As soon as my kids heard there might be pirate gold buried on the Island that we could see from our breakfast table, they were hooked. And so, throughout our two-night March Break stay at The Atlantica Oak Island Resort, near Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, my 7 year old searched very seriously for evidence of treasure, while my two year 2-year old just screamed “Pirates! Pirates! Arghhhh!” continuously, as he ran amok the hotel property, pillaging anyone’s hope of peace or relaxation.
But you know what? No one minded, because at the Atlantica over March Break, there were hundreds of little pirates doing the same thing… and dozens of friendly staff making sure that our kids had the best March Break ever.
Our clean, cheerfully decorated room made up for the fact that some areas of the hotel are dated. There we discovered some treats, including a voucher for a free-t-shirt, and a March Break Camp schedule describing all the activities on offer.
It was hard to decide whether to swim, play Giant Games, indulge in a game of Scooter Hockey or just “get the t-shirt”, but on our first evening, we managed to do all four!
During the March Break and Easter holidays, the large conference rooms of the Atlantica Oak Island hotel, normally used for weddings and conferences, are transformed into relaxed, family-friendly areas. When we visited, there was a canteen serving drinks, snacks, pizza and hot dogs. In the evenings, the main ballroom hosted performances and events such as a Disco, a Mad Science demonstration and a magic show by our favourite magician, The Amazing Mr. J.
Our family’s favourite activity was the Pirate Photo Booth: a larger-than-life pirate statue, stood next to a table of costumes, hats and jewellery. It was impossible to pass by the pirate without pausing to take a snap. One afternoon, my son spent about 20 minutes dancing around the pirate’s feet, wearing a knights helmet and brandishing a plastic sword. A toddler’s paradise!
A family walk was a good excuse to explore the hotel property. A mini golf course, some puddly tennis courts and several small play areas led the way to the Altantica Marina, which in the summer, will fill with local yachting folk and recreational boaters.
Behind a group of oceanside chalets, there is a small apple Orchard where East Coast Glamping plans to erect some tents for their “Resort Glamping” experience this summer. And the view? Oak Island, of course. The mystery itself….
During our family walk, we found two items of treasure. The first – a mysterious metal grate. Although some might say it looked like a barbecue pit cover, there was no evidence to suggest that it was not indeed some debris from a genuine pirate ship! We presented our find to the front desk staff who congratulated my daughter and took a photo to to send over the Twitter airwaves.
Our second treasure? During our walk, we met another family who had found a piece of Amethyst amongst some rocks. They showed us where, we searched, and found a large, sparkly area of purple jewels!
On our final evening, we joined a group at the bonfire. The same hardworking teenagers who had been camp counsellors that day had created s’more packages to hand out to guests: small brown paper bags containing a marshmallow, two Graham crackers and a small piece of chocolate. Sticks were shared, fingers were licked, we chatted with some neighbours and friends we recognized from our life back in Halifax. “It’s so close” they said, “we come here at least once a year!”
On our way back to the city, we stopped into the Town of Mahone Bay, a pleasant 10-15 minute drive. Mahone Bay is at its best in the summer and autumn, and feels a little sleepy in the winter, but we found at least one business which is courting young visitors year-round. Amos Pewter offers a tour and the chance to finish your own Pewter sand-dollar – for free! This was a really interesting experience, and provided another treasure for our collection – a lovely Pewter sand dollar.
When we got back to Halifax, I raced to the bookstore, and bought a couple of books about the Oak Island mystery. The best book for kids is Oak Island and the Search for Buried Treasure by Joann Hamilton-Barry, which is written for a young audience, and covers some of the newer theories about the mystery. (I only wish we’d read it before we visited!)
I also learned that there is a popular series on the History Channel called The Curse of Oak Island – definitely one to watch!
The Atlantica Oak Island Resort is only 45 minutes from Halifax, but it feels like a world away. During the March Break and Easter season, this luxurious seaside family resort really lets its hair down, and pulls out all the stops to ensure that families have a really fun, relaxed March Break.
We can’t wait to get back to the area this summer to learn more about the mystery, and experience some summer time Nova Scotia South Shore fun.
Helen Earley is a Halifax-based writer. She was a guest of the Atlantica Oak Island Hotel