Sunday 28 July 2013

Vancouver Island: Englishman River Falls, Qualicum Cheeseworks, Parksville Beach Sand Sculpting, Rathtrevor beach

Vancouver Island cont...

The surprisingly awesome falls at Englishman river falls provincial park

Methinks it is often a lot more humid here than when we visited

Stunningly clear water

A bridge asking to be jumped off.  This pool would make a great swimming spot on a summer afternoon with an air-mattress or two.

Qualicum beach, not the most amazing ever, but E had a good time here.

The Little Qualicum Cheeseworks.  E had an awesome time here.  Rabbits, cows, pigs.  Great for kids - they have a scavenger hunt.  Not bad for adults either: we bought some nice cheese and some fruit wine.

Awesome sand sculptures at the parksville sand sculpting competition.  Cheesy promo video here.

Parksville beach water park

Rathtrevor beach.  Definitely one of the weirdest beaches we've ever been to.  At low tide the water is about 1km out!  We walked about 100m out and let E play in one of the pools.

Ate at the Black Goose Inn, IMHO one of the best pubs in the world.  They have an amazing patio with picnic tables set out on the grass looking over the water.  On a summer afternoon it was just about perfect.  Good food and a ton of beers on top.

With some time to kill in Vancouver before our flight home we hit up Granville island.  Parking and traffic was horrible, but the markets and art galleries are pretty nice (super crowded on the weekend).

Thursday 25 July 2013

Vancouver Island: Victoria to Nanoose Bay

Driving day: north to Nanoose Bay.

View Larger Map

What maps thinks is a 1hr 44 min drive took us about 3 hours with stops for wailing kids. Including some very enjoyable time in dirty roadside parking lots feeding/changing/cajoling one or both of them.

The views were great!  Lets pretend we had a leisurely drive and enjoyed them.

Cowichan bay.  A little touristy, but not a bad spot for a coffee.

Our fancy digs for the next few nights, overlooking a beautiful estuary.  We even had an outdoor bath tub (I think we appreciated it a lot more than the kids).

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Vancouver Island: Whale watching! No whales :( Beacon Hill Park, Victoria Busker's Festival

We jumped on a Prince of Whales whale watching tour out of Victoria, but didn't see any whales :(  There are a ton of companies operating out of Victoria, some out of Vancouver, and some out of Seattle.  They all coordinate and report sightings to maximise the chances of finding whales.  Unfortunately the day we went out there was heavy fog (only on the water, Victoria was really hot), which makes them hard to find.  They claim about 95% success rate, so we were fairly unlucky.

Lighthouse.  Whale watching tour kinda boring without whales.

Two bald eagles in this tree (trust me)

Really cold in the fog bank

Sea lions

A 'bait ball' (bunch of little fish being a meal for birds).  Sometimes these attract whales.  Not for us.

We saw a bald eagle and two sea lions.  Not exactly $210 worth, but we can come back for free if we ever happen to be in Victoria again...hmm....I'd suggest calling in the morning and asking if they have seen whales and getting on an afternoon tour if they have - once they have found them that day you are basically guaranteed to see them.

We took our 5-month-old on the larger (ocean magic) boat with no problems.  It was a little bumpy, but just enough to send him to sleep, not a problem otherwise.  Definitely dress warmly: it was super-hot in Victoria, but *really* cold on the water.

After whale watching we spent some time in Beacon Hill park so E could run around.

Peacocks at Beacon Hill Park

World's tallest totem pole @ Beacon Hill Park

Victoria busker's festival.  These guys claimed to be ex cirque du soleil, and I believe it.  They put on an amazing acrobatics and contortionist show.
Great food trucks at the busker's festival

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Vancouver Island: Victoria, Bug Zoo, Butchart Gardens, Butterfly Gardens

To Vancouver Island (via ferry from Tsawassen to Swartz Bay)!

Literally the last car on the ferry :)  Car loading is very organised and efficient.  Ferry is very comfortable, had a cafe, sun deck, and a small kids play area.

Good views on the ride to the island

The Victoria bug zoo is tiny, looks really amateur, but is surprisingly awesome.  I held a tarantula, a giant hissing cockroach, a scorpion, and a huge millipede!

Victoria reminded me a little of Hobart

Butchart gardens is a major (if not the biggest) tourist drawcard for Vancouver Island.  It's huge and beautiful, you could easily spend a whole day there.

Before (a spent quarry)

After (a multi-million dollar tourist magnet).  Note the cliff on the right now covered in plants.

After Butchart we hit up the Victoria Butterfly Gardens.  Not bad, but I've seen much better at Cairns (which has the advantage of being in the tropics).  They import all/most of their butterflies from Costa Rica, which somehow seems more depressing than a butterfly farm where they are grown on-site.

E liked the flamingoes more than anything else :)

An Atlas moth caterpillar .  We didn't get a decent photo of the adult moth but they are massive, largest in the world!

Sunday 21 July 2013

Vancouver: Depressing Gastown

We loved lots of things about Vancouver, but Gastown wasn't one of them.  We had a few hours to spare and spent them there to our regret.  It's a tourist trap right next to the cruise ship terminal.  There's nothing interesting to see except a bunch of tacky merchandise shops, some ordinary or overpriced restaurants, and this steam clock.  Despite giant ship-loads of tourists disgorging right next door, it's obviously struggling as a tourist destination since there are quite a few boarded up shops (currently papered over with ads for a bike race to look less depressing).

Steam clock (not actually steam powered), it just does steam-whistle chimes
You've seen it now, don't go :)

Vancouver: Grouse Mountain

A cable car to lumberjack Disneyland on Grouse Mountain!

*sigh* lets add that to the "if we didn't have kids with us list"
Lumberjack show
Being a lumberjack, climbing a pole with spurs
Fun! The action with the rope flip-up and spurs felt a bit like prussiking 
Birds of prey show.  Pretty cool.  It was good for E to see an owl up close, since they are in lots of her books.
Some sort of falcon.  These birds are ridiculously fast in a hunting dive.  Fastest animals on the planet apparently.
There's a bear in there (no, really, there is).
There were tons of people doing the Grouse Grind on the Saturday we visited.  It's a run/walk: 2.9 kilometres (1.8 miles) long, 853 metres (2,800 feet) elevation gain that covers the same ground as the Gondola.  There is also a snowshoe grind!  They have very cleverly turned it into a social competition, with big leader boards for fastest times displayed in the coffee shop.  They make money on the time tracking system, the coffee shop, the parking, and the gondola trip down.  Very smart.