Our family recently returned from a week away in Powell River. For those of you not from around here, Powell River is the northern part of the Sunshine Coast. After about an hour’s drive from our house, we take a ferry to Saltery Bay. Powell River is an old mill town with a chain of lakes and some great early 20th century architecture. It’s both more remote and an older area than our part of the Sunshine Coast. Peter and I have made a couple of visits there together, most recently last summer. (You can read about that trip here.)
Last Christmas, we had planned a getaway with my family (my parents, my brother, his wife, and their three kids) and booked three cabins on the ocean in Powell River. Obviously at the time we could not have predicted a global pandemic and for a while in the spring it looked like our trip might not happen. Fortunately, as the time neared, we felt comfortable sticking to the plan, with some modifications. Powell River has had very low infection rates and none for several weeks now. After some planning, we felt that we would be able to travel and stay with minimum local contact. While my brother and parents share a house in Vancouver, this was my first time seeing any of them since Pearl’s birthday in February.
Peter and I have talked for a while about camping in Powell River, specifically at Haywire Bay on Powell Lake. A few days before we were set to leave, we realized it made sense to tack a camping trip on to our already planned travels. We opted to camp first so that our time in the cabin would feel even more relaxing. My brother and his family had added on some days at the cabins before our time as an extended family so we got to have a little extra time with them too.
As all campsites seem to be in British Columbia this summer, Haywire Bay was full. We were fortunate to snag the final site available when we arrived, a tent-only site close to the lake front. Despite the full campsite, it wasn’t hard to physically distance from others and find our own spots on the sandy beach to swim and play.
We enjoyed all the camping classics – s’mores, hot dogs, hot chocolate in the morning. We watched squirrels and chipmunks and lizards. Haywire Bay is also quite close to parts of the Sunshine Coast Trail and so we hiked it at a couple of different points. Peter dreams of doing the entire trail but our kids are not quite there yet.
We’ve joked in the past that camping with our kids at this stage (ages 5 and 2.5) is “an investment in future fun”. Each time we camp though I feel like we’re seeing a bit of that payoff. Each time we hone our technique and it becomes a little easier and a little more fun. I absolutely love watching them discover the world around them in a new way. I love their filthy camping faces. I love how engaged they are with simple things. We don’t pack any toys or books. I brought along The Silver Chair which is our current bedtime book and read a chapter each night by lamplight in the tent. I packed one bucket and one shovel for the beach but they preferred playing with sticks and sand. They were never bored.
After two nights of camping, we headed to the Oceanside Resort. While simple, it felt very luxurious following a tent stay and the cabins were equipped with everything we needed. Our cabin was oceanfront with two bedrooms and a loft. For the first time ever we put the girls in the same bed and while it took some time for them to fall asleep the first two nights, it felt like we’ve reached a new stage in travelling with kids.
Our cabin was between my parents’ cabin and my brother’s family’s cabin, which meant Pearl and Rose could run back and forth between with great independence. The tide there goes far out so there was a lot of beach to roam and tidal pools to explore and our location meant that we could keep an eye on them for a long distance. It also helped that my nieces and nephew are older and are fantastic big cousins who helped us keep an eye out and played with our girls.
We ate all our meals outside, bringing our own groceries for breakfasts and lunch, and taking turns ordering takeout dinners as a large group. Peter and I even got to sneak away for a couple of hours on our own.
We revisited Mowat Bay, where we’d played last summer, with my family. Pearl was excited to go to the playground again and so was a very motivated little hiker when we set out on the trail. It was especially nice to reach the lake after a hike in the sun and to swim and play there.
Pearl and Rose were sad to leave and sad to say goodbye to their cousins but we feel so fortunate to have had this time together and to be able to enjoy another part of our beautiful Sunshine Coast.