(photo credit: Courtesy)
Over Succot, as on other holidays, Israelis have been putting on their hiking gear, packing the roads and heading out to all of the beautiful spots around the country.
Hol Hamoed offers the ideal time to get out of the city and reconnect with nature. But unfortunately, with so many people out looking for peace and quiet, the city feel tends to take over the once-serene natural settings. In a country where people have yet to learn to wait patiently in line, taking a hike with nearly the entire population can be a miserable experience.
Luckily, as it turns out, you don't actually need to leave the center of the country to "get away from it all." Tel Aviv's Marina offers all kinds of opportunities to enjoy the sea, get away from the crowds and try something new and adventurous - all without braving the holiday traffic to get to the North.
As always, the holiday season marks the end of summer. Tel Aviv, though still warm, no longer feels like the third level of hell (with the addition of humidity). We have precious little time left to enjoy the sea in the big city, and whether you choose to sit on the beach, swim in the water or do something a bit more adventurous, the Tel Aviv marina offers something for every family's last flirtation with summer.
The marina was created in 1972 as just a small container on the beach. At the beginning, no one could have pictured the beautiful and important spot that the marina is now.
In place of the original marina, built just for small dinghies and a youth sailing course, the marina today offers a number of yacht chartering companies, a sailing club, diving and sailing schools, kayak and windsurfing rentals and a gourmet seafood restaurant. There was a time in Tel Aviv where the thought of a six-meter yacht was beyond comprehension; today, the marina is filled with yachts that would not be out of place in the most exclusive sailing clubs in the world.
So consider going out to sea this year, instead of heading to the Golan Heights or the Negev with the rest of the populace. Learn to surf or sail, take up kite surfing or maybe wind surfing. If you're into something more luxurious, take a ride on one of the many yachts for hire. Or just sit back and enjoy the beautiful scenery as the autumn sun sets over the Mediterranean.
If your answer for everything is to retreat under the sea, the Octopus diving school offers courses for all levels. Take advantage of this holiday to become certified for open water dives, and your next trip to Eilat will be much more thrilling. Tel Aviv might not be the Great Barrier Reef, but it is a decent place to learn.
The Sea Center Club at the marina offers daily rentals of kayaks and windsurfing equipment, but it is the courses that are really exciting. Classes are eight hours long, split into four sessions, and cost NIS 650. I took a sea kayaking course, and it was great. The instructor was fun and knowledgeable, and aside from being an excellent workout, kayaking was a spectacular way to find some quiet right off the coast of the city. It's also a fun activity that the entire family can enjoy together.
My newest hobby, after sea kayaking, is surfing, thanks to the wonderful instructors at Top Sea surf. Top Sea is actually located across the street from the marina, but it offers an unforgettable experience that could enrich anyone's Succot. You can choose from rentals (hourly or daily) and lessons (four three-hour lessons for NIS 650) that will have you hanging loose and hanging ten in no time.
Ofek Yachts offers two-hour tours off the coast of Tel Aviv. You can enjoy time with friends and family on a private yacht with your own personal skipper. Choose among boats anywhere from 10 to 15 meters that can accommodate up to 10 people, or if you picture a holiday getaway on a grander scale, Ofek's catamaran can hold a party of up to 55 people. When the sea is calm, the trips head up the coast to Herzliya or down toward the ancient city of Jaffa. Just hope that your two-hour tour is more successful than Gilligan's!
Ofek also rents small rubber boats called "rib crafts," which have a high-powered engine that allows you to go water skiing or tubing behind the boat - another great option for the whole family.
Danit Tours also offers yacht rentals for the holiday. Danit is very friendly and will put together a special package for you and your family. Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway for two or a party of 40 people, she has boats to accommodate you. Not only does she offer yachts of every shape and size, she can also provide food, booze and entertainment. If you want sushi and a band at your party, or you prefer great Chinese food - or a movie night out at sea - Danit can put it together for you. She may even be able to provide a proper holiday meal in a succa in the middle of the sea.
Maybe you want to go sailing, but you dream to skipper your own boat. Lev Hayam can fulfill all of your nautical dreams. Upon entering the small office, I was told that the only way to "feel the water and feel the wind" is to go out yourself and learn to sail. The four-day courses will have you sailing a catamaran or a 420 and pushing your sea legs to the limit. If you already have sailing experience, you can rent one of Lev Hayam's small vessels and head out on your own. Or you can opt for a "fun sail" with one of the outfit's experienced guides.
The perfect way to end your day on the water is with a beautiful meal overlooking the sea at the marina's own Fortuna Del Mar. This place is a classic marina restaurant and makes you feel that you could be sitting in any port city in the world. Begin with the spectacular mezze: roasted red peppers, tzatziki, tehina - the regular fare, which is tasty if not inventive.
The main courses are also pretty standard. You are not going to find anything here that opens up new culinary worlds for you, just good fish cooked in traditional ways. The desserts are tasty, and the wine list is adequate.
Even if the food were less than delicious, the spectacular setting - and the only really private, quiet spot on the sea to eat in this city - makes Fortuna Del Mar a great spot.
If you can't wait for the end of the day to check out this fine establishment, it also offers breakfast which can be enjoyed on the beautiful deck overlooking the marina. The restaurant is not kosher, but it offers a lot in terms of simple fish dishes.
Though all of this is available at Tel Aviv's Marina, it is too often overlooked for the glitzier port. However, this holiday season offers an ideal opportunity to take the family to one of Tel Aviv's best-kept secrets. Enjoy a day at sea and a good meal, or just find a relaxing place to sit and watch the ships come in.
The Marina is located next to the Gordon Pool in front of Kikar Atarim.