The salty smell in the air. Waves crashing on the shore. Seagulls.
But the Maritimes are also about long drives. With family scattered throughout Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, a 5-hour drive is no biggie for us. Which is why it came as a bit of a surprise to remember this weekend that we could go down the Valley (the Annapolis Valley, that is) to visit family and then just take the Princess of Acadia ferry home to Saint John from Digby.
We had our doubts: the price tag is steep (just under $200 for 2 adults, one toddler, and our car), and the timing of the crossings are a bit off for our toddler’s schedule – she typically is in bed at 7, which is when the ferry arrives in Saint John – but the pull of the ocean was too much, and we booked our trip.
Here are the 5 best things we discovered about travelling on the Princess of Acadia ferry with a toddler.
1. The “Little Mate’s Quarters”
We’ve been on the boat before, but never during the summertime. Our best discovery? In the summer there’s a babysitting service (I didn’t take a shot of the inside, but you can see the area on the left side of the picture above) opens up. It’s situated in a section of the restaurant area, and the staff were fantastic. We got about a half-hour to wander about the ship child-free! The kids can stay there for the whole trip if they’re a bit older, but at 2 years, that’s Amelia’s limit for hanging out with strangers.
2. The smell and sight of the ocean… is better with Starbucks.
Once you’ve settled your kids into the Little Mates Quarters, grab a Starbucks coffee (Because, let’s face it, you have a toddler. I know you need a coffee.) in the cafe and keep an eye out for whales and porpoises in the ocean.
Oh – and bring a jacket. It’s always cold on the ocean!
3. Learn about whales (with or without your kids)
The New Brunswick Museum holds three talks during the voyage. We caught the first half of one about whales, but the short toddler attention span got us again and we had to move on before it was done. What we heard was interesting, and the presenter had things like baleen to pass around, so it’s engaging for the kids too.
4. You can make reservations online
Whether you’re walking on or taking your car, it’s a good idea to make reservations online ahead of time. After all, if you’re showing up with a toddler you don’t want to risk not being able to get on the boat! If you’re walking on, you can also “check” luggage that you don’t want to cart around for the 3-hour crossing.
5. The arcade