My daughter and I just finished a wonderful 10-day trip to Nova Scotia. When I was a kid we used to go to the Maritimes every summer. Truthfully, it was a bit boring for me – travelling without siblings and holing up in a massive old house without electricity or plumbing. I did manage to create some good memories and I wanted Eve to have the same lovely experiences I did. We didn’t exactly recreate the vacations of my youth, but it was pretty similar: lots of lobster, sussing out authentic fishing villages and playing in the waves.
Our trip was about kicking back, exploring a very different part of the country and trying new things. I’m now a huge fan of fried clams (but I’d take a pass on clam strips), Eve doesn’t mind boats so much and we’re both keen to find out if her paternal grandfather entered Canada through Pier 21 in Halifax (Canada’s Ellis Island). Here’s a few pictures from our trip in case you’d like to see.
The very best way to get your bearings is by taking a tour. Sounds cheesy, I know, but doesn’t have to be. We hoped into a motorcycle sidecar with Bluenose Sidecar Tours and zipped around the Lighthouse Route on the Southern Shore. I’m sure you can imagine how thrilling it was for a 10-year to be (sort of) riding a motorcycle. You couldn’t wipe the grin off her face!
Tidal bore rafting was hands down, one of the highlights for Eve. We went rafting with River Runners to ride the eddies produced in the Bay of Fundy when the tide comes in. I’ve been whitewater rafting on some serious rivers before, but this took the cake.
If you can’t handle cuteness, do not stay at White Point Beach Resort. Hundreds of bunnies frolic freely around the property and the hotel even offers bags of bunny food, so you can get up close and personal.
Yep, that’s a real cannon they fire at Halifax Citadel, a National Historic Site. I thought this would be a major snoozer, but so wasn’t. Eve took part in A Solider’s Life – a 90-minute program Parks Canada puts on. After suiting up in a uniform, she learned foot drills, sent a coded flag message and was basically was far more disciplined than I could ever make her be. Well worth it if you’re visiting Halifax.
Sometimes you just need to kick back and hit the beach, which we did at Blomidon Provincial Park. After getting our feet mucky from the sand, we washed them off in the waterfalls cascading down the dramatic red sandstone cliffs. How cool is that?
Lunenburg, is one of those postcard-pretty towns that tourists love to flock to and for good reason. Home of the Bluenose and one of the oldest German settlements in Canada, you can easily while away several days here. I fantasized about moving here…
Do you have a favourite vacation spot from when you were a child? Would you take your children back there?
Summer is all about getting back to nature. After our lazy camping experience, I was keen to keep the momemtum going and decided to take kiddo on a quick hike in Banff National Park. Lake Agnes Tea House is an easy day hike for families and best is that the trail starts from Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. You know, in case of inclement weather and one needs to bail, sneak inside and order that infamous afternoon tea…
Hiking to Canada’s oldest tea house
The trail begins from the paved pathway that winds its along Lake Louise. It’s well signed and the trail itself is wide and smooth enough for strollers. With lots of room to spread out, kids can walk four-abreast, jump off roots and rocks and adults can walk and talk at the same time.
With the scent of evergreens wafting in the air, you’ll meander past towering spruce trees, wild strawberry plants and tons of wildflowers. I’m no pro, but I spotted Indian paintbrushes and yellow arnica. (But not in the picture below, I have no idea what those are:)
Our day was overcast with the occasional drizzle, which was awesome because the trail goes straight up, up, up for 3.4 km. You’ll hike to an elevation of 7000 feet, gaining 1205 feet during the hour-long trek.
Once you get to Mirror Lake, you’re almost there! Majestic Beehive Mountain shoots up directly behind this lake and you’ll want to stop for a photo opp. Expect to hike another 10-15 more minutes from Mirror Lake before reaching the tea house. It took us 45 minutes from trailhead to finish, with no stopping. (Trust me, I wanted there to be stopping!)
This cute wooden log house is the oldest teahouse in Canada! Lake Agnes Tea House was originally built in 1905 by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It’s rustic, but in the charming, not dust mite sense of the word. There’s no electricity and fresh supplies come in daily from Calgary, before being hiked up by staff. If that doesn’t guilt you into tipping 20%, I don’t know what does…
Dotted with wooden tables and chairs, expect you might share a table with strangers, as space is limited. This makes for a jovial atmosphere, which is helpful as there are plenty of line ups if you arrive around lunchtime. Families with young children ought to pack in some tasty provisions to avoid disappointment, and we all now know how irate folks can get when cranky kids dine out, don’t we?
The menu is cash only, but it’s so worth it, you’ll want to pack plenty of bills. From-scratch baked goods include: cookies, banana bread, tea biscuits with jam, granola bars, and my favourite, a mound of apple crisp. Daily soup and sandwiches are thick and filling. Warm up with a pot of tea, organic coffee, chai latte or hot chocolate with marshmallows.
Lake Agnes doesn’t have that brilliant turquoise hue Lake Louise sports, but it’s pretty nevertheless. After fuelling up, stroll around the lake and see if you can’t find five things to be grateful for. For me it was a hike with no whinging (I was on my best behaviour), meadows filled with all-colours-of-the-rainbow wildflowers, turquoise lakes, a steaming mug of tea, the privilege of living so close to Banff National Park and hot, buttery apple crisp. OK, that’s six things, but trust me, I could rattle off more. Having a happy hike with kids will do that to you.
What are your favourite hikes in Banff National Park?
Happy Friday! Eve and I are wrapping up our trip to Halifax today and are off to explore smaller towns and seaside resorts in Nova Scotia. Travelling with kids always surprises me. Who would’ve guessed she’d order scallops and mussels over a burger or want to ditch the pool in favour of investigating Pier 21, the point of entry for the majority of immigrants to Canada? Getting over a three-hour time difference, however, is another story….
Hope you have a wonderful weekend and enjoy reading these links as much as I did.
Which 80s movie girl are you? (I’m Pretty in Pink)
I can’t believe I’d never heard of the Best Actress Oscar curse before.
The only 7 things you can control in life.
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Parents who watched the Pixar film with their kids ought to read The Science of ‘Inside Out.’
No bloating here. The best non-dairy frozen desserts.
I’ll come right out and admit it: I’m a lazy camper. I didn’t used to be, but well, age and young children will do that to you. I still have the gear, but finding it is another story. Fortunately Parks Canada offers several options for slackers like me to get back to nature. Recently, kiddo and I tried out the new equipped campsites in Banff National Park. Here’s a look at our escapade.
Camp day arrived grey and rainy. We rolled up to the site at Two Jack Main Campground, hurled our sleeping bags into the tent and took off. Seriously, who wants to hang outside in the rain? All of the 22 equipped camp sites in Banff come with a MEC six-person tent, picnic table, fire pit and wood. Once you’re settled in, a Parks employee will come around and hand you more gear. You’ll get a camp stove, propane tank and lantern, plus info on hiking and biking trails in the vicinity and a deck of playing cards. All you need to bring is your sleeping gear, food, water and cooking utensils. Oh, and a tarp would be useful if it rains, though they do have shelters you can use nearby.
When all that’s required of you is rolling up, unloading your bedding and lighting a match, camping seems perfectly easy. And it was. Once it stopped raining.
After peeling out of the campsite we hit up the Cave and Basin, a National Historic Site. Surprisingly, Eve was really into exploring the pathways, reading about the infamous Banff Springs snail and sussing out sulfur-smelling springs. We had just enough time to wander around before the rain stopped, so back to our campsite we went.
Playing with fire
Before we took off, Eve decided to salvage a few pieces of wood from our pile. Little did I know, she was tromping through our tent with her shoes on, but she knew enough to grab the firewood wedged in the middle of our pile, something I didn’t think to do. And yes, we were able to churn out a roaring fire. I can’t lie, I brought along four of those fire starting logs to aid our endeavor, but only used one. (Hey, it had been chucking rain for hours!) If we really got stuck, we could’ve moseyed over to the Learn-to-Camp session Parks offers on a daily basis. But we had already made our fire and know how to make s’mores, so we gave it a miss.
Dinner was a gourmet affair of hot dogs, chips and roasted marshmallows. The smell of wood smoke, the squeal of children playing hide and seek in the forest, and the rustling of leaves as the wind rushed through the trees all brought back memories of camping as a child. Why don’t we do this more often, I wondered?
I think it’s the hassle factor. Finding your gear, the packing and unpacking, the prep work – it can be a lot. But when you’re bedding down at an already equipped site, you still get the traditional camping experience, but all the annoyances are taken out of the equation for you.
There’s certainly been a trend to make camping easier and not just for lazy moms like me. Young families are on the hunt for stress-free camping experiences, there’s college-age kids who don’t have the gear and boomers, who are less interested in backcountry experiences and crave simple, easier access.
“There’s many who might not have the gear or the know-how,” admits Eric Baron, Product Development Officer for Banff National Park. “That’s why Parks Canada is offering a low-risk, low barrier entry to try camping out.”
And for this I applaud them. Eve and I had a lovely camping experience and learned more about ourselves in the process. Who would expect their 10-year-old to be so fire savvy? Playing card games and chatting by the fire, just us gals without any other distractions is something that hasn’t happened in a very long time. I wanted to share the outdoors with her and make memories that were positive and in nature, but I didn’t know how. Now I do.
Good to Know
- Equipped campsites are available from the end of June until Sept 8, 2015
- There are 22 equipped campsites available in Banff National Park. Occupancy rates vary, so be sure to book in advance.
- Equipped campsites are $55/night and include your camping permit and gear (excluding sleeping bags and cooking utensils).
- You’ll still need a Park Pass to gain entry to the National Park and there’s an $8.80 daily fire permit you’ll have to purchase (at the campground entrance) if you want to make a fire.
- Besides Banff, equipped campsites (and oTENTiks) are offered at several National Park campsites across Canada. Find your best option here.
Thank you to Parks Canada for making my stay possible. As always, my opinions are my own.
This was my last regular week of summer, folks. I suppose in summer, most weeks aren’t typical, but I’m going to be living out of a suitcase until the last week of August. Part of me is excited (finally! I’m back to my nomadic self!) the other part of me is freaking about the logisticals of being home for only 3 days between three separate trips. I know it’ll all work itself out and I’m looking forward to the adventure. I may slack off a bit, but I I’ll try my best to provide weekly updates of our travels. Hope you have a great weekend and enjoy these links as much as I have.
Links I Love
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Before they were stars modelling edition.
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