On the edge of the U.S and looking towards Canada, this is the site of the 1604 to 1605 French Colony, the first one in North America. The Frenchmen spent a long, hard winter on an island in-between what is now Maine and Canada’s New Brunswick. As an International Peace Park, it features two sides in two countries to tell the story of the colony. On the U.S. side, the park offers a hiking trail along with a seasonal visitor center. Here are the top things to do at Saint Croix in Maine with kids.
Things to do at Saint Croix in Maine with Kids
- Stop by Visitor Center
- Take Hike
- Attend a Ranger Program or Earn a Junior Ranger Badge
- Do some Bird watching
Saint Croix at a Glance
|Year Established: 1949|
|Located: Eastern Maine at Canadian border|
|Size: 6.5 acres|
|Top Features: Overlooks the first French colony in North America|
Saint Croix International Historic Site Visitor Center
The Saint Croix International Historic Site offers a small visitor center with interpretive displays about French colonization in the area. Vistors should ask to see if the park is offering a ranger program.
The visitor center is a main feature in this historic site. Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. from Thursday to Monday seasonally ( June until mid-October).
Hiking at Saint Croix National Historic Site
To learn more about the original French colony, visitors should take the .2-mile interpretive trail. It offers interpretive signs and is paved. At the end, visitors can see Saint Croix Island where the colony was based from a covered pavilion.
What to do with Kids at Saint Croix
The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about a National Park Service site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the Park Rangers present them after completing their booklet.
After walking the self-guided trail looking at the bronze statues commemorating the expedition, we arrive at an overlook to see Saint Croix Island. After heading back to the visitor center, the Park Ranger gives us a thorough history of the area. Then takes a moment to look over the kids’ Junior Ranger booklets before reciting the Junior Ranger Oath and handing the kids cool patches.
Birding at Saint Croix International Historic Site
Birding is a popular activity at Saint Croix. Visitors can find Bald Eagles, Osprey, Blue Herons and various ducks. This area also offers woodland birds, like woodpeckers and chickadees.
Learn some History at Saint Croix
The French charted and settled this portion of North America along the Atlantic Coast and the Saint Lawrence River. Pierre Dugua arrived in North America in 1599, before Samuel Champlain.
During 1604-1605, Pierre Dugua’s French Expedition established the first French settlement in North America. The first winter proved hard with icing conditions that cut off fresh water and wild game. Of the original settlers, 36 of the 79 men died.
When spring came, the expedition moved the mainland along the Nova Scotia side of the Bay of Fundy at Port Royal. Later the French colony abandoned this settlement too.
Visit the Canadian Side of Saint Croix
Saint Croix Island is part of an International Peace Park, a park that’s shared by two countries. The Canadian Saint Croix Island International Historic Site is in Bayside, New Brunswick.
Part of the Capital of l’Acadie, a plan envisioned by Samuel De Champlain, the Canadian park also celebrates the first attempt at year-round colonization by the French in June 1604.
This area is open from June 1 until October 15 and includes a trail and interpretive signs. Free though not staffed.
Where’s Saint Croix International Historic Site
Located at 84 Saint Croix Drive, Calais, Maine. Open year-round from dawn to dusk. Free to enter
Other National Park Service sites in Maine
During your visit to Maine, explore other National Park Service sites.
Roosevelt Campobello International Park–Franklin D. Roosevelt spent his summers on this island as a child. Open from sunrise to sunset during the summer. No admission fee but visitors must clear Canadian Customs and take a ferry.
Acadia National Park—The oldest National Park on the East Coast boasts lots of old carriage roads, perfect for summertime bike rides. See Thunder Hole or chase waves at Sand Beach. Continue the tradition and sample pop-overs at Jordan Pond.
Other Parks Canada Sites
During our road trip through the Canadian Maritimes, we explored the following.
Saint John–Explore the capital of New Brunswick with the family for the Reversing Falls and foodie finds.
The Bay of Fundy–Walk on the ocean floor where kids can see the highest tides in the world in nearby New Brunswick.
Anne of Green Gables Heritage Place–Learn all about the Anne of Green Gables series at the location that inspired the series on Prince Edward Island.
Charlottetown–A visit to Prince Edward Island offers lots of family fun, like lighthouses and clamming.
Cape Breton National Park–On the east shore of Nova Scotia, explore the rugged landscape.
Quebec City–A UNESCO World Heritage Site
L’Ile d’Orleans–A foodie day trip in Quebec