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Help! Vancouver Island or New Brunswick with four kids?

Help! Vancouver Island or New Brunswick with four kids?

Aug 30th, 2004, 12:49 PM
  #1  
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Help! Vancouver Island or New Brunswick with four kids?

I have four kids, ages 2, 6, 9, 12. Looking for a summer Canadian destination, as I have never been there and I'm not sure how many more times I'll get the chance. So...narrowing this vacation down is absolutely driving me crazy! At first I thought of Banff, but am second guessing it b/c of the two year old. I'm thinking a lot of hiking wouldn't be that much fun with her!

So...West coast or east coast? We've never gone whale watching - would love that! Would like the water to be reasonably warm. My main goal is to expose my kids (and my husband and I) to new wildlife and culture and way of life. Also, we'd like to stay at a nice resort/lodge with good food and family activities.

Am I making the right choice here? Oh! And Sierra Club is having their annual family summit in New Brunswick - maybe that would be a possibility?

Help please!

Lisa
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Aug 30th, 2004, 12:59 PM
  #2  
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Another thing - we'd love to go biking also...
lisabees is offline  
Aug 30th, 2004, 01:38 PM
  #3  
BAK
 
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Vancouver Island, plus Vancouver, is probably better, but to a large extent, it depends where you are coming from.

Water is warmer for swimming in certain parts of New Brunswick, and for just staying in one or two places and hanging around, NB is fine. I spent 2, 6, 9, and 12, plus the years inbetween,. in New Brunswick every summer.

But BC has a wider vriety of things to do and see, mountains and more interesting rivers, a giant city with lots of things kids like, and perhaps even a rodeo.

BAK
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Aug 30th, 2004, 04:34 PM
  #4  
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Thanks BAK. We are coming from Philly - and the flight will sure be shorter to New Brunswick!

Are there any great resorts or lodges that would sway my decision? The smaller, the better!

Vancouver Island sounds great - I just needed the long travel justified!

Lisa
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Aug 30th, 2004, 06:50 PM
  #5  
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If you fly west, you'll see scenery, and you'll enjoy personalities, that are very different from in the east.

I'd argue in favor of the bigger trip, parlty to get to the moutnains. (there are mountains half an hour from Vancouver; no need to go all the way to Banff.

There are lots of resorts on both coasts, but more that I think kids would enjoy in the west.

BAK
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Aug 31st, 2004, 12:33 PM
  #6  
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Do you happen to know some of the more reputable "family" resorts on Vancouver Island?

Thanks!

Lisa
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Sep 1st, 2004, 06:31 AM
  #7  
mtjt
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Both the east and west coasts are spectacular, as are the Rockies (Banff/Jasper etc.). In the east, I personally would target or at least add on Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia is quite spectacular (especially the famous Cabot Trail auto-route around Cape Breton National Park, also the Lighthouse Route south of Halifax). There are many beautiful beaches in both regions (although water can be cold), Halifax is a lively and tourist oriented waterfront city, there are lots of quaint & picturesque fishing villages around the province, and some very nice (and famous) resorts (e.g. Keltic Lodge on the Cabot Trail, adjacent to a popular swimming beach and Cape Breton National Park).

On Vancouver Island - Victoria is another lively, tourist-oriented small waterfront city. The west coast of Vancouver Island is spectacular (e.g. Pacific Rim National Park, nearby quaint/artsy town of Tofino). Water in that area is cold, but lovely scenery and tide-pools are fascinating for kids. A couple of famous high-end resorts around there. For swimming on Vancouver Island, you would probably target the Parksville area. Lots of mountains in the central and north portions of island, lots more near Vancouver (which is a major city and a couple of hour car Ferry ride from Victoria).
Where in New Brunswick is the Sierra summit? New Brunswick is pleasant, with some very scenic areas, but if it was my first trip to Canada, I would pick Nova Scotia, the Rockies, or Vancouver Island.
Whale watching is offered from several Nova Scotia and Vancouver Island locations.
All the National Parks have short nature trails & scenic picnic grounds as well as longer hikes.
You'll see from this and your own research a car rental will be necessary to do some touring wherever your main base ends up being - the scenic areas and major attractions are somewhat spread out and you'll be missing most if you just stay in and around one resort.
Oh, although I'm Canadian (Toronto area), I lived in Philly area for 4 years. In general, there's not a "huge" culture difference. More so outside the big cities, especially the fishing villages and French Acadian towns of the east coast.
 
Sep 1st, 2004, 12:15 PM
  #8  
 
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Remember that the biggest difference between New Brunswick and Vancouver Island are the landscapes.

I've never been to New Brunswick, but Vancouver Island is known for its old growth temperate rainforests and mountains. The west coast of the island is more wild as it's less developped. It faces onto the open Pacific Ocean (next stop Japan!). It's home to the Pacific Rim National Park and the towns of Tofino and Ucluelet - an area full of top notch beach resorts of all types. The beaches are large and sandy, but there are areas where it's rocky, and the tidal pools are half the attraction - big purple and pink starfish, orange sea anenomes, mussels everywhere. Bald eagles are a common sight. Whale watching in this area would introduce you to the grey whales.

The east coast of Vancouver Island is more developped, has the cities of Victoria and Nanaimo, more towns (Chemainus, Duncan, etc) and the beaches are known to be more warm as they're not on the open Pacific, but on the body of water separating Vancouver Island from the BC mainland - the Strait of Georgia. Forests in this part have been logged, so they're often 2nd or 3rd growth and aren't as large as those on teh west coast. Whale watching in this area will introduce you to the orcas, otherwise known as killer whales.

Also note that a short ferry from Vancouver Island are the Gulf Islands. Hornby Island specifically has one of the warmest beaches I've ever been too - blue clean waters and white sand.

I find that www.vancouverisland.com is a good general place to start, to give you an idea of what there is to offer. If features every town and region on the island and is quite informative.
Carmanah is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2004, 08:25 AM
  #9  
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Thank you for such detailed posts! The Sierra club family summit is in St Andrews by the Sea at the Fairmont.

Honestly, Vancouver Island sounds perfect. What is the weather like in July or August? Are they good months to see wildlife, such as whales? What is the closest airport to Tofino or Ucluelet?

Thank you again!

Lisa
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Sep 3rd, 2004, 08:54 AM
  #10  
BAK
 
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The closest airport that matters (commercial service beyond the minimal)is Victoria, but most international flights land in Vancover. There are several ways to fly from Vancouver to Victoria, including seaplanes from downtown Vancouver to Downtown Victoria.

Seaplanes land in various harbors all around Vancouver Island.

It's an easy drive in a rental car from Vancouver airport to the ferry terminal, and then you'd have a car on Vancouver Island.
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Sep 3rd, 2004, 06:34 PM
  #11  
 
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Lisabees: All responders give good pointers. We've traveled extensively throughout the wonderful country of Canada since 1994 and have never been disappointed. It is so large and there's so very much to do that you can pretty much find as much as you want.
Generally speaking, more Canadians are geared towards the out-of-doors than those of us in the US, and seem to take better care of their parks (perhaps the government does a better job at budgeting for proper upkeep of their national and provincial parks).
This summer and last summer we spent weeks in the Maritimes, including New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Before that we spent time in the pacific northwest, including Vancouver, Vancouver Island, and Whistler. Both sides of the country are fabulous and so very different. We drove everywhere (and took the ferry from Bar Harbour, ME) for the maritimes, and flew to Seattle and rented a minivan for the pacific NW trip.
Your 2 year-old won't care where you go, and the rest of the kids will be interested in hotel pools no matter where you go. There's good (great) hiking trails on both sides, as well as whale watching. In the maritimes the Bay of Fundy hosts a variety of whales with not a few whale watching companies scattered all over. On Vancouver Island its mostly orcas. There's a couple of local pods in the summer easily accessed by excursion boats.
As BAK mentioned, the west has majestic mountains close by, and the east is prety flat with the exception of Cape Breton Island on the north point of Nova Scotia.

My suggestion for the maritimes is to order the "Doers and Dreamers" guides for each province, which still should be available now (the 2004 versions). They are free and highly informative vacation planners which each province offers on their respective websites.
You can obtain lots of brochures from Vancouver and Vancouver Island, too. My kids, now 10 and 14, vote for the pacific northwest and especially want to return to Whistler. Go to its website and you'll see why. Whichever place you end up, you'll really be happy, and will want to return to Canada again. ALso, you'll have the decent exchange rate in your favor, and will be able to obtain refunds on the GST taxes you'll pay, making a vacation in Canada more cost effective. walt
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Sep 4th, 2004, 11:38 AM
  #12  
 
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Lisabees...hi, I'm from Philly too!
Last summer, my kids were 13, 9, and 9 (twins). We flew to Seattle non-stop from Philly (US Air) and then took Vancouver Air non-stop (small 8 passenger plane) to Tofino. Tofino airport is almost not an airport...it is a small tarmac behind a Budget Rental Car place (where you can rent a mini van!) but it made it SO much easier than driving or ferry if you can afford it. 5 days in each place, it was awesome. In Seattle we stayed at the Alexis Hotel, great suites so the kids could be in a separate area with small kitchen. (Seattle = music discovery museum where they learn to play any instrument in minutes, great outdoor food markets, space needle, etc) In Tofino we stayed in one of my favorite hotels in the world, Long Beach Lodge Resort. We had family surfing lessons (in wet suits), went whale watching, took a float plane and went to hot springs, went fishing, it was an amazing trip. From what I understand they had great sitters at the LBL Resort, which you may want to use for the 2 year old for a couple of activities. Fantastic hikes and forests that lead to amazing beaches where the kids could collect smooth stones or different shells. There was never anybody anywhere, almost empty beaches, and we were there in July. We had a room with fireplace and huge tub that slid open directly to the beach. Incredible bed. Actually we had rooms right next to each other and not adjoining, which we usually do but here it was so safe, and no different really from having them in the next room at home. Just love that hotel. Up in the great room there is an amazing restaurant, and you meet people from all over the world who come there. It feels a millions miles away. Tofino, to me, was a fascinating combination of Hawaiian cliffs and surf and beach with Sierra Nevada trees. The weather was wild... that is the only way to phrase it...wild. Usually a white sky with crashing surf, but occasionally the sky would clear and be beautiful blue.
Go there! You will love it, it is worth every mile traveled. It was one of our favorite vacations.
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Sep 8th, 2004, 05:28 AM
  #13  
mtjt
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Hello again Lisa,

I posted earlier recommending Vancouver Island, Nova Scotia or Rockies. Coincidentally I stayed in St. Andrews N.B.(where you mentioned the Sierra Club family summit will be) just last summer (2nd visit there). It's a fun little artsy/touristy town, the small city of St. John is about 1 hour drive away, and there are some quite scenic drives and picnic spots in the general area. There is a large resort in St. Andrews with lots of family amenities. There are whale watching tours based in the area. But, we took a ferry over to Grand Manan Island in the middle of the Bay of Fundy and stayed there for a few nights - and took one of the whale watching tours there. Grand Manan is known for some of the best whale-watching in North America. It's a quaint and old-fashioned place, no malls, just a quiet "seaside vacation" spot, famous for bird life as well as whales and some very nice scenery.

Still - I think Nova Scotia on the whole has a greater number and variety of scenic areas and tourist facilities than New Brunswick so if you end up in St. Andrews, you still might want to take several days to also include some of Nova Scotia.

However, Tofino is also spectacular. That coastal area gets more rain than, say, Victoria at any time of year (which is why the spectacular coastal forest exists), but I would say July/August are good bets. If you do decide on Vancouver Island, for a bit of variety in scenery and activities I would suggest you might want to spend a few days in Victoria, several days in the Tofino area, and, if you have time and want a larger city experience and some mountain scenery - topping it off with a few days in the Vancouver-Whistler area.

All the Canadian Provincial Governments offer extensive tourist information packets including complete accommodation guides and "To Do" booklets, etc. Some (not all) also provide free road maps. Try www.hellobc.com, www.novascotia.com and www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca. Also the Parks Canada site - www.pc.gc.ca for info on Pacific Rim, Cape Breton, and other national parks.
 

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