Hi, friends! It’s been quieter than usual around here this month, hasn’t it? I’ve been working on some non-blog photo and recipe projects, and enjoying lots of summer fun with the family. We just spent a week visiting Hornby Island – a small, northern Gulf Island three ferries away from Vancouver.
It’s tends not to be much of a holiday per se when travelling with small children, you can’t exactly kick your feet up with a margarita and sunbathe. For a parent, vacation with the family is closer to a work trip. I just try to keep totally neutral expectations and go with the flow, finding and choosing happiness and accepting setbacks (like a stomach flu) and frustrations.
I keep saying, having kids has surprisingly simplified my life.
This, however, was probably the best, intrinsically easiest trip we’ve taken with the family.
The kids ran outside in their bare feet every morning and played in the yard until bedtime. The beaches on Hornby are warm and sandy, with very safe, shallow shores. The coastal hikes are breathtakingly scenic, and wonderfully kid-friendly. There was next to no cellular service on the island which kept us happily unplugged. The island has everything you need, and that’s it. Life was blessedly uncomplicated.
I’m gonna completely flood you with photos from the farm and island, hope you don’t mind.
I could sink deeply into the island farm lifestyle. (My husband, city boy that he is, could not.) We might have to meet somewhere in the middle with a couple of fruit trees and a vertical garden on a suburban lot.
We stayed at the Outer Island Guest Farm in a small cabin on a 15-acre working farm, with horses, sheep, chickens, a donkey, and a friendly dog right outside our door. (Not to mention a swimming pool, tennis court, badminton set, lawn bowling, horseshoe toss, and numerous tree swings ?) If you follow my Instagram stories, you already know how smitten I was with the orchard and edible garden.
If you’re planning a trip with your family, here’s what you must do:
– EXPLORE: Visit Helliwell Provincial Park. INCREDIBLE views. Sometimes sea lions. We did a five kilometre hike with the 4-year-old and one-and-a-half-year-old and no stroller or carrier. It is stroller-friendly with an all-terrainer (like a Mountain Buggy or Chariot), but there are a few rocky areas that might be tough with an umbrella stroller.
Also, some steep cliffs so snug hand-holding (or a leash backpack – I judge you not) is a must. It’s the first time in almost 12 years living in BC that the West coast has felt like home to me. The rugged coastline and sea grasses looked just like Prince Edward Island – the vacation-haven of my East Coast childhood.
– BEACHES: Tribune Bay is the main beach, and its incredible turquoise waters that just like Hawaii. Whaling Station is another beautiful option, and it’s quieter with mostly families. Sandpiper Beach is an amazing hidden gem, a gorgeous cove with smooth sandstone and big rocks for climbing and exploring.
The gentle slope of all the beaches make them very safe for little kids, and because they’re so shallow, the sun warms the water to what feels like tropical temperatures. If your kids are older, bring some floaty toys to lounge around on (giant flamingo?) and/or skim boards.
– RIDE: Pack your bikes! The whole island is bikeable (if you don’t mind a few hills). We kicked ourselves big time for not having invested in the bike rack we keep saying we’re going to buy. We would have gotten so much more exercise if we’d just toted along our two bikes and the chariot. The Island has a small bike shop where you can rent all the equipment you need, though, with trailer (mini-bike that attaches to a grown-up bike) and double chariot options for towing kids.
– EAT: There’s a nice, homemade-style pizza shop/bakery with lovely picnic benches set in an orchard, and the ringside market with a few cafes, an ice cream shop, a taco stand, and a co-op brimming with organic, natural foods. We planned/packed most of our meals from home, mostly because I didn’t want to have to use my brain on vacation.
-PLAY: There’s a beautiful, large playground at the (only) school. The adjacent preschool has a wonderful, fenced-in playground for smaller kids and it’s open to the public outside of school hours M-TH and all day Friday-Sunday. There’s also a cute Natural History Centre at the school, which is a great rainy-day activity.
That’s all! Back with recipe posts later this week.