Cool(er) Island Escapes: Single Mom Family Getaways
By Gretchen Kelly
My mother’s first vacation with my brother and I as a single parent was to Block Island, Rhode Island. I think she chose it because it was familiar (we had gone before as a two-parent family) but also because it was small, family-friendly and you could get around well without a car (she didn’t drive). We spent a wonderful week there at an old Victorian hotel called The Surf (still one of the island’s best budget hotels) which had an immense green porch with rocking chairs facing the ocean and its own beach with black sand said to help rheumatism. My brother and I liked the sand because it made great castles and warmed your legs when you got out of the ocean.
Friendly locals took us to Mohegan Bluffs where we could see whales out at sea. We looked for ship wrecks along the beach (and found one!) and I pulled two starfish from a rock tidal pool and stuck toothpicks in them (alive) to keep them as specimens for my sea-life collection (I was a hell-raising marine biologist wanna be). I still remember it as one of the best trips I’ve ever taken and so does my brother—though he’ll never let me forget my days as a starfish killer.
Single moms today will find the same virtues and values on Block Island that they did when I was the child of a single parent: kid-friendly hotels, miles of beaches to explore, pirate lore aplenty and great lobster dinners that would make any parent smile while watching their offspring cracking open their first lobster claw.
Island holidays for single-mom families (like Block Island) don’t have to take you to steamy tropical climes and on long flights out of the country. There are plenty of non-tropical nearby island retreats where you’ll find intimate kid-friendly B & B’s, horseback beach riding, and even cinematic tie-ins. Here are some of our favorites:
Whidbey Island, Washington
This is the island, off the coast of Seattle that was featured in the film, The Last Mimzy. The family goes on vacation in a beach house on the island and the children find the Mimzy of the title in the sand on the beach. Although your kids might not find an extraterrestrial talking rabbit, they will find miles of beautiful beaches to play on and parents will find charming bed and breakfast inns, almost all of which advertise themselves as “kid-friendly.” Nature preserves, great restaurants with Washington wines and regularly scheduled flights (Kenmore Air Express http://www.kenmoreair.com/) with free connections to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are some of the perks that will appeal to SMW moms (http://www.visitwhidbey.com/).
Prince Edward Island, Canada
Fans of the books, Anne of Green Gables, featuring the famous red-haired heroine, will want to go to Prince Edward Island, Canada with their kids in 2008. It’s the 100th anniversary of the books, written by PEI author, Lucy Maud Montgomery in 1908. All year, the House Museum on the island will be hosting special events and events and the local theatre will continue to show it’s famous Anne of Green Gables musical in the capital city of Charlottestown. (Interesting footnote: the biggest readers of the series are the Japanese, who make the pilgrimage to PEI in the thousands every year). Girls and their moms won’t want to miss the Anne of Green Gable’s tea part at the Delta Prince Edward Hotel. Guests of two or more can book an Anne party for $60.00 per person. You get raspberry cordials and slices of pound cake plus a singing Anne impersonator at your own table. You can also don a red wig and get your picture taken as the heroine herself (http://www.gocanada.about.com/.)
Other things to do include walks on the islands wind-swept beaches and immersion in its original French Canadian culture. The Acadians of PEI and maritime Canada were swept out of the nation in the 1800s and ultimately settled in New Orleans where they became—you guessed it, the Cajuns. Today you can see how they lived in museums and historical re-creations of their homes around the island. And don’t forget a dish of the world famous PEI mussels and blue potatoes. They’re world famous.
Amelia Island, Florida
One of the only beaches where you can ride a horse in the US, a 19th century fort to explore and a kid-friendly program at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel are three reasons to book a family trip to Amelia Island in Florida. Amelia is the northernmost barrier island of Florida and is more windswept Carolinas than steamy tropical Florida in feel. A 45-minute drive northeast of Jacksonville gets you here. Thirteen miles of beaches, trinket shopping in cute Victorian-styled shops and kid-positive resorts like the Ritz as well as less pricey bed and breakfasts are draws for the single-minded mom. Kids will love horseback rides on the beach (the island is one of the only places in the US which allows riders on a beach) and exploring the ruins of the 19th century Fort Clinch. Fly-fishing, sailing and touring the local nature preserves are other draws. Moms will like the Ritz’ “Ritz Kids” program which entertains kids with certified counselors for full or half-day fees of $85 for the first child and $75 thereafter (http://www.ritzcarleton.com)/. It’s a great way to get some Mom-time to sample the delights of the spa where our favorite treatment is a massage in a hammock!
For more information: http://www.ameliaisland.org/.