Vancouver Island offers a range of activities and attractions that will keep everyone entertained and excited – it’s a children’s paradise! Don’t waste a perfectly sunny day inside, as there are many parks and sights to explore! Yes, it does rain here, which is why the trees are tall and the gardens so lush – rain or no rain, there’s no shortage of things to do.
Just a short walk south of downtown Victoria is Beacon Hill Park, with its manicured gardens and many attractions. Park facilities include walking trails, a wading pool, water fountains, picnic areas, monuments, sports fields and playgrounds, a band pavilion, and what was once the world’s tallest totem pole. Top of the list for kids and adults alike is the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm; lots of baby animals, pot belly pigs, zebu, miniature horses and other critters to meet and pet – and don’t miss the goat stampede at closing time!
Victoria Bug Zoo: Discover the amazing world of insects at this unusual and fascinating zoo on Courtney Street – there’s even an ant farm! While the Maritime Museum of BC will have the pirates in search of treasure, a visit to Lasercity Fun Centre on View Street for laser tag will get the kid’s hearts pumping.
The whole family can enjoy an IMAX film at the National Geographic Theatre, next to the Royal British Columbia Museum in downtown Victoria (corner Government and Belleville Streets). Plan a morning or afternoon to experience this museum, where you can see what it was like in the gold rush days – much of BC’s history is captured here.
Miniature World at the Empress Hotel is well worth a visit, for adults to put things back into a kid’s perspective. There are over 80 attractions for the whole family, including the world’s smallest operational sawmill – a miniaturized extravaganza that continues to thrill and delight the young and young at heart. Visit Miniature World’s Wonderful World of the Circus and return to those nostalgic days when the circus came to town. Feel the magic, the wonderment of the Grand City Parade, the Big Top, the Wild Beasts and the death defying High Wire Acts.
Horse drawn carriages take you on various tours around many of Victoria’s exciting sites and sounds. From the beautiful Inner Harbour and the Ivy Covered Empress hotel and our magnificent Parliament Buildings to many notable Heritage Homes, through Beacon Hill park and much much more.
Llamas are friendly and delightful animals that bring joy to all who are graced by their presence. With their long, silky eyelashes framing big, intelligent eyes, llamas find their way into the lives of many people. There are a number of Llama farms and Llama bed & breakfasts in the area that offer Llama Walks and Llama Hiking.
Stroll amid lush vegetation at the fascinating Victoria Butterfly Gardens at 1461 Benvenuto Avenue in Central Saanich, an indoor tropical garden filled with hundreds of dazzling free-flying exotic butterflies and colourful birds.
Trails: Whether you enjoy hiking, cycling, roller blading, horseback riding, or just going for a stroll, Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula boasts some superb trails, including the Galloping Goose Trail, the Lochside Trail, and other great peninsula trails. The combination of the Galloping GooseTrail and the Lochside Trail creates a safe trail all the way from Downtown Victoria to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal north of Sidney.
If you’re looking for a great beach, try Willows Beach in Oak Bay. Farther along Beach Drive, past Uplands, there is also Cadboro Bay Beach. The sea air, playgrounds, and sandy beaches are sure to melt away any worries and delight both young and old. Visit the Oak Bay Marina to see the antics of harbour seals in their natural habitat. All Fun Recreation Park in Langford offers a Go Kart Raceway, a Moto Cross track, Batting Cages, an Ice Cream Parlour, and 18 holes of adventure Mini Gol. Also on site is Western Speedway.
Stroll through peaceful meadows at Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Park, overlooking Esquimalt Harbour in Colwood, a coastal artillery site built to defend Victoria and the Esquimalt Naval Base – operational from 1878 to 1956. Located on the large grounds of Fort Rodd Hill is Fisgard Lighthouse, the first lighthouse on Canada’s rocky west coast, built in 1860 by the British when Vancouver Island was still a crown colony.
The town of Sidney is home to family attractions as well. The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre is an aquarium and marine education centre showcasing the extraordinary marine life and amazing ecosystem in the waters surrounding the Gulf Islands and the Salish Sea. From microscopic plankton to Puget Sound King crabs, wolf eels to giant Pacific octopus, the vast aquatic exhibits fascinate visitors of all ages. With 87 tonnes of sea water and 17 habitats, the Centre’s ever-changing seascapes and touch pools offer an unforgettable and unique hands-on, hands-wet experience that reveals the mysteries of the ocean to all ages. Located on the waterfront in Sidney. Open daily from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm.
Discover the incredible world of gems and minerals at Mineral World and Scratch Patch in Sidney. A very popular attraction for children, the Scratch Patch is an outdoor adventureland designed to turn anyone into an enthusiastic rockhound. Pick and choose from millions of beautiful semi-precious stones and tropical shells, or try panning for gold!
The ocean around Vancouver Island abounds with spectacular marine life, you can see these magnificent creatures up-close; whale watching tours with marine naturalists are a “must do” for any visitor to Victoria. Sidney is also a good spot for this popular activity.
South Vancouver Island
The British Columbia Forest Museum located in Duncan portrays the history of BC’s forestry industry through indoor and outdoor exhibits. Board the steam locomotive that travels through a turn-of-the-century farmyard and a logging camp.
Explore the sculpted sandstone tidepools at the world-famous Botanical Beach in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, a wonderful place for appreciating marine biology and viewing intertidal life – it’s a thrill to experience.
Central Vancouver Island
Between Parksville and Qualicum Beach is Morningstar Farm, home to Little Qualicum Cheeseworks. There are many things to do on this heritage dairy farm: see how they make that yummy cheese, visit the farm animals, have a picnic and take a self-guided tour. Parents can shop in the FarmGate store and taste some cheese samples!
If you want to take the kids underground, there are several hundred significant caves on Vancouver Island, including those at Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park. From education family oriented tours to deep dark adventure, these caves offer something for everyone.
Strathcona Park Lodge and Outdoor Education Centre is committed to helping children of all ages appreciate the wilderness. Within a supportive environment, climb a rock bluff, rappel on a rope, swing on a zip-line and co-operatively solve problems on a ropes course. Learn survival techniques, canoeing, kayaking, orienteering and wilderness etiquette; then participate in a canoe journey for an optional overnight camp-out. Natural history discussions are stimulated while exploring a sphagnum bog, home of insectivorous sundew.
Pacific Rim / West Coast of Vancouver Island
Along the island’s West Coast, the Wickaninnish Centre is a definite highlight for all ages. The centre’s purpose is to provide an understanding of the North Pacific Ocean and its influence on nature and man. The history of the North Pacific coast is illustrated by a collection of artifacts used by Nuu-chah-nulth Indians, and interpretive displays.
The Whale Centre Maritime Museum offers a display of artifacts collected and donated by Tofino locals over the past twenty five years. On exhibit is an assortment of traditional native jewelry, cedar baskets, paddles, sea life, local artifacts – from traditional whaling equipment to original navigation charts of the area – and a complete 40’ gray whale skeleton.