Exploring Canada’s National Parks & Historic Sites!

Exploring Canada's National Parks & Historic Sites, www.marianamcdougall.com, white and pink text on faint black background and pink border, in front of picture of two children climbing to statues of Vikings (Norse people).

Our time in New Brunswick was short, but really memorable.

Back in Quebec, we decided to purchase a Discovery Pass, and I’m really glad we did. The Discovery Pass grants you entry to all of Canada’s National Parks and several historic sites, so it’s totally worth it if you plan on visiting more than 2 or 3 of these places in a year. The pass is for 12 months, so it’ll last us until next year, which is great.

Monday, September 10th, 2018



After mass on Sunday, we headed to Miramichi, and stayed at Enclosure campground. When I went for my morning walk on Monday, I found a Scottish historic church and cemetery. I learned yet a little more history as well. Daniel wrote about it in his latest post. The grounds are beautiful, and I took a nice walk among trees and the water.


Scottish Historic Church & Cemetery in Miramichi, New Brunswick


After we left Miramichi, we made our way to Kouchibouguac National Park. We had such a great time there. In the Visitor Information Centre, they have an awesome Discovery Corner and mini-museum about the area, and the kids really enjoyed both. The Discovery Corner has a microscope where the kids can examine shells, feathers, and tree samples, and that was a highlight for all the kids.


Boy using the microscope at the Disocvery Centre in Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick


We walked to Kelly’s beach, and the kids and Dan were brave enough to go in the water. I’m waiting till we get down south to get in…. We had a wonderful time observing the nature around us and playing with the little waves. It was a very windy day, but sunny and beautiful.


Father and 2 children playing in the water in Kelly's beach, Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick


After the beach, we settled in for the night at the campground.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

On Tuesday, we decided to visit the bog at Kouchibouguac. They’ve done a great job with the interpretative panels along the route on the bog, and there’s a cool tower that you can climb up to observe the bog. The kids really enjoyed this part.

Observation Tower in the bog at Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick


K-girl has also really been enjoying the Xplorer booklets, and by the end of this trip, she’ll have a good collection of booklets and of the small souvenirs she’s given when they finish them. The younger kids get a booklet also, but whereas the older kids’ booklets change at each national park, the younger kids’ booklets are the same each time. Both older and younger kids get their souvenirs when they show their finished book.


Girl showing an Xplorers booklet at the bog in Kouchibouguac National Park, in New Brunswick. She's wearing a red rain jacket, black pants, and black rain boots.

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

Wednesday was a long day of driving from NB towards Nova Scotia, on our way to the ferry to Newfoundland. We spent the night at a Walmart in Sydney. It felt somewhat odd to be back in a place where I didn’t hear French everywhere. I miss it a little. It was fun to be out of my comfort zone for a bit and to try to learn a new language. 

No pictures for this day, because we mostly just drove. On our long drives, we listen to music and I read aloud to the kids. We’re currently reading The Wizard of Oz and The Secret of the Shamrock, taking turns at each drive. The kids also find their own entertainment, playing with small toys, drawing, reading, and using their Boogie Boards. We use Audible for audiobooks, and K-girl has finished the first book in the Harry Potter series. We use Spotify for music, and have created family-friendly playlists to listen to our our drives.

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

We made it to the ferry on an absolutely gorgeous day. The ferry ride is long (7 hours), and I was surprised that the kids weren’t too interested in being on deck where they could see the ocean on this beautiful day. So Dan and I took turns going up top alone.

NS-NF Ferry view


The ferry has two small playrooms with wall toys and a TV, playing TreeHouse. Since the kids have had nearly no TV on this trip, we thought it was fine if they watched a bit “too much” that day. They were happy with that, but the absolute highlight of the day was seeing the dolphins. As we were waiting for our dinner, about 7 of them jumped out of the water briefly, much to the children’s delight (and mine). 

3 children playing with wall toys on the ferry to newfoundland

Friday, September 14th, 2018

Another long day of driving, and a stop in Cornerbrook to catch up on laundry. Dan and took turns teaching school and managing the clothes. It’s pretty awesome to homeschool with two parents involved; things go so much more smoothly.

After finishing up our laundry, we stopped at a grocery store and replenished our supply. I grocery shopped to the sounds of live music—there’s a small coffee shop inside the store, and a musician was playing there.

I’m already finding it hard to understand what some people say, but that’s part of the fun of Newfoundland. So many dialects here.

Although we’ve had two long days of driving, the scenery has more than made up for it.

Newfoundland scenery as seen from the inside of an RV


We decided to spend the night in Deer Lake, at the Gateway to the North RV Park. It’s right across from the Newfoundland Insectarium and Butterfly Garden, which the kids really wanted to visit. It was a nice small place, with very friendly people. We took the opportunity to have a nice campfire, and the kids enjoyed some marshmallows.



Saturday, September 15th, 2018

On Saturday, we went to the Insectarium & Butterfly Garden, and had a really special visit. We saw several insects and butterflies, and learned a tonne about leaf cutter ants, among other insects. We got to do lots of neat things. Firstly, we were able to see a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, which was really cool. The kids also had the opportunity to release butterflies that had emerged from their cocoons a few days prior into the garden. We say many different types of butterflies. My favourites were the rice paper ones


and the Emerald Swallowtail. The photo below doesn’t do the beauty of this butterfly justice. The colours are much brighter in person.


Emerald Swallowtail butterfly on a leaf at the Newfoundland Insectarium & Butterfly Garden


Another cool thing we got to see was Lloyd, the owner, “feeding” the leaf cutter ants.


Lloyd, owner of the Newfouland Insectarium and Butterfly Garden, "feeding" the leaf cutter ant colony, with three children watching.


Lloyd placed flowers, dandelion leaves, raw rice, and 3/4 of an apple into the exhibit. But in reality, these ants don’t eat these foods at all. These ants are farmers. They cut away pieces of the food, take it all the way back to their colony, and feed fungus, which they cultivate and then eat.

Lloyd is obviously very enthusiastic about his work, and treats his guests with true East Coast hospitality. He even took out some walking sticks and allowed the children to touch and hold them. He then had the walking stick climb on his face, which greatly amused the girls.


Lloyd, owner of the Newfoundland Insectarium and butterfly garden, with a walking stick bug crawling over his ear. He is smiling.


After learning a great deal about honey bees, scorpions, walking sticks, diving bugs, and many other insects, we returned to the butterfly garden before going on our way. All children had butterflies land on them, which made them very happy. A few landed on me and Dan as well.


Boy sticking out his arm, with a butterfly on his shoulder.


We really enjoyed our time at the Insectarium & Butterfly Garden, and highly recommend a visit. After leaving, we made our way to Gros Morne National Park. We spent a little time at the visitor centre, and then decided to spend the night at the campground in the park. Before settling in for the night, we took a walk along the rocky beach, which is very near to the site we chose for the evening. It was pretty windy and chilly, but we really enjoyed walking along and taking in the ocean sights.


Girl in red rain jacket, black pants, and black rain boots, with a walking stick, walking along a rocky beach in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

Sunday, September 16th, 2018


We spent our Sunday exploring Gros Morne, and went on a lovely coastal hike with the children. We discussed camouflage as we saw it first hand with tiny toads and frogs in the forest (can you find the frog?):


Small toad camouflaged in the forest at Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland


We discussed how some animals store food for the winter as we observed pinecones in a burrow:


2 pine cones in a burrow in Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland


And we discussed inuksuit (singular inukshuk) and even built our own by the beach (taking care to only use rocks that were close together and not disturb the environment too much). They’re not perfect, but we tried.




It was an absolute gorgeous day for a hike, although a little chilly. The kids enjoyed practicing their balance skills on some logs along the hike.


girl sitting on log, with two children walking on the log behind her, being helped by their dad, in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland (coastal trail)


After a lovely time, we returned to the RV, packed, up, and made our way to Flower’s Cove, stopping in Anchor Point for a little playtime at a small playground. The kids in the small town were clearly curious about us newcomers in the big RV, and one by one (and two by two) left their front yards and came to play. Initially the kids kept to themselves, but eventually they started playing with our kiddos. One girl even helped M-girl across the monkey bars, and we shared our tennis ball with them, which they used to play a modified version of basketball.


3 children playing at a playground in Anchor Point, Newfoundland.


I talked to one of the boys, who had a super cute lab dog with him, telling him of our adventure. Kids gathered around as they noticed me telling our story, and once I told the kids we’re on the road for a year, the first boy said, “they’re missing a lot of school, then?” To which I replied: We’re homeschoolers; I teach them, in the RV, now. The boy looked at me and said “I wish I could homeschool!” which is a response we don’t often get.

We talked about how the weather was saying it might snow, and all the Anchor Point kids agreed that they wished it would snow soon. I guess loving snow is a good thing when you live in Newfoundland 🙂

After a bit of playtime, we got back on our RV, waving goodbye to our new friends, who all warmly waved goodbye to us. I’m not 100% sure, but I think we may have been the talk of the town at some dinner tables that night 🙂

With a population of 314, a new family coming through Anchor Point probably makes a bit of an impression. We drove on to Flower’s Cove, where we picked up some more food, and where we spent the night in a free RV parking spot right by a walking trail. It rained pretty heavily that evening and the morning after, so I skipped my morning walk the next day.

Monday, September 17th, 2018

On Monday, we drove on to L’Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site. Here stands an incredible archeological find: what’s believed to be the first European contact with North America. The Vikings (or Norse people, as they’re actually called), established a temporary base camp here over 1,000 years ago.


Recreated Norse sod building in L'Anse Aux Meadows National historic site, Newfoundland


The sod buildings where houses and the blacksmith shop would have been have been re-created a short distance from the location where they actually stood. Costumed interpreters tell you about life in the Viking age and show you the many tools of the trade. The children had a chance to play with Viking age toys and to try on a helmet and sword from the era.

young girl wearing yellow raincoat and a norse helmet, holding a norse sword.

Did you now that “Viking” is an often misused term? “Viking” actually refers to the seafaring pirates from the Scandinavian countries, and most Norse people were not actually Vikings. Thus, it’s a more accurate term to use the term “Norse People.” Here’s a fascinating article from history.com about common misconceptions about the Norse people.

It was a cold and wet day, but we still enjoyed our visit. The highlights of the day were definitely the short documentary we got to watch at the visitor centre, visiting the sod buildings, and climbing the rocks (a favourite activity everywhere the kids go).

The kids also got their Xplorer booklets, but this time they were out of the English books for the older kids, so K-girl completed the younger kids’ booklet, and they all still got their souvenirs. By the end of this trip, they’ll have a great collection of Xplorer booklets and of the souvenirs they get at each historic site and national park. We drove back to Flower’s Cove, where there is a free spot to park the RV for the evening. Tomorrow morning, I’ll try to go walking the trail right behind where we are parked.


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