“Are you nuts?” asked my husband when I proposed that we spend one of our coveted weeks of summer vacation on a Canadian RV trip with the kids. This was a trip I had been wanting to make since the kids were small. Then thoughts of RV, a comedy starring Robin Williams, flashed through my mind. My husband is certainly not a camper and I was unsure myself how we would all fare on this trip with the kids now being 14, 12 and nine. The teen years are proving to add a different dynamic to travel, but despite my reservations, I responded to my husband with an affirmative: “I may be a little crazy, but think this kind of trip is just what the family needs!” I started planning and educating myself on what this type of vacation would entail. It would be entirely different than our usual, 5-star, resort type holidays. And the destination was a no brainer. I am from Nova Scotia and it had been years since we had taken the kids. I felt it was time for them to explore a bit of my East Coast heritage. An RV also provided the perfect solution for visiting family who might not have the room or the stamina for my family of five descending on them. Hotels would have been complicated as most of my family lives in rural areas. The next step was planning the logistics and selecting an RV provider. I did a bit of research and Cruise Canada (an affiliate of Cruise America) seemed to be the logical choice with their extensive network of vehicles and convenient locations. I wanted to ensure we made the most of our time since we only had a week and they offered the flexibility of different pick-up and drop-off locations. The plan was to pick up in Halifax, travel around Nova Scotia and then drive back to Toronto with a few interesting stops along the way. Here are a few highlights, as well as things to know if you are thinking of embarking on this type of trip:
Arrived at the Halifax airport and were taken to Cruise Canada. There we picked up our
30-foot, motorhome that sleeps seven. After a thorough orientation of the vehicle (how to work the appliances, find the power source and, most importantly, how to dump waste from the vehicle), a half hour later, we were on our way. “Is that all? Are we ready to drive this thing?” I thought to myself. The vehicle turned out to be reasonably easy to drive. We headed about an hour northwest to Stellarton, where my brother lives. Our first sleep in the RV was surprisingly comfortable.
Headed to Cape Breton. Our first stop was the Fortress of Louisbourg (35 kilometres south of Sydney). We arrived in plenty of time to participate in a couple of the hands-on re-enactment experiences that are available. Whichever activities you choose, you will feel like you have mastered time travel as you rub shoulders with authentic residents of the village— complete with the period costumes and the stories to tell! My 14-year old son, along with my sister-in-law, were somewhat willing participants in the Prisoner of the Day experience, where they were jailed, paraded through town amid much heckling and shamed on the way to the iron collar. We all enjoyed a good laugh at their expense. My brother and I were the lucky candidates for the Fire a Musket experience, which surprisingly (I am not into firearms in the least) was quite the thrill. After a great day spent at the fortress, we headed 20 kilometres east to Mira River Provincial Park. I had booked a scenic spot right on the lake where we enjoyed a campfire before bed.
Travelled north to get onto the Cabot Trail at Baddeck. I was a little nervous about manoeuvering the RV on the windy roads, but we were blessed with great weather and very little traffic, which made driving easy. We stopped several times throughout the day for photo ops, to peruse the quaint shops and to take in the local life of the residents. Lunch was at The Coastal Restaurant & Pub, which is known for its burgers and barbecue sauce. Since it was featured on the Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here, it can be busy, so it’s a good idea to book ahead.
We departed our camp in Chéticamp for a 9 a.m. whale watching tour with Seaside Whale & Nature Cruises, conveniently located just a few minutes down the road. Unfortunately, we did not have the luck of spotting any whales close up, but from what I have read, our experience was not the norm. Regardless, our guide was very knowledgeable about the wildlife in the area, and entertaining during the two hours spent on the water. Chéticamp is a quaint and picturesque town along the water that made for the perfect lunch stop before we headed back to the mainland. The Acadian influence is evident in this town with flags flying proudly everywhere.
We bid farewell to my brother and his family yesterday. My nephew had decided that staying in the RV was decidedly more interesting than in the tent with his parents and we were thrilled with his choice.My kids don’t get a lot of time to spend with their cousin, so they had a great couple of days. We parked in my cousins’ driveway for two nights and had a lot to fit in while we were there in Summerville, a small community on the south shore, just outside of Windsor. Home to one of the highest tides in the world, this is a town where I spent many a summer with extended family and I wanted my kids to take in as much as they could while we were here.
We were up early this morning as the kids learned how to make donuts with my cousin from my grandmother’s famous recipe. A day trip to Domaine de Grand Pré winery in the Annapolis Valley was an indulgence for the parents, but the kids enjoyed our lunch at the winery’s restaurant, Le Caveau, situated in a beautiful courtyard overlooking the vineyards. I bought a couple of bottles of wine in the adjacent store along with a jar of bacon jam, which was a real treat. The day ended with a family barbecue, where we reacquainted the kids with cousins and aunts and uncles.
We departed Summerville early this morning as we were determined to make it to Québec City by dinner. We checked into Camping Transit park in Lévis, about 10 minutes from the ferries that depart regularly into Old Québec. It was a lot of driving, but we made it. I was struck again with how beautiful this city is and our kids were impressed that a place so European is so close to home. We spent a couple of hours enjoying a stroll through the cobblestone streets, eating delicious pastries, before catching the ferry back to our site.
We arrived in Perth, Ontario to spend two nights with my brother and his girlfriend at the campsite they frequent. Again, our RV provided the most convenient way to visit, sharing meals and campfires, but having our own sleeping arrangements. At home, with the RV parked for a night in my own
driveway (my daughter planned to take advantage of the extra day and have a camping sleepover with a friend), I reflected on our road trip. My one regret is that I didn’t make this style of vacation part of our travel routine when the kids were younger. It’s definitely an experience that lasting memories are made from. And as for our next adventure? Who knows. But my husband inquired about how
much an RV cost to purchase, so maybe we made him into a camper, after all.
Tips for a great RV adventure:
Attention kids and parents: Leave the cellphones at home or at least limit the usage on the trip to scale back to a more simplistic way of life. Bring along board games that can easily occupy the kids while on the road, since the setup of the RV is perfectly conducive to this, with a table and bench seats (equipped with seatbelts).
Book early: The Cabot Trail can be a busy place in the summer and the national parks have limited spots that can accommodate RVs and motorhomes.
Book a provision kit. For a small fee, all of the kitchen utensils and pots that you could need are provided to you. A personal resource kit can also be booked, which gives you all of the bedding and towels needed for each traveller.
Plan enough time in to enjoy the actual parks/campsites you visit.
Ask if your RV provider allows a drop-off in a different location than pick-up, as it can be worth it to avoid backtracking or unnecessary driving time.
Be sure to book a drive-through campsite when making reservations. Some parks can be difficult to navigate, if you need to back in or out.