Q: I’m confused about the duty-free customs allowance when returning from the United States. What’s the break down now?
— M. Kishwar, Brampton
A: New rules allowing Canadian travellers to bring back more goods duty free came into effect on June 1. The new allowance is $200 after being out of the country 24 hours and $800 after 48 hours. There is no change for visits under 24 hours. The allowance for duty-free goods still remains at zero.
Q: We are going to California but want to avoid celebrity stalkers around Hollywood. Where can visitors chill, watch surf boarders in action and maybe take a lesson.
— C. So, Scarborough
A: Surfer dudes like Huntington Beach, where "proper attire" means a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. The town was officially designated Surf City USA in 1991.
Located 56 km south of L.A., it’s totally laid-back and "the" spot to catch boogie boarders, surfers, paddle boarders, roller bladers, etc., in action.
Madison Fisher, of the Huntington Beach Marketing and Visitors Bureau, says the latest development is the completion of a 2.4-km-long beach expansion.
At SurfCityUSA.com, you will find a suggested three-day itinerary for touring. Day 1 starts with breakfast at the Sugar Shack Cafe (hbsugarshack.com), followed by a stop at the Huntington Beach Ocean Strand for beach viewing. Day 2 is a trip to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve (bolsachica.org) for bird watching, and golf at the 18-hole Huntington Beach Disc Frisbee Golf Course. On Day 3, it’s time for a surfing lesson from a local outfitter such as Toes on the Nose (toesonthenose.com).
Fisher says less adventurous visitor might enjoy the gentler action of stand-up paddle boarding.
Q: Are there museums in Punta Cana?
— T. McMillan, Oshawa
A: This popular resort area of the Dominican Republic is rich in history, and many local tour operators offer day trips that include a museum visit. Consult with the activity desk at your hotel. At Casa de Campo, the Altos de Chavon Regional Museum of Archaeology has a massive collection of artifacts dating to the early Taino Indians. The town is a reproduction of a Mediterranean village and an artists’ colony. In Higuey, the Museo Vivo del Tabaco showcases cigar production and includes demonstrations by cigar rollers. In San Rafael de Yuma, Casa Ponce de Leon was the home of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon. The restored 16th-manor is now a museum documenting his life.
Q: Does Walton County, Fla., have any sustainable tourism initiatives?
— C. Hung, Toronto
A: The county’s 19,425-hectare Nokuse Plantation (nokuse.org) is big on conservation. The vast parcel of land is protected due to the vision of two men — local businessman MC Davis and philanthropist Sam Shine — who wanted to preserve Florida’s last remaining longleaf pine and wiregrass wilderness. Environmentalists consider the private conservation area as a vital gateway to Florida’s fragile Panhandle. If you go, visit the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center (eowilsoncenter.org) for information on the longleaf pine and turkey oak forests. The plantation is also working to restore the area’s endangered gopher tortoises. If you are looking for accommodations, the WaterColor Inn and Resort (watercolorresort.com/) is about a 30-minute drive from Nokuse along the scenic 30A Hwy, which borders a fabulous stretch of sea and surf. The property offers complimentary use of bikes, canoes and kayaks.
Q: We are hosting an exchange student from Asia. She has hinted about wanting to try some thrilling activities. My husband and I are out of the loop on active pursuits so any suggestions would be most appreciated. We don’t mind travelling outside of Ontario.
— S. Cooper, Mississauga
A: Here are a few suggestions:
— Timmins (known these days as the hometown of Shania Twain) has an eye-opening tour of the old Hollinger Gold Mine, once the world’s richest gold producer. Visitors don hard hats, boots and coveralls before going deep underground with a retired miner. The escorts tell tales from their mining days and demonstrate equipment such as the thunderous mucking machine. During the tour, participants turn off their head lamps to experience total darkness. Afterward there is a chance to pan for gold. See timminsgoldminetour.com.
— In Niagara-on-the-Lake, Whirlpool Jet Boat tours (whirlpooljet.com) are making a big splash. For high-speed white-water, white-knuckle endurance it doesn’t get any better than shooting Class V rapids along the mighty Niagara River. Surrounded by Carolinian forest and ancient rock formations, jet boats speed up the craggy gorge in search of the ultimate thrills. En route, boaters come face to face with the Big Kahuna wave and charge past the frothy Devil’s Hole rapids. Hold on tight because you will be also be hit by a wall of water that feels like a tidal wave. Guests can choose from tours in open or closed boats.
— For high adventure in Quebec, try Lafleche Adventure Ariel Park (aventurelafleche.ca/en/). You might not expect to swing like Tarzan in Val-des-Monts country but visitors to the Outaouais park are flying high — literally. The zany obstacle course pits zip-liners against Mother Nature. You may see critters, have to shift around a giant spider web, or skateboard on a cable hanging from the tree tops. Fun is guaranteed but it’s an intense work-out.
Send your travel questions to Ilona Kauremszky at mycompass.ca