From barking sea lions, mountain biking and beachcombing to waterfalls, aviation displays and maybe an Air Force fly-by, there’s lots to do in Comox Valley. Here, from Traveling Islanders (travelingislanders.com) are some of the region’s top year-round family-friendly pursuits.
1. Fanny Bay & the Barking Sea Lions
What we saw was totally unexpected. We heard them before we saw them.
I didn’t count them all, but there could have easily been about 50 sea lions in their colony. Sunbathing away on a raft, they burped, barked and let out all sorts of interesting sea lion noises. The kids thought it was so funny.
We absolutely loved just gazing away watching and listening as the sea lions interacted with each other. We were fortunate enough to have a local oyster farmer offer us a closer look on his boat! Seeing these mammoth creatures up close and in the wild was surreal.
2. Beach Explorations & Hikes
You could spend weeks in the Comox Valley and still not see all the beautiful beaches and hiking trails the valley and nearby mountains have to offer. With so many great ones to choose from it’s hard to know where to point you first.
I’ll share three beaches that we’ve explored and what makes them stand out… but we are only scratching the surface of what’s out there.
Goose Spit (Rocky Beach): There isn’t a ton to do at this beach, but it’s a fun stroll along the water’s edge with a fantastic view. Our kids loved building drift wood forts. It’s a great place to do some paddle boarding or kayaking on a calm day.
Seal Bay Nature Park (Rocky Beach): We didn’t see any seals, but there are a ton of forested hiking trails in the area. One of the trails is a gradual path leading all the way down to the ocean. You’ll want to time your hike for low tide so you can explore all the tide pools. Lots of ocean creatures and discoveries to be made here with or without your kids. If you’re lucky, you’ll see fighter jets from Comox Airforce fly over head like we did! Very cool.
Tee Pee Park/Comox Air Force Beach (Sandy Beach): This is a beautiful Vancouver Island sandy beach. Whether it’s summer time swimming you are looking for or strolling barefooted along the sandy beach on a sunny March day, you’ll love this beach.
We also enjoyed a family game of soccer and the boys couldn’t resist building another driftwood fort. There’s always something to do at this beach and the view is incredible. We did hear that on a hot summer day it’s packed, so don’t expect a secluded beach experience.
3. Nymph Falls Nature Park
Nymph Falls Nature Park is located on the Puntledge River and is locally known as Nymph Falls. The trail to the falls links to a larger trail system that goes up and down the forested river’s edge.
Nymph Falls isn’t a tall waterfall like Goldstream Niagara Falls outside of Victoria or Englishman Falls near Coombs Bay. Equally as majestic, the shallow river cascades off a series of exposed bedrock creating a picturesque view you could sit and watch for hours.
The main feature of Nymph Falls is a man-made ladder waterfall. Back in the 1950s Ocean and Fisheries with BC Hydro blasted a section of the river bottom to help the Salmon spawn up river. In October and November, expect to see just that! We haven’t seen it ourselves, but we have heard it’s an awesome place to watch the salmon jump and fight their way upstream.
4. Courtenay Riverway Heritage Walk/Bike Path
Mountain biking is a very popular activity in this region. In fact we met a dad with his two sons in the Old House Village Hotel where we were staying and they came to the area just to go mountain biking.
Our kids aren’t quite ready for that activity yet, but we did enjoy a leisurely family bike ride around the Courtenay Riverway Walk and Bike path. Old Village Hotel and Spa is conveniently located right in front of the bike path, and they provide complimentary bikes so we couldn’t resist!
5. Comox Airforce Museum
This is a small donation-only museum but packed full with lots of interesting aviation history. The museum has a local focus of Canadian aviation dating back to 1917.
It’s a kid friendly museum, so no worries about them breaking anything. My kids at the time were ages 9, 7 and 6. They lasted for about 30 minutes of focussed learning and then were done. But it was still a worthwhile visit, just don’t plan for a long trip if you have young kids.