Vancouver Island with kids - top tips(29 Posts)
We are staying in Nanaimo and have a couple of nights booked in Ucluelet and in Victoria. We are travelling with teens and a tween. What would be your must do’s?
One of my DC’s favourite activities was the Victoria Harbour Ferries. You can get a harbour tour pass which includes a 45 minute guided journey featuring landmarks like the Parliament Buildings, First Nation sacred territories, floathome communities and amazing views of seaplanes taking off and landing. If time allows, you can even hop off at Fisherman’s Wharf for fish & chips, or just head back to the Empress Dock. Also amusing is the Harbour Ferry Ballet, where these ferries perform a well choreographed routine set to music. See the summer schedule for the ballet here.
Butchart Gardens is a must do. There is nightly entertainment during the summer as well as fireworks on Saturday nights in July and August (get there early as these are particularly popular).
Fan Tan alley is Canada’s oldest Chinatown and it’s fun to stroll down its narrowest street (It’s only 1.2m wide at one point !). There are some cute little shops and restaurants, but the dc really enjoyed Kid Sister Ice Cream. Just look for the place with the line out the door – but it’s worth it !
Miniature World is a little tired, and ever so slightly creepy, but my dc simply loved it ! You can’t help but appreciate that a ton of work has gone into the displays. There is a lot to look at, and even better, lots of buttons to push.
On a nice day, a carriage ride is a great way to enjoy a little guided tour of the city. There are several companies working the routes with tours starting at only 30 minutes. Horse carriages can generally be found at the corner of Mackenzie St. & Melville St., on the west side of the BC Parliament Buildings.
Interactivity Board Game Cafe is a great place to spend a few hours. They have hundreds of board games. You pay a one-off per-person rate ($5 for adults, $2.50 for kids) to enter. The cafe serves sandwiches, beverages and party snacks during the day as well as pizza in the evenings. There is a licensed side for those 19 years and older and a non-licensed family side.
Victoria Butterfly Gardens is a little oasis just down the road from the Butchart Gardens.There are hundreds of different kinds of butterflies, along with tropical ducks, flamingos, other rare tropical birds and Koi. My kids particularly enjoyed looking at various species under the microscopes.
Ricecrispie fabulous thank you so much! Super helpful suggestions which I have taken note of. Didn’t know of any of them so much appreciated.
If you're thinking about some whale watching then we had a brilliant excursion with five star whale watching in Victoria. They were very knowledgeable and seeing orca in the wild was something special. Also saw humpbacks!
I can also recommend the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. It's about 30 minutes drive from Nanaimo and has all sorts of animals it has rescued and/or rehabilitated.
Parksville! The community just next to Nanaimo has an iconic mini putt and water bumper car set up.
Walking the beach front along Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park.
The ice cream parlour in Combs with goats (live goats) on the roof.
I can’t remember the name, but towards Tofino, there’s an old growth forest with tall cedars.
Caving, I gather there are a few oppertunities which could be cool for that age group.
Royal BC museum in Victoria was a great museum.
I agree with Chewbecca - excellent museum. We also enjoyed Butchart gardens and whale watching. Fish and chips at Red Fish Blue Fish in Victoria was also vg and dd enjoyed the carriage ride.
We went last summer and loved it!
I can second the Interactivity Board Games Cafe in Victoria. We had fantastic fun one rainy afternoon. The milkshakes are enormous! www.ibgcafe.com
I can also recommend ziplining just outside of Victoria adrenalinezip.com
But by far the best adventure was tubing down the Cowichan River. www.cowichanriver.com My teen and tween loved it (so did we!). We set off from Victoria early one morning for the drive to Ulcuelet and booked to do it on the way. I think we booked for about 10am, floated down the river on our tubes, then had lunch (there was a restaurant right next to the tubing place), then continued the drive to Ulcuelet. It was a great way to break up the journey!
In Ulcuelet definitely walk the Wild Pacific Trail
And the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve Rainforest Trail walks are stunning! There are 2 trails only about 1km each which are board walks. Have a look at this website for some pictures of the rainforest www.gotofino.com/tofinobeachestrails/all-beaches-trails/rainforest-trail-tofino-bc.
Another vote for the royal BC museum in Victoria.
And go to Earl’s, especially on a Monday when it’s margarita Monday.
Cora’s for breakfast.
I went kayaking and surfing - both excellent thought water is chilly
The bear watching boat trip from Ucluelet is a must (if it's the right time of year). I think the company is called Jamie's Whale Watching. We saw mum and baby black bears on the shore from the boat, seals and lots of birds.
Have you booked accommodation for Ucluelet yet? If not we stayed in Horizons West B&B and would highly recommend it.
The whale watching from Victoria was also really good, saw lots of Ocra and also a humpback.
Bluebury - we have booked the bear trip with Jamie’s so glad you enjoyed it. We have booked Cabins West in U cluelet.
Acertree I had ear marked the trails which had been recommended by friends. I also liked the sound of the tubing so hope to do that. Goats on the roof and the ice cream sounds like a fab idea. My friend and I are going to a spa in Parksville tomorrow and plan to visit the sandcastles. Good to know about the pitch and put and water bumpers (will google that!).
Knit club thanks for the Parksville recommendations. And hippo the recovery centre sounds like something my daughter would love.
Bobyrobins we are lucky to be on a lake with kayaks which we can borrow. Water is warmer than Scotland.
The beach in Ukuelet is amazing, full of driftwood made into shelters all along it. We spent a lovely evening watching the surfers, building our own shelter, walking in the woods.
I'd go whale watching with Jamie's whale watching tours from there rather than Victoria.
Why whales from there rather than Victoria?
From Nanaimo, head over to Gabriola Island on the Ferry! Stunning place. Then another boat over to the beautiful, secluded Mudge Island.
In Victoria, Butchart Gardens are beautiful and a lot of totem poles etc! Lots to see and do there.
Also in nearby Sidney there's Floatplane trips!
We have seen 4 bears and a cub, seals and eagles from Tofino today. We went with Jamie’s who were great. We’re staying in Ucluelet and enjoyed walking the lighthouse trail yesterday and swimming one one of the surfing beaches today.
Uclulet is OK but if you can, go to Tofino and especially visit Chesterman Beach (at low tide so you can go to Frank Island and see all the little tidepools - better than any aquarium anywhere) and Cox Bay. There's a forest path on the far right side of Cox Bay which you can take up through the woods to the rocky outcrop and get a great view of the coastline.
Agree 100% to do whale watching on the coast rather than near Victoria. Many more opportunities to see them as there are fewer boats. Take a float plane instead of a boat, if possible.
Knitclub is talking about Cathedral Grove. Beautiful if you love big old trees. Very busy!
I know Tofino really well, Ucluelet not at all. Although this is no help to you, OP, for anyone else planning to visit Vancouver Island, Long Beach (Pacific Rim National Park Reserve) is a must-see. I've stayed at Middle Beach Lodge several times and our entire family used to make yearly summer visits to Pacific Sands Beach Resort. They're expensive, even though the accommodations are a bit "rough and ready" - Pacific Sands is self-catering - the location is so extraordinary that staying there even once and for a night or two is well-worth the expense. Of course there is cheaper accommodation, such as camping, hostels, motels, B&Bs but the most important thing to remember is to book well in advance! Top things to do and see are surfing (Cox Bay), kayaking, hiking (Rainforest Trail), whale watching, Hot Springs Cove, Tofino Botanical Gardens...
Tofino and surrounds are by now so popular and therefore overcrowded and expensive that it's better to visit off-season. This was the main reason why our yearly family visits ended. I'm looking forward to going back without DC!
Oh yes! Cathedral Grove is stunningly beautiful. My grandparents emigrated to Victoria from Morcambe after Grandad returned from WW2 so my memories of Victoria are too ancient to be of any use here. We used to visit the Butchart Gardens, which is still apparently a "must-see", as well as the Royal BC Museum. We used to have afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel, but I hear it's become very exclusive (there's even a dress code) and, obviously, expensive.
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