Monday 23 October 2023

Back in the UK!

Well it's almost two months since we moved back to the UK, and we're still kind of getting over the culture shock, but as usual we're making the most of things. The boys are enjoying lots of UK snacks that they had totally forgotten about (as is Sarah!) so every trip to the store is bigger than intended.....  It's been great to catch up with old friends and family, although we've still got lots more people to catch up with!

Langstone Windmill, Hampshire

Exploring our new home has been fun, and we've managed to keep some of our Canadian traditions like pumpkin picking before Thanksgiving, this year joined by the boys' Uncle, Aunty and wee cousin - there are some advantages to the UK.  After a world of pain navigating the UK school application system the boys have settled into their new school and have restarted skating lessons, and joined a great local rugby club.

Pumpkin picking at Tulley's Farm

First Day School Photo

We're missing our outdoor gear, which we shipped over from Canada and should hopefully arrive in a few more weeks.  Being unable to camp, we had a great weekend in a Shepherd's Hut, just up the road from home in the South Downs National Park.  We booked through Hipcamp, which is a great website listing cool camping and glamping spots in both the UK and Canada (amongst other places).  Use the link above for £10/$10 off your first stay.

HipCamp Shepherd's Hut, South Downs

Our Canadian Land Rover has now gone to a loving new home, and we just picked up another Defender last week - he came already named 'Budgie' so we are sticking with that - welcome to Team E Budgie!  We've already had a great proving run from Portsmouth to Edinburgh (about 450mi / 725km), and we're booked in to have a new pop-top roof fitted next month which will be the first stage in creating our new camping adventure wagon!

Budgie the Land Rover Defender 110

I'm sure there's lots more adventures to come, so stay tuned!

Wednesday 4 October 2023

Washington State - Seattle and Olympic National Park

Getting to Seattle from Vancouver Island

We travelled to Seattle on the FRS Clipper service from Victoria on Vancouver Island.  It's a fast, passenger only catamaran service between Victoria's Inner Harbour and Pier 69 in downtown Seattle.  The journey takes roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes to cross the scenic Juan de Fuca Straight, then into Admiralty Inlet and Puget Sound towards Elliott Bay.

Seattle Clipper in Victoria

Keep an eye out for whales and dolphins whilst you travel at 30 knots, or just enjoy the views of Mount Baker and the Olympic mountain range.

The clipper has 3 different classes of ticket, but all have allocated seating and great views, as well as bar and food service! 

Where to Stay in Seattle

We stayed in a great townhouse AirBnB in the Queen Anne district, which had amazing views over the city and the Space Needle.  We were surprised by how hilly Seattle was, but the views were definitely worth the hike up to the top!

Seattle skyline at night

Queen Anne was a great location, walkable from the clipper and easy access to the Space Needle or Downtown areas (as long as you're ok with the hills!).

Top things to do in Seattle

1. The Space Needle - it's hard to miss this landmark, and you really shouldn't miss a visit.  The entry tickets are timed to a 15 minute slot, but you can spend as long as you want at the top.  As you'd expect the views are stunning, and the rotating glass floor is a cool experience.  There's also a nice bar up there! 

Seattle Space Needle from Chihuly Gardens

Boys at the Seattle Space Needle

2. Chihuly Gardens - this gallery features the amazing glass work of Washington artist, Dale Chihuly, and is definitely worth a visit.  There are 8 internal galleries, a huge glasshouse, and a beautiful garden filled with architectural glass works.  The bar is home to some of Chihuly's personal collections, and is a great spot for lunch.

Chihuly Glass

Chihuly Glass

Chihuly Glass House

Chihuly Gardens

Glass Tree at Chihuly Gardens

3. Take a ride on the mono-rail from the Seattle Center (beside the Space Needle) to the Westlake Mall terminal downtown.  It's a short trip between the two terminals, but only costs a few dollars and passes through the architecturally impressive Museum of Popular Culture (MoPOP), and then on a high track above the city.

Seattle mono-rail

MoPop Seattle

4. Take a stroll round Pike Place Market, it is buzzing with shops, restaurants,  and the first ever Starbucks; if that kind of thing floats your boat you can join the huge line up to get a coffee, perhaps unsurprisingly we didn't!  Instead we headed to the ever important brewery - Old Stove Brewing and grabbed a beer looking out over the water. The market is a bit of a maze but there is an app to guide you - we didn't have this when we were there so can't comment on how good it is but we think it would be worth a try.  The market is also home to 'The Gum Wall', dubbed 'a hidden work of art' - we'll let you be the judge of that!

Getting to Washington State from Vancouver Island

A couple of weeks later we took the Coho Ferry from Vancouver Island to Port Angeles in Washington State.  The Coho is operated by Black Ball Ferry Line, and has been operating this route since 1959!  Travelling on the ferry is like stepping back in time, with the original decor and jolly music accompanying the safety announcements.

Coho Ferry entering Victoria, BC

The ferry takes 90 minutes to cross the Juan de Fuca Straight, from downtown Victoria into Port Angeles.  Heading to Washington, you will clear US customs in the ferry port, so need to be there 90 minutes prior to departure.  On the way back, you only need to be there 60 minutes before.

There is a bar and cafeteria onboard, but we spent most of the trip out on the foredeck looking for whales.  We didn't see any on the way south, but spotted a few humpbacks on the way back, so keep your eyes out!

Olympic National Park

On our second trip over to Washington state, we visited Olympic National Park.  Managed by the US National Parks Service, the park is a vast wilderness of nearly 1 million acres and over 70 miles of beautiful wild coastline.

Olympic National Park Welcome Sign

Where to Stay in Olympic National Park

We stayed in a really cool camp near Forks, which we booked through AirBnB.  The camp is by the river at the end of a rough track, with no near neighbours.  It's completely off-grid, with no power or running water, but there is a covered shelter for cooking and eating and a cool outhouse with a view!  You have the entire property to yourselves, and can pitch your tent wherever you like.

Camping near Forks, WA. Kestrel's Place AirBnB

If you want somewhere with a few more home comforts, the friends we were travelling with stayed in a log cabin at Kalaloch Lodge.  The cabins overlook a beautiful beach, and there is a nice restaurant on site.

Things to do in Olympic National Park 

1. Marymere Falls is a short hike through the forest from Crescent Lake.  The early part of the walk is pretty flat, and meanders past some huge trees and over a couple of log bridges, the last section up to the falls is pretty steep, but there's a good path with steps in places. Sadly this trail does not allow dogs so Sarah and Hector chilled down at the lake, but worth bearing in mind if you travel with your dog.

Kids inside a tree, Olympic National Park

Log bridge, Olympic National Park

Marymere Falls, Olmypic National Park, WA

2. Hole-in-the-Wall is a stunning natural arch in the rocks.  Walk along Rialto Beach from the car parking area at the southern end of the beach, making sure that you get the tide times right!  There were some huge schools of fish just off the beach when we were there, which attracted loads of Pelicans.  Some of the fish were getting washed up on the beach by the waves, and the kids loved catching them.

Errington Family at Rialto Beach

Hole in the wall, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park

Catching fish by hand at Olympic National Park

Catching fish by hand at Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park

3. Sol Duc Hot Springs offers three pools at different temperatures, plus a fresh water outdoor swimming pool and cold water shower!  The natural mineral hot springs are directed into man-made pools.  There are also changing rooms and a gift shop.

Sol Duc Hot Springs Pools

There are other natural pools in the park, but the hike was a bit far for the kids after already hiking to the hole-in-the-wall.

4. Ruby Beach is one of many stunning beaches on the western coast of the park.  There's another much smaller natural arch at this beach, and it's much quieter than Rialto.

Natural arch at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

Two very different experiences in Washington State, but both well worth a visit.  Olympic National Park was more our usual style, but we really enjoyed our short city break in Seattle.  Which would you do?

Monday 7 August 2023

Vancouver Island - Mid-Island

We spent most of the winter skiing at Mount Washington, so spent a lot of weekends in the mid-island.  Our camping spot was about half way between Courtenay and Campbell River, and we've done a lot of exploring around the area.

Mount Washington and Strathcona Provincial Park are well worth a trip up the mountain.  Mount Washington is a great ski resort in winter and mountain biking park in summer, as well as offering zip lining and scenic chair lift rides.  The views from the mountain out to the ocean and the Gulf Islands are stunning!

Mount Washington View

The ferry to Quadra Island departs from Campbell River, but we haven't made it over to the island yet!  The Denman and Hornby ferry departs from Buckley Bay just down the coast, and is definitely worth a visit too.

Towns don't have to start with the letter 'C' in the central region of Vancouver Island, but it helps!  Courtenay, Cumberland and Comox are all nestled in the Comox Valley, while Campbell River is just a little further up the coast.  The region was originally home to the Pentlatch and K'omoks First Nations.


Gladstone Brewing is an absolute family favourite and became a regular Friday night dinner stop before skiing. Dogs are welcome on the patio, the food is tasty and well priced, beer is great and the staff are super friendly - they even started remembering our usual food order and exactly how our son liked his tacos! 

Gladstone Brewery Flight

Ace Brewing at the other end of town is also worth a visit with their aviation themed tasting room.

Courtenay has a great selection of independent stores; the boys loved the bookstores and there are a couple of outdoor shops too. Ski Tak Hut do sales and rental of ski equipment and Blue Toque sell second hand gear for all of your outdoor activities.

Just north of Courtenay you will find Miracle Beach, which (whilst not miraculous!) is a pretty spot for a wander and some fun beach time. 

Miracle Beach, BC

Whilst you are up that way check out Shelter Point Distillery, a tiny distillery producing fantastic whisky, informative tour and tasting - as approved by the whisky loving Scot Sarah!

Shelter Point Distillery


Cumberland Brewing is a small brewery with a great patio.  The food menu is a bit limited, but the homemade focaccia is excellent!


Goose Spit Park is worth a visit, although busy it provides great views and again, a nice place for a wee wander. 

Goose Spit

We ate a couple of times in Church Street Taphouse, it was always busy but they managed to fit us in both times. Great selection of beers, and a really good food selection - worth a stop. 

Campbell River

We visited Campbell River in the winter and then returned in the summer to camp at Elk Falls Provincial Park which is a great spot. We walked up to the falls from the camp ground which was a really nice walk - in our madness we decided to run most of the uphill, not recommended unless you are much more of a runner than we are, however it was well worth it when we got to the top. You can drive much nearer the falls but the walk is lovely and well worth it. 

Elk Falls

Session Tap Room - serving a great selection of local beers and really good pizza, this place also has a spinning bike room in the back if you want to work up an appetite before-hand!

Beach Fire Brewing Company - another great option for beers and food with a nice dog friendly patio out back.  The double chocolate stout cake is delicious!

Beach Fire Brewing Chocolate Cake

Parksville and Qualicum Area

Parksville and Qualicum are fairly busy tourist areas in the summer, and both have some great beaches.  Rathtrevor Provincial Park is nearby and is much quieter with a beautiful sandy beach, look out for sand dollars at low tide.

Mount Arrowsmith Brewing serves great beer and pizza and has a large selection of games for the kids.

Mount Arrowsmith Brewing Flight

If you fancy a round of mini golf the Rip Tide Lagoon course is great fun.

Check out the Old Country Market in nearby Coombs, and look out for the goats on the roof!
Of course with our surname we had to visit the town of Errington!  The North Island Wildlife Recovery Association is a non-profit who look after and rehabilitate wild animals including orphaned black bears and injured birds of prey. 

Sproat Lake

This lake near Port Alberni has just been voted the best lake in British Columbia, and it's easy to see why!  The lake is over 25km long and is roughly in the shape of a cross.  There are three provincial parks on the shoreline and the warm water is perfect for swimming.

We took our boat up and camped at Sproat Lake Provincial Park.  Only 5 of the 63 pitches are walk-in, but in our opinion they are the best spots; with a great view over the lake, they are only a 2-3 minute walk from the parking area.

Sproat Lake Hammock

Thursday 3 August 2023

Pender Island

We're just back from a great long weekend on Pender.  We've been to Pender a number of times in our boat but never stayed there before, so it was great to explore more of the islands. 

About Pender Island

Pender Island actually consists of two islands; North Pender and South Pender separated by the Pender Canal.  This narrow channel was dredged in 1903, and a single lane trestle bridge was built over the canal in 1957.  Originally home to the Coast Salish peoples, there are now around 2,250 permanent residents. 

Pender Canal and Bridge

Getting to Pender

We had planned to boat over to Pender, but we had some issues with the fuel system on our outboard, so decided to take the ferry over instead.  Normally we launch at the Tulista boat ramp in Sidney and land at the Port Browning Marina in North Pender.

The ferry service goes to Otter Bay on North Pender with BC Ferries from either Swartz Bay (Sidney) on Vancouver Island, or from Tsawwassen (Vancouver) on the mainland. There are multiple sailings per day, and most ferries are direct to Pender, but some stop in either Galiano, Mayne, Salt Spring or Saturna.  
The ferry from Swartz Bay is not bookable, you just buy a ticket at the terminal, ticket sales for vehicles close 3 minutes before departure and 5 minutes for foot passengers.  The ticket is a return, so no need to buy another ticket on the way back.

There is no public transport on Pender, but there is a semi-formalised system of hitch-hiking.  Multiple 'Car Stops' are located around the island, often with a handy chair! 

Pender Island Car Stop Sign

Where to Stay on Pender

We stayed at the brilliant Woods on Pender, and would highly recommend it.  Sarah and I rented a small airstream trailer called The Nest, while Sarah's parents took a nearby cabin with the boys!  

The Nest has a beautiful deck with sea views and an outdoor shower, while Cabin 2 down the hill has a hot tub. 

 'Coffee+Kitchen' on site serves great coffee and pastries in the morning and is open for dinner reservations on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Gulf Islands National Park has two campgrounds on Pender; front country (drive-in) camping at Prior Centennial and back-country (walk or boat-in) at Shingle Bay.  The campground at Beaumont on South Pender is closed until further notice.

Port Browning Marina has glamping tents, a rental RV and camping spots on the large grassy field in front of the pub.  There's even an outdoor swimming pool and kayak/SUP rentals on site.

Top Things to Do on Pender

1. Visit the Farmers Market - held at the Pender Islands Community Hall on Saturdays at 0930-1300 from the May Long Weekend to Labour Day Weekend.  There's a great variety of local artists and food producers.

2. Take a hike to the viewpoint at Oak Bluffs Park and look for whales.  This is a short but steep trail through the woods and up onto the bluffs looking back towards Vancouver Island.  Viewpoint No2 has more open views and a picnic table.  We've often seen Humpback and Orca in this area from our boat, but didn't have any luck from shore this time.

3. Skip some stones at Mortimer Spit Park while admiring the view of the Pender Canal Bridge.

4. Wine tasting at Sea Star Vineyards and Winery.  Choose a flight of wine, and find your favourite while enjoying the gardens.  There is a food truck on site serving some very good looking seafood inspired meals.  Unfortunately for us they had sold out on our visit, so we didn't get to taste it!

4. Cider Tasting at Twin Island Cider.  We actually tried the ciders at the Farmers Market, but the cider house is open for tastings Thursday - Sunday. 

5. Lunch at the HUB at Hope Bay. This stylish Mediterranean restaurant overlooking the ocean serves great food (and cider from Twin Island!).

6. Port Browning Marina - no trip to Pender would be complete without a visit to 'The Pub'.  Enjoy a drink or some food on the deck, while admiring the views over the bay.

While you're here, check out some of our other favourite spots in the Southern Gulf Islands.  What's your favourite island?

Wednesday 26 July 2023

San Josef Bay by SUP and Canoe

San Josef Bay, in Cape Scott Provincial Park, is rightly famous; recently making the Top 50 of the World's Best Beaches.  With it's stunning sea stacks and beautiful white sandy beach, it's easy to see the attraction.

San Josef Bay Sea Stacks 

San Josef Bay Beach

Getting to Cape Scott Provincial Park 

Despite its remote location on northern Vancouver Island, San Josef Bay is the most accessible beach in Cape Scott Provincial Park; it's an easy 45 minute walk in from the trailhead.

Getting to the trailhead involves a roughly 70km drive along gravel logging roads from the junction at Port Hardy.  These are active logging roads and are pretty rough; take it slow, drive with headlights on, and make sure you have a spare tire (and the tools and ability to change it).  There is no cell service beyond Port Hardy.  Allow at least an hour and a half for this part of the journey.

A 45 minute walk in wasn't quite adventurous enough for us, so we decided to get to San Josef Bay by SUP.  Clearly we couldn't get all of our camping gear, plus two adults, two kids and a dog on our two SUPs, so we roped in our great friends to come with us in a Canoe (and carry a load of our gear - thanks Natasha and Henry!).

SUP Canoe San Josef Bay

San Josef Boat Launch

The boat launch on the San Josef River is operated by BC Parks, but is accessed through the San Josef Heritage Campground which is a private campground. The launch isn't obvious, but the precise what3words address is  ///cherish.drifts.abandoned.  

San Josef River Boat Launch

Officially you shouldn't park at the launch, but should continue on to the trailhead parking and then walk back (roughly 1km).  We spoke to the Heritage Campground manager though and he allowed us to park near the launch for a small fee.

It's a steep and narrow gravel launch which is best suited for small boats, SUPs and kayaks. 

Paddling the San Josef River

The San Josef River is tidal right up to the boat launch, and is only navigable at close to high tide.

We timed our departure down the river to roughly an hour after high tide so that we still had sufficient depth (roughly 3m height of tide at Cape Scott), but also benefitted from the ebbing tide to help us down the river.

Canoe SUP San Josef River

On the way back up the river we left the beach roughly 3 and a half hours before high (with just under 2m height of tide at Cape Scott).  We had a nice gentle current from the flooding tide helping us up the river, but we did just touch the bottom of my SUP fin at parts of the river.  I'd recommend waiting another half an hour or so to ensure you have sufficient depth.

You can check the tide times and predicted heights on the Government of Canada tides site.

Its roughly a 2.5km paddle, and with the tide with us in both directions it took less than an hour of leisurely paddling on our (heavily laden) SUPs and Canoe.

There are a few dead heads in the water, but there were no big overhanging trees or anything, and with the gentle flow it was a safe paddle to the estuary.  We stopped while still in the river and protected from the waves at the mouth.  Its a short walk from here to the top of the beach, where there are informal camping areas.

San Josef Bay Beach

Camping at San Josef Bay

Camping at San Josef Bay is 'random wilderness' camping.  There are no formal pitches, and you are encouraged to camp on the beach.  

Tent at San Josef Bay

There are bear caches and pit toilets.  Practice leave no trace principles and pack out what you pack in - there is no means to dispose of garbage in the park.  Also ensure you follow the Bare Campsite rules; we really enjoyed watching a large black bear feeding just across the river at low tide.  Remember - a fed bear is a dead bear!

Black Bear at San Josef Bay

There is a water source on the second beach, which is only accessible at low tide, but water must be treated before use.

Be sure to check out our Camping Gear page for more details on the kit we used on our trip.