Straddling the American border, St Andrews in New Brunswick is a sleepy Canadian seaside town that is the perfect spot for an old-fashioned family vacation. Once a hotspot for wealthy Americans, who owned the beautiful and lavish century homes that line the downtown core, the town has a high-end feel that makes it special and somewhat unique, while still totally the perfect place to kick back and relax with the kids.

There are a few lovely hotels in St Andrews, but the historic and castle-like Algonquin Resort, is really lovely. Legend says that this art-deco resort served as inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, as he stayed there once in the off-season, and when you roam the hallways you can see why it might (although The Stanley Hotel in Colorado also lays claim to that too). There’s a big pool, playground and mini-golf on-site, every evening the staff provide marshmallows to roast over the fire pits out front, there’s a huge antique armoire full of games in the lobby and reasonably priced babysitter services are there for when you want a little time without the kids (there are some amazing local restaurants, including the The Rossmount Inn, which isn’t a kid friendly type of place).

Entertaining yourself for lazy days isn’t difficult, there are enough local attractions to keep you busy should it not be beach weather the entire time that you stay there. When the weather is good, sun yourselves at Katy’s Cove Beach. This sandy beach is supervised, the water in the cove gets warmer than in other areas, it has a large playground, a canteen and offers lots of free activities for kids throughout the summer. (The beach is a five minute walk from the Algonquin Hotel.)

When you’re fed up of the beach, drive across the ocean floor in low tide or take a short boat ride with tour guides over to Minister’s Island, the largest tidal island in Canada, and explore the historic houses (and quirky outbuildings) on this pretty island or the working farm and (newly created) racehorse sanctuary.

The St Andrews Creative Playground, is one of the best playgrounds I’ve ever been to, and my four year old would have happily spent our whole vacation there. Designed and built by the community and renowned US playground architect Robert S Leathers, there are mazelike wooden structures to explore, an amphitheatre for impromptu performances and more slides, swings and climbing tools than you could hope for. Seriously, you’ll have difficulty tearing your kids away.

Family run whale watching outfit Island Quest Marine runs trips throughout the summer, and owner Carolyn Leavitt says that on every trip there’s a “Really, really great chance of seeing whales. Early in the season there are Minck and Finback whales, then in late summer we get the North Atlantic Right Whales and Humpbacks.” Not to mention dolphins, porpoises and the occasional shark or Blue Fin Tuna fish. If you’d rather be in the water, take a paddle around the Bay of Fundy. Seascape Kayak Tours offers family friendly kayaking adventures that show off the rich biodiversity of this beautiful area. Explore deserted islands, lighthouses and a wealth of wildlife: You’ll pass closely by harbor seals and porpoises, many different kinds of seabirds, and there’s a strong possibility you’ll get to see a whale or two.

While away an afternoon at Kingsbrae Garden. Besides having lots of beautiful areas to walk through, there’s a cool cedar maze leading to a labyrinth, alpacas and lots gardens designed to interest kids (including a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party garden). At 1.30pm, every day throughout July and August, there is a different organized activity for children to take part in.

Walking around downtown you’ll find lots of good restaurants in St Andrews, and pretty much everywhere is welcoming to children, but The Gables Restaurant is great and has an awesome patio overlooking the harbour. The chowder at Elaine’s Chowder House is superb, and Honeybeans Coffeehouse offers great snacks as well as an awesome cup of Joe.

If your kids are itching to do something creative (and you could do with a little me time) sign them up for a course at Sunbury Shores Arts and Nature Centre, which offers programming for kids all summer long. There are a number of four-day art camps that operate in the mornings for 5-8 year olds, and then in the afternoons for older kids (as well as camps for teens). If you’ve got creative kids that love to play with clay, draw, paint and create, then there’s plenty going on here to entertain them.

St Andrews isn’t a flashy vacation hotspot, and there are no theme parks or anything particularly high tech to explore, but that’s what makes it so charming and such a great place for a family vacation.