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Best of Western Europe With Kids

Little Man, Miss M and I recently returned from the trip of their lifetime. I say “their” lifetime because my trip of a lifetime happened over a decade ago and was to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Theirs? We went after the best of Western Europe. Lisbon. Barcelona. Marseille. Cannes. Milan. Paris. Planes, trains and buses all over that part of Europe. The kids are still young, so I know that their travels aren’t over yet, but I’d have to say that this trip was so far one of their most impactful.

family selfie in front of the Duomo on our best of western europe itinerary

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I had made the parenting error of telling my daughter that for her tenth birthday, I would take her anywhere she wanted to go. Expecting the answer of Harry Potter World in Universal Studios or Newfoundland to visit family, I was confident in my words and let her think about a response.

It was to just be a mother/daughter trip to mark Miss M’s celebratory 10th birthday. Ten years that amazing little human has circled around the sun. Ten years since my life changed forever and for the better. As we got closer to the trip date, I realized I couldn’t leave Little Man behind for almost three weeks with his Dad. Not that his dad wouldn’t love him and keep him fed and alive! The bond between brother and sister is strong and neither of them could have survived that long without the other. So I changed all our plans and reservations to bring him along. Brave Mom?

mother and daughter selfie in the town of sintra, portugal on our best of western europe vacation.

THE POSTCARD THAT INSPIRED OUR

BEST OF WESTERN EUROPE VACATION

It all started with this postcard of Cannes in the French Riviera. One day it came home with my son from his Montessori daycare when he was maybe just 3 years old. It got forgotten in the backseat of the car. From there, it fell under the passenger seat, it got shoved into storage compartments, but continually kept resurfacing in my daughter’s hands. Cannes.

The postcard of Cannes that started it all.

When Miss M announced that Cannes was to be her desired destination for her tenth birthday, I laughed and asked if she was serious. Yes, she most certainly was. I asked if she knew where France was and if she realized that this wasn’t just a weekend road trip. She did. It proved above all that she was definitely my daughter, that was a move I would have made with my parents.

My parents never would have obliged me though. Not because they didn’t want too, I can promise you that my Mom definitely would have if she could have. It wasn’t in their capabilities back then between their work and financial commitments. Me? Well, I thrive in the gig economy and have the ability to take 3 weeks off here and there. In fact, I can take a laptop and work anywhere I want. What a difference 30 years in the world of technology makes!

Red eye flight with the kids to lisbon, portugal from toronto

I COULD NOT GO BACK ON MY WORD

I made the decision that I would take my daughter to Cannes to appease her. What kind of a parent would I be if I went back on my words? She caught me in my literally phrase – “anywhere she wanted to go”.  For the record, I did offer up less extravagant and more local options, but she wasn’t having any of it. It took nine months of saving the money and planning the trip. I changed dates numerous times based on work planning and projections, then settled on April. April is traditionally a lull in my work schedule and as it turned out, a much more economical time to go over the summer when Miss M’s actual birthday is.

the kids at a playground in lisbon, portugal by our guesthouse

BUILDING OUT OUR WESTERN EUROPE ITINERARY

Cannes was the ultimate destination of course, but I couldn’t just travel to France and only see Cannes. Not to be selfish or anything, but if I’m traveling over to France, I’m going to see and experience a few things along the way, not just visit one town for a couple days. My daughter and I sat down and decided we would start in the western part of Europe and work our way there. We put together an itinerary that saw us flying to Lisbon in Portugal, getting used to the time change there and acclimatizing to Western Europe before moving on. Little did I realize at that planning stage what an incredible family friendly destination Lisbon is and how much my kids would love the food and roaming the streets with no agenda in mind.

Boy meets canon and finds best view of Lisbon ever!

We took three full days to create our own itinerary of what we felt like doing. We arrived on Thursday, jet-lagged from our red eye flight across the ocean and bone tired. I almost caved and let the kids eat McDonalds. Almost.

On Friday, we walked from our guesthouse to the marionette museum and then to Sao Jorge Castle and took in the surrounding area. Saturday, we toured the Belem District and ate the pastel de nata. We had to see what the hype was all about!

Sunday, we traveled to Sintra, Pena Palace, Cabo da Roca (the most western tip on continental Europe) and Cascais. On Monday before our flight to Barcelona, we walked the local neighbourhood and looked for interested things we had missed before. We purposely ate at any restaurant that did not have English words or phrases in the window. Because of that, we had the best meals and it’s Little Man’s favourite place that he still talks about.

Pena palace in the clouds, Sintra Portugal.

Where did we stay in Lisbon?

We stayed at City Lofts Lisbon Guesthouse. It’s located in the Barrio Alto neighbourhood and walkable to pretty much everything except the Belem District. We took the Aerobus from the airport when we arrived in Lisbon down to the Metro Cais do Sodre. Then the kids and I walked to our accommodations from there and then back when it was time to leave. We arrived about noon, which is before check in. The amazing staff held our bags for us and sent us to the best restaurant that the kids demanded we revisit and order the same thing.

We had a triple room at City Lofts Lisbon Guesthouse with what I believe to be the only private bathroom in the premises. The kids and I really enjoyed the spacious room. It was perfect for us, as there was a doorway separating the bedrooms (one had two single beds, one had just one single bed), I was able to have some free time when they went to sleep at night. Continental breakfast was served in a central area and was pretty basic but served our needs quite well. I had my morning coffee so I was happy.

My discovery during the course of our trip? Lisbon was by far the best value for our dollar. I’m afraid if the businesses in Portugal find out, it won’t be a secret anymore.

kids sleeping in at City Lofts Guesthouse, Lisbon

FROM PORTUGAL TO SPAIN

We choose Barcelona as our second destination. We realized how easy it would be to travel there by air from Lisbon and then how easily we could take the train from there into France. My rationale for choosing Barcelona was also because of the food and architecture scene that I had read so much about. I was not going to be disappointed. The food – divine! The gothic quarter? Wow!

walking through the gothic quarter in barcelona, spain

When we arrived in Barcelona, it was already evening. We located the Aerobus, took it to Plaça de Catalunya – which is the central area where all buses stop in Barcelona. Our hotel was a whole kilometre south on La Rambla so we walked straight there. It was dark outside, and we wanted dinner. We checked in, dropped our bags and then went on the hunt for food. I choose a restaurant just down the street from out hotel that was famous for it’s tapas. I enjoyed the meal immensely. The kids? Not so much. I had to switch gears for the next few meals.

kids eating tapas in barcelona, spain

We had read in advance of this trip that La Rambla was pick pocket central and to guard ourselves accordingly. I developed many tips and tricks with the kids to safe guard our cash and documents while traveling. I consider ourselves very lucky that we made it through the whole trip without losing anything.

exterior of The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família. Taken from the top of a bus, this is a large unfinished Roman Catholic church in Barcelona.

Here, the kids and I decided to purchase a two day open bus tour so we could hop on and off wherever we wanted. Barcelona seemed really big to us compared to Lisbon and we weren’t sure we could walk it and explore as much on foot. Sadly we got derailed by rain everyday except our last day when we were departing for France, but we still tried to make the best of it! During the rain we did not hop off the bus much so our destinations ended up being a couple places near to the bus stops.

from the roof top of the Palau Güell mansion in Barcelona, Spain

We did devote a whole afternoon to the Barcelona zoo (my kid’s pick, definitely not mine). I got a whole morning at Palau Güell, which was a 5 minute walk from our hotel and we spent more time and money than I care to mention in the Lindt Chocolate store. Aside from that, we only saw the outside of Sagrada Família, Camp Nou (the home stadium of FC Barcelona) and Casa Mila.

extremely happy kids having a great day at the Barcelona Zoo. Even though it rained, I had to make them happy somehow.

Where did we stay in Barcelona?

We stayed at Cuatro Naciones. Once upon a time, it was clearly a very luxurious, turn of the century hotel. Miss M and Little Man loved racing each other up the stairs I don’t want to say anything bad about it, because for the price point, it’s a good value. And I have always firmly believed that you get what you pay for.

As I mentioned before, it was right on La Rambla, which is the main street for restaurants, shopping and the gateway to all things touristy in Barcelona. The location can not be beat and the staff are very friendly, helpful and accommodating.

view of La Rambla from our third floor balcony at Cuatro Nanciones in Barcelona, Spain

We had a triple room at Cuatro Naciones with a private bathroom. The room was spacious, but dated. Our balcony overlooked La Rambla and it wasn’t noisy at all. Continental breakfast was served in a central area and was again, fairly basic, but it was all we needed. There was a lounge area in the hotel that had a computer with a printer for guest use, which is great for printing out homework that got sent over from one of the kid’s teachers and train tickets.

triple room at cuatro nanciones, barcelona, spain

OUR BEST OF WESTERN EUROPE TOUR

CONTINUES INTO FRANCE

We left Barcelona on the train after three nights and headed into France. Clearly not enough time to stay in Spain, we barely got a taste, but we Cannes was calling. Our next stop was Marseille. I had chosen Marseille almost solely on the reason of where it was located. South of France. That and a train stop. I figured the kids would be tired after a week of traveling and would be looking for a place to relax for a couple days before we picked up the pace again in Cannes. Initial internet searches were not bringing up a whole lot of things to do there with kids, so I thought it would be a quiet, scenic place in the south of France to recharge after running through the action packed areas of Lisbon and Barcelona. We would watch some boats go by.

Notre Dame de la Garde from the old port area in Marseille, France

I made no plans for these couple days. I was wrong! What I found instead was an incredibly family friendly destination with more for kids to do and explore than I had allowed time for.

my children playing in a kid's playground in the old port area of Marseille, France

Where is there to see and do in Marseille?

Since we only had a day and a half in Marseille, for our full day, our first stop was a toy store where I somehow got sucked into buying by son a two headed dragon and my daughter wanted Pokemon cards. Once they we appeased with their material goods and my wallet relieved of money I could have spent elsewhere, we travelled to Notre Dame de la Gard. it’s the most visited site in Marseille and I can definitely see why. The exterior of the church is an architectural marvel. While we did not enter inside, the basilica is said to be stunning. 

The magnificent Notre Dame de la Gard in Marseille, France

From Notre Dame de la Gard, the amazing city views from the top are unlike anything you’ll find in southern France.

Beautiful Marseille from the grounds of Notre Dame de la Gard in the south of France

See that ferris wheel? After wandering into a local soap shop (Marseille is famous for it’s soap) and having the best pizza we could ever ask for at a restaurant in the Vieux Port area, the ferris wheel was our next stop. From the top, we had views of the city from another angle.

view of Marseille, France from the top of the ferris wheel in the old part area

And then we managed to fit in a visit to The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. One of the best perks for kids here? In the gift shop on the main floor is a library like set up where the kids have an opportunity to sit and read. There were a few books in English for them, but they enjoyed looking at the French books too.

And in the Vieux Port area? There are always street performers and we found a ton of entertainment.

Venetian carousel in the old port area of Marseille, France

Where did we stay in Marseille?

We stayed at Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port, Marseille. It’s a bit of a longer walk than I anticipated from the train station. I could have sworn it said one kilometre, but with the kids and it being late evening, it just felt like forever to get there. It also didn’t help that we stepped off the train in Ain en Provence, then had to run back on because I neglected to open the Maps app on my iPhone to see where we actually were.

Then, once we arrived, the staff gave us wrong room at check in. It was rectified, and I believe that is due to a language barrier. My French is awful so could not really be their fault.

my son making a fort in out 1 bedroom apartment of our accommodations in Marseille, France

We had a 1 bedroom apartment with a King size bed in the bedroom that was really comfortable and a sofa bed in the living room. The accommodations were exactly what we needed. It was a break from the past week of hotel type stays and I was able to wash our clothing as we were traveling carry on only. It was a space where my son could make a fort and that made him happy.

The location of Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port was an easy walk to the old port and there were so many great restaurants in the area to choose from. One night we ventured downtown on a recommendation for a steak dinner and took an Uber back. Marseille felt really safe and I hope to return one day.

my daughter reading in the king size bed of our accommodations in Marseille, France

THE ULTIMATE DESTINATION OF CANNES

From our couple “relaxing” days in Marseille, we took the train to Cannes. We were finally arriving at the ultimate destination in our best of Western Europe vacation! Cannes is nothing short of absolutely stunning and chalk full of historic places. Put aside the visions of the international film festival that happens there every year because there is more to the town than that. It’s Boulevard de la Croisette, curves along the coast, and is lined with sandy beaches, really upscale clothing boutiques and fancy hotels. If I had a million dollars in cash on hand, this is where I could buy a complete new wardrobe. Window shopping killed my soul because I wanted it all.

welcome to cannes, france!

We had visions of frolicking in the Bay of Cannes, we were in the south of France! It’s April and warm here, right? The beach did have a lot of people there, but guess what? The water was cold. Seriously cold. It didn’t stop my son and I from taking off our shoes and wading out there though. We were here to have the experience and we’re Canadian, which automatically gives us super powers to withstand the cold water.

my son wading in the water in the Bay of Cannes, south of France

We explored Le Suquet, which is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Cannes and dates back to Roman times. Coming from Toronto where our oldest landmarks are maybe 150 years old, it’s just incredible to imagine what took place where you were standing 500 years ago. Who passed through what door? Who walked up this street? What battles were won and lost? What was life like? Who lived in that stone house?

Le Suquet, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Cannes behind my kids in the south of France

I think it was everything my daughter was hoping for. I’m not quite sure what she expected, but it was certainly glamorous. I wouldn’t say that it was full of things for kids to do that we saw, but if I was to go back to the initial planning process of the trip, I would have planned for this town to be our “rest stop” instead of Marseille.

Glamour on the beach, wearing a Roots sweater in Cannes, France

Where did we stay in Cannes?

We stayed at the Best Western Premier Mondial. It was a bit of a splurge! The location is right up the street from the water and in the middle of all the restaurants and shopping.

view from our 5th floor room at the Best Western Premier Mondail in Cannes, France

We opted for a Deluxe room because it has a separate lounge area. Also the washroom had a giant soaker jacuzzi tub that we all loved to take advantage of. I’m going to admit that we also splurged on room service and breakfast in bed, because well… Cannes. And I jokingly sang Happy Birthday to my daughter, but she thought I was nuts and made me stop.

Kids having breakfast in bed at the Best Western Premier Mondial in Cannes, France

A SMOKEY SMELL OF ITALY IN MILAN

Of all the destinations we visited, there always has to be a sacrificial lamb in terms of the downer. Sadly, I’m awarding this badge to Milan of which I had great hopes for. I had visited Milan on my first trip to Europe when I was 19 and I remember being completely fascinated and in love with Milan. For Little Man and Miss M, as soon as stepped off the train, people were lighting cigarettes and walking through the train station smoking. To us, it was an assault on our noses and the kids were not happy about it.

The night we arrived in Milan, the news broke that Notre Dame de Paris was burning. I was heart broken. Since the kids and I had pretty much skipped past exploring every religious monument we had seen so far, I took this opportunity to allot time to see the Duomo di Milano.

Miss M and Little Man in front of the duomo in milan, italy

This cathedral turned out to be the highlight of the Milan leg of our trip. While this cathedral was technically completed in 1965, the history of that site dates all at the way back to 335! Underneath the cathedral, the ruins of the old octagonal baptistery still exist and you can visit it. Little Man and Miss M attend a Catholic school here in Toronto despite our lack of practise, so they do know a bit about Christianity. I was able to set aside the Catholicism roots and have a good history lesson and discussion with them down there and their interest in archeology was definitely piqued.

inside the cathedral of the duomo in milan, italy

And the view from the roof of the Duomo? Awesome.

view of Milan from the roof of the Duomo Cathedral in Italy

From there we visited the really mesmerizing Leonardo3 – The World of Leonardo Exhibition a couple blocks away and then we landed ourselves right in front of La Scala – an opera house that the kids had read about in the book series of Thea Stilton. It was a cool moment for them!

Unfortunately, you couldn’t take a step outside in Milan without walking into a cloud of someone’s smoke, so the kids were not enjoying their outside time very much. One positive I will give to Milan? I normally dislike public transit in any city, but found their subway system was easy to navigate.

If I could have stayed one more night in Milan to have a full day there, I definitely would have taken a day trip to Lake Como. Lake Como was also one of our stops there when I was 19. At that time, I believe George Clooney had just moved there, so the town was abuzz!

Rare photo of me alone in Milan, Italy

Where did we stay in Milan?

Our hotel in Milan is going to remain unnamed. It was the least desirable of all the places we stayed. It was a triple room with a private bathroom. The staff were so nice and accommodating and the hotel is very close to the central train and subway station. We were off the subway and into our room in less than 10 minutes! However, there was mold in the air conditioner in the room and in the shower. The entire place smelled like smoke. The hairdryer smelled like stale cigarettes and blew that smell out into my hair when drying it. The beds were not the most comfortable and because of the smoke smell, we had the windows open. Remember the subway proximity? The street noise is loud.

Where I wish I had stayed in the same neighbourhood? Hotel Berna.

Side of the Duomo Cathedral in Milan, Italy

FINAL STOP – PARIS

We flew to Paris from Milan on Easyjet and I’m pleased to report we didn’t have any problems. Easyjet has a bad reputation and I chose the flight because of the good price with fingers crossed.

The first comment I am going to make about Paris is that “Instagram models” have taken the city over. They are staging their photo shoots everywhere. From fake picnics at the base of the Eiffel Tower to swirling in their dresses and straw hats in front of the Lourve, they’re hard to avoid. It’s kind of a comical situation when you’re trying to get cute pictures of your kids in front of certain places and the “Instagram model” keeps trying to push you all out of their frame…  That said, Paris turned out to be Miss M’s favourite place on the trip.

Little Man and Miss M in front of the Lourve trying to avoid an instagram model... Paris, France

We wished we had a week or more in Paris, despite it’s lack of affordability. No joke, it’s not a cheap place from meals to attraction tickets or accommodations, but there is something in the air there that brings a magic to your soul. It’s in the gardens, in the architecture, in the rooftops. It’s a place that screams “take me in and love me”!

Miss M and Little Man looking at Notre Dam right after the fire on the bridge over the River Seine.

We did. We love Paris.

Notre Dam after the fire in Paris

As I mentioned, when we landed in Milan, the fire of Notre Dame was all over the news. Despite the burn, we were still able to walk within a certain proximity to see it. From our hotel, we did not smell the remains, but as we walked and got within a kilometre of the cathedral, you could smell it. Despite the tragic fire, the outside, to me still looked like the grand lady she was. She’s still there and she will be returned in time to her grandeur.

Eiffel Tower from outside security in Paris, France

One thing we were not prepared for in Paris was the line ups for attractions, specifically the Catacombs of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. At the Eiffel Tower we waited an hour in line to get through security, an hour in line to get food, another hour in line to get tickets to walk up the stairs.

View of the 7th arrondissement in Paris from the Eiffel Tower

Miss M and Little Man slept in a bit that day and so we didn’t make it there until almost noon. It took a full afternoon to experience it. But worth it. Should we have gone earlier? Yes. Could we have bought our way to the front of the line? You bet, but I didn’t. We bought candy instead.

View of the 1st arrondissement in Paris from the Eiffel Tower

During this trip, I got to know the kids even better than I thought. Miss M’s teacher had once mentioned in conversation to me that she had a “dark side”. Sure she reads quite advanced books and has some morbid fascinations that I blame her Dad for, like his musical influence of Slipknot, but she really enjoyed the Catacombs of Paris. In fact, it was her destination pick!

Skulls in the Catacombs of Paris. This ossuary was created as part of the effort to eliminate the city's overflowing cemeteries

The Catacombs of Paris are underground ossuaries in Paris, France, which hold the remains of more than six million people in a small part of a tunnel network built to consolidate Paris’ ancient stone mines. These bones are mainly from the 1700’s. Like actual skulls and femurs. they’re stacked very neatly I have to say. I was impressed by the organization, but by the end of the tunnels, I was ready to get out.

The kids in the tunnel of the catacombs of Paris.

Where did we stay in Paris?

On a recommendation from my friend Eric at Travel Babbo, we stayed at Cler Hotel. I have decided that any time I visit Paris in the future, this is where I will stay. Breakfast every morning was amazing. The hotel location cannot be beat – in the 7th arrondissement, walking distance to Eiffel Tower, the River Seine and all the way to Notre Dame cathedral. There is even a fresh fruit market at the front door of the hotel! My kids were spoiled by the staff at the front desk who always had candy on hand for them and the kids were mesmerized by the elevator that we would race up and down the stairs.

Rue Cler or the Market Cler in Paris France, the street where our hotel, Cler Hotel is.

However, since this is Paris, everything is small. When the kids fell asleep at night, I had to hide in the washroom to read as there wasn’t space in the corner where I could sit.

Inside our hotel room in Cler Hotel. Tight quarters.

As a final thought to the trip, I never once felt unsafe traveling solo with my children anywhere. We did not face harassment. While I did face many questions and comments about being solo from men, it was never menacing. More like a curiosity. I was able to take most of those moments and turn it into a lesson for my children on “courtesy”, which is something that lacks in much (not all, calm down Susan) of North American culture. While I do appreciate all the doors being held open and seats given to us on transportation, many dinner and drink invitations were extended to us (me), all of which I declined.

The kids and I really got to see the best of Western Europe in this whirlwind trip. Yes, I realize I didn’t take them to other amazing countries like Belgium or the Netherlands. I’m saving those destinations for more family trips in the future. I hope this gave my children a touch of the wanderlust that I experience daily and fuels their curiosity of the world.

The very best of Western European destinations with kids. Family friendly cities of Lisbon, Barcelona, Marseille, Cannes, Milan and Paris.

The very best of Western European destinations with kids. We visited the Family friendly cities of Lisbon, Barcelona, Marseille, Cannes, Milan and Paris during our trip in April 2019.

Mono Cliffs Provincial Park – Best Place For Mother’s Day Hike

When it comes to Mother’s Day hikes with kids, Mono Cliffs Provincial Park is top of my mind for a great spot close to Toronto. Located just outside of Orangeville, Ontario, it’s part of the Ontario Parks system. Worth noting, Mono Cliffs is also part of the Bruce Trail Conservancy of which I have been picking off a few kilometres of every year (like Dundas Peak and Tew’s Falls). I figure I might have it all complete by the time I turn 50. 

A valid park permit is required to visit Mono Cliffs Provincial Park. You can obtain one in the parking lot or get a Seasonal Day Use Vehicle Permit from Ontario Parks for the year and you won’t ever have to worry about the parking fees there of 1 hour $3.00, 2 hours $5.00, full day $11.00. There is a large parking lot for vehicles, but it can fill up.

One of the hiking trails at Mono Cliffs Provincial Park

WHY CHOOSE MONO CLIFFS PROVINCIAL PARK FOR A MOTHER’S DAY HIKE?

There is one day of the year where my children are not allowed to complain about my choice of activities and it’s Mother’s Day. One of the biggest reasons I enjoy hiking at Mono Cliffs for Mother’s Day is for the variance of trails, all easy enough for my kids to handle. Some trails in this park are classified as moderate hikes, but my children have been on terrain far more difficult or advanced like the Barron Canyon Trail.  This is a day where we can all head out together and no one is going to get upset because something is too hard or an area is too steep to hike on their own.

Mom and kids going on a hike in Mono Cliffs Provincial Park

WHAT CAN I EXPECT WHEN HIKING HERE?

Terrains are quite mixed between the trails. Some trails are surrounded by forest while others are more of an open field like setting. They range from well worn, sandy paths to well worn, rocky trails, to wooden boardwalks. There are areas that are accessible for strollers, but I would not advise bringing them as you will encounter stairs and hills. Consult the park map of course and figure out where to find the lookout, cavern, ponds and more to explore.

happy boy at mono cliffs provincial park

There are 8 hiking trails that intersect with each other at Mono Cliffs Provincial Park. They are:

Walter Tovell Trail – 4.8 km

McCarston’s Trail – 3.6 km

Carriage Trail – 1.3 km

Spillway Trail – 1.3 km

Cliff-Top Side Trail – 2.8 km

South Outlier Trail – 3.5 km

Lookout Trail – 600 m

Link Trail – 600 m

In the cavern area of mono cliffs provincial park

None of the trails are very long and it is possible to see three or four of them in one visit. From the parking lot, you will start on a Carriage Trail. Continue on until you meet up with the South Outlier Trail and take a left, or follow Carriage Trail to where it meets up with the Cliff-Top Side Trail.

boardwalk at mono cliffs provincial park

Did you know there is a cavern area there? Take the Walter Tovell Trail.

Wildlife that would pose a danger to visitors is not a concern. If you are looking for a safe place to take your family, this is it.

pond at mono cliffs provincial park

If you bring a blanket out on the trails with you, there are ponds with a sandy edge that is a nice area to sit and have lunch or regroup and have a snack. I do not think swimming is advisable in these ponds, but I did see dogs running in there and splashing around.

climbing over some rocks at mono cliffs provincial park

What’s a hike without a look-out? This is where the Bruce Trail and the Cliff-Top Side trail meet and will give you a splendid view! Come and find yourself here taking in the fresh air and scenery!

From top of the look out at Mono Cliffs Provincial PArk

CAN I CAMP AT MONO CLIFFS PROVINCIAL PARK?

Mono Cliffs Provincial Park is a day use park, meaning there is no camping available here. The closest Ontario Parks campground is Earl Rowe. There are however, picnic tables next to the parking lot available for use during spring, summer and fall and this park is perfect for biking and hiking. The park is open year round, so during the winter, cross country skiing and snowshoeing is the thing to do.

walking uphill at mono cliffs provincial park

Looking for white trilliums, Ontario’s provincial flower? You can find some here. While it is not illegal to pick a white trillium in Ontario, it is not advisable to do so, as it can seriously injure the plant and it can take years to recover from the damage. The trillium is slow growing flora that typically takes seven to 11 years to mature. They bloom for about three weeks and then turn pale pink as they begin to age. This picture was taken on Mother’s Day in 2018.

white trilliums in Mono Cliffs Provincial Park

PLEASE PRACTISE SAFE HIKING

I always recommend that you carry a utility knife or multi-tool in your backpack because you never know what you could encounter. Utilize a bug spray and of course, sun screen during the spring, summer and autumn months. Have a first aid kit in your car.

Please wear closed toe shoes on the trails, we are still unsure of what the tick and Lyme disease situation is going to be like this year. There are been increases in cases year over year, so I implore you to keep your feet and ankles covered in bush, long grass and wooded areas. When you get back to your car, have a change of socks and shoes ready and please be sure to brush your clothing off before you get back in. Check your children behind their ears, in their hair and under their pant legs to make sure ticks are not clinging to them.

If you find a tick in your child’s skin, remove it! First, clean the area with rubbing alcohol. Get your tweezers out and push down on the skin as close to the tick’s head aa possible. Pull up slowly, yet firm with steady pressure. Try not to jerk or twist, doing so might cause the tick to be ripped in two. Once the tick is out, put it in a Ziplock bag and get it to your doctor as soon as possible for Lyme disease testing. Clean the affected area again with rubbing alcohol.

 

Worth noting – I do get decent 3G cell phone service here with my carrier (Telus). In some areas, it does slip back into LTE which is awesome. Always, always, always carry a mobile charger for your cell phone in case of emergencies.

Have fun on the trails! If you ever have any questions, do not ever hesitate to ask!

 

Looking for a great places to head out for a mother's day hike? Mono Cliffs Provincial Park in Ontario is the place to go! #ontarioparks #provincialparks #findyourselfhere #monocliffs #orangeville #brucetrail

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Looking for a great places to head out for a mother's day hike? Mono Cliffs Provincial Park in Ontario is the place to go! #ontarioparks #provincialparks #findyourselfhere #monocliffs #orangeville #brucetrail

Top 5 Things to See And Do In Tobermory Ontario

My family left our home in Toronto and took a 2,100 kilometre road trip in the summer of 2017. Our first stop when we left the Toronto area was Tobermory, Ontario. The drive to Tobermory from our house is approximately 4 hours, however with the rate at which my children (and husband) need to exit the vehicle for pee, hunger and leg stretching, it honestly took closer to 6, yes SIX hours.

We spent two nights in Tobermory that summer and decided that we liked it so much we would return in the summer of 2018 as well. And you know what? It is safe to say, we will return. I am a really outdoorsy person and my children are slowly warming up to the idea of non-urban adventure. For us, in Tobermory, there is an abundance of things to do!

#TOP5THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN #TOBERMORY, #ONTARIO #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #bigtubharbour #littletubharbour #tobermory #discoverontario #parkscanada #grotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #tobermorygrotto #hikingthebruce #brucetrail #dangerousplaces #rockyterrain #bestfamilytraveltravelblogger #ontariofamilyadventures

Here are our Top 5 things To See And Do In Tobermory, Ontario!

 

1.) Take a Boat Tour to see the two Shipwrecks in Big Tub Harbour

Sweepstakes, shipwreck in Tobermory - Top 5 Things To Do In Tobermory, Ontario #topfivelist #tobermory #singingsandsbeach #provincialpark #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #parkscanada #smalltownsinontario #familytravelvlogger #familytravelblogger #ontariobloggers #ontarioroadtrips #thingstodoinontario #thingstodointobermory #shipwrecks

Really and truly, nothing beats scuba diving shipwrecks if you are a certified diver. If are not a diver or a snorkeler or you are traveling with your children and do not have other care for them while you are on a dive, then a viewing from a boat is the next best thing here. The two wrecks you can see in Big Tub Harbour in Tobermory are called Sweepstakes and City of Grand Rapids.

The Sweepstakes went down in 1885, spoiler alert – no treasures left and currently lies in roughly 6 metres of water. It is one of the best preserved shipwrecks of it’s time in the Great Lakes. The City of Grand Rapids wreck is from 1907, it was a double decker steamer that caught fire wile mooring. It was released from the dock and left it burn in the harbour. It sank where it lies.

Totally worth seeing – see if you can get on one of the glass bottom boats to do this!

 

2. Take a boat to Flowerpot Island

Take one of the boats to Flowerpot Island and spend the day – at least an afternoon, please don’t short change yourself on time here. Flowerpot Island is only accessible by boat from Tobermory and is one of the best experiences in Fathom Five National Marine Park! The island is famous for its natural “flowerpot” rock pillars, caves, historic light station and rare plants. This is a great spot for easy to moderate level hikers – my kids had no problem. Here you will find great swimming and snorkeling, picnic areas and overnight camping if you are adventurous. Be sure to bring your bathing suit in a day bag with you and have sturdy shoes, don’t come in flip flops and try to do the hiking – I don’t recommend it.

Flowerpot Island 3 - Top 5 Things To Do In Tobermory, Ontario #topfivelist #tobermory #singingsandsbeach #provincialpark #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #parkscanada #smalltownsinontario #familytravelvlogger #familytravelblogger #ontariobloggers #ontarioroadtrips #thingstodoinontario #thingstodointobermory

We were not prepared for the beauty here – it is so awe inspiring! The water really is the colour of these photos – no filter, I swear! And we shortchanged ourselves on time, hence I recommend spending more than a couple hours. The rookie mistake we made when we went was not packing a cooler.  To swim, explore the flowerpots, hike the terrain and really take in the whole experience, requires a half day at least.

Word of wisdom to the Instagram Models of the world – please do not try to climb the Flower Pots. It’s dangerous to you if you fall, but it’s also disruptive to nature. Imagine being the asshole who damages one of these natural structures so terribly that it changes the appearance?

Flowerpot Island 1 - Top 5 Things To Do In Tobermory, Ontario #topfivelist #tobermory #singingsandsbeach #provincialpark #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #parkscanada #smalltownsinontario #familytravelvlogger #familytravelblogger #ontariobloggers #ontarioroadtrips #thingstodoinontario #thingstodointobermory

There are a couple boat charter companies to get you here from Tobermory, Ontario. You can combine a shipwreck viewing tour or simply take an express boat direct and they have ticketed return times when they drop you off. According to the Parks Canada website, they recommend that you spend 4-5 hours to hike and see it all.

Side note, there is really nothing to purchase here, bring your own food and water! Also there are not a whole lot of places to dispose of garbage here, so please plan to take back with you what you bring. worth noting, you have to pay for the boat ride here, but since it’s a national park and it’s Canada’s 150th birthday, admission this year to the island is free.

Flowerpot Island 2 - Top 5 Things To Do In Tobermory, Ontario #topfivelist #tobermory #singingsandsbeach #provincialpark #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #parkscanada #smalltownsinontario #familytravelvlogger #familytravelblogger #ontariobloggers #ontarioroadtrips #thingstodoinontario #thingstodointobermory

 

3.) Visit The Grotto in Bruce Peninsula National Park

The Grotto, found in Bruce Peninsula National Park, just outside of Tobermory, is a place that is so popular, we couldn’t get in the first year we tried. I severely underestimated that it is one of the top attractions in the province and that just showing up would be suffice. It turns out it requires a little more planning to be able to see and experience this magical place.

feet over ledge at grotto - Top 5 Things To Do In Tobermory, Ontario #topfivelist #tobermory #singingsandsbeach #provincialpark #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #parkscanada #smalltownsinontario #familytravelvlogger #familytravelblogger #ontariobloggers #ontarioroadtrips #thingstodoinontario #thingstodointobermory

We did our planning and did get into the Grotto in the summer of 2018. During the peak season of July and August, there are a couple ways to make sure you are in Bruce Peninsula National Park and can access the Grotto:

1.) Be there already as a camper at one of the backcountry sites along Georgian Bay or in Cyprus Lake Campground.

2.) Reserve parking in advance if coming from outside the park. Parking is assigned by time blocks and only a certain amount of cars are permitted per time slot.

3.) Head up there in the off or shoulder seasons of April/May/June or September/October when the demand to visit is much less.

There’s a twitter hashtag you can follow for more information – #GrottoParking

 

4.) Have ice cream at The Sweet Shop on Bay Street

There’s this sweet little ice cream shop with a lot of brilliant Canadian flavours of yummy ice cream. Located at 18 Bay Street, overlooking Little Tub Harbour, the locally owned Sweet Shop makes candy, fudge, chocolate and brittle onsite. Come after dinner, sit and relax! Walk around and see the boats in the harbour with ice cream in hand, you won’t be sorry!

mariner's monument on Bay Street in Tobermory, Ontario

5.) Visit Singing Sands Beach

Singing Sands Beach is located off of Dorcas Bay Road south of Tobermory. This large sand beach with shallow waters is part of Bruce Peninsula National Park. I admit, when my family rolled up to this beach, we were not impressed. It looked like it was full of weeds, there were not a lot of people there and it was windy. My family is a little spoiled. The kids are used to Prince Edward County and Caribbean beaches.

It became an opportunity to push my kids into experiences  to and take us all out of our comfort zones.

Tobermory Beach, singing sands beach - Top 5 Things To Do In Tobermory, Ontario #topfivelist #tobermory #singingsandsbeach #provincialpark #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #parkscanada #smalltownsinontario #familytravelvlogger #familytravelblogger #ontariobloggers #ontarioroadtrips #thingstodoinontario #thingstodointobermory

The water was warm and you could walk really far out before the kids lower bodies became submerged. The kids even had a good time. For those who are squeamish about things touching their feet in the water, I recommend wearing a pair of water shoes. It’s not really so bad once you walk out in the water for a bit. Admission here is free.

And as a bonus for you history buffs – there are historical walking tours available in town.

For those you you looking for the video blog – here you go!

 

 

Take your family on a road trip – check out BOOKING.COM today (affiliate link, I make a small commission if you make a booking at no extra cost to you)


Booking.com

#TOP5THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN #TOBERMORY, #ONTARIO #brucepeninsula #flowerpotisland #thegrotto #bigtubharbour #littletubharbour #tobermory #discoverontario #parkscanada #grotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #tobermorygrotto #hikingthebruce #brucetrail #dangerousplaces #rockyterrain #bestfamilytraveltravelblogger #ontariofamilyadventures #yourstodiscover

The Loneliness Of Single Parent Vacations

Standing on the top of Castelo de Sao Jorge in Lisbon or at the entrance to Guell Palace in Barcelona or on the balcony of our hotel room in Cannes looking down at the Mediterranean Sea, I felt liberated to have gotten to that point, solo with my kids. As far as single parent vacations, this was the pièce de résistance. Lisbon, Barcelona, Marseille, Cannes, Milan and Paris with my nine year old daughter and five year old son. The trip, an early birthday present for my girl. For her 10th birthday, she requested a trip to Cannes, France. I was happy to oblige. She had clearly inherited my incredible sense of wanderlust and adventure.

I had made all travel plans, booked flights, buses, trains, hotels and coordinated so many variables such as walking distance from train station to hotel, that it was a very proud feeling that it all came together. Only I did it, alone, proof that a woman can attain and achieve a solo holiday with her children. I had scrounged, saved and hid away money, budgeted everything to the penny. There’s satisfaction in never having to see that spread sheet again. And an immense fulfillment in having made the plans for a one parent holiday with the kids. I was always the planner anyway, but this time there wasn’t anyone else to bounce ideas off of.

In the dead of night, while I huddled in the toilette with an iPad and headphones or propping up the screen with my suitcase, the pride was sometimes pushed over by a void, something that was missing. There wasn’t another adult by my side. Missing was someone to hold a conversation with that’s not about farts. An accomplice to laugh with, to wink at, to hold hands and pull in tight. It’s a feeling of loneliness and realizing that this was indeed a feeling of single parent vacations.

The pleasure and loneliness of single parent vacations

Meet The Feeling Of Loneliness of Single Parent Vacations

 

I have traveled solo in the past of my own volition. I have been the epitome of a solo female traveler. One who travels with friends too. There have been media fam trips, I have done numerous road trips with the kids in our home province and even took my son to the Caribbean for a work-vacation, but this is a different kind of trip. It smacked me with a deep emotion one night. This was the first real vacation without their dad. They missed him, he was clearly missing them and I figured that out. I’m not “fun daddy”.

Make no mistake, I’m not saying the trip was awful because I did not have my partner by my side. That’s far from the truth. The trip in a whole was a success and I certainly did not need someone beside me during this trip. The nights were a little lonely as my babies slept. Who really sleeps the entire time their kids sleep? And those waking hours had me thinking a lot. 

Wine for one? The pleasure and loneliness of single parent vacations
Wine for one.

Hell Broke Lose

 

A week into the trip, I had one of those awful nights that you don’t get in the parenting manuals. I went to bed feeling really beat up emotionally. It was the kind of night where the kids have breakdowns and run around and don’t listen to you and fight with each other and when you try to sit them down and talk about the situation, then they just cry instead of responding. Back in Toronto, it’s easier to handle because their dad can step in and we divide and conquer.

In a hotel on La Rambla in Barcelona after midnight? Nope. No support like another parent at all, it’s all me.

them versus me. loneliness of single parent vacations


The kids thought my frustration was funny one couple nights ago when it was almost 1:00am by the time they went to sleep. They weren’t laughing the next  morning when I dragged them out of bed. The hotel we were staying at stops serving breakfast at a certain time so we needed to get moving. And guess what? There’s no winners in any of these hard moments.

I’m certainly not happy because my kids won’t listen to me first and foremost and secondly because now some of our precious vacation time has been wasted in lieu of moments of discipline. 

Whether it be time that we could have been in a museum or time that they could have spent going to bed at a decent hour, it was gone. The time that night was spent instead sitting on the floor of our hotel room picking up pieces of a smashed souvenir that one of the kids threw in a tantrum. And then that time had to be spent talking about respect for each other, respect for where we are, respect that we have to show other patrons of the hotel and that acting like animals will get us shown the door. Things I thought they had known as we travel a lot.

3 of us on the road. The pleasure and loneliness of single parent vacations
And Calm Again

 

It was close to midnight by the time the showers were finished, tears were wiped, the kids were in bed and the lights out. 

I had illusions of a planned out day in the outskirts of Barcelona the following day, but bets were on tired kids who had only six hours of sleep two nights in a row having other plans. I accepted the fact that for two days in a row, I’m not going to experience anything but the inside of the hotel room or riding in a loop on one of those tourist sightseeing buses.

There was still plenty of time for us to be happy together. This was a foreign country to them. Foreign languages were spoken, they were out of their element and I needed to allow them to adjust. I needed to take some time and chill out.

Bath time. There is pleasure, but also some loneliness in single parent travel

What is most important is that we are here together and we still have time to make up for it. There will be another day for another adventure.

The Loneliness of Single Parent Vacations, is it that bad? My solo parent holiday in Europe with my kids was a success for the most part, but there was some moments. It's a feeling of loneliness and realizing that this was indeed a feeling of single parent vacations. Missing was someone to hold a conversation with that’s not about farts #soloparenting #singleparentvacation #lisbonportugal #barcelonaspain #larambla #lisboaportugal #marseillefrance #cannesfrance #parisfrance #milanitaly

 

***This blog post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you choose to make a purchase by clicking on the link, I will receive a commission. It pays for my word babies to continue to be vomited into the universe 😉 ***

Living In Toronto With Kids – What It’s Really Like

Many of you know my family and I for our travels around many destinations in Ontario and even farther away. Some of you know we live in Toronto, Ontario. Some of you did not and that’s okay because you’re going to hear all about it now. We are living in Toronto with kids.

Toronto is Canada’s self professed economic engine of the country. It’s the capital of the most populous province in the country and we think that everything revolves around us. I mean really, we have the smartest folk here, right? We are the base and hub for all the top educational institutes, industry and transportation. Not to mention we have the best sports teams here! If you haven’t been to a Toronto Wolfpack rugby game yet, what are you doing?

Miss M of the Toronto Nomads Junior team escorts Toronto Wolfpack player onto field #runwiththepack #defendtheden #torontowolfpack #torontonomads #rugbygirl

Toronto Girl To the Core

I was born in Toronto and spent my infant years being pushed around in a pram on the boardwalk in the east end. Due to the nature of my father’s career, we were transferred around the province of Ontario quite a few times in my youth. I always had one mission: get back to Toronto. And I did. Right after high school, I packed up the U-haul with a friend and we took off west on the 401. I was heading back to Toronto for school.

View of Toronto from Billy Bishop airport

It’s been 20 years since my triumphant return to Hogtown. Oh gawd, I’m really dating myself by not using “The 6ix” or “T-Dot”, aren’t I? My children were born in the same hospital I was born in. While I have flirted with leaving a couple times, I even bought a house in the suburbs and wanted to raise my children out there thinking it was the better option, I always end back up here. Toronto is my better option, especially in the neighbourhood and complex I currently live in.

Living In Toronto With Kids

Our condo townhouse is pretty awesome for Toronto living. I made the best decision for me by buying into the Toronto real estate market in more than a decade ago—actually my parents made me do it. That is a story for another day, but my family benefits from that decision now.

We enjoy our two generous sized bedrooms plus a loft. The kids currently share a bedroom. When they are ready to have their own separate spaces, the loft is ready for my son. The living room and dining room are open concept and the kitchen is right by the front door. I never thought I’d like to walk into my home and it be a kitchen, but it’s handy for disposing of our compost, recycling and garbage.

I even work from home, because commuter life takes away from my time with my children. When I log out for the day, we love to roam around. We have a great pedestrian lifestyle here. In a city with millions of people, everywhere we want or need to go is a quick streetcar or subway ride away. Part of the allure of living in Toronto means that within minutes I am eating some of the best cuisine from around the world because it’s within a 15 minute walk or transit ride from my front door. And my kids have benefited from this! Their palettes are pretty diverse.

Having a family means needing to have access to green space and amazing amenities in the immediate area to keep the kids occupied. Rain and well let’s face it, deep freeze (hello Canada!) days mean time spent will generally be spent indoors. We’re not cooped up in our place though! We have a gym, a library with a children’s section and a movie theatre on our P1 and P2 levels.

brother and sister at High Park, Toronto

Busy Family Life

Having a career and busy kids with extracurriculars means we don’t have a lot of time for landscaping and yard maintenance. I also cannot fathom what life would be like if I had to shovel our front steps and driveway and sidewalk. Not even on the weekend! No way would I want to sacrifice my sleep on a Sunday to get up and clean off a walkway. I am so grateful for our landscapers and yard maintenance staff who take care of all the shovelling, salting and sanding in the winter.

boy wearing a blue jacket walking through the puddle to play in the city of toronto

I have neighbours that have bought units in the complex for their parents as well. It’s pretty amazing to have such a fantastic community living situation where parents are close by the the children. All of the amenities and conveniences are great for empty nesters and seniors. I can’t fathom my parents living in a cookie cutter suburb house and having to shovel their driveway at this point in their lives.

Winter sidewalk in Toronto

Always Things To Do And See

There is definitely no shortage of things to do with your kids in Toronto! Between our amazing art galleries, museums, shopping malls, Ripley’s Aquarium, aquatic centres, amusement parks and Toronto City Parks, we do not get bored. Sometimes, I believe it’s fair to say that between multi-cultural festivals, events and school related activities, there is often too much choice and too much to do. That’s a pretty good problem to have.

Iconic Toronto sign #xoTO at Nathan Phillips Square

Advice For Families Moving To Toronto

I often get asked for advice from families about moving to Toronto or buying in Toronto. I can understand how the older generation thinks that having a detached house with a picket fence is the way to go, but society has changed. And real estate developers are getting in line with this thinking too. Having family size condo units with two or more bedrooms are really key to for raising children in cities. Amenities in complexes and access to conveniences for growing families is really important as I have mentioned before.

The outdoor terrace at Daniels DuEast offers a comfortable, open, and totally re-energized space. Here, you'll find inviting dining spaces and BBQs for al fresco meals, a play area for the kids and so much more. Day or night, the terrace is set to be your sanctuary.
Outdoor terrace – Photo from Daniels DuEast Facebook Page

Daniels, a condominium developer is moving forward with creating spaces for growing families to flourish in Toronto. They are moving forward with building new developments with the green space that kids need to run around, play zones, gyms for physical health and fitness for parents, co-working spaces to cut down on commute times and garden plots to help foster that sense of community between residents and neighbours.

The Kids Zone is an innovative centre where your little ones can explore a variety of activities and play structures. For quieter times, there is the a padded kiddie corner, perfect for nestling in with a great book. Learn more here: www.danielsdueast.com
The Kids Zone Photo from Daniels DuEast Facebook Page

The Daniels Corporation is currently building three towers in the east end of Toronto in the neighbourhood known as Regent Park. You can check out the buildings here: DanielsFamilyLiving.com. If Mississauga is your speed and works for your lifestyle, Daniels has a development going up there as well.

ARTWORKS Tower knows that sometimes to be inspired, you need to let loose...and the Arcade is the perfect spot to do so. This old-school Arcade will bring fun and competition together with ping-pong tables, pool, arcade games and more. Want to join in on the fun? Join the Inner Circle for before-the-public perks and benefits. Learn more here: https://artworkstower.com/inner-circle/
Photo from Daniels Artworks tower Facebook Page

It is so possible to have a fantastic life in the city with your children and it starts with where you decide to call home. Are you looking to make an affordable real estate investment in Toronto? Care to enjoy the lifestyle I have? Need to ditch the commute? Want to have more time to spend with your family? Thinking about what it would be like to live in a close knit community and have access to everything you and your children need? My advice is to get in as an original owner of a unit in a new development in Toronto.

Raising kids in Toronto? Of course! Here's the goods on Living in Toronto, Ontario with our urban kids!

Disclosure: I have participated in a paid partnership with Daniels. Opinions in this post are my own.

 

What You Need to Know About West Bay, Roatan, Honduras

I have a secret destination… and this destination has been gaining traction slowly and I wish it wouldn’t. It’s the island of Roatán in the Bay Islands of Honduras. I’ve been there twice! The first time I travelled there was for my “Baby-moon” and the second time was for a belated honeymoon. I love it so much there that I want to keep it all to myself because it’s that great. Here’s what you need to know about the area of West Bay, Roatan Honduras if you are considering a trip there.

locals in West Bay playing and jumping off the pier in Roatan, Honduras

 

Where is Roatan?

Roatán is an island in the western Caribbean, about 65 kilometres off the northern coast of the country of Honduras. It is located between the islands of Útila and Guanaja, and is the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras.

West Bay is the western tip of the island.

How To Get To West Bay in Roatan, Honduras

If you are departing from Toronto or Montreal, the only airlines that fly direct to Roatán are Sunwing and Air Transat and they are seasonal.

From USA cities, American Airlines flies to Roatán from Miami and Dallas. Delta Airlines flies to Roatán from Atlanta and United Airlines flies there from Houston.  Alternatively, you could fly to the mainland of Honduras and then take a charter to the island.

Roatán Juan Manuel Galvaz airport is in Coxen Hole. West Bay is a half hour from from the airport. In Roatán, they drive on the right side of the road, just like mainland Canada and United States.

Iconic wreck in Roatan's Mahogany Bay

What’s So Special Here?

The island of Roatán is steeped in hundreds of years of pirate lore, buried gold, slaves, and settlers from Spain and England. Both Spanish and english are main languages spoken on the island. Tourism is the main industry in Roatán and the scuba diving is world renown.

I have been fortunate enough to fall asleep on the beach daily in West Bay and also pass my Open Water scuba diver certification. Mega props to the guys at TGI Roatán (it is a SSD dive shop, although it used to be PADI when I was certified) and to Ruben – the instructor who was so patient with me. The team at TGI Roatan were top notch and I highly recommend them for your diving needs. The dive masters were fun and interested in everyone else having a good time and diving safely. Pro tip for travellers looking to do diving certifications – do all your classroom lessons at home and save the open water work for the destination. Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to spend any time in a classroom when you could be experiencing paradise.

Learning to scuba dive with TGI in Roatan, photo by Mike Pelosi

The coral reef around Roatán is the second largest in the world behind the Great Barrier Reef. It also keeps sharks out of the swimming area. According to scubageek.com: “Roatan’s reef is home to an amazingly diverse population of aquatic life. The island has a fringing reef system: the coral reef extends directly from the shoreline. As a diver or snorkeler, this means that all the best sites are mere minutes from the shore.” And I will attest as a novice, that is was the perfect environment to get my certification – everything felt so safe.

sunset at Henry Morgan Courtyard beach in West Bay in Roatan, Honduras

Where To Stay In West Bay, Roatan

Both times I have travelled to Roatan, I have stayed at the Henry Morgan Resort in West Bay. The Resort is an all-inclusive. There is a beach bar area that serves buffet lunches which is pretty much the same thing everyday. There is a restaurant inside which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner at specific times. The staff is very friendly and will go out of their way to serve/assist you or even just to smile and say hello. They get to know your names and they greet you. It’s like a first class operation despite the lack-lustre food.  Drinks are a-plenty though and there’s never a complaint on that!

Henry Morgan Courtyard grounds in West Bay Roatan, Honduras

Next time I return, I would like very much to try the Mayan Princess Resort next door to the Henry Morgan Resort or swing around to the the Sandy Bay area and try Anthony’s Key. The Henry Morgan Resort and Mayan Princess Resort are located in the perfect location on the beach to walk either way for shops, bars, more beach, more diving, great swimming, fantastic water, everything. You cannot beat the location.

sunset on the beach at Henry Morgan Resort, Roatan, Honduras

If you would rather do a more self catering type stay in West Bay, a quick search brings up the following locations on the beach: Coconut Tree West Bay and Bananarama Dive and Beach Resort.

Want to know some of my thoughts on staying in all inclusive resorts? Check out this article linked here.

double hammocks on a balcony at Henry Morgan Courtyard grounds in West Bay in Roatan, Honduras

Where To Eat in West Bay and West End

West End, West Bay? What’s the difference? West Bay is the resort area and just east is the town of West End.

WEST BAY:

For the best food in the area, there’s a super addictive pizza joint at Bananarana Dive Resort called PizzaRama Brick Oven Pizza. If fine dining is more your speed, check out Vintage Pearl Restaurant and Wine Cellar. It’s a lovely upscale restaurant.

WEST END:

If you’re feeling ambitious, take a water taxi to West End and go to Sundowners. It’s owned by Canadians and I will vouch for the best cheese burger on the island there. Try it, you won’t be sorry!

sandy main street in West Bay Roatan, Honduras

Prefer to stay in the town of West End over the resort area of West Bay where you can hang at an authentic beach bar?


Booking.com

Sundowners in West End, Roatan Honduras

What Else Is There To Do In Roatan?

Aside from diving all the amazing ship wrecks and walls, swimming, snorkeling over the coral reef, sleeping on the beach and eating, there is an Iguana Farm to visit, zip-lining and dune buggies to rent on the island. You can also charter boats to hang out on and also take a glass bottom tour.

Iguana Farm in roatan honduars

As my own personal disclaimer, neither time I visited the island with my children. I was not looking for family friendly activities or things for kids to do.

The currency used in Honduras is called lempira. US dollars are widely accepted if you can bring it with you when you travel there. If you use an ATM (of which there are NOT many – there are only 2 ATMs in West Bay, one is in the lobby of the Mayan Princess and there are 3 in the West End), they will give you lempira.

As with any destination you visit, you need to mind your personal safety. Take proper precautions to enjoy your identification, money and credits cards are safe. Do not hitchhike or walk alone at night.

Both times I visited, the trips were a week long. The end of the week made me sad to depart, but I am always happy to get home.

Over view to West Bay Roatan Honduras #WestEnd #MahoganyBay #CoxenHole #ScubaDiving #AdventureTravel #divingvacations #BayIslands #Snorkeling #BudgetTravel #childfreetravel #allinclusivetravel #CaribbeanBeach

 

KathrynAnywhere is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.