Archive for the ‘sand castle’ Category

Paradisus Palma Real, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Greetings from Paradisus Palma Real on the beach at Punta Cana. I’m seated on the balcony watching the waves lap the shore, the sand as white as sugar. Incense are filling the air with a spicy smoke, and Balinese music is lilting softly on the stereo.

Heaven? You tell me:


My day has been about water rituals.

First, a run along the beach, with the sun’s rays beating on my back and the beats of Springsteen propelling me forward.

Second, an egg-white omelet stuffed with vegetables for breakfast, and coffee as strong as it is in Spain.

Third, a tour of Palma Real by Paradisus, a Melia hotel they tell me is among the nicest in Punta Cana. As it’s my first time here, I cannot say for sure. What I do know is this: their Royal Service is helpful and nice, and the beds are lose-yourself comfortable.

Fourth, a doze on the beach. Those cabana beds! I’m taking one home with me.

And finally, a water ritual. In the spa. Hot. Cold. Sauna. Steam. I am ready for bed. But wait… there’s a nine-course dinner to come, and then… well, then, it’s rumoured Michael Jackson is in the buidling.

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Aloha. I have discovered for myself yet another Hawaiian treasure: Kona. Not the coffee, though that is good too… but the island. Also known as Hawaii, The Big Island.

I am in awe at how different this island is from the others — Oahu, Kauai, Maui etc. True, they’re all different. But Kona is very different — it’s black, bare and big, with pockets of paradise scattered about. I’m glad I’ve had a chance to experience it.

The photo above is of our first Kona hotel: Hilton Waikoloa Village. Its location about 30 minutes north of the Kona airport is along the Queen’s highway, which ribbons through a blackened wasteland of ancient lava rock–remnants of Hawaii’s working volcano.

The black, desert-like atmosphere of the road is broken only by patches of white coral along the roadside — words written by travellers with the white coral stones lying by the roadside. Messages like “Jenny Loves Fred” or “Burt Was Here in 2012.” I’ll upload a pic when I get a chance.

This Hilton is huge. Indeed, it’s the state of Hawaii’s largest resort… so large, you can take a train or boat between the lobby, the pools, the restaurants and your room. Odd but fun, especially for kids. Here’s a photo:


There are two pools at Waikoloa. Two gigantic pools with water slides and water falls, and rivers and streams. There’s a dolphin pool in which you can swim with the dolphins… more on that later. And there’s a spectacular trail that snakes for miles along the edge of the ocean with some of the prettiest views on the island.


The resort also has a massive lagoon that’s full of tropical fish, eels and sea turtles. This lagoon is not stocked… it’s naturally fed by the sea. The sea life chooses to live there. You can rent paddle boards, kayaks, sea bikes and snorkel gear from the beachside lagoon shop. My son and I spent hours mostly snorkelling the lagoon, visiting the sea turtles. We counted nine… they are unafraid and friendly.

Our day was improved further still with a trip to nearby Hapuna Beach. It’s a massive state park with a broad, white-sand beach… rare here on Kona. The experience was unforgettable. We rented boogie boards from the resort and used them to body surf the waves. All afternoon. We were so wiped by the end of it, we went to bed at 7 pm!

I love Hawaii.

Lori Knowles is the Family Fare travel columnist for the Toronto Sun. You can read her stories at www.LoriKnowles.com and follow Lori on Twitter @LoriExploring.

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Sun rising over Waikiki. Photo: Lori Knowles

Hello again from Hawaii, where Day 1 on Waikiki was near perfect.

Our day began with breakfast with Jimmy Buffet. I should say, at Jimmy Buffet’s. His restaurant inside the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber houses the Honolulu Surf Museum, our first stop of the day. And our first stop in an family adventure focused on surfing… finding that iconic Hawaiiain wave.

Curator Mark Fragale offered up a tour… something you can book yourself by contacting the restaurant (see website). Grab a beer from the bar and take a walk with Mark. He’ll track Hawaii’s surfing culture from waaay back, when Hawaii’s royals rode long boards carved out of single trees, Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swim champ, popularized Hawaiian surfing, and Gidget did her bubbly best to make every teen in North America want to ‘hang ten.’

The museum is the baby of Jimmy Buffet, who began simply by needing a place to display one of his favourite gifts: the surf board that appeared in that ’70s iconic flick, Apocalypse Now. Here’s a pic of the board, signed by Robert Duvall, and hanging now above Jimmy Buffet’s bar:


Let’s Go Surfing Now

Next came our first family foray into surfing. We signed up for a group surfing lesson at Waikiki’s Hilton Hawaiian Village.

We were met casually by the hotel’s ‘surf stand’ by a laid back team of surfing pros in bright green shirts. Our motley crew included: a Japanese family speaking little English; a Brazilian woman with a broad, happy grin; my nine-year-old, goggle-wearing son; and me… keen, but definitely feeling forty-something.

Kudos to that team for making it all work.

Elijah, our lead pro, taught us how to lie on the board, paddle, pop up on our knees, stand up Ninja-style sideways on the board. It all seemed pretty easy on sand. I was doubtful about how all this ‘ease’ would translate on the Pacific.

But you know what? It did.

Our entire motely little crew stood up on our first wave. Amazing. Those Japanese kids, that Brazilian woman, my goggle-wearing son, even me, the forty-something. We rode those breaks — as small as they were — just like we were Gidget. Golden.

I’d offer a photo, but it was just too wet to take any. I’ll buy some from the pro photographer we took Kelly-Slater-style along with us (!), and post them as soon as possible.

In the meantime, I’ll sign off with this… My reason the day, as I said at the top, was only “near” perfect:

On my first Hawaiian surfing lesson, I got seasick.

There, I said it. I GOT SEASICK! Evidently, I forgot to keep an eye on the horzion.

But don’t let my admission stop you folks. Every person should try to hang ten at least once in their lives… even if they get seasick. And even if they’re forty-somthing.

A note about LoriExploring: Lori Knowles is the Family Fare columnist for the travel section of the Toronto Sun. Follow Lori on Twitter @LoriExploring

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Hello Hawaii!

We’ve moved into our superior digs at Honolulu’s Hilton Hawaiian Village. Like our view?


We arrived, my 9-year-old son and I, mid-afternoon Saturday. Emerging from a 12-hour flight from Toronto into the sun and soft wind of Waikiki felt a little surreal. A swim in the Pacific and a bite to eat set us nearly right… but sleep was really what we needed.

Now it’s (very early) Sunday morning and we’re set for our Hawaiian family surf adventure. First stop: The Honolulu Surf Museum at the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber.

Next, we’ll attempt to surf ourselves in our first lesson at 11 a.m.

Stay tuned… I’ll keep you posted.

A note about LoriExploring: Lori Knowles is the Family Fare columnist for the travel section of the Toronto Sun. Follow Lori on Twitter @LoriExploring

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Today I discovered two things:

1) I love to surf.

2) I’m terrible at surfing.

I’m a 40-plus woman on a girlfriend-getaway in Tofino, British Columbia… capital of Canada’s cold-water surfing culture. Capital, I should say, of Canada’s female cold-water surfing culture–I’m told there are more women than men surfing Tofino waves.


Tofino is home of Surf Sister, an all-female surfing school that offers all-women (and co-ed) surfing camps. You can learn in an hour, a day, a week… whatever. Surf Sister’s founder, Krissy Montgomery, has a band of pros under her wing who break down “the break,” making learning to surf Tofino waves really, really simple.


Simple, that is, in theory… not necessarily in practice. Today I learned ‘popping up’ and ‘paddling out’ and ‘reading’ the waves are all more exhausting than simple.

Exhausting! After my 14th wave, just as I figured out where to place my feet and hold my hands and bend my knees… my body turned to jello. Simply walking out into the surf became a trial.

But surfing is thrilling, nonetheless. Very, very thrilling, especially when experienced alongside a group of like-minded women. Like I said, I learned to love it. Now, if only I wasn’t so terrible…

Stay tuned… humiliating surf photos to come!

In the meantime, some added suggestions for a girlfriend getatway in Tofino:

1) Consider a helicopter ride along this wild wet coast courtesy of Atleo Air. Jason Bertin’s new Tofino service offers sightseeing trips to glaciers, private islands, remote coastal locations…. head’s up, guys: it’s a good way to propose! Astounding and terrific.


2) Tofino’s Wildside Grill cooks the best BC salmon and spotted prawn I’ve ever tasted. Wildside’s Jeff Mikus is a commercial fisherman bringing BC’s sea delicacies straight to your picnic table. Chef Jesse Blake certainly knows how to BBQ them.


3) Order take-out (or hire a personal chef) from Tofino’s RedCan Gourmet. Chef Tim May makes a mean granola bar, brownie… and braises lamb to absolute perfection.


4) Stay at Tofino’s Pacific Sands hotel. Rent a beach house. Mine is No.35… and it’s glorious, especially in the chair from which I’m writing this:


Adios (rested) from Tofino.
Lori. www.loriknowles.com
Twitter: @LoriExploring

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The Hot Springs


“Hot Springs Cove lies 26 nautical miles up the coast from Taquinna Provincial Park. For thousands of years, natural thermal hot springs have poured out of the rocks and spilled out on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Northern Clayoquat Sound.”

So read my Saturday morning itinerary. Uh Oh. My first Girlfriend Getaway to Tofino, British Columbia, was starting with a boat ride in the Pacific Ocean. Should I mention I’m prone to sea sickness? Nah… I’ll be fine. And this will be a wild, warming experience.

We boarded our Beachcomber-esque boat in the the Tofino harbour and immediately met one of the friendliest guides I’ve ever come across: Marla. She guides for Tofino’s Jamie’s Whaling Station & Adventure Centre. Chipper, informed, intelligent, helpful: Marla is my new hero. I forgot to take her photo, but here’s her vessel:


Marla drove that boat in the Pacific Ocean like Danica Patrick drives her race car: with verve. Never mind that within moments my face was as sallow as the sea kelp. Never mind through the entire two-hour coastal tour I was willing myself — forcing myself — to keep my breakfast where it belonged: in my tummy. The journey to the hot springs was still incroyable.

We saw a whale! A great big tubular grey whale rolling in the waves, feeding on the shell fish delicacies hidden in the mud and sand near the Pacific’s cold shore. We saw sea lions basking in the spray of the waves; they lay lazily on the rocks of the mini islands that dot the coast of Vancouver Island.

We saw thousands and thousands of trees, and massive rocks, and swells bigger than buildings in Toronto. Marla kept up a steady pace of info: friendly, fascinating. And she kept on driving that boat…

Until we came to the hot springs.

Oh, the hot springs. What a sea treasure these springs are, hidden deep in Northern Clayoquot Sound. From a remote dock in Maquinna Provinical Park, the hot springs are a 30-minute walk along a wooden boardwalk (see top photo). The walk (loads of stairs included) delivers you to a narrow, rock-infested canyon full of steaming water… Off come the clothes. You stumble your way down into that warm, warm, soothing spring. Position yourself just so and you can see the sea’s waves below you rolling and crashing. More heaven.

Sorry folks, I don’t have a photo of this natural Canadian wonder: the steam and the rocks were too risky for my camera. You’ll just have to go yourself and witness what my fuss is about.


Next came my flight out. Tofino Air came to fly us back to Tofino. Holy Mackerel… see photo above. The west coast of Vancouver Island from the air is, is… I can’t find the word. Holy Mackerel.

Our day ended with the Spotted Bear.

The Spotted Bear?

It’s a cozy, candle-lit bistro in Tofino. A few tables. An open kitchen. Two chefs and a server. And the food is sumptuous. Organic, Vancouver Island produce. Fish caught fresh from the Pacific. Upscale yet casual. I highly recommend it. Here’s a photo of our braised ribs and the chefs in action:



That’s it for now. For info:
Spotted Bear: http://www.spottedbearbistro.com
Jamie’s Whaling Station: http://www.jamies.com

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Good morning from Tofino, where the sun hasn’t yet risen, but I’m waiting… waiting for this view to appear.

What a peaceful night it was here at the Pacific Sands. Our beach villas are perched at the very edge of Vancouver Island, where the waves thunder to the shore. On and on. Relentless.

I left my balcony door open just a little last night so I could stay in touch with the roar. At 2 am a cayote’s call woke me up. At 3 am, a crash of thunder. I’m told that happens a lot here on the edge of this voluminous country.

Why am I here? In Tofino, British Columbia?

A girl’s-only weekend. Girlfriend Getaway, I think they call it. It’s my first one. Ever. I’ve left the kids with their capable dad back in Toronto and have come here to surf, hike, eat, sleep. And write.

Our group of five met happily yesterday at the Vancouver Airport… many of us meeting for the first time. Our little posse boarded an eight-seat Cessna at YVR’s South Terminal. Orca Air. Our female captain and male co-pilot told us it was the first time in Orca’s history their passenger list was filled entirely with women.

Our view from the 50-minute flight looked something like this:


Next, we were introduced to Tofino’s Pacific Sands by our host, gracious PS GM, Stephen. What a spot! The view from my room is show-stopping, as you’ve seen (first pic). Hell… the room itself is show-stopping:


Then came a walk on the wet beach… in my rubber boots and hotel-issue yellow slicker.

And then came dinner. Mmmmm… a spicy, warm-your-bones, I’m-so-starving dinner at a Tofino hangout appropriately called: The Shelter. Its vibe: Cedar. Wood fire. Candle light. Surfers by the bar. Surfing flicks on the massive flatscreens by the bar. Surfing flicks on tiny flatscreens by each toilet (I’m serious). And perfectly spiced, belly-warming food brewed with mussels, oysters, lingcod, salmon and halibut.


And finally…. finally… came sleep. In a big, white, feathery bed, with the door cracked open and the waves…. Heaven.

Info: Pacific Sands

The Shelter

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With a chain of 700 jewel-like islands that stretch lazily across the Atlantic, The Bahamas is beach bum paradise. But it’s also a hotspot of very cool Caribbean stuff. Here are three top examples:

1) Chat n’ Chill, Stocking Island, The Exumas 

Few spots capture The Bahamas’ chillin’ atmosphere better than the Chat n’ Chill, a relaxed, family-friendly hangout on Stocking Island, across the harbour from George Town on Great Exuma.

Hop aboard a water taxi piloted by a guy named Elvis and motor through crystal-clear, topaz-coloured water to a perfect white sand beach. The Chat n’ Chill is a beachside, tiki-like bar stuffed to the rafters with sailing relics (ropes, flags, bits of sail) and barefoot skippers swapping survival stories. Snap open an ice-cold Kalik (a Bahamian beer pronounced kah-LICK) and flip open one of the encyclopedia-sized guest books to record your presence in the midst of all this coolness.

For an appetizer, wander along the beach to a little wooden booth flogging fresh conch salad — a Haitian chef hauls conch in from the sea, hammers it open, cuts out the meat and chops it into a spicy salad. While you wait, let the kids pet the stingrays, or wander along a Stocking Island path ‘til you emerge onto its rugged Atlantic coast — the waves are big, the sand dunes huge and the vistas endless.


2) Compass Point Studios, Nassau, New Providence Island

You don’t have to be a music buff to get into the chillin’ vibe of Compass Point Studios. Founded in 1977 by Chris Blackwell, owner of Island Records, this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it building has witnessed some of the world’s greatest rock n’ roll history. The Rolling Stones recorded Emotional Rescue here. ZZ Top, Lenny Kravitz, Pink Floyd, George Thorogood, Iron Maiden… even Shakira have all used it to lay down tracks for platinum albums.

Operated now by producers Terry and Sherrie Manning, Nassau visitors can simply call up 24 hours in advance and organize a cool and casual tour. The layed-back Mannings fascinate with rock n’ roll tales — don’t miss a peek into the studio’s Recreation Room, where rock legends still come to party when they’re in The Bahamas.


3) Pirates Museum, Nassau, New Providence Island 

Few characters are as cool as Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean — much of which was filmed in The Bahamas. When you get there it’s easy to see why. Privateers — famous rogues like Blackbeard and Charles Vane — actually ruled this island chain through the Golden Age of Piracy (1690 to 1720). Most were disgruntled crewmen of Royal merchant ships convinced revellery and the plunder of passing ships were far more fascinating than an honest day’s work.

Their fantastic history is tracked at Nassau’s Pirates Museum, which walks you through an interactive, day-in-the-life of a pirate, including details on wine, women, lawlessness, amputations and scurvy.

Afterwards, strike out on a tour of Bahamian cays. With hundreds of desert isles dotting this pretty blue seascape, tales are thick of pirates both past and present.



Twitter: @LoriExploring


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Families heading to Vancouver Island for a summer tour can follow this itinerary… I’ve tried it, and it works! There something fun to do every single day, and the restaurants and hotels are absolutely fantastic, and of course, family friendly! (For my recount of our trip, scroll down to my next blog: Road-tripping Across Vancouver Island):


Depart Horseshoe Bay on BC Ferries to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island (1 hour, 35 min. crossing) www.bcferries.com

BC Ferries

British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. or BC Ferries, is known for showcasing BC’s spectacular scenery and proud maritime history.  Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2010, BC Ferries began in 1960 with two vessels and two terminals, and the operation has grown into one of the largest, most sophisticated ferry transportation systems in the world.  With a fleet of 36 vessels that make up to 47 ports of call along the diverse communities on the BC coast, BC Ferries is the primary provider of ferry service in the province and plays a vital role in the region’s economy.  From maintaining a constant flow of goods and services, to linking families and friends, to attracting tourists to many unique and beautiful destinations, BC Ferries is a key player in the development of life on BC’s coast.

Welcome to Vancouver Island!

The Vancouver Island region is a large, sparsely populated area, encompassing Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, as well as a portion of the mainland. Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s 2009 Readers’ Choice Awards ranked Vancouver Island second in the “Top Islands of North America” category.  It has one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems: Rainforests, marshes, meadows, beaches, mountains, oceans, rivers and lakes create habitats for multitudes of wildlife species. In fact, the region is one of the world’s premier locations for whale watching, birding, as well as salmon and trout fishing.

Directions to Parksville (approximately 30 minute drive)

  • Follow the signs off the Ferry directing you to Parksville.
  • Continue onto Island Hwy North for about 24 km
  • Take exit 46 toward Parksville
  • Merge onto E Island Hwy N
  • Turn right at Resort Way – destination will be on the left
  • 1080 Resort Drive, Parksville

Welcome to Parksville and Qualicum Beach!


The central Vancouver Island tourism region of Qualicum Beach & Parksville BC is Canada’s best family friendly beach destination according to Better Homes and Gardens. The Globe & Mail called these Vancouver Island tourism towns “Canada’s Riviera”. Local islanders often call this charming collection of communities “Oceanside”.

In addition to the Parksville and Qualicum Beach region’s wealth of ocean beaches, sunseekers and swimmers have a number of rivers and lakes to check out and enjoy. These spots will often have a few more shade options and cooler water for those really hot days.  Not surprisingly, given their central role in life here, Oceanside’s beaches host dozens of events and festivals annually. Combined with beachside restaurants, ice-cream stands, waterfront promenades and bookable rooms with a view, they’re a good reason to lay out a blanket, slather on the sun block and settle in for the duration.

Oceanside Village Resort


Oceanside Village Resort

Nestled among the trees, these newly constructed fully equipped and beautifully appointed cottages offer a warm and inviting home away from home.   The resort includes one, +loft, 2 bdrm and +loft units as well as an onsite Boutique, Sushi Café, Day Spa Salon, pool, hot tub and fitness room.

Next door get ready to challenge your opponent to a Mini Golf match at Riptide LagoonComplimentary Mini Golf passes will be supplied upon check-in.

Family Restaurant suggestions:

Lefty’s Fresh Food

Huge selection, always fresh and good value, open for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

101 -280 Island Hwy, Parksville, 250-954-3886


8:00 am A day to explore Parksville and Qualicum Beach

Suggested sites:

Parksville Community Lions Club Venture Land


Kids absolutely love this!  Parksville Community Venture & Waterpark guarantee to entertain children for hours.  The kids will enjoy the swings, zip line, tire swings, obstacle course, slides and awesome waterpark. Bring a picnic lunch or eat at the on site concession.

The Parksville Community Park is located on Corfield Road in scenic Parksville Bay.

Little Qualicum Cheeseworks & Morningstar Farm

Producing award winning artisan cheeses the old fashioned way.

Free tours – open to the public.  Great samples in the farm gate store.

403 Lowry’s Rd Parksville.  Off Hwy 19A turn up Lee Rd, toward Morningstar Golf Course.  Follow the signs to the Golf Course then straight over the railway tracks and you can see their sign ahead.  www.cheeseworks.ca

North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre

A number of great activities and educational programs for the whole family to enjoy.  View: eagles, bears, owls, turkey vultures, falcons, hawks and much more.  This is a temporary recovery facility to assist and aid animals so they can once again be a part of their natural environment.

1240 Leffler Rd, Errington .  From the Island Hwy 19A N, turn left at Alberni Hwy 4A West, Turn left at Bellevue Rd, turn right at Reffels Rd http://www.northislandwildliferecoverycenter.org

Coombs Country also called Arrowsmith Coombs Country

Many attractions, activities, galleries, and spectacular Provincial Parks to discover.  In particular, Englishman River Provincial Park and Little Qualicum River Provincial Park.  Both are located off Hwy 19 and offer pristine hikes, swimming, site seeing, and photographic opportunities.

Tiger Lily Farm

A great place to experience farm living.  They cater to all ages of animal lovers.  Learn to milk a goat, feed the sheep, pet the burrow, hold the chickens, or go out on a trail ride on horseback.

Located off Hwy 19, turn onto Errington Road and follow it to 1692 Errington Rd approx. 5 minutes after the turn off.  http://www.tigerlilyfarm.ca

Paradise Adventure Mini-Golf

Two mini-golf courses, video arcade, redemption games room, and ice cream parlour. Paradise has something for everyone – including an oceanfront RV Park, gift shop and is wheelchair accessible.

375 West Island Highway, Parksville   www.paradisefunpark.net

Riptide Adventure Mini-Golf

An easy walk from Rathtrevor Beach and nearby resorts. Young and old alike can enjoy themselves for a fun and challenging game on this18 hole course.

Open 10 am 7 during summer months

1000 Resort Drive, Parksville  http://www.riptidelagoon.com


11:00 am Travel from Parksville to the Comox Valley area (approx. 1 hour drive)

Directions to Courtenay

  • Turn left at Island Hwy
  • Merge onto Hwy 19 N (Inland Island Hwy) via the ramp to Port Alberni/Campbell River (about 24 km)
  • Take exit #117 (CUMBERLAND/COURTENAY/COMOX) and right again toward COURTENAY
  • Continue on COMOX VALLEY PKY (until the road ends and you have to make a left or right)
  • Turn Left on CLIFFE AVE
  • Turn Left on 4th Street
  • Courtenay Museum will be on your right

Comox Valley

Home of Mount Washington Alpine Resort, a world class training facility for 2010 Olympic winter competitors, from more than 10 countries.  Nestled between the Beaufort Mountains and the Strait of Georgia on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, the Comox Valley is a collection of rolling mountains, delicate alpine meadows, rushing rivers, pristine lakes, lush forests, fertile farms, incredible beaches and more than 40 green parks. Four major museums, live theatre, a dynamic music scene, an active artist community and year round cultural festivals and events are just a few of the many attractions the Comox Valley has to offer. Gourmet cuisine, unique shopping experiences, galleries and eclectic coffee and tea shops line the streets of the Comox Valley’s urban centers. Or head into the quiet farmland, hills and coastlines of the Comox Valley and experience the relaxed atmosphere of rural life. Courtenay is the urban centre and cultural hub of the Comox Valley and is a great base for a holiday. Fifth Street is the heart of downtown, and tempts shoppers with a delightful array of shops and galleries.


Courtenay and District Museum and Palaeontology Centre

The Fossil Tour

Your adventure begins in the Courtenay and District Museum and Palaeontology Center. Here, a friendly and informative guide will give a brief lecture and show a short video about the famous discoveries made in the local area. Then, it’s off into the exhibit galleries to see the actual specimen and reconstructed cast of an Elasmosaur found in the Puntledge river. You’ll also see other vertebrate fossils, such as mosasaurs, turtles, and fish -along with the invertebrate fossils of shelled creatures that lived in the warm, shallow ocean surrounding Vancouver Island 80 million years ago.

A short 10 minute drive and an easy 5 minute forested walk brings you to one of the many beautiful fossil sites along the Puntledge river. Here, you’ll experience the thrill of hands-on discovery. After a brief discussion about the history of the site and proper collection techniques, participants will have a chance to find a fossil of their very own. A limited number of hammers, chisels and goggles will be supplied. You can keep any fossils that you find on the tour. If the species is of scientific value, you may be asked to donate the fossil to the museum collection, with the finder’s name attached.

You will require your own transportation to the fossil site.

Courtenay Museum
207 Fourth Street,
Courtenay B.C., V9N 1G7


Old House Village Hotel & Spa

Directions to Old House Village Hotel from Courtenay Museum (approx. 5 min. drive)

  • Turn right onto Cliffe Ave.
  • Turn left at the 17th Street Bridge (19A N/Island Hwy  – signs for Comox/Campbell River)
  • Turn right onto Riverside Lane
  • Destination will be on your left – Old House Village Hotel and Spa

Old House Village Hotel & Spa

The Old House Village Hotel & Spa is a Luxury Boutique Hotel property in the heart of the Comox Valley. We offer 79 rooms ranging from deluxe studios, One & Two Bedroom Suites and One Penthouse Suite. We are located on the Courtenay River centrally located to all amenities like downtown shopping, Dining, championship golf courses, Mount Washington Ski resort and the Comox International Airport. www.oldhousevillage.com or www.ohspa.ca


11:00 am Scenic Chairlift Rides at Mount Washington Alpine Resort

Directions to Mount Washington from Old House Village Hotel (approx. 30 min. drive)

  • Exit onto Cliffe Ave and turn Right (back towards the Museum)
  • Turn Right at 1st Street
  • Turn Left at Anderton Ave.
  • Continue over the Condensory Bridge, (road becomes Condensory)
  • At the 4 way stop, Turn Left onto Piercy Rd.
  • Turn right at BC-19 N/Inland Island Hwy
  • Turn left at the lights – Exit # 130
  • Proceed onto Strathcona Parkway for 18 km
  • Mount Washington Alpine Lodge is at the top of this road

Mount Washington Alpine Resort


Enjoy the scenic ride on the Eagle chairlift to the summit of Mount Washington (1588 m elevation) and take in the spectacular surroundings.  The panoramic view from the top includes Strathcona Provincial Park, the Comox Glacier, Mt. Arrowsmith, the Strait of Georgia and even Mt. Baker on a clear day. Once at the summit, interpretive signs identify the unique flora and fauna found in our mile high alpine as well as the more distinct landmarks you are able to view along the self guided tour on the easy bark mulch trails. You then have the opportunity to take the breathtaking chairlift ride back down or choose to hike a more rugged downhill trail to the base.

Afternoon            Explore Saratoga Beach

Directions from Mount Washington to Saratoga Beach (approx. 20 min. drive)

  • Take the Strathcona Parkway back down the Mountain to the Inland Island Hwy # 19
  • Turn Left at the Lights heading North on Hwy # 19
  • Take the Exit right toward Hamm Rd (signs for Hamm Rd/Black Creek)
  • Continue straight onto Hamm Rd
  • Turn left at BC-19A N/Island Hwy (signs for Black Creek/Saratoga Beach/Oyster Bay)
  • Follow the signs to Saratoga Beach (there are numerous Resorts along the waterfront and parking will be indicated along the road) Miracle Beach is the large BC Provincial Campground.

At the north end of the Comox Valley, at the mouth of the Oyster River, Saratoga Beach may be the ultimate stretch of shimmering sand on the sheltered east coast of Vancouver Island.  The tide along this stretch of the shoreline goes out for over a quarter of a mile, creating a hard-packed oceanfront playground perfect for children. The gently sloping beach continues for well over a mile into the calm waters of the Strait of Georgia, creating warm, shallow and safe swimming conditions, free from powerboat traffic, deep water or strong currents.  Saratoga Beach is flanked by popular camping and recreational sites at Miracle Beach Provincial Park and Oyster River Regional Park.

Family Restaurant suggestions in the Comox Valley

Atlas Café

Location: 250 6th Street, Downtown Courtenay

Phone: 250-338-9838

Hours: Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner

For 14 years, Atlas Café has been the home of long lunches, lingering dinners and perfectly overstuffed breakfasts in the Comox Valley.  It’s where friends share laughs and colleagues share ideas, and the entire community gathers to share our passion for great food.

Kinaree Thai Restaurant

526A Cumberland Road

Courtenay BC (Corner of 8th St and Fitzgerald Ave)


Hours:  Lunch (Mon. – Fri.) 11:30am – 2:00pm, Dinner (Mon. – Sat.) 5:00pm – 9:00pm

Features traditional Thai cuisine at an affordable price. It is conveniently located at the corner of 8th St and Fitzgerald Ave in Courtenay (526A Cumberland Road).  It is a comfortable place for you and your family to dine in or to take out.

Day 5

Another Beach area you may want to explore before you leave the area is in Comox.

Goose Spit Beach

At low tide the sandy beach is incredible and expansive. This beach is a very popular spot for locals especially due to its close proximity to downtown Comox. Fire pits are provided for those wanting to cook of just hang out by the fire.  There is ample parking but it does fill up fast, so be sure to come early.

To find the park, head south of Comox on Comox Road, then turn left on Pritchard Road and right on Balmoral to Lazo Road, beyond which Balmoral becomes Hawkins Road and leads out to the spit.

Afternoon Travel from the Comox Valley to Tofino

Note:  the drive from Port Alberni to Tofino is very scenic but the road twists and turns and goes up and down around the mountains.  If anyone is prone to motion sickness, they may want to sit up front and look at the road.

Driving directions from Courtenay to Tofino (approx. 4 hour drive)

  • Take the Island Hwy # 19 South – back towards Parksville
  • Take exit 60 to merge onto Hwy # 4 – Pacific Rim Hwy toward Coombs and Port Alberni

Kid Break – turn left towards Coombs before proceeding to Port Alberni:

The Coombs Country Market offers a huge selection of home cooked items to meet any craving.  Wander the area as it covers a large territory with unique shops, galleries, studios and tourist trinkets.  In the summer months the rides are open for service.  Be sure to check the goats on the roof of the market, they live there throughout the summer.  You may wish to grab some fresh produce and healthy snacks.  Butterfly World is also close by on Hwy4A and is open from 10 am to 4 pm. In addition to butterflies, you will see Turtles, Reptiles and a new Orchid garden.  www.butterflygardens.com

  • Back out to Hwy # 4 West (left at lights from Hwy 4A from Coombs)
  • Hwy  # 4 takes you to the west coast of Vancouver Island – Tofino and Ucluelet
  • Travel past Cathedral Grove (stop here on your return journey as the parking is easier on that side of the road – it’s a busy spot!)
  • Travel through Port Alberni (also a spot to refuel the car and bodies if needed but be careful, the driving gets more twisty from here)
  • Continue on Hwy 4 – the scenery is beautiful
  • Turn right towards Tofino when you get to the T intersection (left for Ucluelet)

Welcome to Tofino!

Tofino (population about 2,000), reigns as jewel of Canada’s west coast. The stunning beauty and ecological diversity of Tofino’s location in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is the source of all activities. Imagine, all in one place, fishing, kayaking, whale-watching, bear-watching, bird-watching, camping, hiking, storm-watching and First Nations cultural touring. Surfing is big here, and Tofino was named the best surf town in North America in Outside Magazine’s 2010 Editors’ Choice awards.

Tourism Tofino


Long Beach Lodge Resort


Dining suggestions include:

Long Beach Lodge Great Room

Embracing the rich west coast surroundings is our award winning cuisine that tastefully brings together farm fresh ingredients and seafood bought daily direct from the fisherman. With emphasis placed on the local and sustainable products, chef will forage the forest for mushrooms or visit the area farms, taking great care in selecting his produce, to bring a truly distinctive west coast experience to the dinner plate

Blue Heron Waterfront Restaurant at Weigh West Marine Resort, 634 Campbell Street, ph: 250-725-3277 www.weighwest.com/dining.html

An outstanding view of Browning Passage and Meares Island greet the diner – a setting framed by wall to wall windows. Sunsets are a romantic’s delight and the ever changing waterscape will make it difficult to concentrate on choosing your menu selections. The Blue Heron’s menu features fresh Dungeness crab to salmon to tender Grade A steaks.

Shelter Restaurant, 601 Campbell Street, ph: 250-725-3353 www.shelterrestaurant.com

Welcome to Shelter Restaurant. Our unique restaurant in Tofino offers the basics – food, wine, shelter – at their best. Shelter combines a sophisticated seasonal menu with a relaxed attitude and panoramic view. At Shelter restaurant we try to use local and organic ingredients whenever possible. Everything is fresh!  The salmon, halibut, and the prawns are caught locally and the shellfish is from Outlandish Seafood suppliers in the Gulf Islands. The chicken is from Lyle Young in the Cowichan Valley. Our greens are grown a few kilometres from the restaurant at Douglas Brooker’s farm in Barkley Sound. Enjoy your experience.

Big Daddy’s Fish Fry, 411 Campbell Street, ph: 250-725-4415 http://www.tofinolighthouseinn.com/14901.html

If you like fish and burgers, this is the place to go. Fresh cut fries, tempura batter and tartar sauce, halibut, cod, salmon, prawns, oysters, crab cakes, popcorn shrimp, grilled salmon and halibut, coconut prawns, homemade beef burgers, chicken, fish stew, clam chowder, appys, wraps, caesar salad, $9.00 & $10.00 specials (Monday to Thursday).

Overnight – Long Beach Lodge, Tofino


Bear and Wildlife Watching Boat Cruise, Browning Pass Charters


After you reach the village of Tofino, turn right at the 4-way stop on 4th
Street. Turn left on Main Street and turn right at the driveway just past
Stormlight Outfitters. Drive down the hill and park in one of the reserved
Browning Pass spaces.


Browning Pass Charter cruises are designed for comfort and leisure with an emphasis on wildlife viewing. On the Bear tour it’s not unusual to see bears feeding on the shoreline, eagles on their nests, seals, harbour porpoises, blue herons, and much more.

This vessel has a heated cabin, washroom facilities, galley, and large upper viewing deck.  Historical interpretation of the area is given by the skipper, Michael White, lifetime resident of Tofino.

Afternoon Beach Combing

Long Beach, Tofino

SoBo Restaurant, SoBo means Sophisticated Bohemain. A combination of boldly imaginative, world wise dishes expertly prepared with simple, fresh, locally produced- often wild- ingredients and served in an environment that is somehow both elegant and rustic.  Sophisticated Bohemian not only represents the style of culinary integrity and relaxed ambiance that Artie and Lisa Ahier have cultivated- it also reflects the personality of Tofino itself.

Overnight – Long Beach Lodge, Tofino

Day 7

Depart for Victoria (approx. 4 hour drive)

Driving directions from Tofino to Victoria

  • Head east on Hwy # 4
  • Continue to follow Hwy 4 E through Port Alberni

(Port Alberni is a good place to stop for Lunch – for really good donuts: The Donut Shop, 5440 Argyle Street, Port Alberni

Located at Harbour Quay, The Donut Shop not only serves donuts, but also has a variety of soups, snacks, beverages, light lunches and ice cream treats.)

After Port Alberni along Hwy 4, Remember to stop at Cathedral Grove.

Cathedral Grove, located in MacMillan Provincial Park, is one of the most accessible stands of giant Douglas fir trees on Vancouver Island. Here visitors can stroll through a network of trails under the shadow of towering ancient Douglas-fir trees, majestic pillars untouched by the modern world – some more than 800 years old.

  • Merge onto Hwy # 19 South /Inland Island Hwy via the ramp to Nanaimo
  • Take the Trans Canda Highway # 1 N ramp and continue to follow Hwy # 1 to Victoria

Optional stops of interest between Nanaimo and Victoria:

Wildplay Element Park – Monkido Aerial Adventure Course

Our Monkido tree courses are elevated obstacle courses set in a beautiful forest and securely suspended in the trees at 10 to 50 feet off the ground! Elements include zip lines, bridges, scramble nets and swinging logs. Our Monkido Courses’ self-managed system allow our guests to move independently through a series of surprising and progressively challenging tree to tree elements. With multiple activities in a course, children, youth and adults get to decide how far and how fast to exercise agility, endurance and confidence. In the highest courses, you ascend up to 50 feet up in the trees, discovering new levels of focus and physical skill. www.wildplay.com

Ladysmith – Nestled on the eastern shores of spectacular Vancouver Island, the Town of Ladysmith features all of the warmth and charm of small town living with a full range of services and amenities. Ladysmith is a growing community (population 7,538 in 2006) located just 88 km north of Victoria and 23 km south of Nanaimo. A 2003 National Communities In Bloom award winner, Ladysmith offers world-class outdoor recreational opportunities; a renowned trail system through picturesque forests; first-class shopping and dining in the historic downtown area; and fun-filled waterfront activities at pristine Transfer Beach. www.ladysmith.ca

Chemainus – This charming seaside village is a rare jewel on the Island. Entertaining, relaxing and tranquil, Chemainus is a favourite destination for family fun and romantic getaways alike. Chemainus brims with artistic spirit. It started in 1982, when the people of Chemainus invited internationally known artists to use the town as a canvas. Today, more than 35 murals and 13 sculptures depict the town’s history, people and future. It’s the world’s largest outdoor gallery, and each year new artworks are added. Follow the footprints for a self-guided tour of Chemainus’ colourful past, or take a tour via horse-drawn carriage or simulated steam train. www.chemainus.bc.ca

Duncanguided (or self- guided) totem walking tour

Discover the magic of Duncan’s marvellous collection of totem poles, newly refurbished and relocated in Downtown Duncan.  This collection continues to preserve the history of our local First Nations heritage. You can learn all about this ancient art through A FREE guided walking tour, available in the summer season.  Meet our Guide by the Train Station on Canada Avenue, he will be waiting to take you for a very educational journey. Schedule: Full tours are offered every hour on the hour and takes about 45 minutes. Monday – Saturday from May 3rd to September 25th. May, June and September 10 am – Last full tour starting at 1 pm.  http://www.downtownduncan.ca/duncan_totem_tourNEW.html

Goldstream Provincial Park

Massive trees, majestic waterfalls, a meandering river that meets the sea, flowers, birds and fascinating fish are but a few of the attractions that draw people to Goldstream Provincial Park, a mere 16 km from downtown Victoria on southern Vancouver Island. It’s a world that seems far removed from the urban adventures of British Columbia’s capital city whether the visitor is a hiker seeking inspiration from this magnificent example of the great outdoors or a naturalist looking to add to their notebook. There’s something new, different and exciting every month of the year at Goldstream Park. Goldstream’s numerous trails criss-cross through the dramatically different terrain of two distinct vegetation zones. The park is home to 600-year-old Douglas fir trees and western red cedar, mixed with western yew and hemlock, red alder, big leaf maple and black cottonwood. On the drier ridges visitors can find flowering dogwood, lodgepole pine and arbutus. The arbutus, with its thick leathery evergreen leaves, red-dish trunk and peeling bark, is Canada’s only broad-leafed evergreen and is found exclusively on Vancouver Island and on the southwest coast of British Columbia. In the spring and early summer, Goldstream overflows with colourful wildflowers, including the shade-loving western trillium and the calypso, a delicate orchid of the mossy forest glades. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/goldstream/

Welcome to Victoria!

Victoria is a unique blend of old world charm and new world experiences. Heritage architecture, colourful gardens and traditions such as afternoon tea mix with soft adventure such as kayaking, fishing, hiking, cycling and golf; culinary experiences such as gourmet farm and wine tours, microbreweries and world class dining; and arts and culture. As an island destination, Victoria offers visitors an escape from the hurried world and beams with ambience. Victoria also boasts the mildest climate in Canada and is green year-round. This combined with the wild beauty of the Pacific Ocean and old-growth rainforests set against a backdrop of the Olympic Mountains makes for a favourable lifestyle and a desirable destination to both live and visit.

The Fairmont Empress Hotel


Rising regally on Victoria’s spectacular Inner Harbour, The Fairmont Empress showcases the spirit and energy of Vancouver Island in grand style. With her turn-of-the-century beauty, The Fairmont Empress captures the grandeur and elegance of a bygone era, while her facilities and services meet the needs of today’s traveller.

Victoria Family Adventure Package

Bring the entire family to Victoria to experience a variety of attractions.  Your package includes: two nights accommodation in a Fairmont room, full breakfast for the entire family, children’s activity book, including local kid-friendly attractions and choice of milk and cookies or pop and popcorn upon arrival.

Spend the remainder of the day at your leisure.  May we suggest:

Fashionable North Fort

Upper Fort Street between Douglas and Cook Streets

Fort Street has long been know as Antique Row for its many auction houses and antique shops, but the arrival of several new fashion boutiques gives North Fort a fresh feel. Studio Ryu specializes in East meets West clothing lines – such as Vivienne Tam, TSE and Thakoon – Asian origin with a relaxed West Coast feel. Next door is Not Just Pretty whose keen eye for modern yet sustainable clothing lines embodies Vancouver Island’s green lifestyle. The most difficult part of guilt free shopping here is choosing just one dress to bring home. To complete any new outfit, head over to Heart & Sole, for both funky and functional footwear options or peruse the antique shops for that perfect piece of vintage jewellery.


Lower Johnson Street between Wharf and Government Street

The area is situated in the heart of Old Town and is characterized by colourful heritage buildings, but the shopping experiences are fresh and hip. The neighbourhood defines the new buzz word “HeritEdge.” Storefronts primarily feature locally designed fashions, but naturally-made products, cosmetics, hair salons, coffee houses and restaurants complete the mix. Shoppers will not want to miss Smoking Lily, Graciela’s, Gloss Beauty Bar and North of Wednesday to name just a few. Nearly all 37 businesses are locally owned and many by first time proprietors.


Fisgard Street between Government and Store Street

Victoria’s Chinatown is small, but the oldest in Canada. Once home to opium dens and gambling halls, Chinatown now mixes contemporary stores and live-work condos with traditional Asian markets and diners. Many of Victoria’s contemporary home decor and furnishings stores are found in this neighbourhood. Visitors can stroll historical Fan Tan Alley – the narrowest street in Canada – or the newly developed Dragon Alley.

Beacon Hill Park

Beacon Hill Park is Victoria’s beloved park in the heart of the city and is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2007. Victoria is well known as the City of Gardens due to its mild climate and Beacon Hill Park is a great example. The interior of the park has a Victorian landscape of manicured flowerbeds, graceful trees and lakes and bridged streams. Located in Beacon Hill Park is the world’s tallest, free-standing totem pole carved from a single log, a cricket pitch and a children’s petting zoo.

*Note: Below Beacon Hill Park lies Dallas Road and Clover Point. This is a favourite area for locals. Kids can scramble along the rock beach and drift wood while the locals walk, run, kitesurf, windsurf, hang glide and fly kites above.

Thunderbird Park
This tiny park, located behind the Royal British Columbia Museum, is home to several totem poles and a First Nations carving shed. In the summer, Native carvers showcase their traditional skills to create new totems.

Dinner May we suggest:

Noodle Box (kid portions)

818 Douglas Street, Phone: (250) 384-1314

The Noodle Box made its debut as a street food vendor in 2001, serving South-East Asian noodles in the classic, white Chinese-style boxes, enticing locals with fresh ingredients and delicious smells. A local favourite and an easy place to eat when you are on your own.

Red Fish Blue Fish

1006 Wharf Street on the Broughton Street Pier, Phone: (250) 298-6877

Red Fish Blue Fish is a canteen-style, take-out fish restaurant operated out of a steel shipping container on Victoria’s Inner Harbour. The shipping container’s reuse is part of a trend called “upcycling” which aims to reuse material without using energy to break down its components in the recycling process. This seafood taqueria serves 100% Ocean Wise sanctioned local fish including Pacific halibut, wild salmon, albacore tuna, Qualicum scallops and Fanny Bay oysters. Open for lunch and dinner.

The Pink Bicycle

1008 Blanshard Street, Phone: 250-384-1008,

A really cool place to eat really cool burgers, The Pink Bicycle serves homemade original recipe burgers using quality meats, cheeses, and produce that are sourced as close to home as possible.  Quite possibly the best burger in town!

Overnight Victoria


Willie’s Bakery

537 Johnson Street, Victoria, Tel: (250) 381-8414 www.williesbakery.com

Fresh baked goods and fresh coffee served in a casual environment in one of Victoria’s heritage buildings. Also features a full breakfast menu. Willie’s opens at 7:30 am.


554 Pandora Ave., Victoria, Tel: (250) 385-6653 www.molerestaurant.ca

Born of a longtime friendship, and a desire to serve excellent food to friends, foodies, hipsters, families, retirees and everyone in between, Mo:Le restaurant has grown from a simple eatery into an institution in just a few years.   Sourced from local and organic farms, Mo:Le serves creative and lovingly prepared food, made for all tastes and eating philosophies (vegans and raw foodies included).

Lady Marmalade

608 Johnson Street, Victoria, Tel: (250) 381-2872 www.ladymarmalade.ca

Funky offering of delicious healthy food to eat in or take out.  All day breakfast and lunch.

Spend the day at your leisure.

Family Friendly Victoria

For the visitor who is young, or young at heart, Victoria and Vancouver Island have plenty of fun things to see and do. From attractions and museums to zoos and recreation, there is something for kids of all ages.  By nature, Victoria and Vancouver Island have miles and miles of things for families to do. Ocean waters, long sandy beaches, rainforests and wide open spaces wait to be explored. Children are encouraged to get up close and personal with local marine life, bugs, butterflies and farm animals at Victoria’s unique gardens and zoos. Museums abound on the Island and have hands-on displays and activities for their favourite little customers.  Recreation centres, swimming pools, waterslides and mini-golf are always popular with the whole family and many of Victoria and Vancouver Islands festivals cater to children.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is home to several houseboats, the fresh catch of the day sold daily and some of the best fish and chips in Victoria at Barb’s Place. Ice cream too! A scenic walkway starting at the end of Belleville Street near the Laurel Point Inn follows the Inner Harbour to Fisherman’s Wharf. If you are lucky, resident wild seals may make an appearance. Feeding fish (bought from the local vendors) to the seals is a favourite with kids!

Victoria Harbour Ferry Company Ltd.


Victoria Harbour is world renowned for its bustling traffic and unique waterways. Victoria Harbour Ferry tours are equally renowned for their friendly skippers and fun, informative tours. Hop aboard one of our little ferries and see Victoria from the water. Look for our “FERRY STOP” signs at major waterfront locations around the harbour.

Visit the Victoria Bug Zoo to have a hands-on experience with some crawly creatures

Victoria Bug Zoo


Welcome to the amazing world of insects and spiders. A visit to this attraction offers visitors an excellent opportunity to view and experience multi-legged creatures from around the world in a safe, fun and friendly atmosphere. Get up close and personal with LIVE giant walkingsticks, alien-eyed praying mantids, hairy tarantulas and glow-in-the-dark scorpions, to name a few. Discover over 40 fascinating species including Canada’s largest ant farm. The knowledgeable “bug guides” will reveal the exotic secrets of this hidden kingdom and provide a safe animal handling experience for the more adventurous. Imagine holding a tickling 400 leg millipede that stretches the length of your forearm! Bring your camera. It’s an unforgettable, hands-on adventure.

Afternoon Tea at The Fairmont Empress

Prince and Princess Tea

When the British immigrated to Victoria, they brought the practice of afternoon tea with them and it has been an honoured tradition in Victoria ever since. The Fairmont Empress Hotel is the iconic destination to experience afternoon tea. The Fairmont Empress welcomes its young guests with a special “Prince and Princess” Tea for children. Children receive beverage of their choice, fresh fruit and whip cream, jello and their own tiered plate of sandwiches and sweets. The experience is completed with the presentation of a Prince or Princess certificate in the child’s name.

Mom & Dad will have the adult version of Afternoon Tea

Spend the rest of the day at your leisure:

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If you’ve ever experienced a family trip so fun you weren’t sure you wanted it to end… you’ll know exactly what we were feeling at the finish of our family’s summer exploration of Vancouver Island, BC. The tour was so enlightening and the island so well suited to family travel, we wanted the experience to last… almost forever. Here are the highlights (a reprint from the Toronto Sun, Wednesday, August 4)

Family Friendly BC Ferries

BC Ferries

Our journey began with a striking BC Ferries ride aboard the Queen of Oak Bay, from Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, BC. Equipped with an indoor playground, television and onboard WiFi, there was plenty to keep the kids occupied for the two-hour journey. But it was the sight of the sun sparkles dancing on the ocean that stopped them in their lively tracks—Mt Baker and the gulf islands looming silently in the background.

Tip: In summer, secure a ferry reservation.


Parksville—Canada’s Riviera

A 36-kilometre drive from Nanaimo delivered us to our first two-day rest stop at Parksville, BC—popularly dubbed Canada’s Riviera. I can see why. A string of Parksville resorts play host to all kinds of tourists, from luxe travellers to kayaking, whale-watching eco adventurers. But it’s the travelling family that wins the daily double here. This Oceanside region—akin to Ontario’s Muskoka—is home to four massive, warm-water beaches:

Rathtrevor Beach

Rathtrevor, Qualicum Beach, Qualicum Bay and Parksville, all of them framed by snow-capped mountains. Parksville Beach wins the prize for owning the best playground my well-travelled family has ever encountered. Parksville’s beachside Ventureland (waterpark included) has every fun slide, swing and monkey bar imaginable. Plus, when the tide is out, the Parksville Beach next door extends outward at least a kilometre, leaving tide pools full of mini crabs and sand dollars. Kid heaven.

Tip: Rent a family-perfect cabin at Oceanside Village Resort, a brief and well-cedared walk to the mountain-ringed Rathtrevor Beach.


The Dinosaurs of Comox Valley

Fossil Hunting

Another short shot north led us into Vancouver Island’s gentle Comox Valley, which lies peacefully between the Beaufort Mountains and the Strait of Georgia. But it’s the region’s dinosaurs that caught our imaginations. Yes, dinosaurs. Don’t let the following title bore you: the Courtenay and District Museum and Palaeontology Centre is home to a captivating collection of prehistoric predators—including an 80-million-year-old Elasmosaur discovered nearby. The Centre’s ace-in-the-hole, though, is Pat Trask, a local palaeontologist who leads fossil tours to nearby rivers. Our tour fascinated the children, who slogged Indiana-Jones-like…

For the remainder of the article, please visit the Toronto Sun Travel

Lori Knowles is the Family Fare travel columnist for the Toronto Sun. You can follow her travels on Twitter @LoriExploring

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