Best Outdoor Adventure Family Trips to take in 2020


Are you thinking of planning a summer family vacation? Consider branching out from the cliche theme park and beach resort destination and give your family something more – the opportunity to share an awe inspiring adventure. Imagine the joy of sharing the experience of a whale breach, a white water ride, or the spray of the biggest waterfall you’ve ever seen!  It’s time to plan and here are kid-friendly destinations that marry nature and fun. These are my picks for the best outdoor adventure family trips to take in 2020.

Canada’s Grand Manan Island 

There are A MILLION reasons why your family will love a trip to Grand Manan, but let’s start with the basics. This small island is located off the coast of Maine in the Bay of Fundy, but it’s technically part of Canada. To get there, drive to New Brunswick and take the 2 hour ferry south to this treasure. Once there, you have hit the jackpot of maritime culture and beauty. Lighthouses, hiking, cycling, kayaking, world renowned bird watching and whale watching make it no surprise Reader’s Digest named it one of the world’s seven best islands.  I am very familiar with the island from the summer I spent teaching at Whale Camp. Now I visit as a tourist! While Grand Manan is always a great choice to visit, 2020 is better than ever with a killer Canadian/US exchange rate of 1.33 Canadian to 1 US dollar. This means that $100 hotel room is really only $75! Sold? Here’s what you need to know…

Lighthouse and kids
Grand Manan is one of my favorite places in the world.


There aren’t any big hotels on the island. Instead, snuggle up in one of the quaint B and B’s like The Compass Rose or a cottage at The Inn at Whale Cove Cottages. Want to camp? Try the privately owned North Head campground known for the Hole-in-the-Wall rock formation or stay at Anchorage Provincial Park.

To Do

At only 23 miles long, you will be able to really get to know the area. The island is a recreational lovers paradise.  

  • Hike: At the Grand Manan Museum, pick up a hiking trail book Heritage Trails and Footpaths on Grand Manan. My favorite hikes are Flock of Sheep, Dark Harbor Trail, and Hole-in-the-Wall.
  • Whales and Puffins: The Bay of Fundy is one of the only places in the world to see the endangered northern right whale that comes to the bay to summer. Take Sea Watch Tours to get an up close look at the local whales including right, fin, and humpback. With Sea Watch, you can also book a trip to the local puffin colony that summers nearby!
  • Kayak and Bike:  Want to kayak in the largest tides in the world? Book a tour with Adventure High. They are great with kids and families and you’ll see the gorgeous cliffs and wildlife from a different perspective.
  • Culture:  Grand Manan has a rich culture around fishing, lobstering, seaweed harvesting and seafaring with strong connections to New England. Visit the Grand Manan Museum, Whale and Seabird Research Station, and iconic Swallowtail Lighthouse for a taste.
humpack whale
Take a whale watch on Grand Manan and you are likely to see many species of whales!

Central Oregon and the High Desert

I’m a little biased being from Oregon, but it’s hard to beat the outdoor adventure this state has to offer families. It’s important to realize that it’s a big state, and unless you have weeks to explore, you’ll have to chose one or two areas. The coast, cities, and mountains are all amazing and worth a visit, but have you considered a stay in the high desert?


Sunriver Resort near Bend, Oregon is the perfect place to bring your family.  You can stay in a hotel, rent a condo or a whole house. The safe and beautiful resort town is connected by an expansive network of bike trails perfect for families.  A stay at the resort gets you access to their impressive pool and water play area. Golf, horseback riding, fishing, and in the winter – skiing- are some of the amazing activities they offer.

Landscape of Smith Rocks
Central Oregon will provide landscapes your family will adore.

To Do

Central Oregon offers everything from hiking through pine forest, climbing volcanoes, rafting, biking, swimming and more. Here are my favorite activities.

  • Hike: Hiking is one of my favorite activities and there are many family-friendly choices. Some of my favorites are at Newberry National Volcanic Monument where you can walk on obsidian glass mountains, walk through lava tubes, and see giant waterfalls. Hike in the Cascade mountains in the Sisters Wilderness and see snow in the middle of summer.
  • White Water: The local Deschutes River is a destination for white water rafting. Take your family on a thrill based ride!
  • Culture: Bend and surrounding areas have some great museums and cultural opportunities. My favorite is the High Desert Museum which is PERFECT for families since it offers historic displays but also live animal exhibits.
Mom holding baby in front of waterfall
I started taking my kids to Central Oregon when they were babies.

Icelandic Road Trip

My experience traveling in Iceland revealed it to be a safe, clean, beautiful, and friendly country. Even in the remote parts of my two weeks of travel there did I only once find someone who didn’t speak English. The nation welcomes tourists with open arms and is a perfect place to immerse your family in nature. In one week, you can easily travel the main perimeter of the country seeing volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers, black sand beaches, darling villages, and wildlife. My recommendation is to get there sooner rather than later since tourism has increased in this now not-so-hidden gem.

Skogafoss waterfall is right off the road. In fact, I walked to it from the parking lot of my hotel!

Stress Free Planning

For my trip, I had the tour company Iceland Unlimited plan my summer self driving tour. I gave them a budget and they booked all my accommodations and even some requested excursions (whale watching, horseback riding, etc).  They provided me with a cell phone, GPS, and road map including notable hikes, and advice to get place to place. They also booked our car rental. If you are looking for no fuss, this is a great option.  


There’s a million accommodation choices in Iceland from grand hotels, to hostels, or even renting a camper van!  Since I booked with Iceland Unlimited, I chose the budget travel option. In this one, we usually stayed in B and B style hostels or dorms with four single beds in our private room and a shared bath. My parents did the same trip the following summer and stayed in mid-level accommodations of traditional hotels. It was wonderful not having to book anything or even pay at checkout! All my stays included breakfast which also reduced the stress.

To Do

There are amazing sites to see throughout the island.  The Ring Road is a highway that traverses the perimeter of the country.  Along the way you’ll see herds of horses, waterfalls, puffins, beaches, and mountains.  The majesty of this country is better than any theme park can provide. For more details of what I did everyday on my two week trip, you can check out my blog post highlighting everyday, stay, and activity.

  • Hike to a Waterfall: Most of the waterfalls are accessible by easy hikes.  My favorites are Glymer, Kirkjufell, Dynjandi, Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, and Gulfoss.
  • Horseback Ride:  The Icelandic horses are known world wide for their smooth gate.  Book a horseback ride to explore the scenery in a unique way. No previous riding experience required.
  • Soak:  Even the tiniest towns have hot springs and hot tubs!  We soaked almost every day of our stay. It’s also worth visiting the Blue Lagoon and/or Myvatan Nature baths for a spa-like soaking experience.
  • Culture:  The area is rich with Viking history and unique Icelandic culture.  Visit historic sites like Hallgrimskirkja church in Rekjavik, The Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery, and the Settlement Exhibition on Vikings.
children see ice on beach
At Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, chunks of ice wash up on the black sand beach.

Use Vacations as a Way to Get Outdoors Together

Research has shown that it is important for kids to spend quality time outdoors and guess what – it’s good for you too!  Choosing an outdoor adventure family trip will develop strong positive memories through shared experiences. Not all trips are created equal – yes you can fight for a spot at one of the many loved-to-death National Parks, but it won’t be the relaxing and inspiring nature experience you were hoping for.  Grand Manan, Central Oregon, and Iceland are waiting for you. Start planning!  

Not enough funds or time to get away? 

Stay local and go camping at one of New Hampshire’s best tent campgrounds, hiking on a nature walk, or stay in an RV at a KOA!