Put away your Blackberries and turn off the video games. It’s time for family nature camp in Maine.

Why do kids have all the fun?  Surely, in this economy parents need a real break, too.  Now College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, has the perfect solution – a sensibly priced vacation of nature programs, boat trips, hiking, and biking.  It all takes place on Mount Desert Island, one of the world’s most beautiful islands.

 

whale-watch4The first big difference about this camp is that all activities are intended for the whole family.   The program is best-suited for children who are at least 5, but there doesn’t seem to be an upper-age limit.  Even the most skeptical adolescents, who dread the experience will be “lame,” seem to leave bestowing accolades. 

 

In fact, so many people end up loving Family Nature Camp that COA has designed special field trips designated for returning families.

 

Experienced staff helps plan activities for each family.  Most days are spent participating in two or three programs, including field trips with naturalists and local experts.  Activities are conducted at the college, which occupies 35 oceanfront acres, and in adjacent Acadia National Park.  What kind of activities?  Well…

 

  • Go on a whale watch 25 miles off the coast; if you’re lucky, you’ll see not only whales, but also harbor seals, gray seals, pods of harbor porpoises and North Atlantic puffins. 
  • Learn about the business and politics of the Maine fishermen.  Check out farming pens where Atlantic salmon are raised and watch your captain haul lobster traps. 
  • Go on a boat trip where the divers bring back a bag of underwater creatures such as lobsters, sea stars, scallops, sea cucumbers and other surprises – which you get to hold. 
  • Visit “active” beaver sites and get a close look at beaver lodges. 
  • Discover incredible facts about bats (some eat fish; other make tents!) and hear their ultrasound echolocation with the aid of a bat detector. 

star-fish1In addition, there’s free time for self-guided hikes, walks, and other activities.  (Sea kayaking is available for an additional fee.) Transportation is provided for most field trips, but families can be pretty independent as well.  For example, you can walk or take the free bus to the village of Bar Harbor to enjoy the shops, restaurants, art shows, and evening concerts.

 

Everyone stays in the College of Atlantic student housing on a campus that’s one of the “greenest” in America and eats in the college cafeteria.  Although the rooms and shared bathrooms are Spartan, meals include bountiful New England fare such as homemade fish chowder, chicken pot pie, and blueberry cobbler.  (If your kids have had past vacations staying in plush hotels with room service, there might be a lesson in these accommodations, too.)

 

 

Family Nature Camp rates are: Full Week – $900 for participants 16-years-old and older; $450 for children 15-years-old and under; Half Week – $500 for participants 16-years-old and older; $250 for children 15-years-old and under. These fees include housing, all meals, activities, field trips, and three boat trips! 

 

Now that’s an “eco-tourist’s all-inclusive.”

Summer 2009 Sessions: July 5-11, July 19-25, July 26-August 1, August 2-8.  For more information, visit College of the Atlantic Family Nature Camp.

For more information about Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, visit OUR ACADIA.

 

 

 

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