8 ENCHANTING STORYBOOK DESTINATIONS
Few locations inspire young minds like those out of a storybook. From rafts floating down the Mississippi to glamorous Parisienne hotels or deserted islands – to really engage children in their travel experience, it’s all about location, location, location.
WORDS Rebecca Lawson
Anne of Green Gables
Prince Edward Island, Canada
“But if you call me Anne, please call me Anne with an ‘e’.”
Lush and verdant hills rolling gently into the distance, bubbling brooks crossed by rickety wooden bridges, weatherboard cottages and softly grazing cattle – the landscape of Prince Edward Island in Canada has come to represent the perfect childhood for almost every lover of children’s literature the world over. L.M. Montgomery’s ironically cheeky but lovable character, Anne Shirley, is adored by generations of children, and any who missed the books were introduced to Anne’s story through the iconic 1985 film starring Meagan Follows. Such was the impact of the book that Parks Canada turned the novel’s setting into Green Gables Heritage Place.
Another location worth a visit is Avonlea Village, a replica of the main town in the novels. This attraction allows visitors to become completely immersed in the story. Visitors can go on a wagon ride, drink raspberry cordial, or try on some period costumes for size.
The novel is based around the real places Montgomery visited in her youth. Green Gables house itself, which was once home to Montgomery’s cousins, has been restored to its Victorian splendour so visitors can explore the farmstead and learn about the rural life of the late Victorian period. There are several walking trails suitable for families which take visitors through Anne’s Haunted Woods and Lover’s Lane. Note these paths are closed during some periods of the year, so check when you book.
Tobago, Caribbean Island
“Fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself.”
Daniel Defoe’s classic novel has been igniting the imagination of boys and girls for 300 years and has become one of the most widely published books in history. It is no wonder then that the idea of a Robinson Crusoe-style holiday still hasn’t lost its allure. Although there are several different claimants arguing over which island holds the legitimate claim to being the ‘real’ setting for the novel (two of which have even changed their names to Robinson Crusoe Island) it seems the stand- out favourite is Tobago, of Caribbean fame. Although this is the smaller of the twin islands commonly known as Trinidad and Tobago, its relaxed, rustic atmosphere is what makes this charming piece of paradise the perfect place to play at being Crusoe – or at least the kids can play, while you just lie on the sand, go diving, or dine on gourmet seafood.
There is no need to lower your standards now that you’re doing the desert-island thing and in fact Tobago offers some world-class luxury. Blue Waters Inn is a lovely laid-back property located far from the madding crowds in Batteaux Bay. Their Blue View Bungalows are the ultimate desert-island escape, located down the most private end of the beach and fully self-contained so you don’t have to see anyone unless you want to. They are completing a brand new villa, Villa Blue, in 2013, so be sure to ask about that on booking.
If staying in town is more your thing, Small Luxury Hotels of the World has a stunning property located in Stonehaven Bay. A stay at The Villas in Stonehaven is proof that you don’t have to rough it just to follow in Crusoe’s footsteps. This Caribbean-inspired resort has a selection of stunning three- or four-bedroom villas for you to choose from, each with its own infinity pool. Now that’s the way to be stranded on a desert island!
Lead image: The magic of Prince Edward Island
Above: Book covers of Anne of Green Gables
and Robinson Crusoe
A young boy channelling his inner Crusoe
The beautiful scenery of Tobago
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mississippi, United States
“He was sunshine most always – I mean he made it seem like good weather.”
One of the classics of American literature, ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ was actually first published in Britain in 1884. It has remained a staple in classrooms across the world, not just for the colourful portrayal of its characters, but also for the bravery Mark Twain showed in addressing the controversial topic of racial inequality in America’s Great South in the late 19th century.
Lucky for us, the novel has remained so popular, because cruising the Mississippi River, just as Huck and Jim did, makes for a great family holiday. The beautiful paddle steamer, Queen of the Mississippi, run by American Cruise Lines, is a stunningly evocative vessel, bringing back images of a cotton-rich, slavery-dependent period of southern American history. It is an authentic paddle steamer, designed to look just like the riverboats of the late 1800s, but it was only built last year so passengers get the atmosphere of a bygone era while enjoying the comforts of its modern design.
American Cruise Line’s Mark Twain Tribute cruise takes guests along the same route Twain himself would have taken during his years as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi. The cruise starts in St Louis and works its way north to finish in Minneapolis. Stops include an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Twain’s childhood hometown, Hannibal in Missouri. As the icing on the cake (or the wheel on the paddle steamer), all guests receive a complimentary copy of both ‘Huck Finn’ and ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’.
Top: Sail the Queen of the Mississippi
Below: Dress ups beside Tom Sawyer's Fence
From far top: Snippet of the Madeline cover art
Views of the Eiffel Tower from the carnival
Winnie-the-Pooh cover and
the beautiful Ashdown Park
“In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines...”
Anne of Green Gables isn’t the only famous red head to be immortalised in children’s literature. Ludwig Bemelmans’ most celebrated character, Madeline, has been brought to life in numerous books, TV shows and movies. Her home town of Paris boasts many lovely sites that children, whether familiar with the books or not, will enjoy visiting. The Palais Jardin de Luxembourg, is one such place. It appears in the very first ‘Madeline’ book when the school girls visit the park, and its old fashioned puppet theatre, bee-keeper’s school and aviary, pond and of course the palace are all sure to keep the kids enthralled.
The Ile de la Cité is probably on your list of places to visit in Paris anyway, but it and its famous cathedral, Notre Dame, also star in the ‘Madeline’ books. The kids will especially enjoy picking out the scariest looking gargoyles on the cathedral’s façade. But on any ‘Madeline’ tour of Paris, you can’t go past the bridge that she fell off, landing with a splash into the Seine. The Pont Neuf, featured in the book ‘Madeline’s Rescue’, is the oldest bridge in Paris. Ironically though, the name ‘Pont Neuf’ actually means ‘New Bridge’. Go figure.
“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”
If you and your little ones are inclined to venture off to do nothing with A.A. Milne’s most famous character, Winnie-the-Pooh, Ashdown Forest in Sussex, England, is the place to do it. This is the setting that provided Milne’s inspiration for the 100 Acre Wood and the area is very similar to the stories. The region boasts that understated but soothing and peaceful beauty that is only found in the English countryside. There are two, long rambling, Pooh-inspired walks that allow you to fully appreciate this area, including a visit to Poohsticks Bridge, where Pooh and his companions played the floating stick game.
The forest is in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, just 65km south of London. Being so close to the big smoke you can do a day trip, and actually a visit to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is a must-do on any Pooh trip. It is there that you can view the original drawings for Winnie-the-Pooh, including a map of the 100 Acre Wood, done by E.H. Shepard.
But if you’d rather enjoy your stay in the Sussex countryside, there are some lovely manor houses to explore, such as Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club, Ashdown Forest.
Blue Mountains, Australia
“Once upon a time, but not very long ago, deep in the Australian bush, there lived two possums.
Their names were Hush and Grandma Poss. Grandma Poss made bush magic…”
One of Australia’s most iconic children’s books, ‘Possum Magic’, was created after its author was shocked at not being able to find a storybook to read her daughter that was sufficiently ‘Australian’. The publication has gone on to become the bestselling picture book ever in Australia. It has been performed by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, turned into a musical which is still touring the country, and been simplified into a board book for babies.
To do a real ‘Possum Magic’ tour of Australia, you would need to visit all the state capitals from Hobart to Darwin, munching on delicious local fare as you go including Perth pavlova and pumpkin scones in Brisbane. But if you don’t want to cover quite that many miles, there are some stunning homestead retreats dotted throughout the Australian bush where you can immerse yourself and the kids in an environment similar to that in which Grandma Poss and Hush live.
Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa is one such place. The conservation-conscious property is located in a secluded section of the Blue Mountains, so it’s nice and close to Sydney while still feeling a million miles away. There are great family activities including wildlife sightings, where if you’re lucky you may even see Grandma Poss or another Brushtailed Possum. Now that sounds like bush magic!
The Lake District, England
“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.”
Born in Victorian England, Beatrix Potter often holidayed in the stunning Lake District of Cumbria, so it is no wonder she was so influenced by the beauty of that area. Like other English artists and poets throughout history, including Wordsworth and Coleridge, Potter was inspired by nature and these simple, rural scenes are what form the settings for her famous animal characters such as Benjamin Bunny, Tom Kitten, Jemima Puddle-Duck and of course, Peter Rabbit.
There is a plethora of locations to show the kids on a Beatrix Potter tour of England. There’s Hill Top Farm, Potter’s home, and Hawkeshead, a gorgeously quaint village and home to the Beatrix Potter Gallery where Potter’s original character drawings can be found. But the best Potter attraction for the kids can only be The World of Beatrix Potter. This is essentially a theme park where Peter Rabbit and the gang all come to life. Children can have tea with Peter, drop in on Mrs Tiggy-Winkle in her kitchen, visit Jemima Puddleduck’s woodland glade and best of all, they can step into the Peter Rabbit Garden – just look out for Mr McGregor!
If all that isn’t enough for your little Beatrix Potter fans, stay at the quintessentially English Lindeth Howe country house. Nestled in the gentle hills just outside the village of Bowness-on-Windermere, the property has glorious views of the famous Lake Windermere. These views are enough to impress any visitors and certainly impressed Beatrix Potter. She bought the property in 1915 and created some of her character sketches from here.
From top: Walking through the 100 acre wood
Mem Fox's Possum Magic cover
Riding bikes in the Wolgan Valley
Reading Beatric Potter's classic, Peter Rabbit
Getting up close to some of Beatrix Potter's friends
Bad Ragaz, Switzerland
“A footpath winds through green and shady meadows to the foot of the mountains, which on this side look down from their stern and lofty heights upon the valley below.”
Having endured the test of time, ‘Heidi’ has for decades shared its heart-warming story and the allure of the Swiss Alps. Capturing the readers with images of vast meadows complete with goats set amongst the stunning backdrop of the Swiss Alps, ‘Heidi’ presents the epitome of pristine natural charm.
Heidi Village lets you breathe in the crisp alpine air and wander into the world of Heidi and Peter as you follow the Heidi Path – a 25 minute walk dotted with display boards telling the story of Heidi and taking you on a visit to the original Heidi house that has been locked in time for over 100 years.
Open from 15 March to 15 November each year, families can roam the Heidi trail that will lead you through the charming town of Maienfeld as you explore the natural beauty of the region. Venturing past the Heidi House and the Heidi Well.
When looking for the perfect place to stay, Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is conveniently located near the Heidi Village and has all the luxury your family could dream of. For an extra special rejuvenating treat, their customised kids’ spa offers a range of treatments including manicures, pedicures, hair-cuts, yoga, massage and so the list goes on.
Heidi book cover by Puffin
Building a traditional lebkuchen haus
or "gingerbread house"