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West-Canada with kids, the 10 biggest highlights!

About a year ago we started counting down to our Canada trip where visiting West-Canada with kids was on the menu for sure! After having taken two long trips together (2009/2010 and 2012/2013) we decided to share the adventure with our two kids this time (then 3,5 and 1,5 years old). For 5 months we wanted to enjoy each other’s company, travel, be outdoors, enjoying nature and live in a camper. We chose Canada. Canada was new to us, a beautiful country and we have a couple of good friends who live there.

Canada is a country made for traveling by camper and exploring West-Canada with kids truly is fantastic! We chose Canada because we didn’t know the country and because we wanted to travel by camper. The two of us have been backpacking together twice for a long while and when you do, you find yourself travelling a lot by minivan. Aside from that you often move from hostel to hostel and we thought our kids wouldn’t be big fans of that. With a camper the kids have the same home and it makes you incredibly flexible. When the kids are fed up with travelling you just stop and call it a day.

There are several camping possibilities in Canada. Ranging from the more expensive ones (30-50 euro’s) with several facilities, to the cheaper, more primitive campsites (about 10 euro’s). In between those two you have the Provincial Park campgrounds that have our preference. Here you’re smack in the middle of nature, you have a large space and it’s reasonably priced (about 20-30 euro’s). You can get a booklet at the ‘Visitors Centers’ in every village that shows you a list of all the Provincial Parks, very handy.

Facilities do differ for each park. Some parks have shower facilities, some have playgrounds, some have a sani-station (for the camper waste); this is all indicated in the booklet. You can make reservations in advance (which might come in handy during peak season). Especially for families with little ones who are visiting this beautiful country I’ve made a top 10 of things you really should do or see when you visit Canada with kids!

10x Must do in West-Canada with kids 

 

1# Discover the Pacific Rim on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is a paradise for people that love to walk, cycle and just enjoy nature. The Pacific Rim is one of the highlights of our journey. Such beautiful nature with long stretched sandy beaches, rocks in all shapes and sizes and the rough sea. We stayed at ‘Greenpoint Provincial Park campground’ near Tofino. This is beautifully located at the Pacific Rim. Be sure to make early reservations because this camping is booked to the brim during the whole season. Aside from the more touristic part of the Pacific Rim (Tofino, Ucluelet) you can also drive the less touristy Pacific Rim Marine Circle (Sooke, Jordan River, Port Renfrew, Lake Cowichan). Be sure to take your time and visit the different Provincial Parks on the way (China Beach, French Beach, Juan de Fuca) and camp directly at sea at Jordan River.

West-Canada with kids

2# Spot orcas and whales and visit the ‘Discovery Passage Aquarium in Campbell River (Vancouver Island)’

Campbell River is a fun place to be with kids. In the center of town they have a large playground with a ‘hands on’ aquarium. A great idea. Kids can stand on stools and touch starfish and sea cucumbers. You should definitely not miss out on this when visiting West-Canada with kids. They have a weekly ‘farmers market’ with fresh products where you can stroll around. FoggDukkers Coffee is our favorite coffee house located directly at sea. Delicious coffee, lovely ice-cream, a beautiful view and lots of blackberry bushes. Our kids developed a new hobby; picking and eating blackberries. From Campbell River we did a wildlife tour at Eagle Eye Adventures where we saw orcas, whales, dolphins and sea lions. We stayed at Elk Falls Provincial Park near Campbell River, which we can recommend.

3# Island hopping: Quadra Island

Around Vancouver Island there are several smaller islands which are certainly worth a visit. We chose Quadra Island, one of the Discovery Islands, which you reach when sailing from Campbell River. Beautiful nature and a laid back way of life. We were at the ‘We-Wai-Kai Campsite’, which was truly astonishingly. Lots of beautiful spots at the water and the fairy-tale like Rebecca Spit Marine Provincial Park at walking distance.

West-Canada with kids

4# Relax at the Sunshine Coast and take the water taxi to Savary Island

The Sunshine Coast is a region north east of Vancouver. It’s split into the ‘lower coast’ and the ‘upper coast’. We discovered both parts and found a lovely spot (Willington Beach Campsite) in Powell River where we stayed a bit longer. The campsite is located directly at sea and borders a large playground and a water-splash park. Highly recommended if you have kids the same age as ours. There’s lot’s to do for adults too. Rob had a one-day kayak tour as a birthday gift from Footprint Nature Explorations (managed by two enthusiastic Dutchies, John and Christy). What a gift! He went kayaking while 4 happy orcas went swimming by. How awesome is that? The guide had never even witnessed such a thing. We were all in a state of euphoria!

During our stay in Powell River we took a trip to Lund. Lund is a small fisherman’s village which is located north of the Pacific Coastal Highway, one of the longest highways in the world (the other end of the highway lies in Quellon, Chili). We spent two nights on a campsite and went to Savary Island for a day by water taxi from there. An almost deserted island of sandy beaches… what else do you need when visiting West-Canada with kids?

West-Canada with kids

From Powell River you can make the crossing to Vancouver Island. Aside from Powell River and Lund (upper coast) there are lots of beautiful spots to find along the Sunshine Coast, such as Porpoise Bay Provincial Park in Sechelt (lower coast). A beautifully located campground at a bay where you can swim and a wonderful rainforest where you can go for a walk. Perfect spot when travelling West-Canada with kids.

5# Rocky Mountains: Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Park

The Rocky Mountains is a fantastic area with loads of possibilities. From glaciers, snowy mountains tops, blue lakes and canyons to clattering waterfalls. There are several campgrounds to be found (be aware not all campgrounds are opened in May and September).

We are big fans of Moraine Lake and spent a good 5 hours hanging around here. Your eye keeps getting drawn to the magnificent colors of the lake that shift continually by the positions of the sun. The kids have rocks galore to climb around on. We chose to take a private taxi from Lake Louise (Fairmont Chateau Hotel). Not that expensive and quite handy with two kids. During peak season it’s no longer permitted to drive your own vehicle at Moraine Lake from 6 in the morning (you read it correctly). They close the road and only allow taxi vans and the free school busses that leave from the highway in.

As large as Banff turned out to be, Jasper has stayed relatively small. We liked the small town (with a terrific new playground at the edge of the center). Lovely to grab a coffee and go for a nice walk. We took the Skytram up and enjoyed the view. A couple of lakes around Jasper are really worth spending a couple of hours or even a day. We went swimming in Lake Annette. We heard the Icefield Parkway from Banff to Jasper is something special too but unfortunately our visibility was poor both times we drove there so it hasn’t made an impression on us (yet).

West-Canada with kids

6# Camp between the wild animals in Waterton Lakes National Park

A less touristy and absolutely awesome place is Waterton Lakes National Park (280 km south of Calgary). A special setting with lots of hiking possibilities. We camped out between the wild animals (Townsite Campground) with a beautiful view of ‘Waterton Lake’ and the snowy mountain tops. Most definitely worth a visit when visiting West-Canada with kids.

7# Behold, the fourth highest waterfall of Canada in Wells Gray Provincial Park

One of the most surprising parks to us was Wells Gray Provincial Park. There are no less than 250 waterfalls to be found here in all shapes and sizes. The most well-known waterfalls are the Spahat Falls, Dawson Falls and the Helmcken Falls which hare all easy to reach. As far as we’re concerned Helmcken Falls is the most spectacular sight with its 141 meters height. Unique in its kind and absolutely stunning. If you dare drive another 20km on the dirt road with your camper you’ll reach the beautifully located ‘Clearwater Lake Campground’. Do you have kayaks? Put your tent in one of them and go kayak-hiking for a couple of days. Some campgrounds in this Provincial are only reached by boat.

West-Canada with kids

8# Visit an orchard in Okanagan Valley

The ‘Okanagan Valley’ is well-known for its vast fruit tree and whine orchards. The terrace shaped hills make for a beautiful view and there are lots of outdoor activities to do. Unfortunately we were a little early (half may) for the fruit harvest and we missed out on the many fruit stands along the road. We visited Davis Orchard, a family farm near Vernon. They have a playground with farm materials like an old tractor in the ground and interesting water pumps. They even have a cute little train riding through the orchard which the kids loved of course. You can try delicious fresh products and enjoy yourself for the day. Perfect when visiting West-Canada with kids.

9# Be in for a surprise in the Kootenay region (Nelson area) and Kootenay National Park

The Kootenay region is located to the south-east of British Colombia. We stayed at Kokanee Creek Park near Nelson. Nelson is a cute little village at Kootenay Lake where you can have a great time. Stroll through Bakerstreet and admire the many historical buildings. Stroll on to Lake Side Park and spend the afternoon at the beach and the enormous playground. Try and visit during the ‘salmon run’ (august). You’ll see the likes of thousands of salmon making their way through the water, eager to lay their eggs. There are multiple spots in the area to witness this. We were rather late for this (September) but got to see a lot of salmon anyway at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park.

From Nelson we drove on to Kootenay National Park. (Highway 93), certainly recommended too, to Lake Louise. On the way there we drove through the spectacular Sinclair Canyon, stopped at the Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots and enjoyed our lunch with a magnificent view somewhere along the road at a parking space.

10# Live NOW and surrender to magnificent playgrounds

West-Canada is a true playground-paradise, perfect for when you’re visiting West-Canada with kids. Large, small, old or brand new; all as challenging and almost always including monkey bars (Lola’s favorite). From picturesque little villages to large cities, literally everywhere a township or a Lions club or some Rotary club has collected money to build a playground. This way our kids got challenged physically for hours at end.

West-Canada with kids

This guest blog “West- Canada with kids, the 10 biggest highlights!” is written by Marlous, the travel loving mum of Lola (4) and Titus (2). What do you think of this Top 10 highlight for West-Canada with kids? Are you curious to see her family and their travels? You can find everything about  this travelling family at Marloes en Rob op reis. This time they are saving up for a trip around the world! “If you can dream it, you can do it”.

Need some more travel inspiration? Check out the best cities in Canada for family fun!

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