Tips for Planning a FAMILY Trip to Cape Breton

Normally, our summers are packed with organized sports and a family trip to Prince Edward Island with our family from Ontario, but this year (with Covid 19 restrictions in place), we decided to plan some "staycations" closer to home. One of our recent adventures included a wonderful 4 day trip to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Today, I sharing some highlights from our Cabot Trail vacation, and some tips that you can use when planning your own trip.

First, let me share our four day itinerary...

Day 1 - We started our Cape Breton adventure by driving from our home in Antigonish. We made a short stop in Baddeck to check out the Red Barn and the waterfront. We didn't have time to tour the Alexander Graham Bell Museum (which I hear is great), but we did find a statue of him and his wife on the waterfront.

Baddeck, NS

Red Barn, Baddeck, NS
Alexander Graham Bell Statue, Baddeck, NS

Then, we started our Cabot Trail adventure and we made our way to Ingonish, enjoying the beautiful scenery as we drove. In Ingonish, we enjoyed: beautiful Ingonish beach, Salty Rose's and the Periwinkle Cafe, the Groovy Goat Farm (where the kids were able to pet goats and I was able to buy some wonderful goat milk soap), the Bean Barn Cafe (which I would highly recommend for good food at a good price for families), a safe beach for swimming (down the Wharf Road... just past the Groovy Goat), and a quick round of golf at Highland links (6 at 6 special). We spent the night at Skyline Cabins, and we hit the road again the next morning.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, NS
Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, NS

Ingonish Beach, Cape Breton, NS
Salty Rose's and the Periwinkle Cafe, Ingonish, Cape Breton, NS
Groovy Goat Farm and Soap Company, Ingonish, Cape Breton, NS
Bean Barn Cafe, Ingonish, Cape Breton, NS
Beach (near the Groovy Goat), Ingonish, Cape Breton, NS
Highland Links golf course, Ingonish, Cape Breton, NS
SkyLine Cabins, Ingonish, Cape Breton, NS

Day 2 - On Day 2, we continued our drive around the Cabot Trail. We saw some great scenery along the way, stopped at Black Brook beach, and enjoyed a bowl of chowder in Meat Cove. Then, we stopped in Cheticamp to do the Skyline Trail (but it was too foggy so we opted to save the hike for another trip), we went for a swim at Gypsum Mines (a highlight for my boys), and hiked down to Egypt Falls (which was a really tough, steep hike... but totally gorgeous!). We made our way to Inverness, and stayed overnight at the Glenorra Distillery (which has a fantastic restaurant with live music).

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, 
Black Brook Beach, Cape Breton, NS
Meat Cove, Cape Breton, NS
Meat Cove Chowder Hut, Cape Breton, NS
Gypsum Mines, Cheticamp, Cape Breton, NS

Gypsum Mines, Cheticamp, Cape Breton, NS
Egypt Falls, Cape Breton, NS
Glenora Distillery, Inverness, Cape Breton, NS

Day 3 - We spent the day exploring the beautiful town of Inverness. We collected sea glass at Inverness Beach, went to see the horse races (which the kids loved), and visited Chimney Corner beach.
Inverness Beach, Cape Breton, NS
Sea glass collected at Inverness Beach, Cape Breton, NS
Inverness Race Track, Cape Breton, NS
A "win" at Inverness Race Track, Cape Breton, NS
Chimney Corner Beach, Cape Breton, NS
Chimney Corner Beach, Cape Breton, NS

Day 4 - It was time to head home, but we made a few stops along the way. We checked out, West Mabou beach, flew a kite at the beach in Port Hood, and stopped at Snow Queen Leisure World in Antigonish (for ice cream, mini golf, and a ride on the go carts).

West Mabou Beach, Cape Breton, NS
Port Hood Beach, Cape Breton, NS
Snow Queen Leisure World, Antigonish, NS

We had a fantastic vacation, and I would highly recommend a family trip to the beautiful island of Cape Breton. If you decide to take a similar road trip, here are some tips you might find helpful:

  • Have a plan. For our trip, we researched popular attractions, mapped out where we wanted to go and what we hoped to do (including travel time), and booked our accommodations. We weren’t afraid to deviate from our plan, but the framework we created kept us focussed and organized.
  • Make sure everyone is comfortable, hydrated, and well fed. We love stopping at popular local eateries, but we always have water bottles, snacks, and a well stocked cooler in our van. Healthy snacks and supplies to make sandwiches “on the go” are always accessible. 
  • Have entertainment for the passengers. Even beautiful scenery, like the Cabot Trail, only holds kids’ attention for short periods of time. Movies, music, podcasts, road trip scavenger hunts, and e-books/regular books are great options for passing the time. 
  • Stop often. Kids are not designed to spend endless hours trapped in a vehicle, so if the kids need a break, or you see something interesting on the side of the road, stop. The stops along the way really are what make a family road trip fun and memorable. 

Have you taken any fun road trips this year? Where did you go? I can't wait for our next one!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

5 Ways to Up-cycle and Re-purpose Toys

Is it just me, or do you also have a mountain of toys taking up space in your home? Ideally, toys should be purged / sold when they are no longer used, but up-cycling and repurposing old toys is another fantastic option. Today, I'm sharing a few of my favourite ways up-cycle and re-purpose old toys.

1) Create custom art supplies - Every parent has a bin of old, broken crayons... and it is super-easy to transform useless crayon bits into adorable custom crayons in fun shapes. Simply:

  • Peel the paper off the crayons.
  • Break up the crayons and put them in a silicon muffin tin or candy tray.
  • Melt the crayons in the oven at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes. (Make sure you place the silicon tray on a regular cookie sheet so that you can easily remove the melted crayons from the oven.)
  • When all the crayons have turned to liquid, carefully remove the tray from the oven, and let the crayons cool completely.
  • Pop the crayons out of the tray.

These crayons make cute party favours, and you can make fun holiday versions too.

2) Make unique picture frames - Start with a dollar store wooden frame, and use hot glue to attach old toys. I used old LEGO pieces to create a fun piece of decor for my son's room, but any small toys would work. I think it would be adorable to use old toy cars or old scrabble pieces.

3) Create toy covered monograms - Big wooden letters are easy to find in craft stores, and they make adorable pieces of room decor when they are covered with old toys and craft supplies. Consider using a glue gun to cover a monogram with old crayons, pom poms, toy cars, bouncy balls, etc... It's a simple and fun idea.

4) Transform old sports equipment into room decor - Kids often have tons of old sports equipment gathering dust, and some of it has sentimental value. I turned my boys' first hockey sticks into room decor by attaching wooden letters. You can find the full tutorial here

5) Re-purpose old books - When you spend hours reading the sames books nightly to your kids, it is easy to form sentimental attachments to the stories. I love the idea of using old books to create artwork for a child's room or playroom using inexpensive frames. Book artwork is perfect for a reading nook too!

There are many simple ways to up-cycle and re-purpose old toys. Do you have any ideas that I could use? I'm always looking for DIY inspiration!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

5 Tips for Planning a Covid-friendly Birthday Party

Like everything else during a pandemic, birthday celebrations are a little different than what we are used to. I have two July birthdays in my house, so I had to get a little creative with my party planning this year. Today, I am sharing my 5 best tips for planning for a Covid-friendly birthday party.

1) Adhere to public health protocols and gathering limits. Depending on where you are located, there are likely restrictions on the sizes of gatherings in your area. You are going to want to keep gatherings small, and if celebrating with friends isn't an option, planning a fun celebration at home is the way to go.

For my son's 13th birthday, I let him make a list of all the things he wanted to do. It was just family, but it was a lot of fun.

2) Consider hosting the party outside where social distancing is easier. For example, a mini putt golf course is a great option. I hosted my son's 11th birthday at a mini golf course, and it was great. They sanitized all the kid's hands before going onto the course, and the balls and clubs are sanitized between uses.

3) Be caution when choosing the food you will serve. You are going to want to make sure that guests don't share food. Individually packaged food items are ideal. Cupcakes are also great because guests can grab there own... and there is no germ transfer when the birthday boy/girl blows out the candles. Bringing hand sanitizer for the guests is a great idea too.

4) Use individual drink bottles for loot bags. For my son's party, I personalized water bottles for all the guests. It helped prevent "sharing" and the spread of germs, and the party guests had a fun "loot bag" to take home. #WinWin

5) Add an extra element of fun with a prize punch. A prize punch is a simple DIY project that kids will love. Prize punches are a staple at all our parties, and you can find the full DIY instructions here.

Our Covid-friendly party wasn't like the large celebrations we are used to, but it was a still a lot of fun. Fingers crossed we won't have to worry about viruses next year!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

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