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Which Atlantic Province is Right for Your Family?

by Carley Wade

Feb 22, 2019

© Samuel Daigle, Bathurst, Nepisiquit

Travel Tips

Sure, a precocious redhead named Anne on Netflix may have closed the loop regarding all things Canada between millennials and their kids, but there’s plenty more to the Atlantic provinces than Green Gables — not to say it isn’t as captivating as it was back in the 1980s! Besides gorgeous farmland and sweeping landscapes, there’s a lot to enjoy that’s family-friendly year-round. So how to decide?


Prince Edward Island is home to the spirit of aforementioned Anne Shirley, L.M. Montgomery’s beloved ginger, and you can tread in the author’s footsteps along with having fun on miles of sandy beaches and hiking red sandstone cliffs. Tour the Lower Bedeque Schoolhouse Museum, where Montgomery taught, or visit the Anne of Green Gables Museum. You can even eat at the historic Leard House, where Montgomery boarded before meeting her paramour. Cavendish, home to Green Gables Heritage Place, is a must-do. A good family itinerary will also include lots of local seafood … which means the beach, of course. Try Shaw’s Hotel, a fourth-generation-owned family property at Brackley Beach with the longest dune system in the Western Hemisphere. Shaws has all the family-friendly amenities, like free kayak and bicycle rentals, a playground, basketball and a children’s program three days a week during July and August, with wagon rides to the shore and picnic dinners. In Cavendish, there’s a “slide n’ ride” pass for entry to both Sandspit Amusement Park and Shining Waters Water Fun Park, or keep it down-home with a family farm-to-table culinary adventure. At The Table, you join local farmer Nancy Sanderson for morning chores (collecting eggs, picking herbs, etc.) then make a three-course meal, all in a lovely setting — a former church.


New Brunswick Boyce Market © Fredricton

New Brunswick Boyce Market © Fredricton


In New Brunswick, a four- or five-day trip includes the New Brunswick Museum and its life-sized whale models, and a sneak peek at the natural phenomenon known as the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tides on Earth. There are lots of shops and family-friendly restaurants at Market Square, featuring some of North America’s best lobster, or you can opt to shuck your own oysters and get your hands dirty as a family. Catch a musical performance with French-Canadian and Irish-influenced music, or connect with nature at Rockwood Park, just 10 minutes from the city’s center. It’s part of Stonehammer UNESCO Global Geopark, filled with fossils — and fun, like rock climbing on 542-million-year-old lava (all equipment provided). There’s also golf and 50 hiking trails, swimming at a supervised beach and a zoo.


In Nova Scotia, a three- or four-day trip makes adventure easy (as does the CAT Ferry from Maine, no flights needed!). Explore Halifax with the Harbour Hopper Tour, perfect for little feet not to get tired. The amphibious adventure that shows you the best of this city by land and on water, with historic World War II-era vehicles cruising past George’s Island Lighthouse and the Halifax waterfront boardwalk. Along the waterfront, grab lunch at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, before hitting up the Discovery Centre nearby with its cool, interactive games and exhibits. The multilevel science and nature center even has a 3-D printer to spew out creations. Older kids may enjoy the Titanic relics at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and all ages love Peggy’s Cove and its scenic lighthouse. Oak Island Resort is not to be missed, and the story of its treasure hunt (purportedly buried for thousands of years) is the subject of a History Channel TV show; diver and storyteller Tony Sampson runs boat trips to the island that are not to be missed. At the resort, there’s s’mores by the fire overlooking the sea, with indoor and outdoor kids pools, mini golf, life-sized chess, a playground and kayak rentals. On-site dining includes a kids’ menu.


Swallowtail Lighthouse © 2016 HeckticTravels.com | A division of Hecktic Media Inc.

Swallowtail Lighthouse © 2016 HeckticTravels.com | A division of Hecktic Media Inc.


Newfoundland and Labrador’s 18,000 miles of shoreline makes for some fun, indeed. Whether you’re looking for Viking lore or fossils aplenty, there’s something hands-on for everyone in your brood. At Terra Nova National Park Dark Sky Preserve, there are family activities, along with programs teaching you how to camp. Step back in time and explore the Viking saga at L’Anse aux Meadows, near the tip of the Northern Peninsula, where 500 years before Columbus a group of marauders had already settled. Just a mile away, this UNESCO site is Norstead, a replica Viking trade port harkening back to 790–1066 AD. Besides replica to-scale boats, there’s a chieftain’s hall, church and a workshop, with costumed interpreters. If boats float your boat, take a freshwater fjord tour at Rocky Harbour in Gros Morne National Park. And history comes in other well-preserved packages at Mistaken Point, where there are lots of fossils and ancient rocks waiting.


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