Who says a vacation has to be a celebration of overindulgence? For your next getaway, skip the all-inclusive feast and get off the chaise lounge; opt instead for salami-powered cycling tours, wine-tasting kayak trips or any of the other active gastronomic adventures. After all, nothing makes a dish taste better than breaking a sweat to earn it.
Wine tasting and kayaking through the San Juan Islands
San Juan Islands, an archipelago located between Anacortes, Washington, and Victoria, British Columbia, offer spectacular views of the northwestern coast, ample opportunities for orca-spotting and a clear climate thanks to the rain shadow effect of the Olympic Mountains. While there’s no shortage of knowledgeable kayaking outfitters based out of Friday Harbor, Outdoor Odysseys is the only company dedicated to providing high-quality meals throughout the day on paddling expeditions. Their naturalist guides are chosen not only for their outdoor experience, but for their culinary skills, which they flaunt in the wilderness by way of a Dutch oven, campfire and grill.
While all their tours focus on extraordinary food, one of Outdoor Odysseys’ most appetizing offers is a three-day wine-tasting and kayaking trip (summer 2015 dates are forthcoming), where oenophiles get to paddle, camp and break bread with local Washington vino producers such as Boudreaux Cellars, a 200-barrel cellar located in Leavenworth, Washington. Their bright, botanical unfiltered chardonnay is a perfect match for grilled rockfish tacos and griddled corn cakes, while their smoky reserve cabernet stands up to hearty shrimp étouffée. And, of course, it all pairs exceptionally well with the sunset over Salish Sea and guitar chords strung around the campfire.
Culinary cycling through Florence and the Tuscan Hills
Cycling is the best way to truly experience the beauty of Tuscany, and there are opportunities available for bikers of every level. Cycling in Florence provides fun, easy-paced day trips through the city led by informative guides who make stops at must-see sights such as the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti. The bike and tasting tour ends at Il Desco, a bistro featuring a super fresh menu, which alters according to the available offerings from Podere La Croce, the family’s certified organic farm. For a more advanced trip with the company, opt for the Florentine Chianti tour, which begins in central Florence before venturing out into the beautiful Tuscan hills for an olive oil tasting with ham, salami and cheese.
Active Gourmet Holidays leads an even more rigorous, six-day The Cycling Gourmet trek through Tuscany, where participants will average between 35 and 65 miles per day. As added conveniences, optional van support is available and bags are transferred between each stopping point, which will lighten your load to cycle freely. This year-round journey also begins in Florence before the group takes to the famous Strada in Chianti, going past vineyards and olive groves, breaking for meals in cafés, wine tastings, cooking classes, a plunge in the hot springs and plenty of free time for exploration. When the two-wheeled excitement concludes in Siena, you’ll take a train back to Florence, where we suggest relieving any lingering aches with a Chianti Relax massage at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze’s exquisite spa.
Belgium hike, bike and beer adventure
Zephyr Adventures specializes in culinary vacations across the globe, from wine-focused South African safaris to multisport microbrew explorations in the Grand Teton. One of its tastiest offerings, though, is the Belgium Hike, Bike and Beer Adventure, a seven-day tour (August 2-8, 2015) that moves from the heart of Brussels to ancient abbeys where Trappist monks have been brewing beer since the Crusades. The expedition spans six cities and villages, a number of breweries, a host of cafés and restaurants, and the Maison Leffe beer museum.
Active beer enthusiasts can look forward to hiking through the countryside, enjoying a barbecue in the hills of Rochehaut, biking past castles along the Sambre river, and stopping at beloved breweries such as Chimay and Rodenbach. A local guide, well-phrased in the area’s history, language and food culture, will share informative tidbits between multicourse beer dinners (think fried cod and spring greens with sorrel purée, washed down with St. Bernardus Abt 12 brew; Speculoos cookie butter ice cream served with Orval beer). You will relax in one-of-a-kind accommodations when you’re not burning off calories by foot or pedal; unique overnight stays include Het Anker, one of the oldest breweries in Belgium, and Hotel La Merveilleuse, a stunning neo-Gothic convent.