4 Outdoor Things To Do With Kids in Victoria
Returning home from Canada after a decade overseas, my active, outdoorsy family had to choose a place to live. We wanted a place with no snow in the winter (yes, in Canada) and no rain in the summer and on the Pacific coast no less. The answer was Victoria, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, just north of Washington State’s majestic Olympic Mountains. It has pretty much the best weather in Canada and lots to do with kids, especially if you enjoy the outdoors.
Victoria is a great place to visit, too, as a weekend destination or side trip from Vancouver or Seattle. Here is the inside scoop that we give to friends from all over the globe on the best activities with kids in this amazing little city. (Visiting Victoria? Read about Vancouver and nearby Sidney, too!)
Our Top Family Vacation Activities In Victoria, BC
Go for a run
Victoria has been ranked as Canada’s fittest city. Here’s why: 36% of the adult population is active, nearly double the national average. Those warm, snow-free winters mean our family can be active 365 days a year. One thing we like to do together is to go for a jog along the ocean.
If you want to join us there are two family-friendly road races a year. The TC10k in April attracts top runners from all over the world, but the course is doable for young runners and their parents. It winds along Victoria’s beautiful coastline, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The more serious Royal Victoria Marathon in October is a Boston Marathon qualifier. It features a kids race and plenty of fun activities for children whose parents are running (or just cheering). If your family runs, you need to spend some time in Victoria.
Victoria is also Canada’s most bike-friendly city, and we like to it might be the most bike-friendly city in North America. There are plenty of bike lanes and bike routes and best of all, motorists know to expect bicycles to be on the road and tend to be polite and pleasant to them.
I often take my two sons by bicycle through the middle of town. It’s the best way to reach one of the most fantastic attractions in Canada: the Galloping Goose Regional Trail. Named after a former steam engine, it stretches 60 km from downtown Victoria west to the seaside community of Sooke. The 120 km round-trip journey is best for tweens and teens who you know can make it. But the downtown section of the trail, which meanders along Victoria’s Inner Harbour iand passes a number of shady parks, is great for riders of all ages. Reward your family of peddlers with a visit to any of the coffee shops and bistros facing the water.
Go to the beach
Victoria is surrounded on three sides by ocean and virtually every hotel room is less than ten minutes from the beach. We like the beaches and rocky coastline below Dallas Road. They’re perfect for a morning or afternoon of bouldering and checking out local marine life. Beacon Drive-Inn, right nearby, dishes out Victoria’s best ice cream.
Willow’s Beach, a 10-minute drive from downtown Victoria in suburban Oak Bay, offers beautiful white sand that’s perfect for sandcastles, plus a stunning view of the San Juan Islands. A cool, shady grass area with a playground and a volunteer-run concession stand make a handy beach with small kids.
When we want a taste of the West Coast’s wilder landscape, we drive 20 minutes to Witty’s Lagoon, where the sandy beach stretches for about a quarter of a mile at low tide. It’s a great place to spot seals, sea lions, migrating shorebirds and even the occasional passing whale. The park offers some great light hiking that’s doable even with younger children.
Grab a coffee in Cook Street Village
You’ll want some caffeine to power you along on these various expeditions. The local people fuel up in Cook Street Village, on the east side of Beacon Hill Park. Off the beaten tourist track this is Victoria’s meeting place after a stroll (or run) along Dallas Road. Grab a coffee at any of a small galaxy of coffee places and then window shop among small bistros and bookstores.
Elsewhere in city try Street Level Espresso (next to the largest used bookstore in Canada), Bean Around the World (in Canada’s oldest Chinatown), and Caffe Fantastico, along the Galloping Goose trail, close to the Inner Harbour.
After you’ve energized, head out on another adventure.
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Nevin Thompson is a Canadian who loves writing about Canada. He also does public relations for diverse clients including Diversified Health Clinic, which helps runners, golfers and other active folks improve their game.