If the 13 bungalows lining Crystal Cove State Park seem too good to be true, that’s because they are. Nestled at the southernmost point of tony Newport Beach, the circa-1930s-to-1950s cottages were originally part of a South Seas movie set. Now they’ve been restored, right down to period textiles and furnishings. Out the door are 3.5 miles of undeveloped beach, a shake shack, and a café. Across Pacific Coast Highway is one of the OC’s best biking spots: El Moro Canyon, where you can blaze seven-mile loops, then crash at your dreamy abode ($168; crystalcovebeachcottages.com).
November’s twilight and low tides create perfect clamming conditions on Long Beach Peninsula. The scene is serene: Dozens of clammers and their lanterns bob along the shore, the lamplight reflected in the shallow water. You’ll need a $6 license (fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov) and a good chowder recipe. Post-dig, hike the five-mile Washington Coast Trail in Cape Disappointment State Park and gaze offshore at the Pacific graveyards—more than 2,000 vessels languish in the brine. North Head Lighthouse’s keeper’s cottages have provided shelter from the storm since 1898 (doubles from $283; parks.wa.gov/vacationhouses/capedisappointment).
Here’s a hot tip from locals along the California coast: November is prime time. Summer fog is gone. The fires are out. Days are warm and sunny. The air is crystal clear. And the world’s most scenic freeway, Highway 1, is once again a coast-hugging country road. Follow the route 45 miles north from Cambria to the Forest Service’s Kirk Creek Campground on the southern Big Sur coast (camping, $22; recreation.gov). There, nab an oak-shaded site by the creek, home base for hanging out on the bluffs and spotting the season’s first southbound gray whales or hiking into the Ventana Wilderness. The ten-mile Vicente Flat Trail, just across the road, climbs steeply into the mountains. When you’re not dropping down into redwood-filled canyons, you’ll have views as big as the Pacific. By the end of the weekend, one thing will be clear: That Hearst fella down the coast has got nothing on you. Your tent is your castle, and you own Big Sur.
The Hobie Mirage Adventure Island kayak is the Swiss army knife of watercraft—a stable boat, with dual outriggers, a sail, and a pedal-powered propeller. "They’re incredible fun," says Steve Gibons of Scappoose Bay Kayaking in St. Helens, on the Columbia River north of Portland. "When you’re that low to the water, ten knots feels like thirty." Scappoose’s two-hour intro course gets tyros a classroom briefing and on-the-river lessons—simple technicalities like how to tack are a breeze. After just a few hours, pupils zigzag the lower Columbia on their own ($60; scappoosebaykayaking.com). November? No problem. "There’s no such thing as bad weather," Gibons says, citing the old maxim. "Just bad clothing." Besides, he adds, "I love sailing when it’s a little bit windier." Hobie skippers can bunk at the Nob Hill B&B just above the big kayak barn on the river (doubles from $159; nobhillbb.com).