Surprising holiday destinations for summer 2016

By: Laura French

March 4, 2016


As beautiful as Europe might be in July, there’s no reason to spend every summer on the Costa del Sol. From the colourful, palm-lined shores of Antigua and Barbuda to the spectacular mountain scenery of northern Japan, the Crystal Coast of North Carolina to the vast landscapes of South Africa, there are plenty of unusual places to explore during the peak months. Here’s our selection of surprising holiday destinations for summer, with temperate climes, stunning beaches and unforgettable experiences, all without the crowds.


Antigua and Barbuda


Fewer tourists and lower hotel rates mean that summer can be one of the best times to visit Antigua and Barbuda. As two of the driest islands in the Caribbean, they largely escape hurricane season, and trade winds take away the humidity, leaving warm, sunny weather.


The beaches are quieter in summer than in peak season, meaning you’ll have space to yourself, but there’s still plenty to do; water sports, sailing, zip-lining, hiking and safari trips are all available in Antigua, and its rainforest offers an abundance of flora and fauna to uncover.

Surprising holiday destinations for summer 2016 | Antigua
Antigua’s impossibly blue seas © iStock/Peeter Viisimaa

If that’s not enough, the end of July sees the arrival of Carnival. Music, parties and bright, colourful costumes fill the streets in true Caribbean style, bringing life to the pristine beaches and palm-lined shores.


But if you’re looking for complete seclusion, you might be better off at sister island, Barbuda. Accessible via a 90-minute catamaran from Antigua, the largely undeveloped island is as close to paradise as you can get. White and pink sand beaches, world-class snorkelling and rare wildlife, including the Frigate Bird, make up the home of the infamous K-Club, and it’s at its most deserted during the summer months.


Hokkaido, Japan


Snow-capped mountain peaks against a backdrop of clear blue sky characterize Japan’s most northerly island through much of the year. But it’s during the summer months that Hokkaido is at its most spectacular, when lavender and wildflowers come into bloom, covering the fields with rows of pink, red, purple and yellow flowers.


With temperatures averaging 22°C in August, summer days are bright, sunny and warm without being humid. That’s ideal if you’re looking to make the most of the outdoor activities on offer, which include hiking, skiing and swimming in the steaming, volcanic springs.

Surprising holiday destinations for summer 2016 | Hokkaido, Japan
Colourful flowers in Hokkaido © iStock/ BankGiga

Beyond the wild forests and turquoise lakes lies Sapporo, a modern, laid-back capital renowned for its beer, ramen and annual snow festival. But the gateway to Hokkaido is Hakodate, where markets, parks, museums and historical sites sit alongside the iconic Mt. Hakodate, which offers breathtaking views over the city.


It currently takes just over five hours to reach Hakodate from Tokyo, but a new bullet train is expected to launch in March 2016 that will cut the journey time to around four hours.


Alabama Gulf Coast & Orange Beach


32 miles of white-sand beaches line Alabama’s southern border on the Gulf of Mexico, but it remains undiscovered by many. Named the Emerald Coast for the colour of the sea surrounding it, the area is fringed with stunning scenery and it’s also a hub for adventure. Water sports, golfing and zip-lining are all just a stone’s throw away, and Orange Beach offers scuba diving at the country’s largest artificial reef.

Surprising holiday destinations for summer 2016 | Alabama
Alabama’s powdery white shores © iStock/dvest

Head inland to explore Fort Morgan, a historic site that has seen four wars since its beginnings in 1834, or simply make the most of the freshly caught seafood and vast, peaceful beaches. And it’s all the more beautiful in summer, with sun-drenched skies and consistently warm weather.


South Africa


Despite being South Africa’s low season, May to September is the best time to spot big game prowling through Kruger National Park. Clear skies, thin foliage and very little rain make for the perfect conditions when it comes to getting a glimpse of the big five, and at a four-hour drive from Johannesburg, it’s fairly easy to get to.

Surprising holiday destinations for summer 2016
Summer is a great time to go whale watching in South Africa © aaprophoto/iStock/Thinkstock

Summer is also the best time for whale watching, with peak calving season taking place around the Cape in July and August. Head to Mossel Bay (a two-hour flight from Johannesburg), where various whale species reside alongside schools of dolphins. Take a boat trip out to sea, drive along the coast, or hike the stunning St Blaize trail to witness these glorious mammals as they duck in and out of the glistening water.


North Carolina Beaches


Wild horses roam free along the coast of North Carolina, where sandy shores spanning over 300 miles border a bright, inviting ocean. Visit Fort Macon State Park to learn more about the history of the area, climb one of the many lighthouses dotted along the Crystal Coast, or explore Beaufort County, a traditional fishing town set among charming waterways that was once voted “˜America’s Coolest Small Town’.

Surprising holiday destinations for summer 2016 | North Carolina
Visit the Bodie Island Lighthouse in North Carolina © iStock/Dave Kuebler

Vancouver Island


It’s only a 90-minute ferry ride away from the mainland, but Vancouver Island couldn’t be more of a contrast to the big city. Far removed from the hustle and bustle of Vancouver, the island is a peaceful retreat where vineyards, surf towns and seaside settlements in the south meet the quiet, alluring wilderness of the north.


The weather is at its finest in July and August, when you can make the most of the hiking, camping and boating on offer. It’s also an ideal time to explore the capital, Victoria, where neo-baroque buildings sit alongside English-style gardens, which are at their most charming at this time of year. The city offers a variety of cultural and family attractions – including several parks, golf courses, a Butterfly Garden and good whale watching spots – and as B.C’s Craft Beer Capital, it excels on the food and drink front, too.

Surprising holiday destinations for summer 2016 | Vancouver Island
Explore the deserted beaches on the northern shores of Vancouver Island © iStock/Ashley_Minkus

For lush, verdant landscapes and exquisite seafood, head to the Cowichan region in the southeast, where traditional farms meet quaint bistros serving up delicious local fare. It’s also a great base for outdoor activities, with cycling, mountain biking, diving, snorkelling and kayaking all popular in the area.


Header image: Drankensberg National Park, South Africa © iStock/Diriye


Virgin Atlantic and Delta operate direct flights to a range of destinations across the globe. Book your flight today.


Have you experienced any of these holiday destinations for summer? Where would you choose to go this year? Let us know in the comments section below.


Laura French

Laura is a freelance writer with a healthy dose of wanderlust. She has travelled extensively in South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, and has written for national publications including, the Huffington Post, The Times, GQ and Red, as well as global trade magazines. If she's not writing, she's either lost in some far-flung corner of the globe or eating her way around a new city.

Categories: Our Places