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Embarking on a Family Adventure: Exploring West-Canada with Kids

Approximately a year ago, we began planning our family trip to Canada. After two previous long trips, we decided to share the adventure with our two young children. For five months, we aimed to enjoy each other’s company, travel, and immerse ourselves in the great outdoors. We chose Canada for its stunning landscapes and the opportunity to visit good friends who reside there.

Why Choose Canada for a Family Trip?

Canada is an ideal country for a family road trip, especially in a camper. We chose Canada for its unfamiliarity and the opportunity to travel by camper. Having backpacked together twice before, we knew that constant travel and moving from hostel to hostel might not be enjoyable for our children. With a camper, the kids have a consistent home, and it provides incredible flexibility. When the kids tire of traveling, we can simply stop and call it a day.

Camping Options in Canada

Canada offers a variety of camping options. These range from more expensive sites with numerous facilities to cheaper, more primitive campsites. Our preferred option lies in between: the Provincial Park campgrounds. These sites place you right in the heart of nature, offer ample space, and are reasonably priced. You can find a list of all the Provincial Parks in a booklet available at the ‘Visitors Centers’ in every village.

Facilities vary for each park. Some parks offer shower facilities, playgrounds, or a sani-station for camper waste. All of this information is indicated in the booklet. You can also make reservations in advance, which can be useful during peak season. To help other families planning to visit this beautiful country, I’ve compiled a top 10 list of things you must do or see when you visit West-Canada with kids!

Top 10 Must-Do Activities in West-Canada with Kids

1. Uncover the Beauty of the Pacific Rim on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is a haven for nature enthusiasts who enjoy walking, cycling, and immersing themselves in the great outdoors. The Pacific Rim is a highlight, boasting stunning landscapes, long sandy beaches, and a variety of rock formations set against the backdrop of the rough sea. We recommend staying at the Greenpoint Provincial Park campground near Tofino, which is beautifully situated on the Pacific Rim. Be sure to book early as this campground fills up quickly during peak season.

Beyond the popular tourist areas of the Pacific Rim like Tofino and Ucluelet, consider exploring the less crowded Pacific Rim Marine Circle, which includes Sooke, Jordan River, Port Renfrew, and Lake Cowichan. Take your time to visit the various Provincial Parks along the way, such as China Beach, French Beach, and Juan de Fuca, and enjoy camping by the sea at Jordan River.

2. Experience Wildlife and the Discovery Passage Aquarium in Campbell River

Campbell River is a fantastic destination for families. The town center features a large playground and a hands-on aquarium where kids can interact with starfish and sea cucumbers. This is a must-visit when traveling to Western Canada with children. The town also hosts a weekly farmers market offering fresh produce.

For coffee lovers, FoggDukkers Coffee is a must-visit. Located right by the sea, it offers delicious coffee, tasty ice cream, and a stunning view. It’s also surrounded by blackberry bushes, which can provide a fun berry-picking activity for kids. From Campbell River, we recommend taking a wildlife tour with Eagle Eye Adventures where you can spot orcas, whales, dolphins, and sea lions. For accommodation, consider staying at Elk Falls Provincial Park near Campbell River.

3. Explore the Tranquility of Quadra Island

Surrounding Vancouver Island are several smaller islands that are well worth a visit. We recommend Quadra Island, one of the Discovery Islands, which is accessible via a ferry from Campbell River. The island offers beautiful natural scenery and a relaxed lifestyle. We suggest staying at the We-Wai-Kai Campsite, which offers stunning waterfront spots and is within walking distance of the enchanting Rebecca Spit Marine Provincial Park.

4. Unwind at the Sunshine Coast and Explore Savary Island

The Sunshine Coast, located northeast of Vancouver, is divided into the ‘lower coast’ and the ‘upper coast’. We explored both parts and found a charming spot in Powell River at the Willington Beach Campsite. This campsite, situated directly by the sea, borders a large playground and a water-splash park, making it an ideal location if you’re traveling with children.

There’s plenty for adults to enjoy too. For instance, Rob had an unforgettable one-day kayak tour, courtesy of Footprint Nature Explorations. The highlight of the tour was witnessing four orcas swimming by – a sight so rare that even the guide had never seen it before!

During our stay in Powell River, we visited Lund, a small fisherman’s village located north of the Pacific Coastal Highway. We spent two nights at a campsite and took a day trip to Savary Island via water taxi. This nearly deserted island with sandy beaches is a must-visit when traveling in West-Canada with kids.

Discover the Beauty of the Sunshine Coast

From Powell River, you can cross over to Vancouver Island. Besides Powell River and Lund (upper coast), the Sunshine Coast offers many beautiful spots like the Porpoise Bay Provincial Park in Sechelt (lower coast). This campground, located in a bay where you can swim and a stunning rainforest for walks, is another perfect spot for family travel in West-Canada.

5. Exploring the Rocky Mountains: Banff, Jasper, and Yoho National Park

The Rocky Mountains offer a plethora of breathtaking sights, from glaciers and snowy mountain tops to blue lakes, canyons, and cascading waterfalls. There are several campgrounds available, but be aware that not all are open in May and September.

We highly recommend Moraine Lake, where we spent a delightful 5 hours. The ever-changing colors of the lake, influenced by the sun’s position, are truly mesmerizing. It’s a great place for kids, with plenty of rocks to climb. We opted for a private taxi from Lake Louise (Fairmont Chateau Hotel), a convenient and affordable option, especially with children. Note that during peak season, private vehicles are not allowed at Moraine Lake from 6 in the morning.

While Banff is quite large, Jasper has maintained a charming small-town feel. It’s a lovely place to grab a coffee and take a leisurely walk. We took the Skytram for a panoramic view of the area. The lakes around Jasper are worth spending a day exploring. We particularly enjoyed swimming in Lake Annette. We’ve heard great things about the Icefield Parkway from Banff to Jasper, but unfortunately, our visibility was poor during our visits.

6. Camping Among Wildlife in Waterton Lakes National Park

For a less touristy but equally stunning experience, consider Waterton Lakes National Park, located 280 km south of Calgary. This park offers a unique setting with numerous hiking trails. We camped at the Townsite Campground, nestled among wildlife with a beautiful view of Waterton Lake and the snowy mountain tops. It’s a must-visit destination when traveling to West-Canada with kids.

7. Discover Canada’s Fourth Highest Waterfall at Wells Gray Provincial Park

Wells Gray Provincial Park is a hidden gem, boasting no less than 250 waterfalls of various shapes and sizes. The most renowned among these are the Spahat Falls, Dawson Falls, and the Helmcken Falls, all of which are easily accessible. Helmcken Falls, with its staggering height of 141 meters, is a sight to behold. If you’re up for a 20km drive on a dirt road, you’ll reach the beautifully situated ‘Clearwater Lake Campground’. For those with kayaks, consider kayak-hiking for a few days. Some campgrounds in this Provincial Park can only be reached by boat.

8. Experience the Okanagan Valley’s Orchards

The Okanagan Valley is famous for its expansive fruit tree and wine orchards. The terrace-shaped hills offer a stunning view, and there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. We visited Davis Orchard, a family farm near Vernon, which offers a playground with farm materials like an old tractor and interesting water pumps. They even have a small train that rides through the orchard, which is a hit with kids. Here, you can sample delicious fresh products and enjoy a full day of fun. This is a perfect spot when visiting West-Canada with kids.

9. Explore the Surprises of the Kootenay Region and Kootenay National Park

The Kootenay region, located in the southeast of British Columbia, is a must-visit. We stayed at Kokanee Creek Park near Nelson, a charming village by Kootenay Lake. Take a leisurely stroll through Bakerstreet and admire the many historical buildings. Continue to Lake Side Park and spend the afternoon at the beach and the enormous playground. If you visit during the ‘salmon run’ in August, you’ll witness thousands of salmon making their way through the water to lay their eggs. We were a bit late for this in September but still saw plenty of salmon at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park.

10. Exploring Kootenay National Park

Our journey from Nelson led us to the breathtaking Kootenay National Park via Highway 93, a route we highly recommend. Along the way, we marveled at the stunning Sinclair Canyon, took a break at the Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots, and enjoyed a lunch with a spectacular view at a roadside parking space.

Experience the Magnificent Playgrounds of West-Canada

West-Canada is a paradise for children, making it an ideal destination for family trips. Playgrounds are abundant here, varying in size and design, but all equally engaging. Whether in quaint villages or bustling cities, you’ll find playgrounds funded by local communities, providing endless physical challenges for our little ones.

West-Canada with kids

This guest blog “West- Canada with kids, the 10 biggest highlights!” is penned by Marlous, a travel-loving mum of Lola (4) and Titus (2). Discover more about this adventurous family at Marloes en Rob op reis. They are currently planning a trip around the world, proving that “If you can dream it, you can do it”.

For more travel inspiration, check out the best cities in Canada for family fun!


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