From lakes to parks to mountains, here are 10 active reasons why your kids will love Canada's westernmost province of British Columbia.From lakes to parks to mountains, here are 10 active reasons why your kids will love Canada's westernmost province of British Columbia.
Premise: Kids love being active, especially in the Great Outdoors.
Fact: British Columbia is a Shangri-La when it comes to outdoor adventures.
Solution: Pack the kids in the car — or on a train, bus, boat or airplane — and take advantage of this great, green, mountain-rich province. Here are 10 unusual outdoor ideas that guarantee fun. Information on many of these parks is available at British Columbia Parks.
1. Even the most blasé, computer-addicted child revels in wildlife sightings – and we're not talking about the zoo. Take a city kid way up north, hop in a canoe on a windless morning and wait for the reaction when he or she spots the first moose. Carp Lake Provincial Park (north of Prince George) is one of many places where wild moose dine. In the Rocky Mountains, you'll see Big Horn Sheep on lofty perches, watch deer walk through your campsite, and slow down for elk that feed lazily, oblivious to traffic.
2. Birding may not grab the interest of your youngsters at first mention, but when they walk a wetland — for example, the Kootenay's Creston Valley Wildlife Area — and see an osprey fish and then land gawkily in his nest, they'll be hooked. Richmond Nature Park is another great place for viewing waterfowl and bird life.
3. Whales, enormous and graceful, will undoubtedly excite your kids. Victoria is one of the best places to view Orcinasorca — there are more killer whales off the coast of British Columbia than anywhere else in the world. June has the highest frequency of sightings, but you can whale-watch during other months as well. Between April and October, try Springtide Whale Watch, which offers tours on luxurious yachts or on the more exhilarating rigid hull inflatables, with discounts for kids. You may also catch sight of some dolphins, porpoises or eagles. East Sooke Park, outside of Victoria, is another area where whales tend to travel close to shore.
4. If your small urban dweller has never felt the spray of a rushing waterfall, then visit Shannon Falls, near Squamish, which is an easy outing from Vancouver. This is only one of many stunning waterfalls in this water-rich province. Takakkaw Falls, outside of Field, are the second highest in the province, at 384 metres. (Plus, there are campgrounds nearby.)
5. Hot springs will amaze children as well as adults. The better known of these warm outdoor baths, Harrison Hot Springs, Radium Hot Springs and Fairmont Hot Springs, have spawned resorts around them. Way up north, Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park (near the Yukon border) is a blissful wilderness bath. Meager Creek, down a logging road outside of Pemberton, is the province's largest hot spring, and is well worth the rather rugged drive. For a boat excursion into steaming water, visit Hot Springs Cove on the west side of Vancouver Island north of Tofino; the series of pools above the ocean is something out of a movie.
6. Caves can be a source of spooky fun if you are over 8 years and love to explore. There are some 1,050 known caves on Vancouver Island. For an unusual adventure, rent helmets and flashlights in Gold River or hire a guide and investigate Little Hustan Cave Park, with its amazing showcase of stalactites and stalagmites. BC has many places to spelunk (cave), and no experience is necessary to view the wonders of Little Huston, though make sure you're comfortable in small spaces.
7. If you have fond memories of summer camp and want to share this experience with your youngster, BC abounds in wilderness camps. If you plan on visiting a campground, be sure to call about fees and operating times, because not all sites are open year-round. If you would prefer a less rugged place to sleep, while still being able to take advantage of your favorite camping activities, consider visiting West Coast Wilderness Lodge (877/988-3838). Located on the Sunshine Coast, the lodge caters to families. There are spacious cabins and activities include hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, volleyball, swimming, archery, rope course, birding, and climbing. Once you get there, an adventure guide can help you plan your stay. It's not expensive and everything from activities to meals is geared toward families.
8. If riding the ranch is your child's dream, BC offers this, too. In the Cariboo, Big Bar Guest Ranch (250/459-2333), north of Clinton, will please eager cowboys and cowgirls with trail rides, cattle rustling, and time around the campfire. There is no age or experience requirement for horseback riding, so your youngest can get in on the action too. As well as life on the range, there's also fishing, hiking and canoeing. And what kid doesn't want to get their jeans branded? In the winter, you can follow up horseback riding with snow shoeing or ice fishing. This family-geared ranch is inexpensive, and will ensure you get some R&R in its TV- and telephone-free rooms.
9. Going fishing? Take along a little tyke. BC boasts more mountain lakes, rivers and ocean shorelines than an island. The Fraser Valley is one of many areas that is renowned as the place to catch the "Big One". (The Fraser River is famous for huge white sturgeon.) Tucked-away mountain lakes, like Chilliwack Lake, fish-filled rivers like Vedder and Chehalis, as well as the mighty Fraser River, are ideal easy escapes. Time fishing is best following by a picnic; hopefully you'll barbecue fresh fish.
10. There's something magical about traveling by bike. Pack a lunch, wear a helmet and head off for a day of family fun. Close to the city of Vancouver is Barnston Island in the Fraser River, where you can hop a small ferry to rural bike routes. The Okanagan's Kettle Valley Railway offers an adventuresome ride along the historic railway route that has been refurbished for cyclists.
British Columbia also has museums, water slides, amusement parks and organized activities that cater to kids. But once in awhile, take a trip into BC wilderness. It will be memorable.
Extra BC Tips!
Discovering British Columbia is as easy as calling toll-free 800/HELLO BC (North America) or HELLO BC (435-5622) in Greater Vancouver. This reservation and information service puts you in touch with a team of professional travel experts who can provide free help and advice in planning or booking every stage of your getaway, from travel ideas and tips to booking your accommodations, tours, and transportation. You can also order your free copy of the "BC Escapes Getaways Guide." And be sure to check out the Tourism British Columbia web site at www.HelloBC.com.
Kid Friendly! Services is a West Vancouver-based organization striving to have commercial environs become more welcome, friendly and safe for children and youth. According to president Cheryl MacKinnon, "British Columbia is absolutely stunning and brimming with history, cultural activities, beaches, mountains and the works! Family vacations can be city bound or outdoors, it is simply an outstanding destination." Visit their website at www.kidfriendly.org/Directory/BC/ for a listing of hotels, restaurants, childcare agencies, attractions and other travel services certified with the kidfriendly! Stamp of Approval.
Story and photographs provided Courtesy of Tourism British Columbia.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.