Enticing New Ports

AOMORI, JAPAN

Aomori seamlessly blends the ancient and contemporary, with prehistoric ruins from settlers more than 6,000 years ago ingeniously reinterpreted in the architecture of its 21st-century art museum. Nearly destroyed during World War II, the city retains its Edo Period grid pattern, but modern angles now define the skyline. The port is dominated by the Aomori Bay Bridge, which offers great views of both the city and the harbor. After exploring the museums and markets, venture into the forested mountains of the countryside to relax at the caldera lakes and natural hot springs created by the island’s volcanic geology.

DUTCH HARBOR, ALASKA

Located on Amaknak Island and linked via bridge to Unalaska Island within the volcanic Aleutian Islands chain, Dutch Harbor is a place of historical significance, natural beauty and resilient people. The Aleut people had inhabited these islands for more than 8,000 years when the first Russian fur traders arrived in 1759. Today historic sites recall the region’s storied past, while gentle mountains, scenic beaches and sparkling bays provide a picturesque setting for hiking ancient trails, observing bald eagles, fishing for salmon or beachcombing for sea glass.

HAKODATE, JAPAN

In 1854 Hakodate became Japan’s first port to open to foreign trade as the country’s era of isolationism came to an end. The influx of traders and merchants from Russia, China and Western countries imprinted the city with a mélange of cultural styles. The Goryokaku Fort, built to defend Japan from foreign imperialism became the final battle site when the Meiji government defeated the Tokugawa shogunate in 1869. Now a public park, the fort is perfect to start your explorations, which will take you from traditional Japanese markets selling Hakodate shio ramen to neighborhoods where the Russian Orthodox Church stands just blocks from the Chinese Memorial Hall.

OARAI, JAPAN

Known for long stretches of pristine beach, a large aquarium and an oceanfront shrine, this seaside town draws visitors who love all things coastal. Try some fresh seafood while you’re here, such as a rice bowl with raw sardines served with ginger and soy sauce. Caught just offshore, the young sardines must be eaten the same day as they are caught, and thus they draw gourmets from around Japan. A short jaunt inland to Mito is also worthwhile, as this prefectural capital is home to one of Japan’s three great gardens, Kairakuen. The garden has more than 3,000 plum trees, which herald the arrival of spring when they bloom.

PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, RUSSIA

Accessible only by air or sea, the remote city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is surrounded by what UNESCO describes as “one of the most outstanding volcanic regions in the world.” The snowcapped peaks of Koryak and Avacha loom directly behind the city, and the terrain is so mountainous one cannot see the horizon from any point in town. Admire the majestic landscapes from several vantage points: an ATV excursion to the base of an active volcano, a challenging hike to a summit or a helicopter ride through the clouds. Museums and a bevy of monuments tell the story of Russia’s most easterly city.

SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA

Known as The American Riviera, Santa Barbara is nestled between the picturesque coastline of its southern shores and the verdant Santa Ynez Mountains. The warm Mediterranean-like sun illuminates the red-tiled roofs and adobe façades of the Spanish Colonial architecture, including the grand Old Mission founded by Spanish settlers in the 18th century. Take a stroll through Shoreline Park, along Stearns Wharf or down hip State Street. Renowned art and history museums, wine-tasting rooms, seaside cafés and boutiques provide endless entertainment. Just over the mountains, in the fertile Santa Ynez Valley, you can tour award-winning wineries.