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The Sunken Garden at Butchart Gardens

Where to Plan a Family Getaway on Vancouver Island

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Whether you’re planning a large family reunion or a weekend away with the kids to rest and recharge, Vancouver Island has it all, with its dynamic landscapes, kid-friendly galleries and museums, and abundance of food spots.

Nature lovers will enjoy spending time together exploring the island’s tree-covered coastal rainforests, and adventure-seekers will be enamored with the opportunities for play. Here are a few family-friendly getaway ideas on Vancouver Island.

Victoria

Where to stay: Hotel Zed

This funky-coloured family-friendly hotel is located in the heart of Victoria and is bursting with kid-friendly attractions. The hotel features an indoor pool and waterslide, on-site restaurant, and an arcade. The whole family will love the free bike rentals on site – park the car for the day and explore one of the city’s many bike-friendly pathways.

Where to find nature: Butchart Gardens

With over 900 varieties of plants that burst with color throughout the seasons, the Butchart Gardens are an excellent choice for an accessible, family-friendly walk that’s gentle enough for grandparents and parents with strollers to enjoy. With 55 acres of gardens to explore, there’s several onsite restaurants and various seasonal family-friendly activities that are perfect to entertain the kids including a winter ice-skating rink.

Enjoying the radiant fall colours, The Butchart Gardens | @Destination Greater Victoria
The Sunken Garden at Butchart Gardens | @localwanderer

Where to spend a rainy day: Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea

Located on Sidney’s waterfront near the Victoria International Airport and BC Ferry Terminals, the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is a great way to get to know Victoria’s coastal waters on a rainy day. Featuring several indoor exhibits including brightly-coloured anemones and towering tanks of jellyfish, the centre is a non-profit organization that’s both a fun and educational way to experience Victoria’s dynamic sealife and get up close and personal with these ocean inhabitants.

Malahat SkyWalk | @Milen Kootnikoff

Where to find adventure: The Malahat Skywalk

Located just outside Victoria in the breathtaking Malahat region, immerse yourself in the views of the Salish Sea and forested mountains speckled throughout this stunning area of Vancouver Island. Adventure lovers will love the TreeWalk and Spiral Tower with 360-degree views of the Malahat. The Skywalk is an accessible activity, friendly for both strollers and wheelchairs. The kids will especially love the 20 metre spiral slide that brings you down from the tower.

Parksville Qualicum Beach

Storm Riders feature of The Grotto Spa at Tigh Na Mara

Where to stay: Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort

Located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, family-orientated Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort offers full family-style packages for the whole gang, plus several family-friendly amenities including: an outdoor playground, indoor pool, and onsite restaurant with a dedicated children’s menu. Bonus: kids-eat-free between 5 and 6pm. The resort features several cabin-style accommodations and traditional resort hotel rooms so there are options for all styles and sizes of families.

Milner Gardens & Woodland

Where to find nature: Milner Gardens & Woodland

A fantastic place for kids to release their inner explorers, and for adults to take in the restful ambiance of this seaside garden, Milner Gardens & Woodland offers something for everyone looking to connect with nature. Winding pathways through over 10 acres of woodlands and flower-lined lanes make it a great spot to connect with nature. Finish your stay with an afternoon session of High Tea at the Historic Milner House, where 360 degree views of the Pacific Ocean await you.

Where to see wildlife: The North Wildlife Recovery Centre

A hidden gem that boasts a peaceful atmosphere, the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre is a great opportunity for kids and adults alike to get up close and personal with the wildlife of the area. From eagle-viewing platforms to meet-and-greets with friendly owls, there are plenty of chances to encounter your favourite PNW inhabitant. A special part of this centre is that most wildlife is eventually released back into the wild, once the centre’s staff helps it’s rehabilitation and recovery. The centre is both wheelchair and stroller accessible, making it a great option for a family-centric activity.

Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park | @tighnamara via Instagram

Where to walk: Rathtrevor Beach

Rathtrevor Beach at low tide is not to be missed, rain or shine. Stretching over nearly a kilometre out of the Strait of Georgia, the shallow water is an excellent place to explore tide pools and intertidal life. A beautiful and flat trail stretches from one end to the other, following the shoreline, making it an accessible option for the family. Kids will love exploring the tide pools, while adults will love taking in the stunning views of this oceanside paradise.

Storm Riders feature of Horne Lake Caves

Where to find adventure: Horne Lake Caves

Located 30 minutes south of the Comox Valley, Horne Lake Caves is a stunning collection of caves that will truly leave you in awe with its scenery unlike any other on Vancouver Island. Horne Lake Caves offers beginner-level tours of their caves that are perfect for families of all sizes looking for a unique experience to take on during a trip to Vancouver Island. The caves are quite accessible, and Horne Lake’s professional guides are well-versed in providing an impressive experience for guests of all ages that wish to explore this underground world of adventure.

Comox Valley

Kingfisher Resort & Spa | @Boomer Jerritt

Where to stay: Kingfisher Resort & Spa

With multi-room beachfront suites and intimate smaller resort-style accommodations, Kingfisher is a great option for families looking for a little bit of everything. With modern, up-to-date rooms, an on-site restaurant, oceanside views, and a spa for the parents – it truly has it all for kids and adults alike. Guests will love their outdoor heated pool, hot tub, infrared sauna, and steam cave – making it the perfect place for rest and relaxation surrounded by the coastal rainforests of Vancouver Island and the sounds of the ocean rocking you gently to sleep.

Seal Bay RV Park & Campground

Where to find nature: Seal Bay Nature Park

An incredibly beautiful place to take kids, dogs, and grandparents alike on gentle trails that lead you to stunning vistas, Seal Bay Nature Park is a convenient system of trails that’s easily accessible on any trip to the Comox Valley. Surrounded by towering moss-covered trees that lead you to the shoreline, there are options for every level of hiker (or walker) where you can choose level pathways that wind the forest, or steeper treks to the beachfront.

Shellfish exhibit at the Courtenay Museum

Where to Spend a Rainy Day: Courtenay & District Museum & Paleontology Centre

A great place for the family to escape the rain, the Courtenay and District Museum & Paleontology Centre is a non-profit organization whose mission is to collect, preserve, and interpret natural and cultural heritage of the region. There are several fun onsite exhibits for kids and adults alike, as well as outdoor programming for kids where they can even try being a paleontologist for a day, getting a hands-on experience on one of the museum’s famed Fossil Tours.

Campbell River

Where to stay: Dolphins Resort

A scenic oceanfront resort that’s perfect for everything from large family gatherings, intimate getaways, and everything in between – Dolphins Resort features a delicious onsite breakfast and panoramic views of the ocean and surrounding rainforest. There are several accommodation options including cozy cabins where connecting with nature comes effortlessly, plus larger beach houses that can easily host multi-family gatherings for connective retreats with loved ones.

Lookout at Elk Falls Provincial Park | @intherivervalley

Where to find nature: Elk Falls Provincial Park

The beauty of nature at its very best – Elk Falls Provincial Park is one of the most stunning parts of the area. If you’re looking for an easy and accessible picnic spot, there are plenty. You will also find numerous trails for walkers and hikers of all levels to experience nature. The park features a picturesque suspension bridge for photo-ready moments overtop of a plunging 25-metre waterfall, surrounded by moss-covered rainforest canopies – it’s a spot not to be missed on any visit to the area.

Where to Find Adventure: Biking Trails at Beaver Lodge Lands

One of the best family-friendly adventures you can find in Campbell River, there are so many fantastic trails to accommodate kids and adults of all ages who seek to explore by bike. This is an awesome place for kids to experience trail riding, and for adults to have fun alongside their little ones. There are plenty of rental houses in Campbell River if you’re looking to try trail bike riding, including Pedal Your World or Swicked Cycles, so visitors and locals alike can experience this family-friendly activity.

Where to spend a rainy day: Discovery Passage Aquarium

A wow-worthy spot in Campbell River, the Discovery Passage Aquarium offers a hands-on experience for visitors to experience the coastal inhabitants of the area. No matter what age you are – the Discover Passage Aquarium is a fantastic learning opportunity that’s both fun and educational, and makes for a great way to escape the rain for a while. The incredible diversity of marine life is not to be missed on any trip to Campbell River, and this aquarium gives you an up-close and personal view of its wondrous creatures.

Note that the aquarium closes for the winter months, so please check their hours in advance. 

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