Camping with Kids, a North Island Road Trip, August 2019 ~ Vancouver Island Road Trip Ideas ~ Camping Vancouver Island

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Road Tripping Northern Vancouver Island with my BFF and Her Two Kids- Camping Style

Last August my BFF and I loaded up my Subaru to the absolute fullest and then added two kids in car seats to top it off. We would be road tripping northern Vancouver Island and camping each night so we did need a lot of equipment, particularly the equipment needed for kids! Jaxson was three and Emily was eight months old. We brought a Bumbo for her to sit in during dinner and hangouts, a bassinet to sleep in, tons of kids clothing, toys, the tent, cooking stove, towels, food and wood. We even shoved a freaking gazebo beneath the kids feet for a quick rain shelter! Yepp we used it :) Chloe had never been past Campbell River and was eager to explore the North Island. I wanted to show her all of my favorite spots and fill up our four days with as much goodness as possible. We hit places like Myra Falls in Strathcona Park, Sointula and Alert Bay, Upana Caves, the worlds largest burl and the incredible San Josef Bay. It was a total blast including the challenges like getting a nail in the tire and midnight feed the baby wake-ups. 

Our Camping Style- Winging It!

Our camping style was the Winging It Style. We didn’t have a concrete plan going into this, I never really do on road trips. We didn’t make any reservations as there are plenty of camping sites on the North Island and I wasn’t worried about finding something. We stayed at two forest recreation campsites and a regional campground in Sointula. I had plenty of locations in mind to share with my friend and we would just hit them if we could. The goal, however, was San Josef Bay, 420km from Parksville where we started our trip together (approximately five driving hours.) Or from Sooke where Chloe started her journey, 575km and seven hours of driving. Our route was indirect and involved taking back roads through Gold River. We estimated that over four days, we drove about 1000km from Parksville and back. 

Road Trip Camping Challenges

Some of our road trip camping challenges included a flat tire, three-year old meltdowns, soaking wet kids, keeping organized and running out of clean clothes. We got a nail in one of our tires in Sointula which kept going flat, so in the pouring rain I changed it at the local laundromat while Chloe did a load of laundry. She didn’t anticipate going through so much kids clothing so fast! This was day three of our trip and she was running out of clean clothing. I put the spare tire on which only allowed us to go 70km/hour. On our way to Port Hardy we laughed and laughed at how slow we were going and people needing to pass the Subu-Snail. We found a tire plug at the gas station in Alert Bay and I was able to plug up the hole at a gas station in Port Hardy. We were a little hesitant to take it on the logging roads to Cape Scott, but as I write this article nine months later, I’m happy to tell you that my tire is still solid!

We utilized every inch of my car, except the roof racks of course! Keeping organized is essential during road trips. Everything has it’s bag, and it needs to go back inside that bag just as before. Every time we put our stuff back in the car it was like putting together a 3-D puzzle. It was different every time and oftentimes you had to do it twice. These small challenges were nothing to stop the show though- I actually enjoy when things are tough because it means you’re pushing your limits. There were so many good times on this trip with my bestie who I’ve known since grade one. I loved spending time with her and her kids, listening to old CD’s including “Jessica’s 13th Birthday,” finding Jaxson’s Halloween outfit a thrift store, roasting food on the fire, swimming and exploring Northern Vancouver Island. 

Things we Did on Our Northern Vancouver Island Road Trip

  • Myra Falls, Strathcona Park. We jumped in for a swim and loved the views driving through Strathcona Parkway and Gold River. 
  • Upana Caves, Gold River. We went spelunking in the Upana Caves near Gold River, admiring the limestone formations and realizing we needed way stronger flashlights. 
  • Camped at Muchalaht Lake Recreation Site, Gold River. We had a campfire here, made friends with the little boy in the neighboring campsite and learned the history from a local. This area used to be the middle meeting point for various logging road routes and was used as space for an annual loggers + their families community party picnic. This took place in the summer where games, barbecue, swimming and camping were spent with coworkers and their families. A wildfire raged through this space but they replanted and turned it into an official forest recreation campsite for everyone to enjoy.
  • Checked out the worlds largest burl in Port McNeill, 20′ heigh by 20′ diameter, this gnarly wood weighs 30 tons and is currently the worlds largest, taken from an ancient Sitka Spruce tree near Holberg in 2005.
  • Thrift Store Shopping, Port McNeill. We picked up Jaxsons Halloween costume at the Port McNeill thrift store for $7. An alligator he shall be!
  • Sointula, Malcolm Island. Hopped the little ferry to Sointula and camped at Bere Point Campground after walking the Beautiful Bay Trail and running into one of our fellow ’09 grads who we haven’t seen in ten years!!!
  • Alert Bay, Cormorant Island. We only had about one little hour in Alert Bay so we walked the boardwalk and combed the beach, drove around downtown and saw the worlds tallest totem pole at 173′ high!
  • Nahwiti Lake Recreation Site. Camped at another forest recreation site, roasted marshmallows on the fire, and I somehow replicated the best tomato clam chowder ever with random ingredients!
  • Ronning’s Garden, Cape Scott. A five acre parcel of land nurtured by Bernt Ronning in the early 1900’s. New owners took over after his death and restored the property to it’s original intent. A huge Monkey Puzzle Tree still stands and will blow your mind!!!! There were originally a pair or reproducing male and female Monkey Puzzle Trees, but unfortunately the female died in the early 2000’s. Many offspring baby Monkey Trees were produced and mailed out all over the world. You’ll see many Monkey Trees on the property ;) 
  • San Josef Bay, Cape Scott. We spent just a few short hours in the brilliant sun at this incredible beach. We went swimming with the kids and ran into another one of our fellow grad class friends on the trail! It was a tantalizingly brief time here, but it was oh so fulfilling. Hands down my highlight- swimming in the ocean and feeling everyone’s “I FREAKING LOVE THIS” mood! So damn good. 
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Ronnings Garden Monkey Puzzle Tree