The Sea Lions Weren’t Lying…The Spawn Is On!


With our time winding down on Vancouver Island, we’ve been hoping to catch a glimpse of the annual spring Pacific herring spawn before we leave. While not as famed as the autumn salmon run, the tons of herring that make their way to the coast from offshore and saturate the water with eggs provide an important food source for creatures of all shapes and sizes. We’ve been regularly walking the beaches around Qualicum Beach and have not seen any signs. However, after waking up to see the sun for the first time in a while, we decided to head north up the coast to see if our fortunes might change.

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Our first stop was Fanny Bay, where a colony of stellar sea lions caught our eye (and ear) as we were driving by. Dozens were hauled out on several boats, and stopped to have lunch and listen to the raucous conversations going on all around us in the harbor. While our sea lion-ese is a bit rusty, they seemed to be grunting, “You’re almost there.”

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We didn’t have a set destination in mind when we stopped in Courtenay after lunch, but after consulting a map we decided to check out Seal Bay Regional Nature Park. As we headed out on the trail through the temperate rain forest, along coastal bluffs and eventually descending to a secluded cove, we knew we had found someplace special. The beauty of the rocky shore set against the snow-capped mountains on the mainland was breathtaking, but it didn’t keep our attention for long. The cries of hundreds of gulls along the shore and hundreds of other seabirds in the water piqued our curiosity, and we eagerly made out way to the water’s edge to investigate.

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Five of Hearts was the first to exclaim, “Herring eggs!” The piece of seaweed in her hand dotted with herring eggs was only the beginning. The eggs were literally covering every surface, from the rocks and seaweed to clouding the tranquil pools along the shoreline. We soon gave up on trying to walk around the eggs covering the beach, almost a foot thick in places, and marveled at the unexpected places the eggs had reached, such as pieces of driftwood four feet above the sand.

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As the first minutes of wonder drifted into several leisurely hours of exploring the cove, the surprises never ceased. Mallards, mergansers, blue herons, and Pacific loons plied the waters just offshore, and stellar sea lions and harbor seals started appearing around low tide to haul out and sun themselves on the just-emerged boulders. It took a lot of effort to tear ourselves away at sunset, but we could only feel thrilled to have been in the right place at the right time!



Kids Catching Waves: A Family Surf Adventure in Tofino


Learning to surf together has been a priority of ours for several years now, but the timing never seemed to be right. At first glance, learning to surf on a February day on Vancouver Island might seem like the last place anyone would pick, but we had done our homework and knew it was just what we were looking for. Tofino, on the west coast of the Island, has been steadily developing its surfing reputation due to its consistent, year-round breaks and 35km of sandy beaches. Wetsuits are a must (even recommended in summer), so we decided to take the plunge and catch some waves.

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There’s no shortage of surf shops offering lessons (even in winter), but we settled on Tofino Surf Adventures. We liked that they were a smaller operation, and their laid-back yet passionate approach to surfing was apparent from our very first contact with them. After meeting at the shop and getting fitted with wetsuits, gloves, boots, and head covers, the sun came out in full force as we followed our instructor Antonio to Chesterman Beach. He did an absolutely amazing job accommodating our wide range of ages, and we appreciated that he kept the out-of-water instruction to a minimum in order to give us the most amount of time in the water getting a feel for the waves.

DSC00829 DSC00834DSC00835Five of Hearts and Five Ball took to surfing like pros and got a ton of personalized instruction on getting into a good position, popping-up to ride the waves to shore, and much more. High Five was content to try out a few waves and then charge in and out of the surf on foot, surfing on shore as it were. Knowing that the Younger Fives were in good hands, Five Spice and Five String were able to really focus on getting comfortable on their boards, all the while getting tips and feedback from Antonio as we went. The wetsuits kept us surprisingly warm (with the added bonus of helping us float), and our three-hour lesson (with a few snack breaks on shore in between) flew by in no time.

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Long story short, we are definitely hooked on surfing. The feeling of watching a wave slowly getting closer and then riding into shore is incredible, and we couldn’t have asked for better weather or a more family-friendly instructor to share the adventure with. Canada’s surf capital may not have the massive waves of other destinations, but for a family looking for an afternoon on a surf board it would be hard to imagine a better place 🙂


Skimboard City


Skimboarding is a popular pastime here on Vancouver Island, and Parksville in particular is building a reputation as a hub for the sport. Its long, wide tide pools play host to a variety of skimboarders of all levels, from teens participating in a day camp to professionals visiting for the OSBC Pro-Am Skimboard Competition. After snatching up a skimboard we found at our local second-hand shop, we thought it was the perfect time to ride the tide pools ourselves.

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There might not be many advantages to skimboarding during the winter months, but one is that we had Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park to ourselves and didn’t have to contend with others for the best spots in the tide pools and along the water’s edge. Rain gear and rubber boots were a must, but they also gave some extra padding in the case of the inevitable fall.

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We managed to remain mostly dry in the end, and despite some numb hands and feet we stayed out in the sun to enjoy the beach’s other bounty, driftwood. All in all, we found skimboarding to be a perfect family activity that provided all of us with a fun challenge. If the fleece lining of our boots ever dry out, we might even give it a try again before the warmer weather arrives 🙂