Last month when my sister-in-law and her family visited us, we took them up towards Squamish to visit the Britannia Mine Museum. My husband and I have driven past the mine a few times, exploring other places, and we were excited to see what was there.
The Britannia Mine Museum is easy to find. Just head out of Vancouver on Highway 1 (a scenic route that curves along the coast) until you see the huge mine building on your right. We had a lovely sunny day for the drive, with beautiful views of the water and the mountains above the mine.
At the mine, we got our tickets and took a quick look around the indoor museum (where there are some displays of various precious rocks and a bit of information about mining) but the girls were too excited to explore so we kept going. On the other side, we followed the signs past several other buildings and up the stairs to the start of the train tunnel tour.
Here, we all grabbed hard hats. There were even kid-sized hard hats, which were adjustable, though Jade wasn’t super keen on wearing hers. I’d been given a set of ear plugs to wear during the tour so that I could cover Jade’s ears during the loud parts. While we waited for the train to arrive, we admired the view from our lookout down the valley toward Squamish:
Then the train and our tour guide arrived. After a few safety remarks, she opened the gates and let us pile onto the train. Then we chugged slowly into the tunnel. We stopped at three points through the tunnel for the guide to explain various things to us, from the dynamite storage to the operation of the drills (the noisy part).
It was neat to see some of the old equipment still running and able to do demonstrations. I wish I could have gotten video, but I had to have my hands over Jade’s ears. Then we walked out of the tunnel into the sunlight, and our guide blew the mine whistle to let the office know everyone was out of the tunnel. The whistle was really loud; Lily didn’t like it.
From there, we followed our guide down the hill to the mining building—the huge building perched on the side of the hill that attracts your attention as you drive up. I was excited to see what was inside. It was HUGE. And we couldn’t even see all the way to the top of the building. There was a narrow, rickety staircase going up to the top, but of course we weren’t allowed to climb it.
We gathered in benches at the bottom of the building while our guide explained to us exactly how copper is processed from the rocks dug out of the mine. It’s quite the complicated process! I thought the building itself was ingenious, in the way that the engineers used gravity to keep the rocks moving down through the processing. Our guide even did a small demo for us, showing us the foamy silvery substance that was part of the process:
After that, our tour was over and we were free to explore the mine as we wanted to. The girls found a crew train car to play in, pretending that they were riding down the rails to work. Inside the engine building, there was a kids’ play area that kept the girls busy while us adults tried to read the descriptions of the equipment and learn more about copper, gold and other metals mined.
From there we wandered outside, where the kids tried panning for gold for quite a while (something about water is always entertaining) while I went in search of a coffee at the nearby cafe. Then the kids moved on to the playground. My in-laws watched them play there while my husband and I caught the fifteen-minute movie about the history of the mine, which was really fascinating.
After that, we decided to call it a day and head home again. Overall, I was quite impressed by everything there was to do at the Britannia Mine Museum. The kids had a lot of fun trying out different things and us parents learned a lot as well.
Kid-friendly: Very! There were lots of hands-on activities for the kids, from the playground to the displays in the museum to the toys in the engine house.
Baby-friendly: Yes. There were change tables in the family washroom as well as high chairs available in the cafe (and another play area there as well, if you want to stay for snacks). The train tour would not be accessible to strollers, but other areas of the mine were located on a flat area with very few stairs.
Fees: the museum is a bit pricey. A family rate is $99 for the day. Kids four and under get in free. It would be easy to make this a day trip, with the hour’s scenic drive from Vancouver and everything there is to do at the mine. Pack a lunch and have a picnic at the tables near the playground.
I received passes to the Britannia Mine Museum courtesy of my Vancouver Media Pass; all opinions expressed are my own. Photos were taken with my Samsung Galaxy S5.
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