Porteau Cove, a BC camping spot for families
British Columbia,  Get Outdoors! Camping & Hiking Trips

Camping with Kids in British Columbia

Looking for a BC vacation deal? British Columbia offers pitch-perfect camping options for every family: seven national parks, 900 provincial parks and hundreds of private campgrounds and RV parks. BC’s provincial parks typically only charge between $10 to $24 per site for car campers.

Jayne Seagrave is an expert on BC camping, and a mom to two boys (aged 10 and 11) — two lucky boys who’ve been camping since birth. She’s also the author of Camping British Columbia and Camping With Kids: The Best Campgrounds in British Columbia and Alberta.

Let’s find out what Jayne recommends for BC family camping.

1. For families visiting Vancouver, can you recommend a close-in campsite with a playground or other kid-friendly features?

There are no provincial park campgrounds within Vancouver. The nearest is Porteau Cove, about a 30 minute drive away. There is a small beach here (on the road to Whistler – Highway 99). (Lora’s note: I love the dramatic viewpoint at Porteau Cove — check out the photo at right).

Better to drive 90 minutes up to Alice Lake. Alice Lake is near Vancouver and the town of Squamish, so if it rains or you decide you don’t like camping, a Squamish motel is only 10 minutes away. Alice Lake offers a great kids play park, very safe beach, easy hiking trails, and a play park.

2. If a family wanted to take advantage of Whistler’s fun but didn’t want to pay for a hotel, what would you suggest?

Nairn Falls Provincial Park is fine and is the nearest to Whistler and there is a great 30 minute return trail to the falls, but no flush toilets, nor kids play area (although they can cycle around the campground). Nairn is about a 20 minute drive from Whistler, Alice Lake about 40 minutes, and there is so much more to do at Alice with children.

3. Can you recommend a campground on Vancouver Island for families? Why is it fantastic?

Rathtrevor Beach has everything for families and is close to the popular town of Parksville. You’ll find a huge beach, showers, easy paved roads to cycle upon, nature house and programs.

4. Any other favorite BC campgrounds for families with kids?

All campgrounds offer own personal attributes, below is a list of those I feature in Camping With Kids as they are the better ones for children, in that they might provide playparks, showers, flush toilets and kids’ programs.

Lower Mainland campsites:

1. Alice Lake Provincial Park
2. Porpoise Bay
3. E C Manning Park

Vancouver Island campsites:

1. Rathtrevor Beach
2. Gordon Bay
3. Miracle Beach

Okanagan campsites:

1. Ellison Provincial Park
2. Bear Creek
3. Haynes Point

Northern BC/Rockies campsites:

1. Kokanee Creek
2. Lalelse
3. Kikomun Creek

5. Why is camping in BC such a great experience for both BC families and visitors to BC?

Larger provincial parks have Jerry’s Rangers Programs specifically for kids which teaches nature courses, safety outsides, talks on bears and insects and frogs and fish and beaches, depending where the park is located. Only the larger parks offer these.

There are also evening talks and interpretive programs suitable for all age groups. Most of the campgrounds I recommend will have the talks but only in peak summer months and some only on certain days. I’ve attended loads, the evening ones are an easy way to pass an hour in the early evening and usually involve audience participation, which kids really like.

At a BC campground, you can get away from electronic devices and can explore in a very safe environment. Camping is also very reasonably priced in BC. Make sure to use the reservation system to avoid disappointment at www.discovercamping.ca. You can reserve most of the best family campgrounds.

6. And I understand that you suggest new-to-camping families might try taking a spin in an RV first. What was your experience with an RV rental?

I used Go-West Campers, we flew to Calgary and “delivered” an RV back to Vancouver. When the kids were under 2 you are only paying for adult flights to Calgary and the Camper was free as we were delivering it back for rental company. BUT the gas was VERY VERY expensive. There are millions of RV Rental companies. Cruise Canada RV Rental and Sales and Fraserway RV are both well-known.

Thanks, Jayne! I can’t wait to make my reservations for a BC camping vacation with my kids.

Read more about camping in BC with kids at The Travelling Mom’s The Best Campgrounds in British Columbia.

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.


  • Gillian

    These are great suggestions! I would add to the list Sombrio Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island (great if you surf or hike, but it is a bit of a trek to get to) and Pacheedaht Beach in Port Renfrew for the experience of camping mere feet from the shore pound. If that gets a bit busy for your taste you are welcome to join us at Salt River Cabin & RV just down the street from the beach in Port Renfrew. I might be biased (as the owner) but I think its lovely here!

  • Carrol

    I’ll second Sombrio Beach, we have camped there many times. A little bit of a hike, but we have done it with a 1.5 and a 5 yr old. Both loved the hike and swimming in the nearby creek.
    Another favorite is the Sooke Potholes. Lovely place to spend the day swimming and hiking the trails.

  • trip styler

    great post lora.
    i love porteau when you want to camp outside the city but don’t have time to drive too far. there’s an amazing campsite and cove there at the very end of the campground (opposite end of the entrance) which is so picturesque!

    also, at whistler this campsite isn’t provicial, but riverside campground is beautiful and just expanded with a bunch of sites $ rv hookups. it has amazing kid facilities like playgrounds, mini-golf and is right beside an amazing river!

    ps – love the campgrounds outside seattle too on whitbey island!