Shhhhh … here be dinosaurs. And whales slapping tails. And wilderness where you can zoom through trees on a cable or splash down whitewater rivers. Heck, there are even castles and gargoyles on a sandy promenade … at least until high tide.
Sound like the theme park of your kids’ dreams? Pretty much. For families looking for fun time to share with their children, British Columbia is a playground so really-really big it has everything from mountains with steaming hot springs pools to beaches where you can learn to hang 10 on a surfboard.
Who wouldn’t like a vacation that starts with a prowl through dinosaur country that was discovered by kids? In 2000, two pre-teen boys tubing down a creek near the northern Rockies foothill community of Tumbler Ridge spotted dinosaur tracks imprinted into the stony riverbank. Their discovery led to the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre (PRPRC) and its Dinosaur Discovery Gallery with hundreds of bones, tyrannosaur (Albertosaurus) teeth and some of the 1,500 fossilized fish and other 75- to 350-million-year-old specimens.
Best of all is heading out at night in the dark on a one-kilometre guided lantern tour to see dinosaur footprints: angled lamplight is perfect for illuminating details like the creatures’ skin. An added bonus? Kids aged 7 to 13 are sure to dig the museum’s dinosaur day camps, which include learning to excavate and prepare fossils. In the meantime, mom and dad can lace up to explore hiking trails and waterfalls, or wander the moonscape of Boulder Gardens studded with stone pinnacles.
Just to the west, the northern B.C. villages of Hazelton, New Hazelton and South Hazelton are perfect for family road tripping, thanks to the area’s deep canyons, lush forests and historic draws. Here, the reconstructed ancient First Nations village of K’san is a must-stop, offering insight into pre-European contact with its collection of longhouses and groves of still-standing totem poles.
Continue winding west towards the coast to Prince Rupert, then hop on board Seashore Charters’ boat to catch a glimpse of some of the creatures featured on those totems in real life. Watch for Orca, and grey and minke whales spouting, and even a few humpbacks breaching clear out of the water. Then take a waterborne safari into the rainforest and feel your heart skip a beat at the sight of grizzly bears in the remote Khutzeymateen Valley bear sanctuary.
Eager for heart-pounding adventure of a different kind? There’s more adrenalin to be found at Kumsheen Rafting Resort near Lytton. Perched overlooking the historic Thompson River, the family-owned and operated soft adventure retreat features a menu of whitewater escapades for the energetic 10-and-up crowd. Hang on and scream your way through the Devil’s Gorge section of the river on a raft or learn to paddle your own sit-on-top kayak through easy whitewater. Teens can try rock climbing, rappelling and mountain biking, while adults can rise to the challenge with disc golf or settle in for lazy lounging by the pool. After a fresh gourmet meal in the Cutting Board Restaurant, head for your Gold Rush-era canvas prospector’s tent or tuck yourself into a family teepee — it sleeps four and comes complete with a candle-lit pit in the centre and an open top where you can watch the stars as you drift off to sleep.
And the kids won’t even notice they are getting exercise, becoming more agile or sub-consciously collecting great writing material for that inevitable September back-to-school essay on “What I did on my summer vacation.”
For more inside scoop on family fun in B.C., visit www.Hellobc.com/thingstodo.