE: Want more inspo? Click Here for more ideas on how you can swap the tourist attractions for an authentic Hawaiian experience. 



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