Whether it’s March Break, Spring Break or a post-holiday cruise, most people desire a chance to get away and recharge their batteries after a long and draining winter. But for that week of mandated family fun in March, places like Orlando, Florida, can, depending on your travel style, be the stuff that dreams or nightmares are made of.
If you’re not into crowds, avoiding places like Cabo and Cancun during Spring Break would be second nature, and when March Break rolls around you most likely avoid any trips to Disney World or any island with a cruise hub that draws hordes of families.
So instead of fighting the crowds for a place on the beach or a seat around the campfire, take the road less travelled this year and check out some hidden gems away from the tour busses. Even if you’ve got your family in tow, these alternatives to your typical March Break getaway will give your kids or grandkids the chance to tell a story that will stand out from their peers.
Instead of Orlando try…
Key Largo, Florida
Instead of heading to the theme parks, try somewhere in the Florida Keys. Or, if the kids or grandkids are set on Disney World, take a few days in both places so everybody wins. Known as the dive capital of the world and sporting the comforting motto “Come as You Are,” Key Largo is a great place to get back to nature and maybe even stay at an underwater hotel. It’s at the northern tip of the Keys and only an hour’s drive from Miami, so accessibility won’t be an issue. There are plenty of fun family-friendly things to do in the Keys, such as swimming with dolphins, or taking a ride on the Conch Tour Train.
Instead of Anaheim try…
Big Sur, California
Instead of heading south of LA, direct your attention a few hours further north to one of the more laidback cities that line the California coast (like Big Sur, Santa Cruz or Santa Maria). Big Sur is an eco-friendly nature-lover’s paradise, where staggering cliffs brilliantly offset the riotous coastal waves, and where you can stay in a human nest. If you’re travelling from LA, a beautiful trip up the coast (five or six hours to Big Sur) will reward you with absolutely stunning scenery along the Pacific Coast Highway. If you’re travelling with kids, stop in Monterey to check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Instead of Huntsville try…
Staying local due to the weak Canadian dollar? There’s nothing wrong with that! Cottage country has a lot of resorts that offer plenty to do during March Break. Many resorts in Barrie and Muskoka offer thoughtfully crafted itineraries complete with surplus staff to execute the myriad of activities they offer. But if you’re looking for a more low-key northern escape, try a visit to Dwight—a small town nestled on Lake of Bays at the doorway to Algonquin Provincial Park where you can partake in a whole gamut of winter fun (family or otherwise). Go Antiquing, or take the kids ice fishing if the lake is still frozen!
Instead of Banff, AB try…
It’s widely known across Canada that Banff is one of the most beautiful places in Canada (and the world). But it’s also nothing if not a tourist hub. If you’re looking for a mountain escape to soak up the last weeks of winter (we hope) in true Canadian outdoor fashion, then try Cranbook, BC. Nestled in the Kootenay Rockies just a three-hour drive from Banff (so you can make it there for a day trip if need be) Cranbrook boasts a lively arts community and proximity to many golf courses, meaning there’s always something to do. Also, it’s the sunniest place in BC. If you’re travelling with your kids, travel back in time to the era of the gold rush! Fort Steel Heritage Town has over 60 buildings to explore, wagon tours, a steam train ride, and more!
Instead of Cancun try…
Isla Holbox, Mexico
Even though it’s located just north of bustling Cancun, separated by only a flamingo-filled shallow lagoon, visiting this 30-kilometre island is like stepping into a different world—a world where more than 150 species of birds live peacefully alongside laidback locals and car-free streets. It’s protected by the Yum-Balam Biosphere Reserve so everything is low-rise and low-key, and most residents travel around by golf cart. You’ll still find the same crystal clear waters as you would in neighbouring Cancun but without all the crowds. Enjoy sun, sand, and beautiful sunsets.
Instead of St. Maarten try…
If you’re set on heading south but fear the flocks of tourists that will be disembarking from their cruise ships every morning, try a trip to Anguilla—one of the only Caribbean islands without a cruise port. You may see some day trippers coming over from neighbouring St. Maarten (and you could potentially hit up Philipsburg or Marigot for a day trip yourself) but you won’t have to worry about sustained crowds. Stunning beaches are everywhere you turn in Anguilla and it remains, in many vacationers’ minds, one of the last truly untouched slices of Caribbean paradise. Kids can enjoy swimming and playing on the beach, and mom and dad will appreciate the many varieties of rum punch available!
Instead of Nassau & Paradise Island try…
Outlying Bahamian Islands
While you’ll find lots of families flocking to New Providence Island in the Bahamas, the Exumas (and other outlying islands like Bimini and Long Island) will see much less traffic (as is usually the case). In avoiding Nassau you’ll sacrifice the cosmopolitan nightlife offerings, but you can find plenty else to do on other islands. Try Bimini, known for its big game fishing (and for being a favourite spot of Ernest Hemingway), the bird-watchers’ paradise of Inagua, or Andros—home to the world’s third largest fringing barrier reef.