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Ocean Beach and the hippie experience


We took a day trip to Ocean Beach from downtown San Diego. There is definitely a hippie vibe. We bumped into VW vans decked out in graffiti and the scent of weed floating here and there. we had fun experiencing this pocket of southern California.



We simply went to wander. We ended up in the downtown area of Ocean Beach in the afternoon.  Newport Avenue is the main strip and leads to the town pier and one of the beach areas. We weren’t there at night, but there were bars that gave the sense that it becomes a lively place for adults.

ocean beach san diego vw van

Shopping. The shopping here was eclectic and an interesting activity on its own. Since we’re not Californians, we all loved checking out the surf shops. They’re full of colourful surfboards and many of them have skateboards (which my little guy is interested in). We happened upon the weekly Farmer’s Market that occupies a big portion of Newport Avenue (Wednesday afternoons). There was all kinds of great music and booths selling everything from food to flowers to awesome souvenirs.

ocean beach surf shop

ocean beach san diego shopping bear

Beach time. There is a great sandy beach where lots of surfers were catching waves. We weren’t there for a beach day, but we did dip our toes in the sand. There’s a pier you can walk out on and marvel at the power of the ocean.
ocean beach surf watch family trip

Yoga on the beach. As we wandered down by the ocean we saw a group of yogis starting to set up. My son got into it on the sidelines. There are tons of yoga practices around, even a group that offers free beach yoga (probably not kid-appropriate). The whole reason we found Ocean Beach is the local library branch offers two different children’s yoga story time once a week. Our schedule didn’t allow us to get there, unfortunately.

yoga in the park at ocean beach california


Farmers market on Wednesday afternoon/evening – so much yummy food to eat.

ocean beach ice cream

Lighthouse Ice Cream & Yogurt. Home of the waffle ice cream sandwich and bacon flavored ice cream, this place is full of yummy dairy-filled delights.


We had our rental car and lucked into parking right where we were going. We got there just before the farmer’s market and the streets were blocked off.

ocean beach downtown walk

There were bike rental spots right by the beach, but they didn’t have kid seats so this would be an adult-only activity. The downtown core was easily walkable and not that big. We had our wide stroller and easily maneuvered as we went.


Beach tides & times schedule. Pay attention to the lifeguard flags and station information boards to ensure you’re not going into rough or dangerous waters.

Ocean Beach Farmers Market. Wednesday afternoon/evenings.

Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association. This is a great site (a lot of support links in this guide go here); you’ll find event and hospitality information.

Pachena Bay beach camping


We spent a long weekend at Pachena Bay Campground with my brother and his girlfriend and a couple other families. It’s a beautiful beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island with a remote vibe.



  • Kayaking: some of the families had kayaks and the big bay provided a great semi-sheltered spot, with tons of caves and little beaches along the shoreline to keep things interesting. Some paddled to the end of the bay and around the corner to the right into another bay.

going to check out the canoe

  • Canoe crabbing: My brother brought his canoe with a little electric motor – we took my daughter out to the end of the bay and she quickly fell asleep sitting in the front, resting against my legs. We dropped a couple crab traps along the way but didn’t catch any keepers. The views of the rugged shoreline were stunning. We were told grey whales sometimes come into the bay.
  • Swimming: The beach was perfect for swimming. Pachena Bay is open west coast water, quite close to Tofino so I was expecting icy water but the shallow water over the long flat sandy beach was quite warm and the river running beside the campsite opening into the ocean was also very warm and the swimming was glorious.

splashing at the shoreline

  • Tour of the Bamfield Marine Science Centre: some of our friends did this tour before we arrived and really enjoyed it. The Centre is an education and research facility for coastal marine sciences and there are some hands on activities.
  • Keeha Bay trail hike: one mom took her toddler on this hike out to Keeha Beach. The beach sounded awesome but they said it was longer than expected. It is a difficult hike with ropes, steep sections and sometimes deep mud areas. It is 3.5km one way and can take up to 3 hours one way. Recommended for experienced hikers and older children. If taking young kids leave early and pack plenty of food and water.

walking on beach with baby carrier

  • Beach walks: Pachena Bay is the start/end point of the west coast trail so you can hike part of that trail which one family in our group did with a kid backpack. We stayed at the Pachena Bay beach and found the walk from one end to the other was far enough for our kids. When you get to the end there are tidal pools to explore.
  • Campfires: beach fires are usually allowed even when there are bans in other areas. Check local restrictions.

flying a kite on the beach
adult flying a kite

  • Kite flying: it was often quite windy on the beach making for great kite flying conditions.
  • Games: there is tons of space on the beach for games – my brother brought his Kuba wooden stick toss.
  • Bikes: if you have room for kids bikes, balance bikes or scooters they are always fun to have around a campground. Our kids borrowed from the neighbours – next time I’ll bring ours for sure.


We ate all our meals at the campground. The first night we had a delicious group meal where each family contributed one dish. I loved trying everyone else’s specialties. My brother is an amazing cook so we were treated to having him take the lead on a lot of the meals. He brought an awesome 5 burner campstove that made big meals a breeze. A highlight was a paneer curry served with rice and papadums. Camping favourites like sausages, chips, and crackers were also a big hit. Our kids tried s’mores around the campfire for the first time too. If you forgot anything, want to pack light, or need some snacks for the drive home, stop in at Bamfield Mercantile for groceries, assorted prepared food and other supplies.
learning how to cook on a campstove


We camped in tents – the campsites are quite spacious and we shared a site with my brother and his girlfriend. We set up a small tent for the kids with the door facing our adult tent. The kids stayed in their tent the whole night so we slept great. It looked like all the campsites on the beach side had their own trail to the beach. The trail was only 20 feet or so making it easy to go back and forth and get lots of beach time.
little bay framed by trail
relaxing on a log and scoping the horizon


We drove to Pachena from Lake Cowichan via the logging road. It is also possible to drive through port alberni and take the logging road from there or avoid logging roads by taking a passenger ferry from Port Alberni. From there you can get a short taxi ride to the campground. Check out Lady Rose Marine Services for ferry info.
little dude at the beach

Packing tips

Pachena Bay gets classic wild westcoast weather – often fog and drizzle in the morning, and can still get hot during the day, so you’ll want clothes for a mix of temperatures and raingear is a must. Don’t forget your swimsuits! With our 1.5 year old we found the baby carrier made beach walks more enjoyable. We also found the jogging stroller worthwhile. Some friends brought kids bike which we borrowed. If you have room, a bike is always good fun at a campground.
beautiful pachena bay beach
trail from campground to the beach


Pachena Bay Campground
Bamfield Marine Science Centre
Lady Rose Marine Services
Bamfield Mercantile
watching the kite flying
long flat shallow beach at Pachena Bay
leisurely beach stroll

Banff, Alberta in Summer


Banff, Alberta during Summer months is a great family destination because there are so many activities. walks, sights and opportunities to see wild animals. Our travel group was 4 travellers; two adults, one 3-year old and one 8 month old.

banff alberta turquoise lake rocky mountains in summer


waterfall family hike bow valley banff alberta
We live just 30 minutes from Banff so often visit on day trips. Some of the things we love to do as a family in summer include canoeing and paddle boarding on the Bow River, hiking Tunnel Mountain, Riding Bikes on the legacy trail, hiking up Sulphur Mountain and taking the gondola down, going to the Hot Springs and just hanging out in Central Park where there’s a great playground and often events and markets are held. We also love doing the hike to Johnson Canyon, a short hike with little elevation gain that takes you into the woods to a beautiful canyon and waterfalls, it’s only about a 1-2 hour hike and very manageable for most kids 4+. Banff also has a nice farmer’s market on Wednesdays in summer. Guided tours are also a great option, including the Lake Minnewanka boat cruise which is a guided cruise on one of Banff’s largest lakes the cruise is beautiful and interesting.
bow valley banff alberta canada rocky mountains


Banff has a ton of chain restaurants that are all family-friendly including The Old Spaghetti Factory, Earls, Starbucks etc. But there are also many, many great restaurants that that offer fun menus and wine & beer offerings for both kids and parents. Our favourite family-friendly restaurant is Carlitos, they offer authentic Quebec-style poutine (Quebecois approved!) and tasty pizzas and salads and you can dine-in or order delivery – to your hotel room. We also enjoy going to the Fairmont Banff Springs Bow Valley Grill for a fantastic weekend buffet – but reserve in advance as it’s often full. For great take-out Barpa Bill’s has the BEST burgers in town as well as fries and greek food – kids will love it. For a morning coffee & baked treats check out Wild Flour on Bear Street – they have many great alternative options including vegan and gluten-free – it’s our favourite pit-stop before going out for a hike in the morning. For a romantic dinner out the Maple Leaf and The Bison are great for Canadian fare. Nourish is the town’s fantastic vegetarian restaurant the mushroom ravioli is something I dream about.
family canoe trip bow river banff alberta canada


We live only 30 minutes away from Banff, so we don’t typically stay there overnight. But I would recommend Banff Park Lodge for a nice hotel at a reasonable rate. If you want luxury Fairmont Banff Springs & Rim Rock. But I really feel that camping is the best way to stay in Banff. Tunnel Mountain Campground is a Parks Canada-operated campsite with over 10,000 sites, it can be reserved online too and is just a short drive or bike ride or 15-20 minute walk into town. Two-Jack Lake campground is a little further out of town but absolutely gorgeous, especially if you can get a lakeside site.
hiking with baby banff alberta bow valley canada


We frequently drive in from Canmore. With Calgary International Airport just 1.5 hours away it’s easily accessed by car, bus and in summer 2017 there will be a bus available for $10 each way.
banff alberta mountain family hiking canada


Parks Canada
Banff Canoe Club
Banff/Lake Louise Tourism
bow valley banff alberta canada rocky mountains family holiday

Packing tips

Layers, layers, layers – LAYERS! The weather can change on a dime and change back again in a matter of hours. Bring base-layers, fleece layers, waterproof shells, mitts, hats, sun hats, warm jackets, long & short pants and shirts… you get the idea. Also bring or get bear spray, there are many active bears in the area, including within the townsite for the safety of the bears and yourself please bring it along. Groceries and food tend to be quite expensive within Banff so if you can pack extra snacks like granola bars, fruit etc. in advance. The water systems offers some of the cleanest, freshest water in the country (world?) and it tastes amazing – do not pack bottled water. If you have a baby bring a hiking carrier for the baby.
waterfall family hiking bow valley banff alberta

Wild and yummy Portland


My family lives to eat out. Portland was a foodie wonderland that was incredibly accommodating for tiny diners like our two and a half year old.



Tanner Springs Park, Portland Oregon
Tanner Springs Park is a little urban ecological adventure waiting to be discovered

Parks & Playgrounds: Portland had an abundance of great outdoor spaces to explore. The Rose Garden Children’s Playground was a favourite that we returned to a few times. There was also a sports field just steps away that was great for running around. Within a few blocks in the Pearl District are Jamieson Park (just a cement area to sort of run or scooter), Tanner Springs Park (a serene urban marsh-type park to wander and pretend), and the Fields Park with a great playground, which was my favourite discovery.

There are unique little communities throughout the city. We went to some of the main attractions – the International Rose Test Garden (my son loved running along the rose paths), the Hoyt Arboretum served as an excellent early morning outdoor adventure, and we spent a great morning at the Portland Children’s Museum. I highly recommend the museum, just go early. Powell’s Books couldn’t be missed and didn’t disappoint with it’s selection.

portland international rose test garden
Running through the roses.

Cool Neighbourhoods: Portland’s Pearl District is well known and we did our share of roaming while my son slept in the stroller. Nob Hill’s NW 23rd Avenue turned out to be a great find. There is all kinds of interesting street art that entertained my son, some yummy food and great shops.

Favourite pit stops

Dicks sporting goods store in Portland Oregon
Racing around our favourite pit stop – the sports store

Dicks Sporting Goods turned out to be quite the spot for our little family! The running shoe display has a mini race track and my son really took advantage of stretching his legs. Maybe I’ve got a future Olympian.

Favourite memories

Watching my son run and roam around the city was such a highlight. He flitted between expressing his passion for baseball pants (which we got at a Dick’s Sports store) and all things pirate. It’s amazing what you can find when you’re looking. We scored a now out of print illustrated encyclopedia on baseball at Powell Books and a pirate cape and sword at Child’s Play. All of these things were inexpensive and easily transported on our road trip home.


Portland welcomes minors in licensed restaurants
Portland welcomes minors in licensed restaurants.

On the brewery scene, we took advantage of Portland’s welcoming of minors in licensed restaurants: Deschutes Brewery still makes my mouth water writing about it. My son’s dinner at 10 Barrell Brewing came on a frisbee he could take home; the food was also nice and healthy. One note on the veg that seems popular on kids menus – it’s a lot of large carrot sticks and celery.
yummy portland food scene


I love baked goods with my coffee. Again, lots to choose from. Lovejoy Bakers was close to a great playground and walkable.

Blue Star Donuts on NW 23rd Avenue in Nob Hill blew our minds with delicious flavours. (NOTE: Blue Star is not the same as the other famous donut shop, Voodoo Donuts, which we read always had long lines… it just wasn’t worth trying for us this trip.) While in that neighbourhood we also lunched at Papa Haydn’s. They had some beautiful desserts, although we opted to try Blue Star instead to diversify. For breakfast we also took advantage of our early starts to go to Mother’s Bistro. They have a play area for children that made the wait for our food more pleasant for everyone.

Food trucks have something for everyone.
Food trucks have something for everyone.

Food trucks are also a must-do in Portland. Although if you have a very fidgety child and/or one that can’t really eat on his/her own, it might be a pass. We went to the pocket off Alder and 9th and each found something great. We ate at O’Bryant Park a nearby square that had a number of homeless people mixed in with everyone else out eating.

Spontaneous fun

We found so many great toys stores in each community we went to. Finnegan’s Toys & Gifts by the food trucks.  Child’s Play in Nob Hill had very knowledgeable staff about their products.

As we wandered around the Pearl District, one great spontaneous find was the KEEN Garage store. They have an interactive shoe display and our son loved cranking the shoes to see it all move.
Portland playground


We stayed at the Portland Mariott Downtown Waterfront. The hotel was nice, but didn’t have a pool which we realized would have been a big advantage for the evenings. We couldn’t get a cot for our son, but there was a chaise lounge chair in the room that we moved beside our bed so he could sleep comfortably without falling out. The hotel was easily within walking distance along the Waterfront Park Trail overlooking the Willamette River.

Street cows in Portland
Cows on NW 23rd


After looking at all of our options, we decided to take a road trip. We had our car for the whole time we were in Portland. Parking downtown was a bit frustrating; most of the street parking we found was short-term (90 minutes max). The convenience at least was the meters could be paid with credit card. There were several sites we wanted to see that were outside the downtown core and having the car made it convenient. There is a great transit system though and we could easily have travelled anywhere we planned to go. When we were downtown or in the Pearl District we walked. We had our stroller just about everywhere.
family vacation in portland

Helpful hint

In many parts of the downtown there are a lot of homeless and at-risk people wandering or residing. We did our best to avoid some of those pockets; if you feel unsafe be sure to check with your hotel or host to better understand the city landscape.

Packing tip

The Pacific Northwest is notorious for rainy weather. Packing layers and always having some rain gear is a must.


Portland TriMet Transit. With buses and trams, its easy to get around.

Food Carts Portland. Find food carts that are dispersed throughout the city.

Hoyt Arboretum. There are 2 miles of trails that families can even take strollers around. Check out Hoyt’s site for a children’s activity map. You can even find the Fairy Forest!


Seals and sights in Victoria


We live in Victoria. Recently, we were watching all of these tourists pouring out into the streets of downtown and thought – we should do a staycation! So on a sunny weekend in July we set out to see things we don’t normally see.



We paused on our walk downtown by the Inner Harbour and caught the weekend water ballet performed by the little ferries. There are buskers along the walkway and local artisans selling art, jewelry and offering to make caricature drawings of you and your family for a fee.

Harbour ferry ballet in Victoria BC
Ferry water ballet comes to an end in Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

Our goal was to see some of Victoria’s most iconic spots on a sunny summer weekend. First on our list was Fisherman’s Wharf. There are seals that swim along the docks waiting for the many tourists that can buy bait from a local shop and feed them. Watching the seals surface from the water was a highlight. We are also a little obsessed with orca whales at our house, and the whale watching companies that line the dock there have very interesting displays of sea life including an orca sculpture jutting from a wall. There is a playground in Fisherman’s Wharf Park, which has some great playground equipment for slightly older kids. For crawling babies and burgeoning toddlers there is also a great green space to roam.

Walking: We walked from the Inner Harbour all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf. For most the walk you can stay on a walkway by the water. Close the wharf there is a wide, wooden path called David Foster Way. It was nice to let our son wander without worry that he’d stray into traffic.

One of the two great play areas in Beacon Hill Park.
One of the two great play areas in Beacon Hill Park.

Parks & Playgrounds: Beacon Hill Park has two and we went to both. The first is right on Cook Street. It’s got lots of options for toddlers up to slightly older kids who like a zipline or climbing. The other is in the park itself. It’s better suited to a younger child – new walkers and small children. You can really spend a whole day at the park looking at ducks, ponds, putting green and of course the petting zoo (by donation).


For breakfast we have two favourite spots. A traditional breakfast at Bubby’s Kitchen on Cook Street is always great. The meals are big and we always share. It’s also a short walk to Beacon Hill Park where you can roam before things start opening if you’re early risers like us. For a more European style light start, we go to Fol Epi Bakery and Caffé Fantastico on Harbour Road. Going there is like stepping onto the continent for a minute. The view from the café of the gorge waterway is breathtaking. The café even has a box of books and two stuffed mammoths for kids to play with; they will also make a teeny steamed milk for your child if he/she is interested.

A free Shirley Temple is delightful for many reasons, including the cherry!
A free Shirley Temple is delightful for many reasons, including the cherry!

There are a number of food options around Fisherman’s Wharf. However, we preferred a walk back in toward town. Santiago’s Cafe is one of the first good restaurants that are kid-friendly on the way back from Fisherman’s Wharf. On our second day we stopped at Pagliacci’s, one of Victoria’s best Italian restaurants. It’s snug and meant to feel like you’re in a crowded New York restaurant. There is no room for a stroller, but they have a great kids menu and you get one free Shirley Temple. (Both would be great for dinner.)


We stayed at our home, but I would recommend the Delta Ocean Pointe in Vic West to any family. It has the most beautiful view of the Inner Harbour, is completely walkable into downtown or you can take a Harbour Ferry from the dock in front of the hotel. We have often visited the hotel lobby in winter to escape our condo and give our son a little room to explore. There is a staircase that leads to two windows overlooking the water that he loves to climb and play in the alcove. The lobby is open with lots of seating and he can roam without disturbing other guests. There is also a pool and tennis court.


Victoria is on the south part of Vancouver Island. In order to get here you need to either take a BC Ferry (the most common option) – you can drive your car on and cross. Alternatives include the Clipper ferry if you’re coming from Seattle and don’t need or have a car, the Coho ferry from Port Angeles (drive on) or any number of airplane options, including seaplanes that land right downtown Victoria.

The best part of Victoria is that it’s incredibly walkable. You can roam with any version of stroller you might have, or simply pack your little one into your carrier. Although my son is old enough to do some walking, we always have the stroller with us. Parking downtown can be a bit frustrating at times, although there is now an app so you can pay for your street parking on the move. There are a number of city-run parkades that are clean, safe and relatively affordable if you’re going into the downtown core and need to park.

Snack time for the seals at Fisherman's Wharf.
Snack time for the seals at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Spontaneous fun

Every three years there is a major hot rod car show in Victoria. We happened on it this year. The cars were everywhere downtown and along the path we were walking. Next one will be 2019.

Favourite memories

Walking along the boardwalk back into town was a lot of fun. It’s such a beautiful little city and it felt good for all of us to be moving our bodies. My son became obsessed with trying a dance move and we watched as he’d stop, try and then run ahead again.

Packing tips

The weather changes multiple times a day. Always pack layers and keep a warmer layer with you, even if it looks like the day is going to be hot. With the ocean breeze, you never know when it’s going to get chilly.


Tourism Victoria

City of Victoria Parking App

Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park


Tofino is one of my favourite places in the world. I have amazing memories of visiting as a kid and I was so excited to share it with my own kids! I loved running out onto the wild west coast beach with my daughter for the first time.



As Tourism Tofino says, “In Tofino, the beach is the thing.” There are lots of them. When we camped at Greenpoint National Park we spent a lot of time at the beach in front of the campground. Most of the beaches are fine sandy beaches so be prepared for sandy kids. There are always lots of interesting treasures on the beach – shells, washed up jellyfish, other sealife, large bull kelp, seaweed, and other items that have drifted in. Sometimes you can even see grey whales from the shore.

When we stayed at Cox Bay we spent our time on the beautiful beach in front of the resort.

boy at the cox bay beach in Tofino
Making sand patties and watching the surfers.

Surfing: I rented a wetsuit and surfboard for myself and my daughter from Pacific Surf Co. My daughter ended up not wanting to wear the wetsuit but it was cool they had small sizes for toddlers! They also offer lessons. If you stay at Long Beach Lodge (and maybe some of the other resorts) they have their own surf school and boards. I surfed at Greenpoint and was the only one in the water.

pnw kid at Tofino beach
Excited to be at long beach for the first time!

Chesterman Beach and Long Beach are also amazing. More info about beaches on the Tourism Tofino site.

On a recent trip to Tofino we discovered the Kwisitis Interpretive Centre – amazing! At certain times they have presentations and you can easily spend a couple hours exploring the two floors of exhibits and taking in the views. There were also some coastal themed art exhibits from local high school students and a local artist. Next time I’ll pack some food and spend the rest of the day on the beautiful beach after. Definitely worth the visit!

killer whales orcas
Orcas, seals and grey whales are common sights.
whale watching on boat
Watching orcas put on a jumping show.

Whale Watching: We went whale watching with Jamie’s Whaling Station and had a great time, although the 3 hour trip was perhaps a bit long with the little kids. I kept my 9-month old in a backpack for most of the trip. We saw a pod of orcas put on a big show of jumps and splashes for about an hour – very impressive. Next time I’d like to take the boat trip to Hot Springs Cove.

Festivals: In September we went to Carving on the Edge – an art and carving festival. One year I hope to be there for the Pacific Rim Whale Festival in March – it’s a 2 week festival with tons of events. Check out the Tofino Time festivals page for more festivals.

Next time if it was raining I would also consider the nearby Ucluelet Aquarium.

Some spontaneous fun

tofino family vacation
Cox Bay November afternoon (left) and kite flying at Wya Point.

We went into Mermaid Tails bookshop (we forgot bedtime books for the kids!) We picked up a couple great books and then discovered their kite section! Lots of colourful, unique shaped kites for all abilities and conditions. We bought a triangular tube-shaped kite and now take it on every road trip we go on – it is easy to fly and good simple fun for the whole family.


For meals that we made ourselves we got supplies from the Coop grocery store in Tofino – they have just about everything you need. There is also a farmer’s market on Saturdays in the summer – Tofino Market.

beach kids, Cox Bay, Tofino
Splashing around at Cox Bay in Tofino

When we camped one day it was pouring (as it can do in Tofino) and I made an early dinner reservation for us at The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn.
We got there at 445 and stayed until 730, which was easy to do with the amazing food and dessert menu (featuring lots of Vancouver Island ingredients), fun ocean-themed kids colouring sheets and beautiful ocean views. That way we went straight back to the tent and went to bed early! If you call and make a reservation you can request a view table. If you want to treat yourselves I highly recommend the Wick!

Some other favourite meals were at The Long Beach Lodge. Again, breathtaking ocean views and amazing food. They have fancy stuff as well as stone oven pizzas and burgers. Their breakfast was also fantastic with nice touches like housemade bread for toast and fancy preserves, as well as parmesan home fries. Dinner reservations required.

long beach lodge tofino bc
I enjoyed the fresh local seasonal ingredients at Long Beach Lodge and the kids were happy sharing simpler fare like pizza and burgers.

Sobo in downtown Tofino has a great kids menu. They also have a play pirate ship on the enclosed back patio where the kids can entertain themselves while you wait for your meal.

Rhino Coffee House downtown has casual breakfast and lunch as well as AMAZING housemade donuts! Offerings include maple bacon, beer donuts, colourful sprinkle donuts, chocolate mint and even a donut breakfast sandwich. We have now hit this place up three trips in a row so safe to save we love it. They also serve pizza in the evening and there is some great shopping next door.

On our last visit we discovered Ukee Scoops – an Ice Cream store in Ucluelet with a great selection (they were serving some Mario’s Gelato mmmm) and even some house-made ice cream sandwiches! They have a bar with some stools which was a good place to station my youngest with his ice cream while I finished up with our order. They also have a small fenced in porch and bench outside which was a great place for the kids to sit. They serve espresso coffees and have a selection of local gifts including some children’s books.


We camped at Pacific Rim National Park (Greenpoint) using the equipped campsites. It is a really cool program from the national park system where they provide tent, sleeping mats, campstove, lantern and tarp all set up. We just had to bring sleeping bags and pillows, and we brought our own mats which was good because the ones provided are pretty thin.

MEC equipped camping greenpoint national park
The equipped camping courtesy of MEC is set up for you and the spacious tents fit a pack and play.

After our last night we didn’t want to leave and ended up staying an extra night in a beautiful cabin at a place called Wya Point resort, which is on a small beach located on an old summer village site of the Ucluelet (Yu-klew-ith-aht) First Nation. Each of the cabins has a different totem pole built right into the middle of the main floor.

wya point cabin ucluelet
Gorgeous views at Wya Point beachfront cabins.

We went again in November for a one night trip and stayed at Cox Bay Beach Resort – the units are condo style, with a little kitchen and BBQ so you can have some meals at home, however we mostly ate next door at Long Beach Lodge resort – they have amazing food including some fine dining and casual fare, as well as great breakfasts.

tofino family trip
Family fun exploring Tofino beaches


We drove from Lake Cowichan, on southern Vancouver Island. It is a bit of a windy road between Port Alberni and Tofino and Ucluelet (the two towns are about 30 minutes apart), but once you get there it is really easy to get around. There is basically one main road connecting the two towns the runs along the coastline and thus has a lot of the accommodations (which all strive to be ocean front, ocean view or walking distance to the ocean) along this strip. In downtown Tofino there is a main street, a 1st 2nd 3rd and 4th street, and a handful of others, so everything is easy to find. Also because the town is small and their main industry is Tourism, most of the staff in shops and restaurants are happy to help with directions.

Favourite Pit Stops

There are a couple great pit stops on the way out – one nature type stop is Cathedral Grove, an old growth forest of douglas fir trees up to 800 years old. It has a small network of trails through the monument-like trees. It is accessible from the side of Highway 4 (the highway that goes out to Tofino), and is about 25km after you turn on to highway 4, and 15km before you get to Port Alberni. There are outhouses.

Another convenient place to stop is Port Alberni, a medium sized town with grocery stores, fast food etc. There is a cute kids store with new clothes and toys and some consignment if there is anything you forgot to pack – Klubhouse for kids, a couple doors down from Subway on the main drag.

Beach fun at Wya Point, Ucluelet
Beach fun at Wya Point, Ucluelet


Official tourism site: Tourism Tofino
Tofino happenings for locals and visitors: Tofino Time
Vacation Rentals: Stay Tofino

Packing tip

It can be cold and wet, even in the middle of summer so be sure to pack enough warm clothes, and waterproof jacket if you don’t want to be stopped by rain. Muddy buddies were great for the beach for my not quite walking toddler.




Vancouver Weekend Escape


We needed a bit of an escape from home since we didn’t have any big family vacation plans. We took the ferry to Vancouver on a Friday afternoon in July and came home on the Sunday afternoon.



Since we were only in Vancouver for a weekend, we had to plan our time wisely. Vancouver is a large city and we had to be strategic about where we went and the timing so nap time didn’t get compromised. On Saturday morning we started at Granville Island at the market. We roamed around before it got busy with other people. Co was able to run easily on the boardwalk.

Next we drove to Stanley Park. I could have stayed there all day – maybe next time we will. We went specifically for the train. It was reasonably priced and was actually more fun than I had anticipated. Co loved it. He sat in his own seat and the little train twisted through the giant, beautiful trees. After our ride we toured around the park on foot. We left the stroller in the car, but it would have been easy to get around with it. We happened on two different playgrounds that were both suitable for a toddler. The train was near the aquarium, but we decided to forgo it this trip. Instead, we walked to the south part of the park and discovered some artists with their work on display.

Chugging along on the Stanley Park train
Chugging along on the Stanley Park train

After a very full morning we took the car downtown. We parked at the Pacific Centre and took advantage of some shopping. There is a Disney store there, so be warned. Co fell asleep in the stroller so we crossed the street and went to the Vancouver Art Gallery. After quietly strolling him around and admiring the art, he woke and we enjoyed looking at some of the giant paintings together.

In the evening we headed back to our hotel to take advantage of a swim and then the Richmond Night Market. I think the market must have a theme every year. When we went there were 18 dinosaurs placed throughout. They moved and looked very real. The line to get in was insanely long. We arrived at 7 when the gates opened and waited 45 minutes to get to the gate. To avoid parking and traffic chaos the Sky Train would be the smartest way to get there. And since bedtime was so near it would have been smart to splurge on the Zoom Pass – $20 for seven visits and its transferrable.

Urban exploring.
Playing with a giant bird.

We also visited False Creek (Hinge Park & Olympic Village Square). The giant birds in Olympic Village Square were such a fun playground while we waited to meet our friends for brunch. There were other kids roaming with their parents and it was a nice, open space to explore and people watch. The nearby park had all kinds of green space and water features. There was a nearby coffee shop for a restroom and drink. Plus, if you’re planning to go to the Science World its nearby.


Granville Island: Siegel’s Bagels; Edible Canada (brunch). All of this food was fantastic. We had a bucket list goal of eating at Edible Canada, which has always been packed when we’ve been there later in the day. They didn’t open until 9 a.m. and we needed something for Co, so we stopped for a freshly made bagel in the market. He shared it with us and it was so good. They had literally just come out of the fired oven. We sat by the windows overlooking the Burrard and Granville bridges; so scenic. After we ran around for a little and then got to Edible Canada as it opened its doors. The food there was DELICIOUS and worth the wait. They were great with Co, bringing him a booster seat, crayons and a kids menu. We actually turned their menus into an ad hoc race track, because I’d packed tinker toys for him.

granville island public market burrard bridge
Cruising outside the Granville Island Public Market

Faubourg (lunch). OMG! Eat here. It’s a French-style bakery and the food was flipping delicious. We had a late lunch after the art gallery and Co had just woken up. They have lovely sandwiches and simple soups… all of which are an excuse to get to dessert.

BC Ferries Pacific Buffet (dinner). It’s easy and relaxing to stay there once you’ve eaten, especially on a busy travel day. Co made a friend at another table and they played quietly together while we looked out the window over the water at the islands.


We stayed in Richmond, BC at the Hotel at River Rock. The hotel itself was decent. They have a fantastic pool with a really good slide. That was the highlight of staying here. We wouldn’t stay there again though. The hotel is connected to a casino and as a result it doesn’t feel like a family-friendly place. If you’re a non-smoking family like we are, the overwhelming number of people smoking was also a frustration. Plus, this is the second time we’ve stayed there and each time there have been fire alarms. On this trip it was at 1 a.m. It’s too bad, because it’s conveniently connected to a Sky Train station and has fairly inexpensive parking.


We live on Vancouver Island, so we took the car on BC Ferries from Swartz Bay to Tsawwasen. Once we arrived we took a combination of our car and the Sky Train to get around. We relied on Google Maps for all of our travel and it didn’t let us down!

BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria
My two boys caught some sunshine on the observational deck of our ferry.


BC road trip to Kinbasket Lake


I took my daughter on our first road trip together to meet friends at Kinbasket Lake Resort, nestled in the Rocky Mountains. We stayed on Shuswap Lake on our way up and at Lac Le Jeune Provincial Park near Kamloops on the way down.



Lakes: we enjoyed swimming in Shuswap Lake, Kinbasket Lake and Lac LeJeune. Kinbasket was pretty chilly when we went (early july) but we were told it warms up quite a bit in August. Friends brought sit on kayaks that the kids could use and that was lots of fun close to shore. Our friends also brought a boat – the lake is huge and motorized boats are allowed. A canoe would have been fun too.

kinbasket lake bc rocky mountains

little girl playing in kayaks
Trying a kayak on for size.

Rogers Pass National Historic Site is very close to Kinbasket lake in Glacier National Park. This high mountain pass cuts through the Selkirk Mountains and is used by the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Trans-Canada Highway. The pass is significant because it is a shortcut that connected British Columbia to the rest of Canada by rail. Even sitting in the parking lot is enjoyable here as the mountain views are breathtaking. We also did a quick tour of the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre, featuring a theatre and exhibits which share some history of the construction of Canada’s first trans-continental railway.

Hanging in the trunk at Rogers Pass
Hanging in the trunk at Rogers Pass

Hiking & Trails: Glacier National Park has a large network of trails. Kinbasket Lake Resort is also a great starting off point for day hikes.

Hiking microfashion along a trail at Kinbasket Lake
Hiking microfashion along a trail at Kinbasket Lake

Playing! My friend brought lots of crafts, some toys and bubbles, including a bubble machine! which were all big hits. The older kids also organized a talent show which kept them entertained while planning, and provided some fun for the adults too at showtime.

kids crafts camping
Craft time keeps everyone entertained.
playing with bubbles
Bubble machine fun 😀

Some spontaneous fun

Cooler baths! My friend introduced us to the art of bathing little people in a cooler. This was something we took home with us and is still a fun outdoor activity in the summer.

camping bath cooler tub
Cool bath hack – fill up a cooler!

The playgrounds in all 3 campgrounds we stayed at were also highlights – sometimes all it takes is a simple swing or slide to lift everyone’s spirits.

kinbasket lake playground tire swing
The jumbo swingset at Kinbasket Lake was a hit.

Favourite memories

I remember listening to a Raffi cd on repeat – it was great to have some music that kept my daughter entertained on the long stretches of the drive.

My daughter napped in a hammock my friend had brought – this turned out to be a lifesaver as she had a hard time napping in the tent and I didn’t have room to bring our stroller. I loved watching her peacefully sleeping between the trees.

Catching some zzzz's in between two trees.
Catching some zzzz’s in between two trees.


All our meals on this trip were camping meals. One of my favourite meals was halibut fried with garlic scapes and zucchini – we brought a frozen piece of fish that helped keep the cooler cold and by the second night it was perfectly thawed and ready to cook. I planned simple one-pot meals like oatmeal for breakfast and boxed Annie’s noodles for lunch, as well as peanut butter sandwiches and fruit. Everything seems to taste better when you’re camping so I just kept it simple, especially since I was only cooking for myself and my 2 year old daughter. We also did some shared meals – one of the many benefits of vacationing with friends.

Where we stayed

We live on Vancouver Island so we ferried over to mainland British Columbia, had a pit stop at my Mom’s in North Vancouver and then hit the road. I had written down names of a few provincial campgrounds to stop at. Making good time I decided to go past the first option near Kamloops and head towards Shuswap Lake.
Pierre’s Point Campground, Shuswap Lake

Running child on dock at Lac LeJeune
After a long drive some running around is a must! Dock at Lac Le Jeune.

As dusk was approaching and after having missed the provincial campgrounds at Shuswap I was relieved to find a private campground called Pierre’s Point Campground. Google reviews include: “Train runs beside the campground every 20 minutes to an hour.” “RV’S are crammed together like sardines!” – While both these comments are accurate we had a great stay. Since we were tenting, we got a primo lakeview tent site, and fell asleep in our cool mesh walled tent to the views of the dark pink sky over the lake. The train did wake me up a few times however I was tired from driving and didn’t mind too much. There was also a decent playground which provided some well-deserved playtime for my awesome little traveller. I also remember a decent sandy beach we had a short swim in and looking at their website they have lots of other entertainment.

Kinbasket Lake Resort

A girl and her rock at Kinbasket Lake Resort.
A girl and her rock at Kinbasket Lake Resort.

Kinbasket Lake Resort is the only campground on 260 km long Kinbasket Lake, located near Golden and Revelstoke BC. It is a short drive from Rogers Pass and offers cabins RV sites and tent camping. The rustic resort is very family oriented – it feels safe and contained, and there is a great playground with swings for all ages. The glacier fed lake is a beautiful icy turquoise colour – it was cool, but swimmable in early July and apparently gets up to 21-23 degrees at the beginning of August. It is a great spot for fishing, boating and other fun lake activities. I only stayed 2 nights but if I had realized how long a journey it was going to be I would have stayed a few more days and brought a toddler backpack to do some hiking on the trails at the campground, as well as in nearby Glacier National Park.
The campsites were a good size and the bathrooms and hot showers were great. A bonus was that they have a dish-washing station which eliminated the awkward washing in a bucket on the picnic table technique. Note it is a 4km dirt road down from the highway (made enjoyable with encouraging signs :D) but my hatchback car made it no problem. There are also trains running by here, but not as close or as frequently as in Shuswap.
Overall this is a great camping resort to stay at with kids. Kinbasket Lake is all about the location and the scenery. If you want to experience breathtaking views, a gorgeous lake and as much peace and tranquility as can be found on holiday with your kids, and you don’t mind a long drive, add Kinbasket Lake to your list.

Lac Le Jeune Provincial Park

Great lake view from the top of a playground slide at Lac Le Jeune.
Great lake view from the top of a playground slide at Lac Le Jeune.

Lac Le Jeune is an exceptional example of British Columbia’s amazing Provincial Park system. After a long drive from Kinbasket Lake we were overjoyed to spill out of the car into our wildflower filled campsite at Lac Le Jeune. In the short 1 night stay we enjoyed a family friendly educational talk about owls, played on the long dock, and blew off some steam at one of the playgrounds. The naturalist talk included a fun hat and park passport for kids, which was a hit with my daughter. The campground is very clean and well maintained, with lots of large sites. The campground also has a great sandy beach for swimming. I would love to go back with a canoe.

BC Parks ranger moose hat
Rocking a moose antler hat from the naturalist show at Lac Le Jeune


We took BC Ferries between Nanaimo, Vancouver Island and Horseshoe Bay, Vancouver. If you travel on the ferries in the summer or during long weekends throughout the year I recommend making a reservation ahead of time, which guarantees your spot on the ferry for $15-$22. We drove in my hatchback Mazda. I was glad we had air conditioning as some parts of the drive can get really hot in the summer.

Note: There is not full cell reception past Revelstoke – make sure you have your directions printed out.

family travel on bc ferries
Excited to start our trip on BC ferries

Favourite Pit Stops

I have a nice memory of sitting at the Merritt Husky Travel Centre eating a popsicle – a simple treat that created a few moments of silence and smiles. When kids are starting to get upset or antsy in the vehicle a quick pit stop usually helps! The next day when passing through Revelstoke we spent about an hour at a gas station so I could borrow a phone charger. We sat beside the car and ate an ice cream and I found it quite relaxing to stretch our legs with the fantastic mountain views in the background, and not be rushing.

On the return trip we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park, just off the highway between Hope and Chilliwack. We pulled into a fresh fruit stand to get some treats and then drove into the park. We did a short walk to a picnic area, where we snacked in the beautiful and shaded setting.

Packing tip

Even in summer it can get cold in the mountains – make sure to pack warm clothes for the evenings. If you are travelling with a young toddler and/or baby I recommend bringing a backpack and stroller if you have room.


Kinbasket Lake Resort
Lac Le Jeune Provincial Park
Glacier National Park
Rogers Pass National Historic Site

outdoor camping craft
Crafting fun for all ages.
The bikes and toys provided hours of entertainment.