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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.

www.bcferries.com

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.

www.VisitParksvilleQualicumBeach.com

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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