Humans like to flock together – witness the current over-tourism phenomenon. Rowers are no different. We head en mass to Florida to row in the winter, dress up and jostle along the shoreline at Henley-on-Thames for the regattas and cluster on the Charles River in Boston in October. There are also the bragging rights destinations, such as Lake Bled, Slovenia, or the Vogalonga in Venice, Italy. Whether a rowing destination or a tourism mecca, people gravitate to these well-known locations because, well, they are well-known and usually stunningly beautiful and incredibly interesting. Nothing wrong with this, of course. Some of our tours go to these destinations for exactly these reasons (like our Vogalonga tour or Classic River Thames).
Destinations with over-crowding problems are seeking many solutions. The cheapest is to encourage visitors to get off the beaten path, even within the famous places. Do you really need to stroll down the main drag or have a coffee in the biggest plaza with tens of thousands of other selfie-snapping tourists? It is remarkable how fascinating side streets and lesser known sights can be. Alternately, take a breather from the bucket list, and find lesser known destinations to explore.
Top 10 lists, especially by Lonely Planet and National Geographic, facilitate this exploration of lesser known destinations – let’s hope that they do not get completely trampled. We are thrilled that Manitoba, our home province, made LP Best Region list for 2019 – we have a lot of space to accommodation more tourists.
The same applies to rowing travel destinations. Turns out that there are some very spectacular places to enjoy our favourite sport, many of which you may not have heard of. Naturally some of these are trips that we are offering in 2020 or might think about for the future. But some just are beautiful, beautiful places to row that we too are dreaming of. Think gorgeous water in a perfect setting.
Here is our slightly personal and biased list, annotated:
1.Clarence River, Australia – we ran a tour here in 2019 even though we had never heard of it before either. Even our Australian guests were amazed. One Swiss guest said that she would fly back to Australia just to do it again. We are definitely going back in 2020.
2. Armenstits, Greece. We will be spending three night “glamping” here (glorified camping) as part of our Northern Greece tour. I had not heard of the Halkidiki Peninsula before I went there to design the tour. I could not believe the colours of the water – every variation of blue that you might rather expect in the Maldives or the Caribbean.
3. Saguenay River, Canada. A magnificent river in Québec. Considered a fjord, since the banks drop steeply and deeply into the water in many locations. A few have rowed it and many kayak it. It is on my wish list.
4. Langabaan, South Africa. Part of Western Cape province, I love the landscape and have been in the area twice, but never rowed. Our friends at Cape Coastal Rowing Club row here during the wildflower season, and it is on my list to join them one ye
5. Hoa Kaha Rally, New Zealand. I have not been to the North Island yet, although very excited about our South Island tour. But how could I not love a name like this? The event is held every two years – I need to check my schedule.
6. River Weaver, Runcorn, England. I had the great pleasure of rowing here as a guest with Runcorn Rowing Club. I will admit that I had some trepidation given the nearby industry. But as we rowed upriver, I was absolutely delighted by the delightful pastoral landscape. Never judge a row from the dock.
7. Baltimore, Ireland. This is the focal point of our Cork + Carbery Islands tour. The village is extremely charming with a pirate history and requisite colourful buildings and pubs. The charm of the rowing resides in the multitude of options, from rowing the River Ilen, to exploring the many nearby islands, to rowing out of the harbour onto the open Atlantic Ocean. Coastal rowing at its best.
8. Gorges de Verdun, France. This was another remarkable guest rowing experience. It probably needs a full blog post to describe, but I was treated to such kindness and generosity. Plus rowing in a spectacular location.
9. Mantua, Italy. Many places in Italy are charming, and the water here was average, perhaps. But what I loved about it was that it was my first exposure to a massive and magnificent rowing club, with marble floors and people hanging out for the day to eat and drink, and maybe row. Eye opening and a great deal of fun.
10. Stockton, USA. Perhaps a less well known or appreciated part of California, Stockton straddles the San Joaquin River, close to a massive delta shared with the Sacramento River. It was part of our California Dreaming tour from a few years back. It was beautiful with fabulous contrast between the marshes and massive tankers. We are considering running trips in the USA in the future, and this would be on our list again.
Ten barely gets me started. What are your favourite rowing destinations that we have not heard of? Do share!