While waiting for a group of tour participants aboard his kayak on Cape Island Creek, Bob Lubberman made a new acquaintance when a 4-foot great blue heron landed on the nose of his boat. It's not an entirely new experience for the owner of Miss Chris Kayak Rentals and Tours, as opportunities to commune with nature came often as he crabbed and fished as a child from his grandmother's dock. Now he's able to connect visitors to this ecosystem as they independently paddle rented sit-on-top kayaks or as they participate in guided kayak or boat tours.
Paddlers on kayak tours often catch close-ups of ospreys, terns, and other birds, and see diamondback terrapin turtles sunning themselves on the shore or trying to hold their own ice-cream cones. Day and sunset tours let guests explore the wildlife-rich salt marshes, and night tours led during high tide let them paddle over grassy terrain to otherwise inaccessible areas. Guests explore similar territory on tours aboard the Osprey as they watch migrating shore birds or look out on the harbor's historic buildings. Kayak tour guides include an associate naturalist and a Cape May Bird Observatory field associate, and land-based staffers maintain a touch tank on the Miss Chris mooring dock, which they temporarily fill with conches, eels, and other sea life pulled up using open-sided conservation traps.
For more than half a century, Harvey Cedars Marina has hoisted sails and sent adventurers skimming across the waves of the Barnegat and Manahawkin Bays. Today, the business’s aquatic experts have traded in the folded-newspaper sailboats of yore for modernized Hobie Wave catamarans and LaserPerformance Sunfish. It also maintains a fleet of standup paddleboards and Hobie kayaks that cruise to islands, where paddlers gaze on osprey and cormorants or cast their lines for fluke and bluefish. In addition to renting vessels and teaching how to maneuver them, the staff runs a shop to equip mariners with their own Hobie cats and kayaks or outfit them with water skis, wakeboards, and inflatable tubes to mail to annoying cousins who live in the desert.
Ayers Creek softly ripples by the idyllic location where Steven and Suzy Taylor run their kayak and canoe center. Despite being situated near Ocean City, the watery spot is quiet except for the occasional stirring of a duck, heron, or standup paddleboard. Steven has been a neighbor to the animals in this stretch of coastal Maryland since childhood, and the couple now operates their business from their own bankside property. Both Suzy and Steven spent decades mastering the waters on their own before they began giving tours of the salt marshes and wetlands. Steven, an environmental consultant, often narrates on these tours, reliving his boyhood awe for visitors as groups encounter deer and fly-by cameos by bald eagles. Committed to preservation, the Taylors sprinkle guided adventures with educational factoids about the area's diverse ecology as paddlers conquer the headwaters.
The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC) currently preserves and oversees acres of land containing Cape May's most notable Victorian-era landmarks, relying on a staff of 160 and nearly twice as many volunteers. At its inception, though, MAC existed purely as a volunteer effort. Passionate people came together with a simple mission: preserve area history. The founding members first joined forces to rescue the Emlen Physick Estate mansion?built in 1879?from demolition. Successfully fending off the bulldozers, they went so far as to restore it through volunteer man-hours alone.
Having preserved the mansion, the MAC crew decided to transform their volunteer-only organization into a staffed outfit. The new, full-time staff members did more than just run the mansion site; they set their sights, quite literally, higher. They restored the 1859 Cape May Lighthouse, a towering landmark that had been closed to the public for almost 50 years. They also undertook the restoration, repair, and oversight of Fire Control Tower No. 23, the last uncompromised lookout tower erected during World War II. They now oversee all sites, maintaining over 100 of years of history, which is presented through tours, events, and chats with talkative ghosts.
Sound Excursions describes their carefully curated group experiences as "field trips for adults." It's easy to see why: every outing takes groups to a new realm of Washington, whether it's the frothy shores of Puget Sound, inland forests and mountains, or tables at Seattle's thriving restaurants. The events held at these diverse locations range from culinary workshops on topics such as sushi-making and moonshine-tasting, to adventurous excursions with whitewater rafting or kayaking, to laid-back themed party cruises. For many outings, luxury transportation is provided.
Where the Wissahickon Creek spills into the Schuylkill River, Philadelphia Canoe Club’s 18th-century mill stands next to a yard full of colorful boats. Each year, more than 300 guests take these kayaks into the water and flat-paddle down the scenic, tree-lined shores or head into the whitewater rapids downstream. Whatever their adventure, they maneuver their craft with confidence because Philadelphia Canoe Club’s certified instructors have instructed them through the fundamentals of boating and water safety, as they have since 1905.