Monday, April 27, 2009

Free or Nearly So: 5 Great Coastal Walks With Kids

1. Airport Park, Courtenay BC

Once upon a time when Jake was little, we brought him here with his brand new two wheeler, complete with training wheels. All was going well until we came upon a slight slope and Jake began going faster, and faster, and FASTER....

"HELP!!!" he began screaming, weaving, and then flailing his arms as the bike dove for a stand of blackberry bushes.

"Use your BRAKES!" We yelled after him, trying our best not to laugh. Suddenly Hubs and I looked at each other in horror.

"You did teach him about the brakes, right?"

A relatively flat, paved walkway takes you for a nice little jaunt around a bird sanctuary, gives you a view of the ocean, and you also get to watch small planes land and take off right over your head. As if that's not enough, there's tons of blackberry bushes to snack from in the late summer, your boys will love chasing the small garter snakes that hang out on the rocks. Don't worry, they don't bite.

-bathrooms (with flush toilets!) are available
-a small cafe is on premises
-stroller/wheelchair/roller blade/small bike friendly
-wildlife watching: seals, eagles, various birds, snakes, salmon


2. Smugglers Cove, Sunshine Coast

You can take this trail two ways-as far as the cove, or scramble over the rocks and make it a longer, more adult hike. If you have small kids with you, I recommend stopping at the cove. This path winds through coastal rain forest, meandering by small ponds home to turtles, birds, and beavers. There are raised wooden walkways here but in some parts you must hang onto small children, as there is no railing. Once you reach the cove, if the tide is out kids can clamor down to a small rocky beach area and look for star fish clinging to the rocks.

If you choose to continue on the trail, there is some scrambling over rocks but you will be rewarded with a beautiful ocean view at the end.

-This trail is not wheelchair/stroller friendly, and after a heavy rain can be particularly wet.
-Pit toilets are available at the trail head and at the cove.
-Interpretive signs about Aboriginal culture are along the trail.
-animal sightings: snakes, various birds, seals, bears, deer, star fish, crabs, turtles, beavers

3. Lynn Canyon, Lynn Valley (near Vancouver)

One of our favorite places to hike before Jake was born was Lynn Canyon. Over the years it has developed more, but it still is a nice place to take the kids for a walk. Hubs and I have hilarious pictures of us in our pre-wedding days here; me wearing fuchsia leggings, looking like a prime candidate from "What Not to Wear", and Hubs sporting a slight mullet, holding up a package of Halls Cough Drops, which he was addicted to at the time. It's a good thing my scanner is not working.

Lynn Canyon gets busy on weekends or really sunny days, so you may want to keep that in mind before you go. Parking can be limited. Check out the park by following this link for a virtual tour of the park.

Which trail to take? We found that the best one for little kids (3-6 years old) is the popular walk to the 30 ft pool. Follow a suspension bridge, a series of wooden boardwalks, and traditional hiking trail over the canyon, through the woods, and along the river to the 30 ft pool, where kids can scramble around on the rocks. Older kids may enjoy the trail to Twin Falls.

Top the hike off with a visit to the Ecology Center-in fact, if you drop in there before you walk you can get a trail map and some information on the natural history of the area. Make sure to check to see if there are any programs or events going on-once we lucked out and a reptile club was there showing off their snakes!

-bathrooms are available
-there is a restaurant offering take out and sit down meals on site
-ecology center and cafe are wheelchair accessible
-the trails are NOT wheelchair/stroller accessible
-don't swim at the park. It's very dangerous and people have died trying.
-ecology center admission is by donation

4. Filberg Park, Comox

If you visit Comox, Filberg Park is a must see. With it's acres of gorgeous gardens, small herd of resident deer, massive oak trees, ocean views, and so much more, it's a fantastic place to take the kids for an afternoon. (for directions, go here)

One of my best memories with Jake was around New Years when he was about 7 or so. Hubs wasn't feeling well so Jake and I packed up a picnic lunch and headed to the Filberg. There were no flowers of course, but it was a gorgeous sunny day, and we sat in the sun overlooking the ocean while we sipped hot chocolate. On the way back to the car we spotted the resident herd of deer so we crept under one of the massive oaks and sat, watching. As we sat we could hear the acorns falling to the ground below.

Thunk.

Thunk. THUNK (watch your head!)

Thunk thunk thunk thuk !

The deer crept ever closer until soon they were a mere foot away, munching on the acorns and watching us. We held our breath in wonder and hoped to God an acorn wouldn't get us in the head.

Anway, the Filberg has paved walkways meander through beautiful gardens, so it's wheelchair and stroller accessible. There are some spots where there are stairs, but there are also ramps/alternative ways to access. There are heritage buildings dotting the property that kids may find interesting.

Jake and I spent many afternoons here; we would take some watercolor paints and spent an afternoon with a picnic lunch, painting pictures of flowers. Fall was amazingly beautiful as the oaks would burst into color. Throughout the summer there is a small, inexpensive petting zoo open for little kids. Grab a bite to eat at the tea house, check out the heritage lodge, or walk out and collect shells on the rocky beach area when the tide is out.

The park often has events happening-check here to see what they are up to.

-admission to the park is free
-the Filberg Festival is THE art event of the summer for Vancouver Island
-through the summer (June-August) there is a free concert from 2-4 pm featuring local talent
-wheelchair, stroller accessible
-bathrooms are available
-cafe on site
-petting zoo, heritage lodge (small fee)
-great for picnic
-animal sightings: deer (don't approach), squirrels, various birds

5. Garry Point Park and the Richmond Dykes, Richmond BC

Steveston has long been one of our favorite family destinations. Last year Jake and I did a day trip in Steveston where we lunched on fish and chips, then wandered through the stores and down by the docks. Always fun! A short stroll from Steveston Landing is the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic site, public washrooms, and a trail that leads to Garry Point Park. From the park, you can continue on the wide, relatively flat trail along the river for about 6 km!

-washrooms are available at Garry Point Park-I don't think there are any along the dyke
-stroller accessible, mostly wheelchair accessible
-nice for bike riding (not roller blading)
-close to Steveston attractions, cafes, take out
-sometimes you can see sea lions swimming out in the Fraser River

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