5 Family Friendly Destinations in British Columbia

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Bucket List Worthy  

Whale, British Columbia

British Columbia has a reputation for being an outdoor enthusiast’s dream destination, but did you know that it’s also a great place for travelling families? Okay, so we might be somewhat biased because it’s our home province, but we’ve been able to experience a different side of British Columbia since the birth of our little boy.

It’s always dangerous compiling a list of “top destinations” because everyone has an opinion. And it certainly doesn’t help that British Columbia is geographically very large and loaded with natural beauty and diverse ecosystems.

Nevertheless, we’re up for the challenge and are confident these popular Canadian destinations will offer plenty of activities for all family types.

british-columbia-8

1) Whistler

You don’t need to be a snow bunny to soak up the Whistler vibe. It’s easily our favourite Canadian destination because of its variety of outdoor activities, beautiful mountain landscapes and chilled out alpine village atmosphere.

What makes Whistler special is that it’s got something for everyone in the family. I know, I know… it doesn’t get more cliche than “something for everyone”. But it’s true. Whistler is a year round destination that caters to all travel styles and appetites.

Here are a few things we like about Whistler:

  • Once you arrive at your hotel you don’t have to worry about transportation. Everything you need is within walking distance
  • Most venues and hotels are stroller friendly and accommodate young families
  • Wide variety of restaurants, from fine dining to casual cafes to lively pubs
  • Most hotels have heated pools, the ultimate family travel amenity
  • Tours and activities designed specifically for kids, such as ski camps, tree forts, tube park, ice skating and indoor activities for the less adventurous types
  • Endless roster of outdoor adventures enjoyed all year round, such as world class skiing and snowboarding, snowmobiling, golfing, hiking, mountain biking, zip trekking… shall I go on?

Big White, British Columbia

2) Okanagan Valley in Central BC

Canada’s second largest wine growing region is not only celebrated for its many vineyards and dramatic landscapes, it boasts one of the most ideal climate and weather conditions in the country. How does 215+ days of sunshine per year sound to you?

Aside from wine tasting tours, families visiting in the summer can take advantage of Okanagan Lake and it’s many water activities like boating, kayaking, wake-boarding, tubing and water skiing.

In the winter, visitors can play in the snow at one of the region’s several family friendly ski resorts, the most popular being Big White in Kelowna, Silver Star in Vernon and Sun Peaks in Kamloops. Due to the cold, dry snow conditions, British Columbia’s interior mountains are known to produce champagne powder in the alpine, a major draw for ski and snowboard enthusiasts.

Here are a few things we like about the Okanagan:

  • There are lots of lakefront campgrounds with top notch facilities
  • Most of the ski resorts have condos and townhouses available to rent, many include private hot tubs and well needed amenities like laundry, dishwashers and fully stocked kitchens
  • There are a number of kid-friendly attractions like Atlantis Waterslides in Vernon, BC Wildlife Park in Kamloops, Rattle Snake Canyon in Osoyoos and WildPlay tree course in Kelowna
  • Let’s not forget about the wine! There are well over 100 wineries in the Okanagan Valley, which should keep Mom and Dad busy…

Beach, Tofino, British Columbia

(3) Tofino (and Ucluelet) 

Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino and Ucluelet are all about the ocean and beach. From surfing to kayaking to storm watching, Tofino is an often recommended BC travel destination that remains rustic, unspoiled and laid back. Whether it’s a secluded cove, undisturbed beach or quiet forest trail, it’s easy to find your own slice of the Pacific Northwest in Tofino.

The coast of Vancouver Island is also a hot spot for whale migration, making it an ideal place for whale watching tours. If you’re lucky, you might even spot Humpbacks and Orcas breaching in the distance while sitting on the beach.

Tofino accommodations range from 5 star resorts to simple oceanfront campgrounds. If you plan to travel over a holiday weekend, make sure you book ahead of time because Vancouverites love to exchange the city hustle for Tofino’s relaxed, peaceful vibe.

Here are a few things we like about Tofino:

  • It has the nicest stretch of sandy beach on Vancouver Island, maybe even British Columbia?
  • The beaches are not typically crowded, so it’s a great spot to learn to surf and/or play beach sports
  • There are lots of fun things to do with kids like exploring tide pools at low tide, flying kites on the beach, playing in sand dunes and wandering through the majestic forests of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
  • There are no skyscrapers or busy intersections. It’s all about nature and the laid back beach culture

Beach, Parksville, British Columbia

(4) Parksville (and Qualicum Beach)

Located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Parksville offers an interesting blend of city and nature. It’s big enough to support the amenities one would expect from a town – hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, fuel stations – but small enough to maintain its roots as a quintessential oceanside locale.

The tide at Rathtrevor Beach is quite amazing and well worth a visit just to witness its dramatic transformation. When tide is low the water can recede over a kilometer, revealing hundreds of tide pools and sea creatures. When tide is high, it’s super shallow making it ideal for swimming and safe for young toddlers to play.

Here are a few things we like about Parksville:

  • There are a number of family activities within a short driving distance, such as Morningstar Farms, Butterfly Gardens, Parrot refuge and Coombs market
  • There’s an endless supply of parks and beaches. Englishman River Falls and Little Qualicum Falls are also popular parks, offering lush forest trails and picturesque waterfalls
  • Sunrises on Rathtrevor Beach are unbeatable, particularly from the balconies at the infamous Tigh-Na-Mara seaside resort
  • Families can go deep underground and witness the incredible crystal formations and fossils found at Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park, located about an hour north of Parksville

Victoria, British Columbia

(5) Victoria

Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the capital city of British Columbia is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest. The cute harbour city is conveniently situated about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from both Vancouver and Seattle, making it the perfect weekend getaway for both tourists and residents of the mainland.

Victoria is a very walkable city with plenty of activities and attractions for all shapes and sizes. Don’t make the common mistake of thinking that it’s only worth a day trip from Vancouver or Seattle; there’s plenty to keep you busy for at least 3-4 days.

After exploring the many city attractions, consider joining a whale watching tour or visit nearby Buchart Gardens, famous for its colourful flowers in the summer and thousands of sparkling lights in the winter.

Here are a few things we like about Victoria:

  • It’s a small city that’s stroller friendly. You can spend days wandering around the downtown core, Inner Harbour, James Bay or Beacon Hill park
  • The little water taxis are a fun way to hop around the busy harbour and watch the sea planes take off and land
  • Victoria is for beer lovers. Grab a pint of beer at one of the many micro-breweries, such as Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, Swans Brewpub or Canoe Brewpub. You can even visit Victoria’s Local Beer Museum!
  • There’s lots for the kiddies to see and do, such as visit the Bug Zoo, Ocean Discovery Centre, Butterfly Gardens, Royal BC Museum, IMAX Theater and Fisherman’s Wharf

About the Author: Cam Wears

Cam and Nicole Wears are the duo behind the popular Canadian travel blog TravelingCanucks.com. Having travelled to over 65 countries & territories together in the past 7 years, their life journey has changed since welcoming their baby boy in late 2011. They now write about family travel and share the baby travel tips they learn along the way.

Comments:

  • I only made it from Vancouver to Richmond which is hardly worth mentioning but I loved every second of BC and can’t wait to go back

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