A ferry takes you (and your car) from the Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and the trip takes about 2 hours. Prebooking is highly recommended, especially during the busy summer period. We’d also recommend reading the recent reviews of the ferry company as the queues might be very long and it’s better to come 1-1,5 hour before departure. Yes, you’ll need to sit in the car for that 1-1,5 hour but there is a cafe if you crave a morning coffee and a WC, and you won’t risk missing your boat.
The voyage went smooth. The ferry has everything you need to live these 2 hours comfortably: soft seats, foods and drinks of various kinds, a kids play area, a parents’ room where you can change and feed the baby (though I preferred to feed next to a window because the place where babies get changed is inevitably smelly), a working area with desks and sockets and a sundeck where you can enjoy the breeze.
Tofino, a Fishermen’s Village
Having done our research, we picked Tofino as our first stop on the Island. We couldn’t actually explore Nanaimo as we arrived when it was already our daughter’s naptime and her wellbeing is always our priority. And a smooth ride with a peacefully sleeping baby is just too precious.
Tofino is famous for its fish restaurants, and we enjoyed the Ice House Oyster Bar the most.
Many fishermen are the native people – their settlement is just across the bay, as we were told.
We explored the beaches, not daring to enter the ice-cold water of the Pacific Ocean, had great walks through the rainforest with giant plants and abundant blackberries, while our baby napped in the backpack.
This was another place in Canada where we tried paddle boarding (the first one was in Kingston) – it is very popular here – you can safely float and enjoy the ocean without getting wet and frozen. Surfing is popular here too, especially at the Long Beach but we didn’t dare to try it in these cold waters.
The Long Beach and a long drive
After a few days at the oceanside, it was time to move on, this time to the City of Victoria. It’s a long drive but we made our daughter sleep almost through the whole duration. How? We really wanted to check the Long Beach which was about half an hour away, so that motivated me to entertain the little one for her not to fall asleep. At the beach, there was enough fun for her to stay awake. Thus, her morning was about 2 hours longer than usual and as we got in the car, she was really tired and fell asleep instantly and slept all the way. And we could enjoy the ride.
The story of the picture above is interesting. It’s the kind of a must-have in any place with a view for us. While we were busy posing and taking pictures, our baby, who had just learned to walk without support, dashed toward the ice cold waves! We caught her right before she could take a plunge.
Dancing Boats of Victoria
In Victoria, we had another beautiful stay, at a cozy holiday house with an access to the beach and a view of the USA across The Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Whenever we can, we try to find an accommodation with a view – with the little one going to bed early, it feels so good to relax watching a beautiful landscape, even breakfast and dinner taste better that way. Some cute features like a fireplace are so nice additions.
Victoria is a nice small city. We walked through the China Town, along the esplanade and port, through a desert-looking park (results of the scorching Canadian heat), watched some cute boat dance, admired totems yet again. After 1,5 days it was time to move on, back to the continent.
Canadian version of Keukenhof
On our way from Victoria to the ferry, we decided to visit The Butchart Gardens – a group of floral display gardens, featuring lots of flowers and flower compositions. One hour is enough to see it all and if you compare it to the Dutch Keukenhof, well, as we overheard one guy saying – “This looks like my yard.”
Luxury in between the fields
This time our ferry departed from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen. We stayed in Delta for the night. Delta has nothing interesting around, only fields are stretching all the way, except for the place where we stayed. Through Airbnb, we rented a room in a villa. It was so cool. We felt like lords in a castle in the middle of nowhere. There were other people staying there too (the villa was huge) and we enjoyed hearing life stories from different people all over the world. But after one night we had to move on, through the Rocky Mountains to Calgary.
Our way back to Calgary was smoky too, even more than a month before. It started when we were leaving Victoria. You could see the red button of the Sun peeking through the heavy smoke.
It took us 3 days to cross the Rockies, from Delta to Calgary, and we could see but little because of the smoke. It was so thick that only the outline of the nearest mountains could be seen.
We were lucky enough to have our baby asleep through the smokiest part. One day she slept a whole hour more than usual which saved our nerves a lot. Again, we made our daughter sleep so long by having exhausted her with a long morning, that was staying awake for 5,5 hrs instead of usual 3. We just really wanted to visit The Kangaroo Creek Farm which was on our way and was open from 10 am – usual baby nap’s start time. The farm was within 0,5 hr drive, so I managed to distract her from sleeping and afterward we were rewarded with a long, sound nap and quietness in the car for almost the whole journey. Yay!
We all enjoyed this extraordinary farm – our daughter loves animals – different kinds of kangaroos, together with a unique white one, emus, capybaras and other exotic animals and birds made this experience so cool.
The city of Calgary – one of the best places to live in.
Calgary ranked the most livable city in North America. It is not a very touristic city but is good for shopping. The prices are lower due to lower taxes. It is also very family friendly. And you can see it the moment you enter the airport (at least on the WestJet side) where right in front of you there are two airplane merry-go-rounds that children can spin by pressing a button, and there are toys next to every gate. And dinosaurs, they are below your feet and above your head.
The city itself is like most North American cities: skyscrapers in the downtown surrounded by numerous (town)houses. Everybody knows that winters in Canada are harsh but in Calgary, if you live and work within the complex +15 (called after the 15 feet above the ground glass tunnels connecting all the skyscrapers of this enormous complex), you can not even notice that the weather outside has changed and go for a coffee in your pajamas.
I already mentioned the toys in the Calgary airport and I want to talk about them once again – they are a bliss for everybody – parents can relax a little bit while kids are busy building, spinning and doing other things kids do and other passengers around can also relax because kids are usually quiet if they are busy. Westjet starts boarding with disabled people first, then families with small children and then others, which is also helpful to keep peace and quiet.
5 Hours of Flatness
We were departing in the morning and could see the endlessly flat landscape from the plane. It seemed that if it wasn’t for the smoke still spreading from the Rockies’ burning forests, one could see the North Pole – so flat it was. All the same picture from Calgary to Toronto, all 5 hours of the flight. We were glad we hadn’t taken the car to cover this distance.
Getting Ready to Go Home
We had 48 hours till our flight to Amsterdam, to have a proper rest between the flights and adjust our timing a little bit to have less of the jet lag on our return home, to do shopping, walk the esplanade and take another look at the huge lake of Ontario.
That was it, our big journey was coming to an end: the beautiful Rocky mountains with their crystal lakes and snowy peaks were left behind, the flatlands were waiting for us back home. We were saying goodbye to the heat of the summer of the “cold” country of Canada and getting ready to plunge into the real autumn of the Netherlands, from +25 to +10 in 6 hours.
The flight from Toronto to Amsterdam took 2 hours less than the other way round. Having the baby sleeping on my lap, I couldn’t get any sleep. But I indulged in the onboard movies – an unbelievable luxury since we became parents.