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A family adventure British Columbia Combine activity & adventure

Are your children at that age when only non-stop action will satisfy them? Then consider Canada’s south-western province. British Columbia combines of wondrous wildlife experiences, enough bike rides and kayak trips for an Olympic programme and a seriously-fun city in Vancouver.

Into the Wild

British Columbia – aka ‘BC’ – offers a dream combination of activity and adventure. Traverse treetop walkways. Explore escapist coastlines. Observe orcas and grizzlies in the wild. Here’s a run-through of the best family options…

The Lowdown

  • Getting there

    BA and Air Canada fly direct to Vancouver from Heathrow daily, flights take just under 10 hours.

  • When to go

    The summer holidays are most popular, and do book up far in advance. Easter is less crowded, while Christmas is perfect for family ski trips.

  • Combine with

    The ski resort of Whistler Blackcomb is just 90 minutes’ drive from Vancouver. Or you could drive south into the USA, and fly home from Seattle or Portland.

See the Sunshine Coast

Beginning just northwest of Vancouver, the 110-mile-long Sunshine Coast is one of BC’s best-kept secrets. Take the 40-minute BC Ferry from Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay to the town of Langdale, where a paradise of low-key coastal communities, long sandy beaches and old growth forests awaits. Outdoor family activities are again rife.

Watery adventures are the norm, with numerous channels, sounds and inlets teeming with wildlife and beckoning nooks. You could canoe out into the waters of Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park, enjoy a picnic lunch at Buccaneer Marina or take the water-taxi from Secret Cove to pristine North Thormanby Island to go swimming in tidal pools. Guided kayaking tours and lessons are available for novices and youngsters, while thrilling night-time phosphorescence trips suit experienced paddlers.

The Sunshine Coast is also home to fantastic cycling and mountain-biking, with more than 300 trails to explore. Families in Egmont can hike to the Skookumchuck Narrows and watch some of the world’s best kayakers take on turbulent rapids. Or there are scenic boat tours up the Princess Louisa Inlet, a steep fjord surrounded by cascading waterfalls.

Go West For Wildlife

Another ferry journey west brings you to Vancouver Island: a giant, finger-shaped landmass about the size of the Netherlands. It’s known for the state capital, Victoria, and its English-style colonial architecture, and for surfing or stand-up paddleboarding – chiefly from the town of Tofino. Family lessons are readily available in both disciplines.

Above all, though, the Island is renowned for its wildlife opportunities. Black bear-watching cruises depart from Tofino and sail up the west coast, while families can also venture north from Telegraph Cove to the Knight Inlet Lodge – a floating wilderness retreat with superb guides – and spot magnificent grizzly bears gorging on salmon.

Whale-watching cruises depart from around the island: about 250 orcas are thought to live in the north-eastern waters, along with minkes and humpbacks. Further south, it’s also possible sometimes to spot seals and sea otters on rocks below the Wild Pacific Trail; walk the 1.5-mile Lighthouse Loop and your kids can also listen to a deafening foghorn peal.

Over at the Pacific Northwest Raptors centre for birds of prey, youngsters can watch peregrine falcons – the world’s fastest animal – bald eagles, vultures and owls in flying demonstrations during summer.

Trails & Treetops in Vancouver

Ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities, Vancouver is your entry point into British Columbia. Set between snow-capped mountains and sea, it’s a relatively-compact place but one bursting with activities to satisfy all ages.

A must is saddling up and exploring Stanley Park’s numerous cycling trails. After weaving through temperate rainforest, follow the waterfront seawall for fantastic city views. Stop at Brockton Point to learn about the Coast Salish (First Nations) people and see towering totem poles. This vast urban park also boasts swimming beaches, a heated outdoor pool and the fabulous Vancouver Aquarium, where you’ll encounter fur seals, beluga whales and Pacific dolphins.

Hair-raising canopy walks can be taken across the 230-foot-high Capilano Suspension Bridge, just north of the city. Treetops Adventure, a further series of suspended walkways between giant Douglas fir trees, is another guaranteed winner for older children, who can also gaze awestruck at Grandma Capilano – the tallest tree in the forest at 200 feet.

Explore neighbourhoods like historic Gastown or colourful Chinatown, and be sure to visit Granville Island’s excellent food fair and craft stalls – plus a Kids Market with a play area and waterpark.

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