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Northern Vancouver Island's best-kept secrets for outdoor family adventures

From cave explorations to kayaking expeditions, families can create incredible memories in nature together as you retreat in wild open spaces
Choose northern Vancouver Island as your next family vacation destination.

There’s no better place to spend quality vacation time with your family than northern Vancouver Island – especially if you all share a deep love of the great outdoors. With its breathtaking views and remote charm, the north side of the island is the perfect destination for your next B.C. adventure together!

While seen as remote, the island’s northern region is still reachable from Vancouver. You can fly by air with direct one-hour flight connections from Vancouver International Airport to Port Hardy Airport via Pacific Coastal Airlines. If you plan to arrive at Vancouver Island by ferry, Port McNeil is a five and a half hour drive from Victoria, or a three hour drive from Comox via the Sunshine Coast. 

Once you reach northern Vancouver Island, it’s time to start exploring. Here are the best experiences for families to share together during a trip to this remarkable region. 

Scenic parks for hiking and camping

Hike in nature on the island. Photo via Vancouver Island North Tourism

With rugged coastlines, expansive rainforests and abundant wildlife, regional parks across northern Vancouver Island offer immersive experiences for hiking and camping in nature with the whole family. 

Along the northwest coast, follow forested trails that lead to open Pacific Ocean shorelines at Raft Cove and San Josef Bay. The trial at Raft Cove Provincial Park is a somewhat rocky 3.5 km out-and-back trail that leads to the crescent-shaped beach. To the north, the 2.5 km San Josef Bay trail at Cape Scott Provincial Park is suitable for families. After a 45 minute walk over a gravel path, you’ll be treated to a spectacular white sand beach with sea stacks and caves.

Overnight camping is available at both provincial parks. For most camping sites in northern Vancouver Island, it is required for visitors to obtain a camping permit from the backcountry registration service. As well, all campers must abide by the “Leave No Trace” rule, which means you must bring out everything you take into the parks.

Located 20 minutes off of Hwy 19 by Nimpkish Lake Provincial Park, Little Huson Cave Park features magnificent limestone formations and rock arch formations that are unique to Vancouver Island. Adults and kids alike will enjoy wandering through the park’s 15 caves.

Families that are up for more of a challenge can try the Tex Lyon Trail in Port Hardy. This day hike is a 12.7 km out-and-back trail that brings you to the top of Dillon Point after four hours, with a stunning panoramic view of the Queen Charlotte Strait as your pay off.

Unforgettable adventures on the water

Northern Vancouver Island is even more magnificent when viewed from the water. By kayak, you and your family can discover what’s out there beyond the coast, while sharing the waters with the inhabitants of the island. 

From Telegraph Cove, kayaking operators such as North Island Kayak and At The Water’s Edge Adventures can take you on a guided tour of the waterways of the Johnstone Strait, Blackfish Sound, and the Broughton Archipelago. As a group, you’ll explore inlets, remote beaches, coastal coves and the expansive collection of islands that are situated in the Queen Charlotte Strait.

Families can also book multi-day kayaking expeditions with these touring companies at their base camps. This option allows you to enjoy an all-inclusive backcountry camping experience without any of the planning hassle, so you can spend more quality exploration time with your family. 

Northern Vancouver Island is even more magnificent when viewed from the water. Photo via Vancouver Island North Tourism

Guided wildlife experiences

Through wildlife tours, you can get up close and personal with the wild species that call the oceans and forests that surround Vancouver Island home. At the same time, you can also connect with the region's Indigenous culture.

Departing from Port Hardy and sailing into the waters of the KwakwakaŹ¼wakw First Nations, the Indigenous owned-and-operated Coastal Rainforest Safaris offers day trips that take guests out on wildlife viewing boats and into the heart of popular feeding grounds for orcas, humpback whales, dolphins, otters, seals, sea lions and other sea creatures. These whale watching tours are led by an interpretive guide that can speak to the role every species plays in the ecosystems of northern Vancouver Island, as well as share valuable insights of the land from an Indigenous perspective.

With Sea Wolf Adventures, you can embark on an unforgettable, Indigenous-led grizzly bear viewing experience, where you can observe bears in their natural habitats in the Great Bear Rainforest and Broughton Archipelago while learning more about their important role in First Nations history.

Plan your trip to northern Vancouver Island at