On a recent Vancouver Island vacation we discovered MANY free activities in the Comox Valley to choose from. The wild barking sea lions were our favourite!
Mountains, rivers, beaches, hiking, mountain biking, whale & grizzly bear watching, fishing, museums, alpine skiing, snow shoeing, paddle boarding, kayaking, fine dining and MUCH, MUCH more!
On a recent family vacation to the Comox Valley we discovered for ourselves just how much there is to do in this North Central Region of Vancouver Island without breaking the bank.
Here are 5 FREE year-round activities in the Comox Valley and nearby that will enhance your Vancouver Island vacation:
1. Fanny Bay & The Barking Sea Lions
Pinterest me for later!
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 the heard. 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.
Take a listen for yourself!
Of all the free activities in the Comox Valley this one is a MUST!
Here is the Google Street view of the the dock you are looking for along the highway. Click on the Google Map link for directions to Fanny Bay and the barking sea lions dock.
2. Beach Exploration & 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.
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 your 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 rivers 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 1950’s 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 & Bike path. Old Village Hotel & 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 & 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 kids.
Did you know that Canada had Americans guarding their nukes ready to launch from Canadian soil during the Cold War?
Did you know that 10% of allied pilots that were trained during World War II died during training? Or that of the 40,000 Germany U-boat sailors that went to battle 30,000 are still in their sunken submarines, 5,000 went to POW camps and 5,000 survived the war?
Great opportunity to teach your kids and learn for yourself all about our proud Canadian Air Force aviation history on Vancouver Island.
BONUS – Is it Winter? Are you a snow lover?
Then Mount Washington is the place to be!
The last couple winters have seen a snow drought, but more often than not snow can be found just 30 minutes up the mountain from Courtenay. Perched at the edge of Strathcona Provincial Park you’ll find the Nordic Centre and Raven Lodge. That’s where we parked and and enjoyed fun in the snow bank.
Being Islanders ourselves, the kids don’t get to see the snow much, so this is always a fun treat. We played until we couldn’t play anymore and when we got cold we enjoyed some hot chocolate and our lunch in the chalet, fed some friendly whisky jacks by hand, and then headed back into the snow for more fun.
Looking For More Family Activities in the Comox Valley?
Hands down the Vancouver Island info centre entering the Comox Valley is the best on the Island. If there were awards for info centres, this one would win for most creative, kid friendly, informative and interactive design.
Friendly and knowledgable staff will load you up with lots of helpful info just like they did for us on our first visit. The hard part will be choosing what to do and see! If you have a question about the Comox Valley, they have answers.
Or you can always contact us and we would be happy to be your online Island guides. We have a passion for enhancing vacations for both Vancouver Island “staycationers” and travellers from near and far.