My vision of a family vacation in New England came straight from Robert McCloskey. I loved his beautiful children’s books, including Blueberries for Sal, Time of Wonder and Make Way for Ducklings as a girl, and maybe even more so as a mother reading them to my own daughter.
What child (or adult) wouldn’t want to have a friendly encounter with a bear cub while picking and eating fresh blueberries like little Sal? Or spend a summer sailing, swimming and adventuring on a picturesque island? Or trek through Boston with the Mallard Family on their quest to find the perfect home?
McCloskey’s sweetly illustrated stories of peaceful days and innocent but thrilling adventure evoke life at its simple best—exactly what I was after on a trip with my (then) four-year-old to New England.
We started off in Boston, where my husband and I had lived for one totally footloose year while he completed a fellowship before our daughter was born. She wasn’t at all interested in hitting up our favorite Cambridge sushi place or walking the Freedom Trail as older kids might, but she enjoyed watching the rowers on the Charles River, rubbing John Harvard’s toe in Hahvahd Yahd and having lunch at the very Harvard-y Grendel’s Den. She also had a wonderful time retracing the steps of Mrs. Mallard and her offspring, Jack, Kack, Lack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack from the shores of the Charles River up through Beacon Hill to the Public Garden. That stroll was rewarded even more with a ride on Boston’s iconic swan boats and feeding actual ducks in Frog Pond in the Common. We capped off the afternoon by standing in the worth-the-wait line for a Chilean sandwich at nearby Chacarero.
For our four-year-old, though, the real vacation started when we arrived at The Dunes on the Waterfront in Ogunquit, just a 70-mile drive from Boston. This 80-year-old enclave of cottages is picture-perfect Southern Maine, giving visitors incredible access to the Ogunquit Tidal River, Ogunquit Beach and the Atlantic Ocean. The 12-acre property offers a glimpse of a simpler past as well as many days’ worth of activities.
We spent more than one gorgeous afternoon living the tidal river. One day, we packed a picnic and walked across the sandy riverbed where we promptly got stuck on the ocean side when the tide rolled back in. If we’d thought ahead, we could just as easily have waited awhile and borrowed a boat to paddle across. Ogunquit itself is touristy but quaint, and we had fun wandering through its cute shops and along its beautiful Marginal Way path.
From Portsmouth to Portland and everywhere in between, there’s so much to see and do in Southern Maine, and Ogunquit is a short drive along beautiful Coastal Highway 1 from towns like Kittery and Kennebunkport, and some of the most delicious lobster and fried clams you can imagine.
If, like me, your vision of a child’s New England comes from the stories of Robert McCloskey, you will not be disappointed. The storybook version really does exist.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Jill.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]Jill Coody Smits is an Austin-based freelance writer and proponent of research-backed communication. Interested in psychology, health, fitness, and human rights. Wife, mother, traveler, reader, dog-lover, unaccomplished athlete.[/author_info] [/author]