We spent the long weekend touring around Hornby Island, a small island just off the coast of Vancouver Island near Courtney. At the school’s silent auction last year, we’d gotten a really good deal on three nights at a small studio there.
Without stops to keep kids happy, it’s about a three-hour drive, plus two ferry rides which only take an hour and a half if you aren’t waiting for the next sailing because of long weekend traffic. In other words, we picked up my husband at work in Victoria at 4 pm on Friday and hoped to be at our little studio long before 11:30 pm… Coming home on Monday was about the same, but despite the difficulties in getting there, we had a beautiful weekend.
Hornby Island Natural History Museum
On Saturday morning, with the clouds threatening rain, we headed to the Natural History Museum. It’s a small room tucked into the local school, but it was packed with information about the local plants and animals, and quite a lot of things for the girls to do. Lily and Jade had fun placing magnet creatures on a beach scene while Sunshine drew some of the feathers, rocks, and butterflies from the touch exhibit.
Local Market, Local Products
From there, we wandered through the nearby farmer’s market, admiring the local artwork (the girls had a chance to see an artist making sandstone scupltures and ask about the process) and then eating big, delicious popsicles.
Then we stopped at Middle Mountain Mead, one of the local brewers of alcohol, for a tasting. The girls sat colouring happily at a small table while my husband and I sampled the mead and then bought a few bottles of our favourites.
Mount Geoffrey Regional Park
After that we decided to go for a hike, despite the iffy weather. I settled Jade into her Ergo to have a nap while Sunshine and Lily took turns running ahead as the “leader.” We followed the summit trail (or maybe the bench trail) through Mount Geoffrey Regional Park (the trails were wide and well-traveled and there were a few signs, but we weren’t totally sure which trail we were on).
It was neat to see the vegetation change, from evergreens to arbutus to thick brush on either side of the trail. In one place, many trees and branches were broken and on the ground, making us wonder about storms or high winds. In several places, we were hiking right at the top of the bluff and holding the girls’ hands or cautioning them about hiking carefully. We had some great views of the ocean and Denman Island and beyond it, the mountains of Vancouver Island.
We hiked about an hour down the trail, then turned around and hiked back again. The girls started to get tired, but Sunshine and Lily hiked the whole trail by themselves and Jade even tramped along for a while once she woke up from her nap. Maybe the promise of a movie on our return helped them keep going…
Helliwell Provincial Park
Sunday morning dawned sunny and clear, so we drove around to Helliwell Park, which we’d heard rave reviews about. It had a loop trail out through the park and along the coast, which was supposed to take an hour and a half (and did, even with a few stops to admire the view or tour the beach). Most of the trail here was marked with “ropes and posts” to keep people off the fragile vegetation (and away from the cliff edges). Unlike the trail on Mount Geoff, which we’d had to ourselves except for a couple mountain bikers, this trail was well-used and clearly very popular.
Whaling Station Beach
After lunch, we decided that it was finally sunny enough for a beach day and we drove around to Whaling Station Beach. Parking was limited along a short access road, but the beach was gorgeous. The girls ran out across the dry sand to a small pool of water created by a higher spit of sand. They had fun splashing about there in the knee-deep water and then going up on the spit to make a sandcastle.
I tried wading out into the ocean…. and the soft, smooth sandy bottom stayed the same, gradually sloping deeper. I went as far as my waist and then turned back (it did seem a bit chilly for swimming) but I wished it was a hotter day. The girls also went about waist-deep and then turned back, saying the water was cold and they wanted to play in the sand. Jade got a bit chilly, and was also tired from not having a very good nap, so we finally packed it up and went home again.
Whaling Station is probably the best beach I’ve ever visited.
On Monday morning, we rode our bikes from our little studio down to Sandpiper Beach. It was a cloudy, windy day, with the waves rolling in from the ocean. Sandpiper Beach was a rocky beach, with some interest rock formations near the water and huge driftwood tossed up against the shore for the girls to climb over. We saw lots of shells and dead (or molted) crabs.
Then we packed up our studio and drove around to Big Tribune Beach, just to say we’d been there before we left. It’s the biggest beach on the island, I believe, and the most popular, but its bay was much wider than Whaling Station and faced a different direction, so again, it was windy and cold there. It was also a sandy beach, part of a provincial park. The girls wanted to build sandcastles again, but we knew we’d have to head for the ferry and so we bid goodbye to our little island getaway.
Check out my Vancouver Island page for more great places to explore!