Tag Archives: BC with kids

Victoria with kids

It’s small, walkable, picturesque and totally charming. And with each visit I wonder why we don’t visit Victoria, B.C. more often.

Victoria's Inner Harbour

We could’ve spent the day watching float planes land and ferries arrive in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, from the comfort of our room at the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort.

I last visited Victoria in 2011 for the Art of the Cocktail festival and then wrote about the city’s burgeoning spirits scene for the Calgary Herald. Fast forward five years and cocktails are pretty much off the table during a visit with my husband and children, aged 11 and eight. Instead of learning to love gin, our goal is to find Victoria’s wild heart and then write about it for Toque and Canoe. But on the trail of the untamed we also toured through the city’s famous family-friendly stops. If you’re here with kids, don’t miss…

1. Children’s Farm in Beacon Hill Park

There are alpacas, bunnies and birds, but the biggest hit at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm is the goat enclosure, where billies, nannies and kids approach visitors and demand pets, even going so far as to jump onto laps or even backs. You’ll actually be able to say that a Billy Goat Gruff has your back, and mean it.

This Billy Goat Gruff has definitely got Avery's back at the Beacon Hill Children's Farm in Victoria, BC.

This Little Billy Goat Gruff has definitely got Avery’s back at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm in Victoria, B.C.

2. The harbour seals at Fisherman’s Wharf

The fish and chips from Barb’s is fantastic, but the cheeky harbour seals swimming off the dock at Fisherman’s Wharf and angling for raw fish bits by splashing with their flippers, steal the show. When your kid asks you if she can feed the seals, don’t hesitate. Pay the $5 — it’s worth every loonie!

This adorable and very well fed harbour seal appreciated his 10th lunch of the day!

This adorable and well fed harbour seal appreciated his 10th lunch of the day.

3. Butchart Gardens

Our kids were dazzled by the sheer number of blooms at Butchart Gardens, from azaleas to zinnias. This renowned attraction got its start as a private Eden planted by Jennie Butchart to camouflage her husband’s exhausted (and unsightly) limestone quarry. She got a bit carried away and the garden grew and grew and grew. We marvelled at the Sunken Garden, site of the old quarry, now a riot of colours, and got our zen on in the tranquil Japanese Garden.

Bridges, pagodas and tranquil ponds make the Japanese Garden at Butchart Gardens a calming oasis (yes, even with kids).

Bridges, pagodas and tranquil ponds make the Japanese Garden at Butchart Gardens a calming oasis (yes, even with kids).

4. A whale of a time

You can’t visit Victoria without going out on the water to look for orcas, a.k.a. “killer whales.” We last saw these magnificent creatures performing a cheesy show at SeaWorld in San Diego two years ago, so it felt better and way more natural to see them in their ocean environment on a Prince of Whales tour. We saw a transient pod of six orcas and learned they are an example of “cultural driven evolution,” a group that chose to eat seals over fish. As a result of their mammal meal preference, the group no longer breeds with the resident orcas, which eat salmon.

See that tiny speck in the water behind Avery? That's a killer whale!

See that tiny speck in the water behind Avery? That’s a killer whale!

5. The Victoria Bug Zoo

Never balk at an opportunity to hold a tarantula! Tell that to my husband, who cradled a hairy specimen at The Victoria Bug Zoo. Avery was a bit put out they don’t let kids have a turn, but she consoled herself by touching a millipede.

Now I know who to call when I see a spider on the wall...

Now I know who to call when I see a spider on the wall…

The goods: You can do all of the above through the fall, and if you happen to visit Victoria in October, there are oodles of spooky events and activities taking place, from ghostly walks to a Halloween-themed tea for kids at the Fairmont Empress. Plus the Art of the Cocktail festival takes place Oct. 22-23.

Stay: The Delta Ocean Pointe Resort made us feel welcome with kids’ play packs at check-in (complete with travel games, a slinky and a puzzle cube), the best view a kid could hope for, and a great location just a short walk from Chinatown or a quick water taxi ride away from the Inner Harbour action.


End of the road… trip

There’s always a sense of letdown coming home from a great holiday. Your excitement to sleep in a comfortable bed is tempered by your disappointment over trading scenic hikes and hot beach days for a predictable routine. So it was for us as we pointed the car east (no one ever says, “Go east,” do they?) from Vernon toward Calgary.

The climb up and the descent down Roger's Pass was the highlight of the final leg of our B.C. road trip, from Vernon to Calgary.

The climb up and the descent down Roger’s Pass was the highlight of the final leg of our B.C. road trip.

With six road hours (and eight tunnels) ahead, we had time to talk about our favourite parts of the B.C. road trip.

Avery most enjoyed the cabin up Indian Arm off North Vancouver. A budding naturalist, she’s in her element turning over rocks to find eels and crabs.

Avery catches one of many crabs up Indian Arm.

Avery catches one of many crabs up Indian Arm.

Bennett has graduated from water baby and is a bonafide splash kid. When he wasn’t paddling around a lake (or the Pacific) in his life jacket, he was imitating Piper’s doggy paddle in shallow water. Perhaps he’ll soon be swimming under his own power?

Bennett swims to his honorary auntie while cousin Jack enjoys the water too.

Bennett swims with his honorary auntie Simone and cousin Jack in the frigid Pacific up Indian Arm fjord.

Blake loved escaping the big city to be active outdoors as a family while hiking, swimming, kayaking and mountain biking in beautiful B.C. Oh, and stuffing his face with peaches, cherries and samosas (and wine!) in between activities.

Hiking as a family to BX Falls near Vernon.

Hiking as a family to BX Falls near Vernon.

I (Lisa) loved the heat. And being outside so much. And the way time seemed to slow down for two weeks. Though the places we visited were quite different from one another — small town Fernie; rustic, rainforest-tinged Indian Arm; smoking hot, lake-blessed Vernon — our theme of being active outside persisted throughout the trip. More than once I was amazed by our kids and their willingness to try new things (crab meat! paddle boarding!), hike several kilometres under the baking sun, or sit for hours in a car without complaint. They are turning into real little travellers and I couldn’t be happier about that. But if I had to pick one moment…

Sweet sibs share a moment at one of the most beautiful alpine lakes near Fernie.

Sweet sibs contemplate a beautiful alpine lake. They’ll always have each other, and share childhood memories of this family vacation.

Pet Beach

Kalamalka Lake near Vernon in the Okanagan Valley has been rated as one of the world’s top 10 most beautiful lakes by National Geographic. It is stunning — its clear blue waters that range in hue from aqua to indigo are framed in by ponderosa pine-forested hills to the east and scrubby, rocky promontories to the west. In the middle of this natural splendour sits Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park, a hiker’s and swimmer’s haven with marked trails that lead to secluded bays perfect for a dip on a hot day.

Kids and pup enjoy the clear blue water of Kalamalka Lake.

Kids and pup enjoy Kalamalka Lake at Pet Beach.

We hiked from the main parking lot down to a quiet bay and then up to a rocky lookout that afforded views down the lake and back toward Coldstream, near Vernon. From there it was an easy descent to Pet Beach, a dedicated area where you can let your dog swim. And doggy paddle Piper did. We took her out in the water a few times and let her swim back to shore, where she was rewarded with a treat. Before long she plunged in on her own and swam a lap around Blake. Then Avery threw a stick out for her, which she retrieved, over and over and over again till she was pooped.

High: Piper is officially a water dog! And we had the beach to ourselves, a drastic departure from nearby Kal Beach, the local Coldstream summer hangout that teems with people every day all summer.

Low: For some reason we didn’t bring swimming suits and Bennett tried imitating Piper’s puppy strokes… with all his clothes on.

Outcome: This park is an Okanagan Valley gem. Plan to spend a half day exploring it. Come prepared with water, snacks, swimming suits and a towel or two.