The campfire burns lower, the coals red and white and ready. The mustard, relish, and, most importantly, ketchup, lay waiting beside the bag of buns. The package of all-beef (a none-too-comforting description) hotdogs is open, beside the veggie-dogs that only you will eat. The roasting sticks, the long ones with the wood handles and double prongs, lean against the picnic table, their many years of use evidenced by their blackened tips. The marshmallows are hidden out of sight, for now. You look around, satisfied that everything needed is there. Oh, except the salad – absolutely required, if only to crush the small tinge of guilt you feel about the hotdogs. OK, got it. Now, you are ready. “Kids! Who wants to roast some hotdogs?”
Campfire cookouts are a great way to pry the kids away from the screen for a while, to get outside and spend some time together with friends or family, and to eat deliciously healthy, or deliciously unhealthy, food. Whatever your motivation, we encourage you to try a campfire cookout. Evenings spent roasting hotdogs and marshmallows and running around with cousins, friends or siblings are childhood memories that can last a lifetime.
There are strict rules preventing open fires within the metro Vancouver area. These rules exist to keep people and public parklands safe and carry heavy penalties if broken. Gas burning portable barbeques designed specifically for cooking are allowed in most parks. But if you want a real campfire, you can legally do so at select Metro Vancouver Regional Parks. Below is a list of legal campfire pit locations in Metro Vancouver where you and your family can enjoy a good old-fashioned campfire cookout! Please read the safe fire practices and booking information from Metro Vancouver at the end of this article and remember that day-use sites are first-come-first-served, but are also available for booking.
Aldergrove Regional Park
Photo Credit: Metro Vancouver Regional Parks
Aldergrove Regional Park straddles the Langley/Abbotsford border. This large park is popular for horseback riding and short family-friendly hikes. Aldergrove Bowl, an old gravel pit, has been reclaimed with a picnic area, trails and marshlands. Exploring one of the many trails with the kids is a great activity before starting your cookout. There is a fire ring at the Blacktail Picnic Shelter, in the north-west corner of the park that can be used on a first-come-first-served basis if it is available.
Firepits: 1 day-use (first-come-first-served) fire ring at the Blacktail Picnic Shelter Municipality: Langley/Abbotsford
Belcarra Regional Park
Photo Credit: Metro Vancouver Regional Parks
Belcarra Regional Park sits on the eastern shore of Burrard Inlet. This park offers oceanside beaches, a large pier, swimming and fishing at Sasamat Lake, and over 22 kilometres of hiking trails. There is so much to explore here, but we recommend the 5km (return) hike to Admiralty Point before settling into your cookout. There is a first-come-first-served fire ring and two picnic shelters available at the Belcarra Picnic Area unless already reserved.
Firepits: 1 day-use (first-come-first-served) fire ring at the Belcarra Picnic Area Municipality: Belcarra/Port Moody
Boundary Bay Regional Park
Photo Credit: Metro Vancouver Regional Parks
Boundary Bay Regional Park is your best bet for a beachside campfire cookout. Four fire rings are available at Centennial Beach, near the southern end of the park. For bird watchers, hiking along the 12 Ave Dyke Trail can be rewarding, as this park is known for the thousands of migratory birds that stop to rest here on their route along the Pacific Flyway. Oh, and if your campfire cookout crashes for some reason, there is a beachside café available during the summer months.
Firepits: 4 day-use fire rings at Centennial Beach Municipality: Delta
Brae Island Regional Park
Brae Island Regional Park is situated on an island in the Fraser River. The island is easily accessed by a short bridge from Fort Langley. Pre-booking is required to use the single fire ring located at the events site. Additionally, each of the 156 campsites and lone group camping site have fire rings for use, though booking is required. While the island has a short network of trails, it is the sandy beach located on a slow-moving side-arm of the Fraser River that attracts most visitors. Kayaking and cooling off in the water are popular activities at the beach. A short stroll across the bridge will lead you to all the amenities Fort Langley has to offer.
Firepits: 1 fire ring at the events site (booking required); 156 fire rings in the campground (booking required); 1 fire ring at group campsite (booking required) Municipality: Township of Langley
Campbell Valley Regional Park
Photo Credit: Metro Vancouver Regional Parks
Campbell Valley Regional Park is located in south Langley and is bisected by the Little Campbell River. With 23 kilometres of hiking, biking, and horse-riding trails, the park offers a great place to get out and explore this unique river valley landscape. Accessed off of 8 Avenue, the Old Orchard picnic area in the south-west corner of the park has a fire ring available on a first-come-first-served basis. For a fun family activity, check out the nearby Campbell Valley Nature House, a beautiful red barn turned education centre and the surrounding Rowlatt Farmstead.
Firepits: 1 day-use fire ring at Old Orchard picnic area; 1 fire ring at Camp Coyote Group Camp (booking required) Municipality: Township of Langley
Deas Island Regional Park
Photo Credit: Metro Vancouver Regional Parks
Just north of Highway 99, near the George Massey tunnel, Deas Island Regional Park is another Fraser River island park. A single fire ring is available at the Fisher’s Field picnic shelter. Additionally, a booking required fire ring is available at the Muskrat Meadow Campground. A number of short trails wander throughout the small island. This park offers some unique nature program activities, including Nature Watch by Canoe and Bats of Burrvilla.
Firepits: 1 day-use fire ring at Fisher’s Field; 1 fire ring at Muskrat Meadow Campground (booking required) Municipality: Delta
Derby Reach Regional Park
Photo Credit: Metro Vancouver Regional Parks
Derby Reach Regional Park, on the banks of the Fraser River, is a favourite riverside camp cookout spot for many families in the Langley area. It offers a large number of firepits, especially during the off-season when the campsites are not fully booked. The Trans Canada Trail and the Canyon to Coast Trail run through the park. A ride along the Edge Farm Trail or, if you want a longer ride, the Fort to Fort Trail or Houston Trail, is a great way to spend some time before dinner.
Firepits: 38 fire rings in the campground (booking required, though they are accessible on a first-come-first-served basis if facilities are not booked); 3 day-use fire rings in the Edge Picnic shelter; 1 day-use fire ring in the main picnic area; 1 fire ring at the Marpole picnic shelter. Municipality: Township of Langley
Additional Information from Metro Vancouver:
Please follow smart burning guidelines at our fire rings:
Use only bundled firewood (don’t burn forest wood, waste wood, garbage or anything else)
Stay with the fire at all times
Extinguish the fire completely before leaving
Metro Vancouver may close fire pits if there are air quality concerns or if the park is in high or extreme wildfire danger rating. Visitors are encouraged to search “fire rating” at www.metrovancouver.org to check conditions before they arrive to see if the fire pit is open or not.
To book any of the bookable campsites, picnic areas and picnic shelters, visit www.metrovancouver.org and search “Reservable Facilities,” or call 604-432-6352.
Need more ideas to add to your list of things to do with the family this summer? Here are some great articles to keep you and your family busy this summer!
Perhaps you have recently seen a photograph in an article or on Instagram with a unique ball effect, like this epic surf shot I snapped during my recent stay at Long Beach Lodge. Within the image, a small, 180-degree view of the overall scene shows up inside of a sphere, giving a reflective quality to the photo. So, how did I do this? Did I use a special software filter? No – the answer is even simpler. I used a lensball.
I was given a lensball as a birthday present from my mom and knew that Tofino was the perfect place for me to try it out.
What is a lensball? The name is very descriptive. It is a clear crystal sphere that acts as a secondary wide-angle lens to your camera. You strategically place the ball within the photo’s frame, to add a wide-angle view of the scene into the composition.
In 2017, Lensball, a small company based in the Netherlands, started producing lensballs as an accessory for photographers. Since that time, lensballs have exploded as an affordable, unique tool for serious professional and amateur photographers alike. Made from lens-quality K-9 crystal, the balls provide extremely high-quality image reflection.
The balls are available in two sizes, the 80 millimeters, 650-gram Lensball Pro and the smaller 60 millimeters, 250-gram Lensball Pocket version that is perfect for travel. Each ball comes with a microfibre pouch to keep it safe. Prices range from $40 to $60 on Amazon.
For more examples (283,373 at time of writing), check out #lensball on Instagram. It isn’t every day that a unique photographic tool comes along at a reasonable price point. Oh, and if you happen to be stranded in the wilderness, a lensball doubles as an emergency fire starter – just use it like a magnifying glass in the direct sun. Brilliant!
Is this a sponsored post?: No. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking photos with my lensball and wanted to pass along my thoughts about it.
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” – Unknown
Some may know them as smile lines. Other, more pessimistic folks may refer to them as wrinkles. Regardless, as I sit here scrolling through the wonderful collage of photos we took throughout our weekend at Long Beach Lodge Resort, I’m suddenly very aware of the laugh lines gracing my face in each and every image.
Chasing my kids in the sand. Playing board games in front of the fireplace. Soaking in the hot tub after a long day exploring. Photo after photo, my face is covered in the same expression: bright eyes, wide smile, and long, beautiful laugh lines.
After a blessed life of many laughs and smiles, I’ve always known my laugh lines were there. But our special getaway to Long Beach Lodge was the first time I’ve really stopped to notice them. And you know what?
I’ve never felt so rich in my entire life…
Unfortunately, I imagine many women go to great lengths to cover up or disguise their laugh lines. But I am here to tell you that you should do the opposite. Laugh lines are not something you cover up with a powder or erase with an expensive cream. They are a badge of honour that you wear with pride. A feature that tells the world that you live for those special moments and adventures. That you are constantly brave enough to take that step beyond your comfort zone, and really start living.
In my case, each laugh line represents a conscious choice to invest in quality time and amazing adventures with my family. In a world that lives in a perpetual state of “busy,” laugh lines are a true mark of prioritization. A sign that you have deliberately made time for the people and experiences in your life that matter the most.
In essence, laugh lines are the truest sign of wealth one can have.
What exactly creates a laugh line? It’s probably not what you think. Take our Long Beach Lodge trip, for example. As I continue to look back on our adventure, I’m realizing more and more that the essence of what made it so special was not so much where we went or what we saw, but the little moments that came in-between:
The anticipation levels noticeably rising in the car as we approached our destination.
The moment we first opened the door on arrival and saw our home away from home for the next few days.
The adrenaline of running towards the beach after catching the first glimpse of cresting waves.
The look in my son’s eyes as he got up on a surfboard for the very first time. A look that only comes from conquering a new skill, and a look that immediately told me that I have created a built-in “adventure buddy” for life.
The joy of letting the kids set the adventure schedule, and seeing them run and laugh, dive in the surf, play hangman in the sand, forget about TV and their electronic devices, and express true love for each other and their family.
Taking a family hike on a rustic boardwalk that led us to the most incredible point. The shared silence, admiration, and awe as we collectively took in a panoramic view of the mighty Pacific waves crashing into the shoreline, and the realization that our entire family was creating a shared memory in that exact moment.
The moment I reconnected with my husband after the kids went to bed, taking an extended soak in the hot tub while talking about the incredible journeys we’ve shared, and the many great ones to come.
And finally, after a day spent doing nothing more than playing and running around the beach, having my daughter look at me and say: “…today was one of the best days of my life.”
Laugh lines are forged in these special moments.
It’s not about any one thing. It’s not about fancy accommodations or expensive excursions. No matter how rich you may be, laugh lines are the one thing that cannot be bought. They must be earned.
But it will take effort.
Laugh lines come from taking deliberate action. From blocking off the precious time on your calendar, so that no matter how busy life may get, you are never too busy to skip out on these experiences. To build these bonds with your family. To have your moments.
Of all the incredible firsts I experienced in Tofino at the Long Beach Lodge, I am most excited about my first real encounter with my laugh lines. Because now I know that the true measure of success in my life is just a photograph away. All I need to do is look for the lines…
Learn more about our Tofino adventures in these articles!
Nestled on the Pacific Rim of Vancouver Island, Tofino has long been known as one of Canada’s premier year-round resort destinations. And having just spent an amazing long weekend there with my family, it’s clear as to how this sleepy town got such a reputation…it truly does have something for everyone! However, for all there is to do and see, one of the most incredible parts of our adventure was where we stayed: Long Beach Lodge Resort.
Location, Location, Location
Located just 5 minutes outside the hustle and bustle of downtown Tofino, Long Beach Lodge Resort sits on the edge of Cox Bay Beach. Known as one of the most picturesque beaches in all of Canada, Cox Bay is truly a marvel. Its crescent shape is perpetually shaded in the whites and blues of lapping waves, which are just large enough for surfing, but still gentle enough for a family swim. Coupled with some of the most incredible sunsets you’ll ever and see, and it’s clear why Long Beach Lodge chose this exact location to build their incredible resort.
Now when I say incredible resort, I truly do mean it. Long Beach Lodge is a full amenities destination that’s great for couples, trips with friends, and families young and old. And with a variety of hotel room options, as well as a selection of large private cottages, there is a lodging style for every type of group.
In addition to world-class lodging, Long Beach Lodge Resort has an incredible list of activities and amenities right on the resort grounds. From the 24-7 beach access and the surf club to the Great Room Restaurant and Lounge located right off the lobby, there is no shortage of amazing things to do and see (and eat!) during your visit.
During our stay, our family elected to stay in one of Long Beach Lodge’s private cottages. And boy were we happy with that decision. Walking into the cottage, we nearly had to pick our jaws up off the floor!
At 1,000 sq. ft., this spacious two-story cottage boasted everything we needed from a true home away from home. The ground floor master bedroom featured a beautiful bathroom with soaking tub and separate shower. And right outside the master, a large, private hot tub awaited us!
Upstairs, bedroom number two was perfect for the kids, as it had an incredibly comfortable king size bed that lulled them to sleep the second they rested their heads at night.
The living space was highlighted by a large gas fireplace and comfy couches, all of which was near the full kitchen and dining area. From cooking private, healthy family dinners, to playing board games in front of the fire, this cottage was the perfect basecamp for adventure.
Bring the Whole Family
Needless to say, the Long Beach Lodge Resort Cottage was the perfect place for our family of four. However as we came to learn, the resort actually features several different furniture layouts for its cottages, including an option for a second bedroom with two double beds instead of a king, meaning a family of six could all sleep very comfortably! Coupled with the fact that Long Beach Lodge is pet-friendly, it’s clear that the resort is the perfect place for all two and four-legged family members.
The Surf Club
While our family is no stranger to the ski-in/ski-out resorts that dot Canada’s Rocky Mountains, Long Beach Lodge was our first ever introduction to surf-in/surf-out.
Located just outside the hotel on Cox Bay Beach, the Surf Club Adventure Centre is the destination for fun for the entire family. Walking into the club, the friendly staff got us suited up and equipped with rental surfboards custom chosen for our size and skill level. From there, it was off to the beach to begin our private surf lesson.
After getting a feel for the boards on the sand, we took to the waves and tried our hand at the famed Cox Bay surf. The entire family had a blast! One of the most memorable experiences of our life for sure.
After getting our fill of the waves, it was time to come back in. This is where the Surf Club really shines. After so much time in the cool Pacific waters, we were ready to warm up. Thankfully, the Surf Club has a beautiful spa-style bathroom and changing room where we could walk right into a nice hot shower, wetsuit and all. After warming up and ditching the suit, we then were able to walk right over to a private hot tub for a proper post-surf soak. What a treat!
The Great Room Restaurant & Bar
Full of massive windows that offer breathtaking ocean views, The Great Room Restaurant & Bar is the ideal location for refuelling after a long day of adventure.
In addition to world-class fine dining all evening long, The Great Room offers a wonderful Happy Hour each and every day. Settling into the cozy, Canadian-lodge feel, our entire family was able to enjoy this time together each evening. Mom and Dad took advantage of some ridiculously cheap adult drinks, while our kids got to join in the fun by picking something special off the restaurant’s kid-friendly “mocktail” menu.
Drinks in hand, we snagged a couple of board games from the front desk and had our family fun in front of the large fireplace as we watched the sun go down over the horizon.
All Beach, All the Time
Another wonderful feature of this resort is it’s private beachfront. With its quiet setting on Cox Bay Beach, Long Beach Lodge offers guests unrestricted access to the waterfront 24 hours a day. Whether it’s for an early morning surf or swim at dawn’s first light, or an evening campfire to watch the sunset with your family, the beach experience here is second to none!
Vancouver Island is full of many natural wonders, and Tofino is no exception. Thankfully, Long Beach Lodge has a variety of family-friendly hiking trails and boardwalks that lead right up to the hotel, making family hikes as simple as lacing up your boots.
The last night of our trip, our family took a walk out to Pettinger Point. Weaving through a canopy of natural growth, the old wooden boardwalk twisted and turned until it eventually led us out onto the point itself. From there we were given one of the most breathtaking views of the ocean and sunset that we have ever experienced. A must-do when you visit Tofino!
The SandBar Bistro
Photo Credit: Long Beach Lodge Resort
Our visit was just in time for the season opening of The SandBar Bistro, a beachside retreat offering amazing refreshments all summer long. Whether it’s for a warm post-surf coffee or a snack and ice-cold beer, the SandBar Bistro is the perfect place to relax, enjoy, and unwind without ever having to take your eyes off the ocean.
It would take me a novel to fully describe all the amazing amenities that Long Beach Lodge has to offer. In addition to everything discussed thus far, there is a seemingly endless list of fun activities offered year-round at the resort. From friendly games of beach volleyball to family movie nights and beach parties, the hotel staff does a wonderful job of making sure that everyone feels at home and has something fun to do every single night during their stay.
Plan Your Visit – Tips and Tricks
My first tip for anyone thinking about visiting Long Beach Lodge is simple: GO! I promise you it will be an amazing trip.
Like all Canadian adventures, the weather is something to be considered when visiting Tofino. While your mind may race to August as being the ideal month to enjoy it here, the locals actually refer to this month as “Fogust” due to the heavy fogs that roll in off the Pacific.
Our May trip was met with incredible weather that reached upwards of 25 degrees with plenty of sun, so don’t be afraid to look at off-season visits. Same goes for storm season. As many returning guests at the resort shared with us, what may be limited in terms of outdoor activities is more than made up for in the incredible sights, sounds and smells brought upon by the natural beauty of the storms.
Our trip to Long Beach Lodge Resort in Tofino was the perfect long weekend for our family to relax, recharge, and most importantly, spend some quality time together. Families shouldn’t be limited to one long trip a year to reconnect. By finding opportunities to travel to someplace special together – even if just for a night or a weekend – you’ll ensure that bonds are always being strengthened, and memories are always being made, year-round. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the whole point of travel?
I certainly think so, and I am happy to add Long Beach Lodge Resort to our family’s list of perfect weekend getaways!
Learn more about our Tofino adventures in these articles!
You’ve certainly heard of “ski-in/ski-out”, but have you ever heard of surf-in/surf-out? I hadn’t. That is, until our time at the Long Beach Lodge in Tofino. Tucked right next to the hotel, directly on the shores of the Cox Bay Beach, lies Long Beach Lodge’s Surf Club Adventure Centre – one of themost incredible concepts I have ever seen in vacation adventures.
While surfing in Tofino is quite popular, it’s not always the easiest activity to dive into…especially as a visitor. Typically, if you want to surf the waves here, you have to get in your car and drive to the beach, picking up a rental board and wetsuit along the way. Upon arrival, your family then changes right in the parking lot (glamorous, I know) and heads down to surf. Once done, everyone strips off their soaked wetsuits back by the car, doing their best to keep warm as you towel off the brisk ocean water. Then, cold and tired, you have to drive your rentals back, and finally, return to your hotel to warm up.
As anyone with kids can tell you, this blueprint has disaster written all over it! Cold, tired kids make for cranky kids. And cranky kids tend to miss out on all the little moments that make adventures like learning to surf so special.
That is why the Surf Club Adventure Centre is one of a kind. It strips away all the hassle, and makes learning to surf with your family easy, convenient, and most importantly, fun!
Easiest Way to Surf
As mentioned, the Surf Club Adventure Centre at Long Beach Lodge mirrors its experience off a ski-in/ski-out concept. Meaning that surfing is as simple as just walking a few short steps to the beach from your hotel room or cottage.
As soon as you walk in, you are greeted by super friendly and knowledgeable staff that gets you ready to go with all the essential rental items. No getting in the car. No stopping on the way to pick up boards or suits. It’s truly the easiest way to get into the sport. And with kids, the easier it is to start, the more likely it is that they’ll have a great time.
Gearing Up to Go
Once greeted by the Surf Club staff, we proceeded to give them all the information they needed to get us geared up properly. Height, weight, age, experience level, etc. From there, they quickly returned from the back with clean and dry wetsuits for all four of us and set aside a set of surfboards custom chosen for us to ride that day.
To get suited up, our family proceeded to walk into the club’s changing rooms…and quite honestly, we couldn’t believe what we saw. The Surf Club boasts the most incredible, spa-quality facilities. It really was amazing! Everyone had a nice locker to secure their belongings, and plenty of space to comfortably change into their wetsuits (no more parking lot dancing for us!).
It was such a pleasant departure from what we expected and set the tone for a wonderful afternoon.
Learning to Ride
In addition to its great facilities and selection of quality rental gear, The Surf Club offers both private and group lessons as well. Our family had booked a private lesson for the four of us, and so suited up in our wetsuits, we departed for the beach to meet up with our instructors for the day, Tom and Chance.
Spreading out on a plot of pristine sand, we began our lesson on the shore. It was clear from the beginning that not only did our instructors know what they were talking about, but they were so incredibly passionate about teaching others to surf. As many parents may know, there is a vast difference between an instructor who is comfortable teaching kids and one who is not. Our two instructors were fantastic with my children. You could tell they had a ton of experience with a younger audience, turning much of this on-shore lesson into a kid-friendly experience that included games, prizes and more. I cannot thank Tom and Chance enough for all they did to make my kids enjoy this learning experience!
After getting in plenty of practice with surfing’s “up-down” skill, it was finally time to hit the waves. While mom and dad definitely enjoyed our time out on the water, the best part of the experience for us was watching our kids. They were having SO much fun! With the great lesson on shore, both of them were able to get up and surfing nearly right away. And with that came the hooting, the hollering, and the biggest smiles I have ever seen grace their faces.
Ever since I was a little girl, the ocean has always been a very special place for me. Now, to be here with my family in this beautiful secluded oasis on the Pacific, watching my kids have the time of their lives riding her waves, I couldn’t have been happier or more proud. Such a wonderful experience.
Time to Come In
After getting our fill on the waves, it was eventually time to come in and say goodbye to water for that day. However, it was not yet time to say goodbye to the amazing experience at the Surf Club Adventure Centre. Walking merely steps back from the water to their facility, the staff promptly took our boards to clean and store. From there, we all walked back into those glorious spa-like facilities, wetsuit and all. With large steamy showers that have plenty of room to change, guests are encouraged to walk right in with their suit so they can immediately begin to warm up from the cool Pacific waters. We were then able to leisurely take off the wetsuits and hang them up nearby for the staff to clean once we were gone.
WIth showers done, we had one final treat in store at the Surf Club – a private hot tub! Climbing in, our family got to warm our bones, and share all the memories from our time out on the water that day. It was the perfect cherry on an already amazing sundae!
Our afternoon at the Long Beach Lodge Surf Club Adventure Centre was something we will never forget. From the incredible facilities, the surf-in/surf-out concept, and all they did to make surfing an enjoyable experience for our kids (as well as mom and dad), I really cannot think of a vacation adventure that could top this.
Carving out time during your travels to learn something new is a wonderful gift to give yourself. And for our family, we could not have been more thankful for the gift we received, and the unique experience we had during our afternoon at the Surf Club Adventure Centre.
Learn more about our Tofino adventures in these articles!
Nestled right on edge of the Pacific, no trip to Tofino would be complete without an adventure out on the water. Thankfully, one of the many benefits of staying at the Long Beach Lodge Resort is that the property has its own boat available for guided tours! Usually, resorts like these will outsource their guided tours, but The Long Beach Lodge prefers to keep it all in house, allowing them to provide quality control and the best experience for their guests.
Arriving at the Tofino marina, we were greeted promptly and kindly by Captain Josh, a 20-year Tofino native that – as we would soon learn – knows the area like the back of his hand. Seated directly next to Captain Josh was First Mate Scout, a beautiful, friendly nine-month-old Husky. Needless to say, we hadn’t even left the marina yet and my kids were already loving the animals!
As we boarded our vessel for the morning, Captain Josh presented us with a difficult decision. Long Beach Lodge offers both Whale Watching and Bear Watching excursions depending on the season. Since we were right in-between each season, it was up to us to decide: do we hit the open water in search of whales, or stick near the coast, eyes wide for black bears?
In the end, we decided on the whale watching excursion and could not have been happier with our decision, as we ended up seeing a whole amazing variety of wildlife!
First up on our list of wildlife were the stars of the show: the whales! Specifically, we came upon a Gray Whale, a massive creature native to this Pacific region. Hearing the sound of the massive blast of air leaving their blowholes is something our family will never forget. Truly amazing!
The Sea Otters
After checking off the big guy, Captain Josh brought us closer into shore to see if we could find some other varieties of native species. My daughter is obsessed with sea otters, and so she was over the moon every time we came across a sea otter. We even saw one otter doing battle with a brave seagull trying to steal his lunch from right out of his hands! But the highlight of this stop had to be witnessing the iconic image of an otter couple taking a nap while holding hands. So cute!
The Bald Eagles
Cruising to our next location, Captain Josh (and Scout, of course) were quick to point out the massive number of bald eagles flying about. Josh made sure to really take advantage of this time and create a teaching moment for us, sharing fun facts such as female bald eagles being larger than males, and the fact that these creatures pick a mate for life. Eyes scanning the various groupings of eagles, we came across a beautiful “teenager” as Captain Josh called him. A young (5 or so years) bald eagle, who was nearly full grown in size, yet still was completely brown, his white head feathers not yet developed. Such a cool sight!
The Sea Lions
Next up were the sea lions. As our boat approached the shore, we made out a group that was at least 100 members strong. Hands down, this was my favourite sight of the tour. Watching these giants lay out, catch a nap, play with one another, and bark and slap in an effort to dominate the best spots on the rocks was truly something special. Very rarely does it seem like you get to watch an animal in their native habitat. But this was one of those rare occasions, like finding yourself immersed in a National Geographic!
As we began our cruise back to the Tofino marina, we passed quite a few varieties of native birds. Captain Josh amazed us with his vast knowledge of each of these species, sharing great facts about where they nest, what they eat, and so much more. Our favourite had to be cormorants. These deep-diving birds are British Columbia’s version of penguins, and who doesn’t love seeing penguins! A great treat for my kids, as well as mom and dad.
After seeing this amazing variety of air, land and sea animals, it was finally time for us to wave goodbye to Captain Josh and the Long Beach Lodge vessel. Our whale watching experience was incredible. We saw such a great variety of creatures and learned so many wonderful things from our local expert. It is truly amazing that this is something offered directly by the resort, and another reason why Long Beach Lodge is the absolute premiere Tofino resort destination!
Learn more about our Tofino adventures in these articles!
A year ago (yikes!), we asked you, our loyal followers, to share your favourite small-town getaways. And you delivered! You shared insights, activities, and photos of places that, for varied reasons, hold special meaning for you and your family. The sense of community that many small towns exhibit is reflected in this generous, open sharing of knowledge. It’s one of the reasons we do what we do. Thank you for letting go of the ‘finders keepers’ mentality, and giving others the chance to share in your experiences.
Due to the large response, we had to narrow down the list a bit. There was one theme that seemed to connect many of your replies – the ocean. There is something about the ocean that seems to draw us to it. Perhaps it is the sense of power and size the ocean exudes that puts everything into perspective. Or the fact that it spans the globe, connecting continents and peoples across vast distances. Whatever the reason, it featured prominently in your responses. Featured below are some of the seaside small town getaways that you shared, along with some tips of our own. Thank you again, and enjoy!
Porteau Cove/Britannia Beach
Suggested By: Xenia Hui-Leung Tagline: Water Days and Forest Forays.
Photo Credit – Xenia Hui-Leung
Porteau Cove and Britannia Beach, while just a short drive north from Vancouver on the sea-to-sky highway, are a world away from the big city. For many, they are just milestone markers on the way to Squamish or Whistler. But this area is a destination unto itself, with easy access to hiking, rock climbing and, of course, beaches and watersports on the waters of Howe Sound. Technically, this is more of a region than a ‘small town’. However, its proximity to Vancouver makes it a feasible day-trip destination. That and its wealth of outdoor activities warrants it a place on this list.
Porteau Cove Provincial Park is a very popular camping spot during the peak summer season. Known for swimming, windsurfing, and diving, the park is 100% reservable and books up quickly. In addition to campsites, cabins are also available for rental. Again, planning ahead is key. With limited accommodations in the area, Squamish may be your best option for an overnight stay. Or, as we suggest, make it a day-trip getaway.
The Britannia Mine Museum is a great family adventure destination that includes gold panning, a mill site that is a registered national historic site of Canada, and, wait for it – underground tours. You and your family can don your hard-hats and climb aboard a rail car for a guided underground mine tour to learn what life was like for the workers of what was once BC’s largest copper mine. Notorious for its pollution of Howe Sound, the mine’s run-off is now treated and monitored, thanks to efforts by the BC provincial government and the University of British Columbia.
Nearby, Murrin Provincial Park offers swimming in Browning lake and a number of rock climbing routes, if you are vertically inclined. For a hiking challenge, the Petgill Lake trail starts at the park parking lot and climbs steeply through the forest to the small lake. Hint: the best view is actually from a lookout point ten minutes past the lake. Drive a few more minutes north, and you will arrive at Jami’s all-time favourite hike: the Stawamus Chief.
Suggested By: Mark and Kelly Henault Tagline: Cerulean Blue and the Ocean, too.
Photo Credit: Donna Gratton
Gabriola Island, a short ferry ride from Nanaimo, is known for its vibrant arts community and, of course, the ocean that surrounds it. One of the Gulf Islands, it boasts rocky points, hidden coves, beaches, and trails to explore by foot, kayak, or mountain bike. Art lovers rejoice, for here you will find your people. Jewellers, leather workers and painters are just some of the artisans who call Gabriola Island home.
Trails, trails, trials! The Gabriola Land and Trails Trust is a community organization dedicated to developing public trails and lands for recreation on Gabriola Island. They even have an interactive map available to use on your mobile phone.
The Isle of the Arts Festival, hosted by the Gabriola Arts Council, is held in April of each year and showcases local artists, artisans, and musicians.
Suggested By: Erin Haylock Tagline: Longboards and Long Beaches.
Tofino, long considered Canada’s surfing mecca, is a small town with a frontier feel. It seems to draw the free-spirited and the adventurous unto itself. Remote and rugged, Tofino lies on the west coast of Vancouver Island and is subject to the full force of powerful Pacific storms. Swells from the west and visitors from the east both end their journeys here, where the sea meets land.
Pacific Rim National Park, just south of Tofino, offers stunning scenery and an interpretive centre, along with its famous beaches. Wander the shoreline among the ever-present, ever-morphing mists and experience the odd mix of solitude and comfort that this unique landscape evokes.
Coffee! This town knows good coffee (and even roasts some of its own) and serves it up in a variety of unassuming, authentically west coast coffee-houses.
Suggested By: Amanda Gould Tagline: Work hard, Play Hard.
A short drive south of Tofino along the Pacific Rim Highway, Ucluelet is Tofino’s edgy sibling. While tourism has grown rapidly, Ucluelet maintains it’s working roots. Traditionally based on the fishing and forestry industries, it has capitalized on its wealth of outdoor opportunities. Recreation activities include hiking, kayaking, and, of course, surfing.
The Wild Pacific Trail is a newly developed series of short, scenic, and family-friendly hiking trails near Ucluelet that are wheelchair accessible. Check out the five tiny tree-houses, known as painter’s perches, along the Artists Loop.
Come July, check out Ukee Days, a weekend festival of logger sports, music and west-coast fare.
Suggested By: Vanessa Hodgkins Tagline: Trails and Beaches and Salmon, Oh My!
Photo Credit – Vanessa Hodgkins
Take Highway 14 north-west from Victoria and you eventually find yourself at Port Renfrew. Perhaps best known for its world-class salmon fishing, Port Renfrew is also perfectly situated near the southern terminus of the West Coast Trail and the northern terminus of the Juan de Fuca Trail. Visitors from around the world come to challenge themselves on these bucket-list hikes. But there is more to do in Port Renfrew than epic multi-day hiking expeditions. Incredible beaches and forests are within easy reach for families and those seeking a more relaxing getaway.
Botanical Beach, just south of Port Renfrew, is known for its incredible tidal pools. Visit at low tide and the kids will be amazed at the incredible variety of marine life they can find among the shallow pools.
Get lost in wonder amid the giants of Avatar Grove, a magnificent stand of old growth red cedar and Douglas Fir trees a few minutes north of Port Renfrew.
Suggested By: Jen Thibodeau Tagline: Standing Waves and Peaceful Days.
Photo Credit – Jen Thibodeau
BC’s Sunshine Coast has it all – ocean, lakes, beaches, hikes, great food and fabulous festivals. While Sechelt, Gibsons, and Powell River are the largest and best-known communities in the area, there are many smaller gems hidden among the bays and inlets. Egmont, a very small community at the start of Sechelt Inlet, is a perfect example. Rich in First Nations culture and surrounded by beauty, Egmont is a great place to breathe deep, relax, and just be.
Skookumchuck Narrows is the site of one of BC’s most spectacular natural wonders. Twice a day with the tides, 200 billion gallons of water flow through the narrows between Jervis and Sechelt inlets causing incredible whirlpools and rapids. A flat, four-kilometre trail leads to two viewpoints where you and the kids can watch kayakers and surfers ride the incredible standing waves produced by the strong currents. It’s a unique sight, as these experienced athletes remain stationary and the water moves beneath them. For the best experience, be sure to check out the tide charts for timing your visit.
If you enjoy kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding, the calm, protected waters near Egmont offer islands and waterfalls to explore.
The small village of Roberts Creek lies 20 minutes north of the Langdale ferry terminal, the jumping off point for visitors to the Sunshine Coast. Half-way between Gibsons and Sechelt, Roberts Creek is quiet and crafty. Home to many artists, musicians and artisans, Roberts Creek punches well above its weight class when it comes to arts and culture.
Fish and chips. Just across the highway from the village is a fantastic little fish and chips shop. There are a couple of small outside tables available, but we recommend taking your food to go and heading down to the pier at the village to enjoy it with a view!
Each year, local artists repaint the community mandala, a large art piece located near the Roberts Creek pier. Its vibrant colours and interwoven patterns reflect the spirit of the tight-knit community.
Suggested By: Pennie Jennie Tagline: Twice the Island, Twice the Fun.
Photo Credit: Destination BC/Reuben Krabbe
Pender Island, one of the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver and Victoria, is actually made up of two islands – north Pender and South Pender. Each island has its own unique geography and personality, but the community is one. The islands are not overly developed and have maintained their rural, farm feel. Like all the Gulf Islands, beaches, parks, boating, and watersports are easily accessible.
Visit the farmer’s market to sample local farm produce and artisan wares each Saturday from the May long weekend until Labour Day.
What comes to mind when you think of hiking? Silhouetted figures, traversing a Himalayan ridge with backpacks nearly as large as themselves? The truth is, for most of us, hiking is a little less Everest expedition and a little more walk in the Hundred Acre Wood (hello Pooh and Tigger!).
Hiking has so much to offer: time in nature, physical activity, and a taste of adventure. Don’t be intimidated by those grim-faced and muddied adventurers from outdoor magazine ads. With a little planning, you and your family can get out there and enjoy the incredible natural beauty of this place we are fortunate to call home. We’ve compiled some advice and resources to help you get laced up and started down the trail!
Who Can Hike?
Almost anyone can. The lower mainland and surrounding areas offer a diversity of trails ranging from wheelchair accessible to near vertical death marches and everything in between. With a little research, you can find many trails that are child and new-hiker friendly (We will help – keep reading!). Our best advice for anyone starting out hiking is to start small and build on your successes.
When Can You Hike?
The warmer, drier days of late spring, summer, and early fall are ideal for hiking. But that doesn’t mean you can’t hike in winter, especially here in the lower mainland. We typically have little to no snow on the ground at lower elevations. But pay attention to how high your intended hiking place is…snow depth rises quickly with height. For a time of day, a morning start is best. You can avoid the heat of the day and have more time without having to worry about dusk approaching. Be sure to check the weather before heading out – bad weather can make for a very unpleasant outing if you are unprepared.
Where Can You Hike?
For beginner hikers, we strongly recommend starting small, flat and local. Regional parks and urban forests, such as Langley’s Campbell Valley Regional Park and Surrey’s Green Timbers Urban Forest, are good places to get your feet wet (actually, try to keep them dry – much more comfortable!). Insider’s tip: the kids will love Williams Park’s streamside clay banks…if you can find them! For more ideas, check out our previous post on family-friendly hikes in the Fraser Valley. Very young children can generally only handle a kilometre or two while older kids can handle three to five kilometres, depending on trail steepness. For kids and adults alike, keeping things simple to start will help foster enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment, while building stamina. Additional resources include the excellent website Vancouver Trails and Mary and David Macree’s book 109 Walks in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.
What Do You Need to Bring Hiking?
On any outdoor adventure, the priorities to keep in mind are safety, water, food and clothing. Many packing decisions are dependent upon terrain, duration and weather. Gear weight is always a consideration; no-one wants to carry a heavier backpack than they need to. That said, there are essentials for hiking that should never be left behind as listed on our top ten things to pack on a family hike post.
What About the Local Wildlife?
Wildlife sightings are part of the adventure of hiking. Birds, waterfowl, beavers and deer are often seen, even in urban park settings. As you venture further out, bears are seen more frequently. These encounters can be scary, especially to new hikers. Read our bear and wildlife safety tips for advice on how to deal with the locals. Remember that the vast majority of bear and other wildlife encounters are positive.
Should You Start Hiking?
Absolutely! Hiking is a simple, inexpensive way to enjoy the inexplicable peace and wonder that is found in nature. Start small and start local. Who knows where it might lead? I hear the Himalayas are lovely in the spring!
Remember to look closely at whether the listed trail length is return or one-way. You don’t want to end up hiking twice as far as you initially thought!
Kids love to learn, so bring along a book on plant, tree, or wildlife identification.
Make sure the kids do their part. They can carry a light load. Their own water, a small snack and an extra layer of clothing can go in their backpacks. This will build stamina and a sense of responsibility while helping them learn how to hike safely and comfortably.
Take your time. Hiking is best enjoyed as a process, not as a goal. Encourage children to explore when they find something interesting along the trail. Take breaks whenever needed, keeping the youngest and most inexperienced members of your group in mind.
Looking for more ways to get your family outdoors? Check these articles out!
This was the phrase stuck on repeat in my head all last week. I was in sunny San Diego for a major social media conference and was very much enjoying a nice spring thaw after a long Canadian winter. But even more enjoyable than the much-missed sun was my home away from home for the week – the beautiful Marriot Marquis San Diego, which is without a doubt one of the most amazing hotels I have ever visited!
Located right on the San Diego Marina, this hotel seamlessly mixes business and pleasure in a way I have never quite seen. As you approach the sleek, modern glass façade of the building, you can’t help but feel as though you’ve arrived. Though I would come to learn that the hotel was built in 1987, you’d swear by its modern, timeless look and feel that it was brand new. The only thing that tips you off to the age of the hotel is the staff. Providing the most incredible levels of customer service, it was no surprise to learn that some employees have been working at the Marriott Marquis for over 30 years!
Walking into the lobby, I felt immediately at home with the warm, modern décor. With plenty of space and comfortable furnishings to spread out and take a phone call, fire off some emails, or have an informal business meeting, it was no surprise to see many fellow conference attendees milling about the lobby. Seems like I had picked the right place to be!
As I approached the Registration Desk, I was greeted with a warm California smile from a friendly young woman named Stacy, who promptly welcomed me to the Marriott Marquis. Stacy asked if I had ever visited the property before, and when I replied that this was my first time, you could see her face light up. It was like she was about to share some sort of magical secret with me…which I would soon learn was exactly the case. Stacy began to explain all the various amenities of the property, and within seconds it was clear that this gorgeous lobby was just the beginning. It seems that I had merely scratched the surface of all the amazing recreation, relaxation, fitness, dining, and other amenities all located within the property.
As a frequent traveller visiting hotels across North America, it came as no surprise when Stacy mentioned the resort’s Daily Destination Amenity Fee, as I encounter these all the time. However, I was surprised when she began to explain all the items that were included in the $30 daily fee. Actually, “surprised” is too small a word. I was floored as Stacy explained that my amenity fee included all of the following:
One-hour bike rental
One-hour kayak or paddleboard rental
$10 Food and Beverage credit to Starbucks or the exchange
Two featured glasses of “Sommelier Select Wine”
All in all, the Marriott Marquis San Diego packs in $120 worth of goodies into their amenity fee. Sure beats the typical hotel offering of a slow wifi internet connection and a lukewarm cup of coffee the next morning!
Completing the check-in process, I made my way towards my room, taking note of the several lively, trendy restaurants located just off the lobby, making a mental note to check them out later. I proceeded to ascend the elevator, eventually reaching my floor and my room. Upon opening the door, I was greeted with a beautifully appointed, spacious room, as well as the most beautiful view of the harbour and the Pacific Ocean. Up until this point, the Marriott Marquis San Diego had been all business, with the sleek entrance and modern, bustling lobby. But here in my room, I caught a glimpse one of those secrets Stacy had smiled about during check-in: the beautiful, tropical oasis right out the back door.
Down below, I took in the view of the most gorgeous pool I have ever seen. Sitting there, as if being hugged by the curves of the hotel itself, the spacious, scenic pool and dual hot tubs were glistening with the reflection of the sun setting on the Pacific. And just then, as if on cue, the pool lights turned on, illuminating the masterpiece in all its glory.
This was it. I had died and gone to heaven…
The next few days were incredibly busy. However, as much as I was enjoying the conference, I found myself eagerly awaiting the end of each afternoon session, knowing that the end of the day meant I could return home to my beautiful hotel.
Thankfully, as busy as I was, I was still able to explore nearly every nook and cranny of the Marriott Marquis San Diego during my time there. What all did I find? Let’s take a closer look…
After my first glimpse of the tropical pool oasis from my room, I knew I had to spend as much time as I could down there. As I walked down to the pool area for the first time, I couldn’t help but wonder how they managed to create such an isolated paradise with a major city sitting right outside the front door. It honestly felt like I had stepped onto a remote resort in Hawaii.
The pool itself was a balmy 80 °F (26 °C), making it perfect for a March dip. In the evenings, the dual hot tubs became the destination of choice for weary business travellers and families alike, all coming together to enjoy a nice warm soak and a few laughs among new friends.
As if that weren’t enough, there was also a poolside restaurant: Tequila Bar and Grille. Perfect for a relaxing, tropical drink or a tasty bite after a long day, this spot was the place to come for happy hour.
Health & Wellness Center
With my evenings spent poolside relaxing, drinking, and eating, I made a point to reserve my mornings for a much-needed workout. Thankfully, the Marriott Marquis San Diego doesn’t just have your standard hotel fitness centre – it has a full-blown, modern health club!
This health and wellness centre was so impressive, I am actually going to write a whole separate blog on the facility, as a couple of paragraphs won’t do it justice. But to summarize, this was honestly a whole lot nicer than any fitness club of which I have been a paying member.
A modern room with rows of what looked like brand-new equipment, there was no shortage of cardio or strength training to be found. Solo workouts, not your thing? Not to worry, because there is a whole separate classroom with instructor-led programs (which are included in your resort amenity fee)! And to top it all off, a tranquil yoga room to stretch and practice your best Warrior Pose as you prepare to greet the day ahead.
Smack dab in the Baja California region, one would expect some excellent local cuisine while visiting San Diego. In this regard, the Marriott Marquis did not disappoint. In addition to the tasty snacks and meals I was able to grab poolside at the Tequila Bar and Grille, the hotel also houses Marina Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant specializing in modern comfort food.
With a Head Chef that trained in Spain, and spends every morning meticulously picking out fresh catches at the Tune Harbor, the meals at Marina Kitchen were absolutely incredible. Tasty and hearty, classy yet non-pretentious, my dinners here were absolutely divine. Could not recommend more!
A wonderful glass of wine pairs well with the delicious food offered at the Marina Kitchen! Their wine cellar is impressive and filled with a large variety of both local and international wines. It’s no surprise as to why their destination amenity fee includes a wine tasting!
As if all the full-service restaurants weren’t enough to keep you full, the Marriott Marquis San Diego offers one more 24/7 food option unlike anything else. Dubbed The Exchange, this “modern room service” is the first of its kind for a Marriott. Think of it as a fresh, modern take on grab-and-go meals. With plenty of delicious, reasonably priced sandwiches, salads, drinks and snack items, there is something for everyone at The Exchange. And best of all, you can grab whatever you like at any time of the day!
Basecamp for Family Adventures
With all this talk of sleek, modern amenities and dining options, you may get the impression that the Marriott Marquis is an adults-only resort. This couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, this resort is the perfect basecamp for your family’s San Diego adventures!
Photo Credit – sandiego.org
The harbour right out the back of the hotel offers a great selection of family-friendly water activities, including boat rentals. Nearby, beautiful sandy beaches are awaiting your family for a day of fun in the sun. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can grab the ferry over to Coronado Island to check out its great shops, restaurants, beaches, and Naval Base. Or head on over Seaport Village to take in the iconic Midway Aircraft Carrier!
Birch Aquarium. Photo Credit – sandiego.org
In addition to all the great water-based activities, San Diego city offers tons of family-friendly treasures as well, including the Birch Aquarium, the world-famous San Diego Zoo, museums, restaurants, shopping and more. No matter what you and your kids enjoy, there is no doubt you’ll find it in San Diego.
And of course, if you just feel like staying close to home, the Marriott Marquis goes out of its way to make sure kids and parents alike feel welcome, with countless activities and special events offered throughout the year. From kid-friendly arts & crafts sessions to poolside family movies during the summer, the hotel staff does an incredible job in making families feel at home.
Needless to say, it wasn’t long into my stay at the Marriott Marquis San Diego that I found myself repeating I never, ever want to leave… in my head over and over again. Because honestly, who would want to leave such a paradise? From all the modern business amenities and comfortable, well-appointed rooms, to a state-of-the-art fitness centre, incredible dining options and 5-star resort pool, the Marriott Marquis San Diego is truly a world class hotel and resort offering the quintessential San Diego experience. An experience everyone and every family should have at least once in their lifetime.
Are you thinking of planning a family vacation and are looking for places that have it all? Check out these recommendations!
I am a family adventure writer sharing stories about solo and family adventures. I’m an outdoor enthusiast and you’ll find me regularly hiking, biking or boarding, often with my children by my side. I believe in lifelong learning, following your passion and living life to the fullest every day.