5 unexpected Canadian destinations families love

Looking for something different this summer? These small cities are making waves with Canadian families according to new research.

Deciding on a family vacation can be tricky—from balancing work schedules to nailing down kid’s camp dates to who’s going to feed the cat while you’re gone. But according to data collected by Airbnb, more and more families are making the trip to these five family-friendly spots in the east. The best part? You don’t need a passport.

Clarence street lift bridge
Photo: Courtesy of Niagara Falls Tourism

1. Port Colborne, Ont.

Located on Lake Erie in the Niagara region, Port Colborne offers a host of tourist attractions, including the Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum and the famed Welland Canal. The town’s annual Canal Days festival in August features tall ships, fireworks, and a kite festival. Port Colborne is also home to the Clarence Street bridge, built in 1929 and one of only a few remaining lift bridges on the canal. If you’re travelling with kids aged 8 and up, consider booking a 1 hour local walking tour of nearby Niagara Falls and surrounding area offered from the unique perspective of a local. Highlights include a tour of a monastery built in 1894, along with the host’s favourite aerial views of the Horseshoe Falls. Bottled water and snacks are provided.

wooden staircase down to beach
Photo: Courtesy of airbnb

Where to stay:
This impressive 3-bedroom 2.5 bath beachside Lake Erie Retreat boasts spectacular views and houses up to eight guests. The home’s open concept layout and outdoor patios, decks and pristine private beach make it the perfect spot for an extended family hang. Bonus marks for fireplaces in the living and dining rooms and a private deck off the Master bedroom. $349 per night, airbnb.ca

pretty waterfront town in Nova Scotia
Photo: Courtesy of Tourism Nova Scotia

2. Pictou County, N.S.

This picturesque region, located on Nova Scotia’s north shore, is a little over 100 miles northeast of Halifax. Its proximity to both Cape Breton and PEI, make it a family vacation no-brainer. Summer highlights include the New Glasgow Riverfront Jubilee, a three-day music festival that takes place every August, and July’s Festival of the Tartans, an all-ages celebration of traditional Scottish culture. Additional kid-friendly fare includes the New Glasgow Farmers Market and a replica of the Ship Hector that brought Scottish settlers to Nova Scotia in the 1700’s. Horse loving kids 10 and up may want to saddle up with Trail Riding Adventures, courtesy of the Shelby Ranch in nearby Westville.

NovaScotia house set back from beach with tall grasses in front
Photo: Courtesy of airbnb

Where to stay:
Set on four acres with a view of the Northumberland strait, this 2-bedroom (plus loft), 2 bath executive cottage conjures Green Gables and includes two king beds, one queen and enough couch space to sleep a large brood. The cottage’s private beach is rumoured to have the warmest water this side of the Carolinas, while its shallow water and sandbars at low tide make it super kid-friendly. $280 per night airbnb.ca

Nova Scotia lighthouse against blue sky
Photo: Courtesy of Zachary Rose

3. Rimouski, Que.

Mother and kids tourists visiting Venice, Italy Budget travel: 12 ways to save money on your next family vacationLocated along the south bank of the Saint Lawrence River east of Quebec City, Rimouski is known for its vibrant culture. The town is host to several summer festivals, including the family-oriented Grandes Fetes du St-Laurent during the first weekend of July and the Festi Jazz International in the first weekend of September. Other must-see attractions include the Pointe-au-Pere lighthouse and (cue whining,) the Site Historique Maritime de la Pointe-au-Père, a museum that houses 200 years of maritime history.

blue hammock with forest in background
Photo: Courtesy of airbnb

Where to stay:
A 30-minute drive from downtown Rimouski near Mont Comi, this cozy 3-bedroom, 2 bath chalet has hammocks for star-gazing and a forest playground for the kids. Built from the scratch by the owners, the house also sports a huge patio for BBQing and floor-to-ceiling windows that will have you communing with nature rain or shine. $165 per night, airbnb.ca

female band plays on outdoor stage with kids and families in background
Photo: Courtesy of City of Dieppe

4. Dieppe, N.B.

Dieppe is the fourth largest city in New Brunswick and the second largest francophone region outside of Quebec. The city has several notable monuments and churches that tell the story of the area. If your teen balks at the history lesson, you can reward them with a visit to CF Champlain—the largest shopping centre in Atlantic Canada. On Wednesday nights from July 3 to August 21, the city offers free concerts featuring an array of local and touring musicians. For little kids, there’s the Dieppe Aquatic and Sports Centre which has three pools—one equipped with a water slide, water jets and a pirate’s boat.

modern living room with white walls

Where to stay:
A short seven-minute drive from Dieppe, Castle Manor isn’t quite Hogwarts, but it might be the next best thing. The 2-bedroom, 2 bath 100-year-old heritage property is broken up into several units. Unit 204 merges original exposed brick, 15-foot ceilings and stained glass with an ultra-modern interior making it the best of both worlds.$205 per night, airbnb.ca

mother and daughter hike a trail overlooking the water
Photo: Courtesy of Tourisme Quebec

5. Saguenay, Que.

Saguenay is a city in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec, on the Saguenay River, close to Quebec City. Bordered by forests and mountains, this pretty-as-a-postcard town is a natural draw for families. Highlights of the region include the famous Véloroute des Bleuets, a bike route which circles Lac Saint-Jean with 256 km of easy paths for all levels, and the Ouiatchouan Falls—which are higher than Niagara Falls! Finally, the Saguenay fjord is considered one of the longest in the world and is dotted with some of the most idyllic villages in Quebec. If you have teens, you might want to explore the area via this unique kayak adventure.

airy living room with large windows overlooking forest
Photo: Courtesy of airbnb

Where to stay:
This airy 4-bedroom, 2 bath house has floor-to-ceiling windows looking onto majestic evergreens, a huge family room and a deck with water-front views and there’s room enough for kids and adults to play both together and apart. The huge open-concept kitchen means the kiddies can pitch in at meal-time. There’s even a crib in the master bedroom. $102 per night, airbnb.ca

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