The great family road trip with Mom and Dad: parents singing show tunes with the younger kids, the surly teen sitting in the back, eyes rolling, gum chewing, and music blasting into headphones to cancel out “family experience” around him.
You know the scene – it’s in any classic 80’s family road trip movie. The modern version is similar but with everyone — save the driver — staring at devices. Mom is reading historical fiction on her Kindle, little sister is playing the latest Angry Birds installment on her iPhone, and the teenager is texting his girlfriend about the injustice of it all.
This could have been my fate this summer but I decided it was going to be different this year, so I planned a family vacation that included the digital diet we all needed. No screens, no devices… just good old fashioned unplugged analog fun. What better way to do that than head to the beach?
I grew up in Florida and spent many hot summer weekends at the beach soaking up the sun and playing in the water. I knew I wanted to replicate this same experience for my kids, but getting to the ocean brings flashbacks of the Griswold adventure – the closest ocean to Toronto is 10 hours away! Instead we opted for a quick drive to some of the sweetest beaches and outdoor activities right here in Ontario’s Southwest (5 beaches are less than 2.5 hours from Toronto)!
Our family’s toughest critic is my 17 year old-teen, so I scoped the options and made a master list to entice him with all the fun- fun- fun I could muster.
The Unplugged Manifesto of Summer 2016
We Must be in Motion
Living in the city is prohibitive for family bike rides, as traffic is dense and often unsafe. There are some great options at Point Pelee for bike trails and tours that top the list of activities guaranteed to ensure no phone-based FOMO. You can take a ferry to Pelee Island and rent bikes for the entire family, and they provide helmets at no additional cost. Book a tour and take a 15km trek to the Southshore complete with beautiful scenery — sans concrete. Did I mention there is a winery upgrade available as well? And given that Ontario is about a billion degrees this summer you may want to swing by Fish Point Beach for a dip to cool off after the tour.If gently meandering along the shore isn’t your kids thing and you are in the Sarnia area, check out Canatara Park. There’s a beautiful beach for relaxing, sparkling blue waters to sooth your mama soul, and a BMX track sure to expend lots of teenage energy.
We Will do Something Thrilling
Nothing screams teenage boy more than EXTREME sports. While I’m not really into that sort of thing, I can appreciate that vacation mode for some means living (and playing) close to the edge. Feeling daring? You can be “out there” and still play safe by taking advantage of professional guidance before taking the plunge into anything involving boats moving at rapid speeds. Check out the Erieau Wakeboarding & Watersport school for tutelage on wake-everything.Alternatively, you can soar 1000ft above the water with some parasailing in Grand Bend; My husband and the boy can hit that one. I will capture the Boomerang that proves I was there with my two feet planted safely on the ground.
We will Find Quiet Stillness in Nature
Being in nature is said to improve mental health and help focus creativity. That seems like a perfect fit for our digital diet plans! What better than a Biosphere Reserve at Long Point Provincial Park and a little bird watching to connect with the natural world. Plus, spotting birds requires quiet and thoughtful exploration of the spaces around you – there’s no chance of spotting birds if you’re staring at a screen!Maybe your teen would rather find peace through guided yoga & meditation, and if that’s the case, Wildflowers Tea in St. Thomas promises to deliver a calm connection to nature. You can even pick up some local honey or handmade herbal bath products there, too.
We will Take in Some History
What’s a family trip without a little education? At the Rock Glen Conservation Area, near Grand Bend, you can check out the fossil and artifact collection, or explore the Rock Glen Falls. The site has been featured on several shows and is a great local way to experience a touch of natural history, sans screen.Cool artifacts like a Cold War era submarine appeal to history buff teens (and grown ups!). Port Burwell boasts a clean sandy beach and you can check out the Elgin Military Museum and explore the sub inside and out.
We Will Just Talk
At the end of the day there’s nothing better for analog time with your family than just talking. Pack a picnic, pull up a blanket, and sink your feet into the soft sandy beach and really connect. Your teen is longing for your attention and wants to just hang with you more than they are willing to admit. Port Stanley is our personal favourite with long stretches of sandy beach, and it makes my environmentalist heart sings to know that it has Blue flag status. Looking out over Lake Erie I can almost pretend that it is the Atlantic ocean. With my oldest on the edge of adulthood, I savour these opportunities because I know they are fleeting. If you need an excuse to get away, ban the screens, and explore Ontario, Ontario’s Southwest has you covered.
You’ll be able to play all day and night on Lake Huron in this three-day getaway for four, filled with fun-in-the-sun, wakeboarding adventures, and delicious meals. It’s a prize valued at $2,000. Seas the day and enter now. Contest ends September 1st!(contest now closed)