Bowen Island: Day Tripping from Vancouver

Despite the fact that I have lived in Vancouver for most of my life, I had never been to Bowen Island. A couple of weeks ago, we decided to check that off our Summer bucket list with a last-minute day trip. We walked on the ferry with almost no planning, arriving on Bowen in need of coffee and some idea of what to do with 2 kids. In this post, I’ll outline some ways you can enjoy Day Tripping to Bowen Island with Kids.

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A Day Trip on Bowen Island with Kids: What to Do

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  1. Walk on the Ferry – Although you won’t be able to explore the whole island, you can certainly spend a whole day on Bowen without a car. By walking on the ferry, you save yourself time (and money). Grab a map of Bowen while on the ferry.
  2. Go for a Hike – all the resources I read suggested the a hike to Killarney Lake (pictured above) from the ferry terminal only takes about 45 minutes and is very kid-friendly. It’s not, if your kids are 5 and 2. Although we did walk to the lake, there was a lot of grumbling and unhappy faces. Plus, you also have to walk back. There wasn’t anything kid-friendly at the lake, so it was a bit of a let-down. This trail map gives you an idea of the paths and times. Instead, I would suggest you head partway up the trails to see the fish ladder / small Bridal Veil Falls, then continue on the trail until you see the sign for the Community School. This makes for a great loop and our next tip. (Note: the hatchery on the way to Killarney Lake may sound tempting, but it is not much to look at)
  3. Play at the school playground which rests at the top of Mount Gardner Road. This is (I believe from the signs) the exit from the cross-path near the fish ladder, and the main road takes you back down to the ferry terminal / shops. 
  4. Plan transit if you want to see anything beyond the ferry terminal shops, and have small kids, plan to take transit. There are some hills and the distances between areas are not as close as they seem.
  5. For older kids, take bikes if you want to explore further, and have kids who are capable bikers, you can bike along many of the trails
  6. Play at the beach if you go South (left if you’re facing away from the ferry terminal – see map), you can take the boardwalk to a nice picnic area and beach at the marina. There’s also a trail to a viewpoint (which we didn’t know about). The kids spent a lot of time searching for rocks and treasures here, though I would not recommend it for swimming. Other beaches are apparently nice for swimming.
  7. Enjoy laid-back dining According to locals, the best shops are all right at the main strip near the ferry,  though up in Artisan Square (15-minute adult-speed walk uphill or bus trip) there are other options such as Artisan Eats. Near the ferry terminal are options such as Tuscany Pizza (more upscale, quite delicious) and the Snug Cafe (delicious pastries, lunch looked good!)
  8. Fill up on treats! Really, what is a day trip without treats. There is a super cute candy shop, ice cream, and even gourmet chocolates. And don’t forget PIE! Who can forget pie? You must eat or take home something from the Lime and Moon Pie Company, located on the pier just at the ferry terminal

Since we went to the lake (bad idea) and the kids were exhausted and hungry, we hitched a ride back into town for lunch. Well, I had to walk since Damien was sleeping in the Ergo. We never got to visit the playground, but it looked great!

I think now that we know more about Bowen, our next trip will be even better! Hope you can learn from some of our mistakes and subsequent research!

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Springs RV Resort Offers Luxury Lifestyle Close to Vancouver

We spent this past weekend at the Springs RV Resort in Harrison Hot Springs, a luxury resort for RV owners. Just 90 minutes from Vancouver, Springs RV Resort offers the benefits of resort living (pools, hot tubs, club house, warm weather, community) at a fraction of the cost of cottage living in British Columbia. By becoming owners at Springs RV Resort, you become a part of what looked to be a very tight community. We have been considering a local vacation property, so we thought this visit was a great opportunity for us to see if the RV lifestyle was for us.

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Growing up, I spent my summers in Ontario at an RV Resort in Sauble Beach, so I was familiar with this kind of RV lifestyle. Most of the owners here are not taking their RVs elsewhere, but instead are treating this as their cottage during the Summer months, staying for the whole summer or coming from time to time. The Resort was bustling with activity: kids on their bikes, families playing in the pool, people sun tanning and many people enjoying their extended living spaces. Unlike the RV experience I grew up knowing, with grassy yards and simple fire pits, most people here have raised decks and gazebos, outdoor kitchens and beautiful fire pits. It’s quite the lifestyle!

The Springs RV Resort Community

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After completion of the second phase of construction, the 12.5 acre Springs RV Resort will have 209 RV Owners. Unlike some other RV sites, Springs RV Resort only offers a select number of rental lots, transitioning to a full ownership community. This kind of organization promises to create a very tight knit community that I think many people will find appealing. 

Most of our 2 night, 3 day visit it felt like we were staying at a luxury hotel. The site has been designed with a very “BC” feel, with the exposed wood buildings and landscaping, and the pool was perfect. The on-site playground, the vintage carousel, and the outdoor pavilion offered more benefits to the community. The carousel has a lot of history, coming from the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, and is quite a unique feature for the kids.

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While we were there, we took part in one of the weekly Gourmet Burger nights in the pavilion. The same weekend the kids made tie die shirts and had an outdoor movie night. I can imagine the existing spaces and activities, combined with the new club house building, will go a long way to offering additional places for the community to expand to and mingle together outside the confines of the RVs and lots. 

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Whistler Dining Perfected at Nita Lake Lodge

During our stay at the Nita Lake Lodge on the outskirts of Whistler, we had the pleasure of dining in all three of their dining options: upscale at Aura, casual at Cure, and the cafe, Fix. As I mentioned in my previous post reviewing Nita Lake Lodge, the restaurants were our first experience with the hotel. Last year, we chanced upon the hotel during a walk and decided to stay for dinner. We loved that we could have a fine dining experience at Aura while also feeling that our children were welcome and satisfied. The food was the element I was most looking forward to from this trip, I have to admit. 

Aura – ‘Modern. Innovative. West Coast.’

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Described as “fine dining without pretension,” our experience at Aura has been nothing but amazing. Although Chef Paul Moran is new since our previous dining experience, we continued to be impressed by the food at all the restaurants. At Aura, the “farm-to-table” experience was very apparent, featuring food grown on property, foraged, or from local farms and fisheries. The food was fresh and delicious and presented with contemporary flare.

As would be expected, the portions are not as large at Aura, so expect to have 2-3 courses (this was the menu we had). And don’t skip on the cocktails! Some amazing creations there, including the rosemary gin & tonic that I had. Yum. My favourite item was the ravioli, which was delicious with the grilled corn. I need to try to grill corn kernels sometime. So good.
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We went to Aura again for Father’s Day breakfast, and loved the freshness of the meal options. I had an omelette with kale and ham that was quite delicious. Though rosti potatoes are not my favourite, they were light and fluffy. The kids ate banana pancakes with bacon and the rest of the party enjoyed their meals, though one was a little bit colder than it should have been.

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I talk about our kids’ experience at all three dining options below, but I found that on this particular trip (not our last trip) that the service was a little slower at Aura and that the servers seemed far more inexperienced with kids. One knew to bring colouring, others didn’t, and we had awkward glasses (stemware) with no straws for their milk. Small points, but overall still a great experience for the kids. 

Cure Lounge – ‘Casual Food. Creative Drinks. Lakeside’

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Described as ‘casual dining’, we found Cure to be anything but what you would expect from a lounge. The current chef has really elevated the Cure menu (this was our menu), including some amazing options in generous portions. Some elements of the menu were repeated from Aura, including the chilled pea soup you see below, though most of the menu was unique. This was our favourite meal of the trip and the service we had was exemplary.

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Fix Cafe – ‘Housemade. Warm. Delicious.’

This was an unexpected gem of our trip, Fix cafe goes far beyond a simple coffee shop. Catering as much to locals as to hotel guests, the cafe has a warm atmosphere and thorough menu featuring house-made breakfasts, lunches, snacks, pastries and produce grown on site. We even bought a loaf of the amazing Nita bread for our lunches. Can I just say that if you ever see it, you must eat the bacon, spring onion and cheddar turnover. Even the kids agree it was amazing.

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Nita Lake Lodge – Dining for Kids

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The menu for kids at Nita Lake Lodge was the same for both Aura and Cure, so we had a large and consistent variety of options available to the kids. Damien, who eats just about everything, shared with all of the adults plus with Aiden, whose dinners are often not very large. Aiden, predictably, ate the chicken both nights. They were, however, anything but your standard chicken nuggets, and the whole family agreed they were deliciously seasoned. Damien, on the other hand, discovered an intense love for tzatziki. 

The kids didn’t love the french fries there (they were very soft), so Aiden actually ordered the veggie side the next night. Though some of the veggies were new to him, I liked that it wasn’t just your standard carrots and celery. 

The service for the kids was mixed for our stay. Though they always had crayons and colouring sheets, we sometimes had to ask for it. Sometimes they were given inappropriate stemware or straws were forgotten. I also would have liked to see more options for kids’ breakfasts at Aura (there was only 1 item, the banana pancakes). 

If you do come to Whistler, whether you stay at Nita Lake Lodge or not (and you should), the dining options are definitely worth your while. Our biggest pet peeve with Whistler every time we visit is the lack of dining options. There are many fine dining restaurants, many pubs, and many mediocre cafes. Very few family-friendly places to eat – and I am not a fan of the Old Spaghetti Factory. 

So, if you have a family, consider this a go-to option for a great night. Isn’t it nice to eat somewhere that you actually like the food too?

Nita Lake Lodge a Perfect Family Oasis

We spent this past weekend celebrating Father’s Day at Nita Lake Lodge, nestled on the shores of Nita Lake just outside of Whistler. We came across the hotel during our last stay in Whistler as we walked around the lake, not knowing at the time that it was named on of the Top 25 Hotels in Canada by TripAdvisor. We had an amazing dinner and brunch there and knew right away: we’d be back. This weekend we took our kids, and both grandmas, to stay at Nita Lake Lodge for what turned out to be a magical weekend.  

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This panorama doesn’t do justice to the view of either the hotel or the lake and mountains surrounding it. And off to the right is my little family, out in a canoe for the first time. #Amazing

Nita Lake Lodge – Overall Impression

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Our experience of the area around Nita Lake, an area perfect for fishing or wading or walking/hiking to Whistler or nearby playgrounds, was that it was a hidden gem for families. After staying there, we can say that Nita Lake Lodge is perfect for families, not just because of its location but for all the amenities designed around making it a very family-friendly luxury hotel. 

Nita Lake Lodge is a more ‘intimate’ property than others in Whistler, with only 77 rooms, but you would never feel that from the level of service you get back. With 3 dining options and lots of personalized amenities, it has everything you could want for your getaway (indeed, we only spent a couple of hours in Whistler before deciding we wanted to spend our time at the hotel instead!) 

Our Room

We stayed in a two bedroom suite with 4 adults and 2 kids, with our room overlooking the lake. During our stay we also had a chance to tour a one bedroom suite, which mirrors all the features of our own room, minus the second bedroom and bathroom on the loft level. The bedrooms in the hotel all feature huge bathrooms with soaker tubs and rain showers – had we been traveling without the kids, I would have spent a great deal of time in that soaker tub! Instead, we went to the hot tub. Oh darn, right?! ;)

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In the two bedroom suite, the top bedroom is fully enclosed with a shutter door and window for privacy. The grandmothers shared the King bed, while we conveniently pulled over the lounge couch and converted it to a toddler bed (that was an unexpected bonus) and used a hotel-supplied crib for Damien. When we travel, we prefer to keep both kids separated in their own rooms, so they don’t wake each other up, but the bottom bedroom in the suite did not have doors (it was open to the living area). Although you could easily share this room with a second family, or use for your own family, that is an item to note if you want privacy. The Nita Suites offer more private bedroom options.

All Nita Lake Lodge rooms feature a kitchenette tucked into a cabinet that closes, which is quite nice for keeping the kitchen “out of sight.” The kitchenette features your basics from a bar fridge (note, it’s not super cold) and sink to a microwave and toaster. Our favourite feature was the french press and locally roasted beans from Forty Ninth Parallel, this was a nice complement to the local features also seen in the hotel dining options.

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The beds were incredibly comfortable, and I’m picky about that, but all members of our family found the pillows too high (Update: lower pillows are available on request). I travel with my own, so I was able to enjoy my sleep… you know, when Damien wasn’t waking up. 

Damien slept poorly in the hotel, our first “bad” hotel experience from him. The first night was so poor that I gave up and brought him to our bed, which I haven’t done since he was 8 weeks old! We weren’t super impressed with the hotel crib, it was a bit wobbly and perhaps uncomfortable for him, although he’s slept in play cots just fine. We suspected perhaps he had an upset stomach his first night after drinking so much pool water, but he repeated his poor sleep (slightly better) the next night too.

Hotel Pool, Hot Tubs & Spa

The real highlight of the trip was this:

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The pool is a more recent addition to Nita Lake Lodge, overlooking the lake. Previously, the hotel only had two hot tubs off of the spa area (though open to hotel guests), but added this new pool and hot tub off the patio areas. The pool is small, but our kids didn’t care. As a “smaller” hotel, I don’t think the size of the pool will ever be an issue. We spent many hours at the pool and both our kids were jumping in and dunking their heads by the time we left – yay!

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Also on site is a Spa that offers full-service options at decent prices, frequented by locals for the great RMTs, as well as a full gym and a Yoga studio. 

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Complimentary Outdoor Activities

The amenities at the hotel are what set your Nita Lake Lodge experience apart from other hotels in the area. We have never felt like a hotel offered so many unique experiences for families. For Spring / Summer visitors, you can enjoy complimentary canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and fishing rods for use on the lake. We took a canoe out on our first morning at Nita Lake, despite the wind, because as Aiden put it “I will be complaining all day, so we should go now.” The boys did great!

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Our second day at the hotel, we took out some of the bikes that are also offered complementary to guests. Although we brought Aiden’s bike, the hotel complemented its fleet of new Norco adult bikes with 2 kid-sized bikes, 1 bike with training wheels and even a little bike trailer for 1-2 kids. Damien rode in the trailer while Ianiv pulled him, though he didn’t enjoy it as much as his bike seat at home. My mom and I rode with Aiden for his longest bike ride ever and he did GREAT! It was so great to go on a path with him without worrying about car traffic!

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All of these amenities are offered on a first-come-first-served basis from the front desk and the friendly staff are on hand to help set you up. 

If your kids love trains, be sure to check out the Rocky Mountaineer as it pulls into the train station (that is a part of the hotel!), or perhaps ditch your car and take the train up instead. With shuttles running into Whistler, you could easily skip taking your car.

Hotel Dining Options

The resort offers 3 dining options from fine dining to casual cafe. Aura offers fine dining sourced from local farms, foraging and fisheries as well as from the roof-top garden. Cure offers casual food that is anything but what you would expect from a lounge (we were very impressed), and Fix is a cozy cafe offering housemade breakfasts, lunches, pastries and a selection of greens from the roof-top garden. You won’t be disappointed no matter which dining option you take and, I would suggest you skip eating in Whistler and dine here instead. We have wasted so much time finding places to eat in all our trips to Whistler – at Nita Lake Lodge, you can be assured a good meal, no matter your price point!

I reviewed all 3 dining options in full here.

Disclosure: we stayed at the Nita Lake Lodge at a discounted rate. All post content ideas are original and all opinions are my own. The full photo set from our stay at Nita Lake Lodge can be found here.

Whistler for Father’s Day

I recently came across an article that reminded me of the importance of giving the gift of “shared experiences” rather than material things. While we all may want a variety of “things,” when we look at what truly makes us happy, it’s not the “things” that matter. We recall the moments we share with others or the truly memorable experiences we have had in our lives. 

We have made a point of trying to shift our gift giving in the past years to include more experiential gifts, whether it’s a shared pedicure or a musical event or a dinner out. For Christmas, my gifts to Ianiv included a date night to a local restaurant, for example. 

With Father’s Day approaching, I had a few ideas of what I wanted to give to Ianiv, when I decided to shift focus. We are always talking about how we forget to plan weekends away and are always kicking ourselves for it. We want to travel more! This year for Father’s Day, I decided we would take the whole family (grandmas and us 4) off to Whistler!

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We’ll be staying at the beautiful Nita Lake Lodge just outside the heart of Whistler. Nestled in a beautiful surround overlooking a calm and serene lake, we stumbled across Nita Lake Lodge on our last visit to Whistler. We dined at the Cure Lounge twice and were floored by the quality of the food and how well they catered to the kids. We are excited to go back for the full family travel experience at Nita Lake Lodge!

Provided the weather holds up, you’ll see me posting updates to Instagram with our bike rides around Nita Lake, hopefully a canoe ride, and of course a dip in the pool & hot tub. I can’t wait!

A Father’s Day treat we can all enjoy! 

Disclosure: we are staying at the Nita Lake Lodge at a discounted rate. All post ideas are original and all opinions are my own.