We had gone out to watch puffins by twilight, but impulse drove us into a crowd gathered near the Cape Bonavista lighthouse in Newfoundland. "Oh, why not?" asked my husband, David, slipping into line with nearly 100 other cars on a warm June evening. As we queued into the happy cacophony of balloons and beeping horns, clapping came from the back of our van. "This is the coolest day ever," marvelled our daughter, Madeleine, 4.
With the sun sinking over an alley of icebergs, the motorcade journeyed past saltbox houses, colourful clotheslines and babes in strollers, to a joyful celebration on Legacy Wharf. This was Discovery Days, Bonavista's annual salute to history. Who would have thought our family of five would drive 2,500 kilometres through Canada's easternmost province and end up in a parade, celebrating 510 years since Giovanni Caboto landed? It was exactly the unscripted experience we were looking for when we signed on with CapeRace Cultural Adventures, a company that gives you a car, a key that fits the locks of three restored coastal homes and sets you off exploring the Avalon and Bonavista peninsulas.
Beautiful places to stay
The mystique of staying in different Newfoundland homes appealed to me as much as the chance to cut costs by driving from our Nova Scotia home and easily transporting the necessary paraphernalia for our three young daughters, then ages four, two, and nine months. We began the circuit at chic Hipditch House in St. John's Battery neighbourhood, where we were wowed by its big harbour views, and moved on to a delightful 1930s outport house in Heart's Delight, before we bedded down at our last stop, a 19th-century fisherman’s home in Bonavista.
Page 1 of 2While each three-bedroom home had modern amenities and luxe duvets, they offered completely different experiences. The old-fashioned wood stove in the kitchen at Heart's Delight conjured up images of the one that once dried mittens at my grandparents' place. Hipditch could have been ripped out of the pages of a glossy decor magazine.
'The magic of Newfoundland'
By day we glimpsed the magic of Newfoundland. The peninsulas protruded into once-rich fishing zones, passing communities steeped in history. At night we had barbecues, did our laundry and, in Bonavista, counted icebergs from the windows. "Don't worry, Courtenay," I overheard my eldest daughter, Madeleine, tell her middle sister one day when we were driving to one of the coastal homes. "When we get to our house on the water, we can sit outside and see boats go past, icebergs, mother whales having their babies, fish moms and magic mermaids breathing. It's our house now. We'll live here forever." If only we could.
If you go
Visit www.caperace.com to check out the adventures that are available.
For information on Newfoundland, visit www.newfoundlandlabrador.com.
More road trips
• The Horseshoes and Dinosaurs Tour is a five-day car trek for families through Saskatchewan. You'll visit Cypress Hills (the highest point between Labrador and the Rocky Mountains), Grasslands National Park and Frenchman River Valley, home to The T.rex Discovery Centre. www.sasktourism.com
• The Prospectors and Polar Bears summer drive is an 880-kilometre route in northern Ontario. You can go on an underground gold mine tour, and your kids can swim with polar bears at Polar Bear Habitat and Heritage Village. www.ontariotravel.net
• For a taste of Quebec, begin your journey with the Montreal International Jazz Festival, then drive to Quebec City and join in the 400th-anniversary celebrations. Wrap it up across the St. Lawrence River, enjoying the charm of the Eastern Townships region. www.bonjourquebec.com
by Kim Fisher
Children and travel: How to travel with kids without going crazy
Cross-Canada travel guides
Page 2 of 2