Along an Australian riverbank, a baby calf is being born, opening its eyes to the world for the first time. Carolyn “Chick” Dowd floats just 6 feet away and watches silently as the events unfold. At this moment, she discovers for the first time the powerful experiences kayaking can opportune, and plunges headfirst into the sport. Since this moment, Ms. Dowd has worked as an instructor in Thailand, Nova Scotia, and California, where she is also a member of San Francisco's national kayak polo team.
It wasn't just a love for kayaking that led Ms. Dowd to overcome a human's natural tendency to melt in water. When younger, she dreamed of being Julie, the cruise director from Love Boat. To that end, Island Spirit Kayak is the junction of Ms. Dowd's passions; a place that mixes fun activities with the natural surroundings of her hometown, Martha's Vineyard. Here, Ms. Dowd and her team of ACA-certified instructors can lead tours into tranquil waters or more advanced excursions toward the Aquinnah Cliffs, where sunrises paint warm colors across the exposed clay.
From beginners to experts, Ms. Dowd and her crew cater tours to everyone. Before each trip, they help people belly flop out of their comfort zones with a game of kayak ultimate frisbee, during which many feel compelled to jump out of the boat. The staff—which includes a school teacher—also has a soft spot in their hearts for children, welcoming little ones as young as 5 into kayaks.
You're in the woods playing hide-and-seek. Tucked behind a log, you hear, "Ready or not, here I come!" and then wait for the sound of footsteps to trod past. The steps fade, and you break for base. But then the seeker closes in, but he doesn't need to get close enough to touch you—he just needs a clear shot to tag you with a paintball pellet.
Cape Cod Paintball's founders—friends who spent nearly a decade designing the facility's 14 outdoor fields—love to blend childhood games such as hide-and-seek with the grown-up thrill of paintball. Each course integrates both natural and artificial terrain—picture freestanding timber and brush piles juxtaposed against industrial cable spools, upturned sections of corrugated tubing, and wooden fence panels. Through this mash-up of cover, players split into teams for standard paintball games such as Capture the Flag, or more updated childhood games such as Cops and Robbers. Cape Cod Paintball's team also caters to group play with private parties, and mans a pro shop stocked with gear from brands such as Tippmann and Dangerous Power.
A Mass Tour Card grants golfers one round of golf at each of ten Massachusetts courses. Golfers must pay the cart fee at each course, after which they can steer their electric steed through the forested charm of The Foxborough Country Club's course or over the rustic covered bridge at Maplegate Country Club. Quail Ridge Country Club's course takes golfers through scenic conservation land and stone relics of its previous life as a farm.
Bradford Country Club's difficult, par 70 layout tests putting strokes with smooth bentgrass greens, while The Stattuck course winds through the granite foothills of Mt. Monadnock. Norwood Country Club, meanwhiile, invites players to smash shots and stare down flagsticks across 6,009 yards of relatively flat terrain with medium-sized greens.
The line to the men's room at Nimrod Restaurant is peculiar because it usually contains both men and women. Near the restroom's doorway, gatherers careen and crane their necks to see a 200-year-old hole and the projectile that created it: a cannonball from the War of 1812. This hands-on history lesson is one of many elucidated by the guides at Phat Tire Bike Tours. They backdrop their classroom against the scenic sights of crashing waves, lush gardens, and bustling downtown shops. Seated on personal bikes or rental bikes that correctly answer the question, "What's my favorite color?", groups can set out on tours of places such as Falmouth, Plymouth, Martha's Vineyard, or Nantucket.
Steps from Phinney Harbor, visitors to The Paddler's Shop at Rivendell Marine can walk out with their lightweight boards and head straight for the shore. The folks at The Paddler's Shop outfit explorers and shoppers with rentals and purchasable equipment for aquatic recreation, including sturdy, lightweight fiberglass and kevlar kayaks and paddles. They also supply stand-up paddleboards, which are an ideal way for beginners to navigate nearby waterways, since they're lightweight and easy to balance atop.
Dedicated to the world’s deep-sea domiciles, OceanQuest edifies aspiring aquanauts with its hands-on educational programs on land and at sea onboard a Coast Guard–certified vessel. The 90-minute Summer Hands-On Discovery Cruise provides a practical overview of oceanography’s major disciplines across three comprehensive stations, allowing students the chance to operate specialized equipment, amass oceanic data, and track down their runaway goldfish. Survey maritime biology while pulling lobster traps, or focus a Discovery Scope’s penetrating lens across a freshly dragged plankton net in search of microscopic critters. Tutorials in seawater’s basic chemistry round out the day’s enriching aquatic adventures in the cabin.