Photo Courtesy of chbaum/Shutterstock.combotanical beachview from Granville Islandview from Granville Islandview from Granville IslandMalahatMalahat

Families will love:

  • Kid-friendly city with British themes
  • Old-growth forest hikes
  • Sandy beaches

Vancouver Island lies off the west coast of the British Columbia mainland like a giant whale, the largest island on the Pacific Coast of North America. At 285 miles long, it offers stunning diversity, from the bustling waterfront capital of Victoria in the south to spectacular ocean beaches in the west, to waterfalls, hiking trails, and old-growth forest on the east side. ... more
Vancouver Island lies off the west coast of the British Columbia mainland like a giant whale, the largest island on the Pacific Coast of North America. At 285 miles long, it offers stunning diversity, from the bustling waterfront capital of Victoria in the south to spectacular ocean beaches in the west, to waterfalls, hiking trails, and old-growth forest on the east side. Families will find indoor and outdoor activities to keep them going as long as they want to stay. Depending on how much time you have, we recommend picking a focus and not trying to do it all.

Located on the southern tip, Victoria is British Columbia's capital and makes a great anchor for exploring the southern and eastern sides of the island. With its prim British ancestry -- you'll see double decker buses, horse-drawn carriages, and formal gardens -- the city has a reputation for being popular with retirees. But Victoria has evolved from its English kitsch past, and families will find the city wonderfully dynamic, modern, and fun with kid-friendly restaurants, a lively waterfront, and a compact footprint for easy adventuring on foot. Walk Chinatown's Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest alley in North America, splurge on high tea, and rent bikes to ride the Galloping Goose trail. There's a lot to do here for families with kids of any age.

From the city, head north to Nanaimo and Parksville, Canada's Riviera, for sandy beaches on the calm waters of the Strait of Georgia and old-growth forests. Or venture west to remote Tofino and Ucluelet, the "end of the road," to experience the wilder sides of the island, including crashing waves, long beaches, hiking trails, kayaking, and whale watching.

The island teems with provincial parks -- Goldstream Provincial Park, Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, Englishman River Provincial Park and many more. Choose a couple in the area you visit. For a kid-friendly taste of the island's wilderness hiking, try the coastal Juan de Fuca Marine Trail (great day trip from Victoria) and watch the surfers as you stroll the beach to the trailhead. It's a local hot spot. Our family spent a week on the island and felt like we barely scratched the surface. This guide focuses on the southern half of the island because many of the best highlights for families reside here.

Written by Joanna Nesbit less

Vancouver Island Planning & Tips
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