As soon as the back-to-school ads start popping up on our screens, we scramble to soak up every last bit of summer. It's a season that always goes by far quicker than it should, and one we wish would never end. Though we can't do much to make summer last longer, we can help you and your family make the most of what's left, while rediscovering the joy of nature, with these 11 must-see staycation spots.

They're all in the Vancouver area, just less than a couple hours' travel. In other words, you can pretty much pack up and go ASAP. All you need is a good pair of sunnies, your go-to outdoor gear, and your favourite snacks (Nature Valley granola bars, anyone?). And don't forget you and yours, of course, because each nature-filled destination has plenty of amazing sites and outdoor activities for the entire family.

1. Manning Park Resort

Region: Manning Park

Why You Need To Go: This year-round, family-friendly resort is just over two-and-a-half hours from Vancouver by car. You can hike, camp, stargaze, spend a day on the lake, and even ride a horse. It's a great place for nature-goers and adventurers of all ages.  

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2. Cultus Lake

Region: Fraser Valley

Why You Need To Go: Cultus Lake may be known for having the largest waterpark in B.C., but its provincial park and campgrounds are equally as memorable. Only about 90 minutes from Vancouver, the lake is nestled between mountains, making it look like something out of a storybook. Plus, there's a mini-golf course nearby for a little bit of post-swim, family-friendly gameplay. 

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3. Jones Lake

Region: Skagit Range

Why You Need To Go: With loads of mountain ranges and forestry, Jones Lake is ideal if your clan loves to camp. Situated 147 kilometres from Vancouver, this is the ultimate getaway to reconnect with nature. Plus, the two-hour drive is just about as impressive as the location itself, making for lots of great family photo ops you'll cherish for years to come. 

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4. Pacific Marine Circle Route

Region: Vancouver Island

Why You Need To Go: Ready for the road trip of a lifetime? The Pacific Marine Circle Route totals a whopping 289 kilometres. This coast-to-coast journey offers lots to do along the way, including nature walks through Sooke Potholes Provincial Park and by-the-sea sightseeing at Botanical Beach, known for its pools full of intertidal marine life.

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5. Cowichan Valley

Region: Vancouver Island

Why You Need To Go: A four-hour drive from Vancouver, Cowichan is most often recognized for its vibrant arts and theatre scene, but it boasts wildlife excursions, too. Get to know nature like never before with a memorable whale-watching tour or an educational show featuring rescued birds of prey at The Raptors, a local bird sanctuary.

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6. Squamish

Region: Squamish-Lillooet 

Why You Need To Go: Only one hour from Vancouver, this nearby destination is made for families who love to explore and burn off some energy. First, soak up some history at the Britannia Mine Museum, then challenge each other at the Rope Runner Aerial Adventure Park. The 17-metre-high rope maze is suitable for the whole family to try and conquer. There's even a Sea to Sky Gondola with an amazing bird's-eye view of Shannon Falls. 

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7. Whistler

Region: Squamish-Lillooet

Why You Need To Go: Just a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Vancouver, Whistler is world-renowned for some of Canada's most epic mountain ranges. Let's put it this way: there's certainly no shortage of summer activities to help you reconnect with nature and your inner-adventurer. Think mountain biking, bear viewing, a peak-to-peak gondola and ziplining, just to name a few. Enjoy the pedestrian-only Village Stroll and take the time to grab a bite with your family, mingle, and sightsee. 

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8. Tofino

Region: Vancouver Island

Why You Need To Go: Getting to this small coastal village takes about six hours and requires a drive plus a ferry, but the way we see it, it's all part of the adventure. This ancient landscape is situated on First Nation territory and has 35 kilometres of surfable beaches. There's also an old-growth forest, making it ideal for nature enthusiasts and hiking lovers alike.

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9. Sunshine Coast

Region: Southern mainland coast

Why You Need To Go: Accessible via the Langdale Ferry at Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver, Sunshine Coast has no shortage of ways to appreciate nature and history. From bike rides over waterfalls to Indigenous totem tours, your family won't ever get bored. In the evening, wind down with peaceful, picturesque waterside views. No wonder it's called the Sunshine Coast — happy vibes only.  

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10. Pender Island

Region: Southern Gulf Islands

Why You Need To Go: With over 60 hiking trails, multiple waterfronts, and plenty of excursions like fishing, boating, and even scuba diving, Pender Island is perfect for those who love to escape and explore. Only 77.5 kilometres from Vancouver (about a three-hour drive), it's accessible via the Tsawwassen Ferry. Though there are tons of accommodation options available if you want to stay the night, you can also just make a fun day trip out of it! Saturdays are a great choice since there's even a farmers' market at the island's Community Hall, so you can snag some fresh produce to feed your family that very same night back at home. 

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11. Osoyoos

Region: South Okanagan, in the Thompson Okanagan region

Why You Need To Go: Just about a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Vancouver in the South Okanagan region, Osoyoos is known as Canada's desert. Not only is it home to the nation's warmest lake (meaning plenty of swim time), it's also got Rattlesnake Canyon, a Western-themed amusement park. Kiddos and adults can spend the day having fun together. Osoyoos boasts so many attractions and sights that it’s best to stay a few days and experience as much as possible, from the incredible Spotted Lake to Haynes Point Provincial Park and everything in between. If you really want to impress your kids, visit the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad, a unique museum specializing in miniature hand-painted figurines, tiny houses, and little computer-controlled trains actually running through European-inspired villages. 

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No matter where you get to in and around the Vancouver area, let your love for nature and all things summer be a time to pause and connect. It always helps to do so with a snack in-hand, like Nature Valley granola bars. Made with wholesome, derived-from-nature ingredients, they're a staple in many family pantries. And with good reason, because all of their bars are delicious!

This summer, rediscover your joy for the great outdoors with Nature Valley. Check out their website here and find them on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.


We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment and obey any local laws.

 
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