Call of the
From grizzlies to sea kayaking – exploring Canada’s Vancouver Island
With its soaring mountains, stunning coastlines and sweeping forests full of wildlife, British Columbia takes some beating for outdoors enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Canada’s westernmost province not only offers world-class, breathtaking vistas and the ever-present call of the wild, but this vast outdoor playground is also home to cosmopolitan Vancouver – surely one of the world’s most scenic cities.
Within this beautiful region, Vancouver Island is an ideal destination for families looking for a mix of adventure and wildlife-spotting opportunities.
At around 500km long and 100km wide, and just a short ferry ride from the mainland, the island offers a remarkable range of landscapes – from ancient temperate rainforests to mountains, lakes and white sand beaches.
Canada is world-renowned for its whale watching – and Vancouver Island is one of the best places in the country to spot these amazing majestic mammals. Whale watching boat trips abound, but if you want to get up really close to the whales try a guided sea kayaking expedition.
Johnstone Strait, off the north east coast of Vancouver Island, is famous for its whale watching, with both orcas and humpbacks being common. A multi-day kayaking trip here will give adults and children alike the chance to enjoy Canada’s great outdoors – from exploring rock pools to spotting eagles. All kayaking standards are catered for – and if you’re really lucky you may find yourself kayaking in the company of whales.
Top: you may be lucky enough to kayak with whales
Above: marine wildlife abounds; kayaking trips are suitable for adults and children alike
Below: whales and spectacular scenery in Vancouver Island
Photographs © Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures
The historic village of Telegraph Cove, also in the north east, features a former lumber mill and salmon saltery. The village got its name when the Superintendent of Telegraphs decided that the protected fishing village would be ideal for a lineman's station and northern terminus for the telegraph line from Campbell River.
A visit to Telegraph Cove’s Whale Interpretive Centre offers opportunities to find out more about the biology, habitat needs and threats to killer whales – with exhibits and activities including skeletons of a range of marine species, an invertebrate aquarium and children’s games. In the area it’s also possible to spot whales swimming just offshore.
From Telegraph Cove, you can take a trip to Knight Inlet – a wild and remote location accessible only by plane or boat – which is one of the best places in the world to see another iconic Canadian animal, the grizzly bear.
In this spectacular fjord, part of a pristine wilderness, grizzly bears can be seen from April onwards, with the largest numbers visible in autumn when the bears feast on salmon returning to the river.
Pacific Rim National Park
Pacific Rim National Park, on the west of the island, is a rugged 500 square km park comprised of lush temperate rainforests and wild coastline, which combine to create habitats for a huge variety of marine and land wildlife.
Wide sandy beaches and crashing surf offer opportunities for beachcombing – search for starfish and sand dollars. There are also interpretive trails through the rainforest, more kayaking possibilities and a chance to try surfing.
Stay in the pretty town of Tofino, situated at the edge of Clayoquot Sound. Torfino is also a good base for boat trips to the coastal wilderness, more whale watching, and for the park’s centrepiece – majestic and wild Long Beach, named after the 16 km (10 miles) sandy beach of Wickaninnish Bay.
The Kwisitis Visitor Centre, at the south end of Wickaninnish beach, has exhibits about the indigenous First Nations culture as well as marine and rainforest wildlife – and the outdoors deck is a perfect place for watching whales.
Back on the mainland, in the vibrant city of Vancouver, there’s plenty to keep kids amused – from the treetop adventure at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, to riding a gondola up Grouse Mountain to see the resident grizzlies.
Vancouver’s many other family-friendly attractions include Granville Island with its famous market and water playground, and Vancouver Aquarium.
WAY TO GO
Triptoes Canada crafts bespoke, sustainable and adventurous holidays in Canada, tailored for families traveling with children. The company offers a 13-night Vancouver Island for Families trip, which includes sea kayaking, opportunities for whale watching and grizzly bear spotting, and time in Vancouver and Telegraph Cove.
Available from late June to late August, from £1,600 per adult and £679 per child. Price includes accommodation – in Vancouver and in various locations around Vancouver Island, including Tofino – car hire and three-day guided kayaking adventure in Johnstone Strait.
The holiday – which includes grizzly bear and whale spotting and an introduction to sea kayaking – is suitable for families with children aged from six to 14 years old.
Since its launch in 2014, the company has won the TravelMole Web Awards for Best Accommodation Website and was included in The Guardian’s Startup of the Year 2014 Showcase.
Green Adventures May 2015