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Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is one of those magical places that has something for everyone in the family. Deceptively small (only 300 miles long by 90 miles wide at its furthest points), there's a myriad of outdoor activties kids will enjoy, plus a unique history and culture. Even getting to Vancouver Island is part of the treat, whether by seaplane or by ferry from either Washington or British Columbia.
    Victoria
  Go to the beach – Vancouver Island has long, long stretches of public beach front everywhere. In the summer, they're the spot to go for picnics and swimming, but the spectacular season is winter, especially on the west coast, with its fantastic displays of stormy skies and wild seas. One resort on Long Beach has capitalized on the show by building its dining hall on a promontory and pipes in the sounds of the storm. Another is actually a converted light house. (Pictured left is a beach on Cordova Bay just north east of Victoria.)
   

Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre (Sidney) – This new discovery center is a wonderful way for kids to experience the amazing marine life of the inland sea, off Vancouver Island. Once you step inside, you'll be wowed by the diversity, from giant Pacific octopus to teeny plankton. Find out what lives in the Salish Sea – wolf-eels, sea cucumbers, and rockfish. At the Touch Pools, kids can feel nubby sea stars and spikey sea urchins, and don't miss the octopus feedings daily.

    Museums – Museums aren’t always indoor collections of dust-catchers. Outside of Victoria, there are dozens of all kinds of museums on Vancouver Island, from botanical gardens, to an astrophysical observatory, natural history, art, First Nations culture.
      The Saanich Historical Artifacts Society – Devoted to the collection and preservation of pioneer memorabilia, the Society is located on the Saanich Peninsula and boasts a large collection of working steam engines, tractors, household & industrial tools from the 19th century. Check out the working sawmill, blacksmith, go for a hay ride or pan for gold and experience the world of the early European settlers. (Just outside Victoria.)
      Dominion Astrophysical Observatory – Open year-round for self-guided tours, the real fun is on Saturday evenings from April through October, when kids not only check-out the exhibits on the ground floor, but go upstairs to see the 1.8-m research telescope in action, and hear a tour oriented towards them. On some evenings, members of the Royal Astronomical Society set up their personal telescopes and invite kids to take a peek. (North of Victoria on West Saanich Road.)
      The Sidney Museum – A small place, but it has two museums in one: a Maritime Mammal Gallery the explores the evolution of whales, and the Historical Gallery, which covers the history of local peoples, including the native Salish, Europeans and Asians, through photography and artifacts. In the Mammal Gallery, interactive exhibits encourage kids to smell whale oil and touch whale vertebrae.
      Cowichan Native VillageMidway between Victoria and Nanaimo, the village (owned by Cowichan Tribes) operates both as a tourist center and a training center for the Native community. The Village contains the Khowutzun Gallery with First Nations artists’ hand carved jewelry, paintings, prints as well as demonstrations of knitting, Salish weaving, spinning, and beadwork. The Longhouse Story Centre has a multi-media history of the Cowichan People. The Carving Shed presents native carving techniques and stories, (kids can try carving themselves!) At the Bighouse, a traditional Northwest Long House with seventy foot beams, try traditional Native foods. Go mid-day for the bar-b-que salmon & native dance program, or towards the end of the day to catch the "Feast and Legends" program. 
      The Courtenay MuseumOriginally a volunteer historical society, over the past 50 years it has evolved into something quite wonderful. Most recently, the 1990s has seen major paleontological finds of 80 million year old marine reptiles, putting the Courtenay on the Great Canadian Fossil Trail. In the summer family-oriented tours go to fossil sites in the Comox. Check out the hour-long programs on geology with discussion, hands-on examples, and a slide show about volcanoes, earthquakes, and glaciers.
      Museum at Campbell RiverNo other museum does so well at celebrating all the peoples who have lived and worked on Vancouver Island. Great exhibits about pre-history archaeology, First Nations art (try saying Kwakwaka'wakw, Nuu chah nulth and Salish – First Nations people who created the baskets, masks, woodwork, and ceremonial objects you’ll see), the logging that built up the Island, and Pioneer antique clothing and toys – some that the kids can try out! There are travelling exhibits as well as an audio/visual presentation. Museum at Campbell River.  Click here for the Museum at Campbell River Web site.
      Haig-Brown HouseRoderick Haig-Brown was a writer and conservationist who wrote over three dozen books about his beloved BC. His 1923 home and 20 surrounding acres are now a museum. A magical place for walks, also check their schedule for whale watching excursions when you’ll be in the Campbell River area.
Shaugnessy Lake
  LakesVancouver Island has many small interior lakes, where you can hike, swim, picnic, and (on some) boat, such as Shawnigan Lake, near Duncan. The pace in these lake villages is slow, from another era. If you're going to drive from one part of the island to another, try mapping out the trip to take advantage of the lakes and plan a stop along the route.
    Sailing – A natural for an island, sailing is a favorite. It's not hard to find boat rentals in the larger towns on the Island, for afternoons or day trips. If you can't tell the jib from the jetsam, there are charter trips as well – for whale watching, fishing, or just cruising along the coast.
    PoolsThere are a number of civic pools on Vancouver Island, but the Big Daddy of all is Saanich Commonwealth Place with a 160 ft waterslide and wave pool (there's also a sauna and steam room).
Horseback riding – There are several places to rent horses for everyone from the experienced to the first time rider. Some offer trail rides or beach rides, and many also offer lessons in a ring. Look for rides about half way between Swartz Bay (the BC ferry terminal) and Victoria (along on a bus line).
Hiking – Over 130 Provincial Parks are in the Vancouver Island area. Each one has hiking trails, some well planned and maintained by the Parks department, others formed by locals meandering across hills and along the ocean. Many of the Provincial Parks permit camping, boating, and fishing; some exist only to protect the land. A few knock up against towns, and others are outposts on lonely isles.
  Mount Douglas is 500 acres of parkland just north of Victoria. A great place for children of all ages to hike, with a view from farmlands to the ocean. You’ll see dozens of bird species, rabbits, and other wildlife.
family tours vancouver island

Vancouver Island and the San Juans are famous for a variety of outdoor activities, but don't think you need to rough it. Take a tour just for families that combines rainforest walks, a butterfly garden, swimming in hot springs with guided whale watching and tide pooling:

    Classic Journeys
kids books vancouver island
     
Jessie's Island - kids books Vancouver Island  
Jessie's Island
Sherly McFarlane, Sheena Lott

If you come to Jessie's island, bald eagles perch on giant fir trees, there are seals, whales, otters, birds and tide pools, where you can pick huckleberries, dig for clams and watch the ferries go by, and "you might never want to leave." (Picture book)

 

     

Delightful adventures of Timmy the tugboat, Matilda the cat, and Simon the seagull, sailing around Vancouver Island, rescuing a boat on the rocks, saving Matilda from an eagle, getting help from the whales and sea otters when Timmy's in trouble. (Picture books)

 

 
Timmy and the Whales - kids books Vancouver Island
     
 
The Ferryboat Ride
Robert Perry, Greta Guzek

All aboard! We're off on a ferryboat ride around the island, in pictures and rhymes. "Do you believe in ferry tales, of seeings pods of flying whales?"

And also, The Ferryboat Ride Colouring Book, perfect to bring on your own trip.

 

 

 

     
The Whale People
Roderick Haig-Brown

Young Atlin, a chief's son in a First Nations tribe, trains to hunt the whale, to become strong against wet and cold, to learn the ways of the sea and the song of the whale. (Chapter book)

 

 
The Whale People childrens books Vancouver Island
     
Ancient Ones Vancouver Island childrens books  
Ancient Ones
Barbara Bash

Before you take a hike on Vancouver Island, experience the world of old growth forests, the rise and fall of the mighty Douglas fir, teeming wildlife in the branches high above, flying squirrels, woodpeckers, spotted owls, and on the forest floor, yellow banana slugs and Pacific tree frogs. (Picture book)

 

(More children's books on other British Columbia pages)
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