british columbia
Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is one of those magical places that has something for everyone in the family. Deceptively small (only 300 miles long by 90 miles wide at its furthest points), there's a myriad of outdoor activties kids will enjoy, plus a unique history and culture. Even getting to Vancouver Island is part of the treat, by ferry from either Washington or British Columbia.

Go to the beach - Vancouver Island has long, long stretches of public beach front everywhere. In the summer, they're the spot to go for picnics and swimming, but the spectacular season is winter, especially on the west coast, with its fantastic displays of stormy skies and wild seas.
Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea (Sidney) - This aquarium is a wonderful way for kids to experience amazing marine life of the inland Salish Sea, off Vancouver Island. Once you step inside, you'll be wowed by the diversity, from giant Pacific octopus to teeny plankton. Find out what lives in the Salish Sea - moon jellies, wolf eels, sea cucumbers, and rockfish.
Museums -
Heritage Acres - Operated by the Saanich Historical Artifacts Society, check out antique vehicles, carriages, steam engines, working sawmill, blacksmith, go for a hay ride or pan for gold and experience the world of the early 19th century settlers. (Just outside Victoria.)
Courtenay Museum and Palaeontology Centre - The Comox Valley is site major paleontological finds, 80 million year old marine reptiles, putting the Courtenay on the Great Canadian Fossil Trail. In the summer, museum has tours to visit fossil sites in the Comox.
Museum at Campbell River - No other museum does so well at celebrating all the peoples who have lived and worked on Vancouver Island. Great exhibits about pre-history archaeology, First Nations art (Salish - First Nations people who created the baskets, masks, woodwork, and ceremonial objects you'll see), logging that built up the Island (step into a replica log cabin), fishing and boat building; pioneer antique clothing and toys.
Lakes - Vancouver Island has many small interior lakes, where you can hike, swim, picnic, and (on some) boat, such as Shawnigan Lake, near Duncan. The pace in these lake villages is slow, from another era. If you're going to drive from one part of the island to another, try mapping out the trip to take advantage of the lakes and plan a stop along the route.
Sailing -A natural for an island, sailing is a favorite. It's not hard to find boat rentals in the larger towns on the Island, for afternoons or day trips. If you can't tell the jib from the jetsam, there are charter trips as well - for whale watching, fishing, or just cruising along the coast.
Hiking - Over 130 Provincial Parks are in the Vancouver Island area. Each one has hiking trails, some well planned and maintained by the Parks department, others formed by locals meandering across hills and along the ocean. Many of the Provincial Parks permit camping, boating, and fishing; some exist only to protect the land. A few knock up against towns, and others are outposts on lonely isles.
Mount Douglas is 500 acres of parkland just north of Victoria. A great place for children of all ages to hike, with a view from farmlands to the ocean. You'll see dozens of bird species, rabbits, and other wildlife.

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