Vancouver in the summertime is pure magic. Like a proud peacock displaying its feathers, Vancouver is vibrant and alive between mid-June and September, making it the perfect time to, well, go nowhere. From amazing beaches and world-famous hiking to lively patios, outdoor markets, and all age festivals, Vancouver makes a great date in the summer.
That being said, summertime is also vacation time for kids, and for many of us, it’s a great time to get going and get out of town. For those of us with small children, finding the perfect destination isn’t always easy, and travel time definitely counts! So, whether you want to get away for a week or a weekend, check out these 8 family-friendly gems that will help you celebrate your summer with a quick drive or ferry ride, and without an ounce of regret.
Squamish, BC: Approximate travel time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Nestled about half way between downtown Vancouver and Whistler is Squamish, a small town whose name translates as “Mother of the Wind”. World famous for its rock climbing, Squamish is also fun for families, offering river-rafting, canoeing, sailing, horseback riding, and fishing. Take in The Squamish Valley Music Festival in August each year and celebrate some great family vacation vibes in this easy-going community close to Vancouver. For more info and activity ideas, visit exploresquamish.com.
Whistler, BC: Approximate travel time: 1 hour 45 minutes
A beautiful symphony of tastes, sights, and smells, we can’t talk about road trips without including Whistler. Many think of Whistler as a winter destination, however, summers in Whistler are spectacular and offer tons of family activities that will satisfy explorers of any age.
As you cruise up the coast on the sea-to-sky highway, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of lush mountains and endless ocean. Once there, enjoy the vista from the Gondola, have a picnic by a lake, bike ride, canoe or zip line and then relax on a patio in the village and experience the fabulous food scene. Visit whistler.com or whistler.com/kids for more info on everything Whistler has to offer.
See the South
Semiahmoo, Washington: Approximate travel time: 1 hour 30 minutes (border waits vary)
Just south of the B.C. border, sits the beautiful coastal town of Semiahmoo, Washington. While there, stay a few days at the breathtaking Semiahmoo Resort and Spa, a 300-acre resort focused on families and fun times. Take your kids crabbing at the beach and feel your stress melt away as you take in the scenic beauty. Listen to live music, go for a stroll on the beach and then enjoy a cozy night time bonfire as the day winds down. Visit semiahmoo.com for more information on Semiahmoo events.
Seattle, Washington: Approximate travel time: 3 hours
Quench your thirst for a city away from your city. From the Pike Place Market to the Space Needle, to guided walking tours designed just for kids, and an aquarium on the waterfront, Seattle is a city of fun. With a rich history, and a celebrated culinary scene, our neighbours to the south won’t leave you disappointed. Visit visitseattle.org for a list of top rated family activities.
Harrison Hot Springs: Approximate travel time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
Enjoy a lovely, scenic drive to this quaint little resort town nestled at the southern end of Harrison Lake in B.C.’s Fraser Valley. Home to the famous Harrison Hot Springs Resort, this small village is a great little get away not far from the city.
Families can swim in the lake, walk to the outdoor hot springs, or play at the water park at the marina. At the resort, relax in the natural mineral hot spring pools while soaking in the towering mountain views around you. The village itself is a great place for kids, offering rickshaw rides, ice cream shops, gift stores and more. Check out Tourism Harrison for some more great family adventures tourismharrison.com.
Penticton, BC: Approximate travel time: 3 hours 30 min
Surrounded by two fresh water lakes, lush mountains and boasting a whole lot of annual sunshine, Penticton is the jewel of the Okanagan Valley. Home to the gorgeous Skaha Lake Park, families can enjoy beautiful golden beaches, warm water and enough entertaining outdoor activities to keep your kids occupied for hours.
Visit the Penticton Farmers Market for some good eats and fresh fruit, rent a pedal car, go for ice cream or visit the local speedway and check out the race cars. The drive is a little longer, so stop in Hope for a quick pit stop full of mountainous splendor. Visit visitpenticton.com for more info on all Penticton has to offer.
Gibsons, Sunshine Coast BC: Approximate travel time (with ferry): 2 hours 15 min
Although technically part of the mainland, the sunshine coast is only accessible by ferry. After a quick 25-minute drive from downtown, catch the Horseshoe Bay to Langdale ferry and soak up the magnificent 40-minute boat ride, as you enjoy the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. Once there, it’s a short 15-minute jaunt to Gibsons. You’ve arrived!
Located on a hillside with magnificent views of neighboring islands in Howe Sound, Gibsons has been named “the most livable community under 20,000 [people]”, and this charming little seaside town is the perfect family get away. Shop, sail, picnic, beach and enjoy! For more family-friendly activity ideas, visit gibsonsvisitorinfo.com.
Bowen Island, BC: Approximate travel time (with ferry): 1 hour 15 min
Another beautiful retreat accessible from the Horseshoe Bay Ferry, Bowen Island is a delightful little community of 4,000 people that makes a big impression. If you want a little food for the soul, this place is for you. You can drive, bike or walk over on the ferry, and when you arrive, soak in the laid-back, friendly vacation vibes.
Considered one of the most artistic communities in Canada, Bowen Island is home to a huge number of artists and creative types. To get a real sense of Bowen’s personality, take in the summer Sunday market, visit the shops or check our BowFest on the last weekend of August for a day of festivities and good times. Visit tourismbowenisland.com for more info on Bowen Island.
Getting away is good for us. It’s a chance to relax, unwind and connect with our loved ones. Family friendly drives are all around beautiful B.C., so whatever you crave and however you find your fun, one of these 8 destinations are for you. Just pick a direction, pack your car and get going!