Looking for a Nearcation? GMD’s got your back. Check out this list of staff recommendations to inspire your next local getaway

1. Stargazing in Vancouver Island

Over the long weekend, we did a 2-night backcountry camping and cycling trip between Sooke and Goldstream Provincial Park on Vancouver Island.

If you are into long-distance cycling, Lochside Regional Trail and Galloping Goose Trail offers amazing scenic routes and the occasional wild blackberries for picking when you need a little summer refreshment (make sure you know what you’re eating!).

Due to our last minute booking, we were unable to find a walk-in campsite at Goldstream Provincial Park. When we searched the web for camping sites, we found out there were many out and back camping spots on the Island that we could set up camp for the night. 

We ended up finding a cozy little spot near Sooke to end the day, but due to the fire warnings, we were not able to set up a campfire. Instead, we slept under the glow of the beautiful starry night sky and even saw a cougar in the distance. I felt so lucky to see rare wildlife in beautiful B.C.

Note: If you decide to camp in the wild, be sure to read up on how to protect yourself from wild animals and check for the latest fire warnings. Please practice the leave no trace principles to preserve our natural spaces.

– Ryu


2. A 3-Day Summit in Strathcona Park

A 3-day summit trip – with a 15-month-old baby and a 1-year-old puppy – on our way to our wedding

My wife and I hiked Mt. Seymour as our second date. That is to say, hiking and backcountry camping are a shared interest and foundational to our relationship. When we found out we’d be adding a baby into the mix, many people warned us we’d have to cut back on our adventures. Partly because we just love our hobby, and partly for the sake of proving everyone wrong, we have continued our travels with little interruption. We took Kismet on her first hike at 2 months and since then have completed the Howe Sound Crest Trail, the Sayward Lakes Loop, Mt. Albert Edward, among others. 

One of our favourite trips was a 3-day trek to the summit of Mount Myra in Strathcona Park along with 4 other friends. The key to these trips is knowing how to pack, and for that reason, I leave the entirety of the responsibility to my wife! Her backpack carries our daughter, cloth diapers, snacks and toys. My pack carries a tent, sleeping bags, pads, food and clothing for 3 people.

We tracked 25.5km and 2,100m of elevation over the 3 days. Day 1 consisted of a steady incline up to Tennent Lake, where our party enjoyed the entire campsite to ourselves. On day 2, things got interesting as the steady incline becomes a technical climb along with a mix of steep, rooty terrain and slab rock. The snow patches didn’t make it any easier either! Nonetheless, we reached the summit enshrouded in cloud with plenty of time to hike our way back down to our campsite and enjoy a warm meal. Day 3 was an easy walk down to the cars. From there, we quickly drove to our Airbnb, showered, changed, and got married on a farm with our families watching on a Zoom call! 

Vancouver Island has so many great hikes like Mount Myra, and the best part is the marriage part is optional, you can enjoy the views no matter your marital status!

– Michael


3. Camping at Bear Creek Provincial Park, Kelowna

We were one of the 50,000 prospective campers who crashed the Discover Camping website on May 25th, 2020.

Like so many before us, we logged on early to get a spot—any spot—to get our kids out of the house and enjoy a nearcation. We also hoped it would help them forget all the other plans we had this summer to visit family south of the border, which we thought would open soon (how wrong we were). 

The tales of woe and frustration that fateful morning can only be shared by those that spent hours and hours trying to book a site. Critical errors and screens of code plagued us for hours till finally, finally, we got lucky. We had 2 computers going to book a site, and my wife finally got through the payment confirmation page. We had a site! We had never been to Kelowna before, and our only real requirement was a site close to a place where we could get groceries if/when needed. Bear Creek Provincial Park was the perfect spot for us.

Kelowna is amazing. The lake was beyond freezing (we were a little early for it to warm up) but even still we played in the water, went stand-up paddleboarding as a family, went on epic hikes right across the campsite and across the lake to Paul’s Tomb, biked Knox mountain (our 4-year-old had a solid wipeout which cut the bike ride short), and completed a provincial park scavenger hunt, had some amazingly delicious gelato, and had some epic meals and campfires. 

Our only regret was not being able to bike the Myra Canyon Trestle. Oh well, guess we’ll have to go back for round 2. I wonder if I can get a campsite…

– David


4. Paddling in Callaghan Lake Provincial Park

A calm, tranquil lake with no powered boats, it’s the perfect place to kayak, canoe or just float around in the shallows.

After two back-to-back backpacking trips, I decided to take it easy on my legs for a weekend (and back, shoulders and sanity!) with an “easy” day trip to Cirque Lake. Tucked away in Callaghan Lake Provincial Park, Cirque Lake requires a high clearance vehicle and a paddling boat of some kind. You need to cross Callaghan Lake to do the hike, but if you’re looking for a more relaxing day, Callaghan is an incredible destination! A calm, tranquil lake with no powered boats, it’s the perfect place to kayak, canoe or just float around in the shallows. But my adventure partner and I had bigger fish to fry that day, so we loaded up our paddleboat early in the morning and struck out to distant shores.

Paddling to the opposite side of the lake took us about an hour (but we had two people and a dog squeezed onto one paddleboard!). Similarly, on the far side of Callaghan, the trail to Cirque Lake is only about an hour, but it can be strenuous, depending on your hiking experience. Think Grouse Grind except way more fun. Instead of stairs, there’s knee-deep mud, tangles of roots and a boulder field to climb. But the emerald waters of Cirque Lake are more than worth the exertion—plus, you can always brave the glacial waters for a quick swim to cool off before you head back!

Note: Remember your water safety! Lifejackets are always a must, but especially important when planning to cross to the remote side of Callaghan lake. Also, keep in mind that Callaghan Lake Provincial Park is in grizzly bear territory (although we never saw one, just a regular ol’ black bear), so keep your bear bangers/spray close and remember to make some noise on the trail.

– Marie


5. Reaching New Heights in Whistler

If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, there’s an endless number of options in the resort municipality and surrounding areas.

I suffer from acrophobia. 

That’s right; I have an irrational fear of heights that extends to situations that, in reality, aren’t that scary—such as standing on a chair. But I’m also a thrill-seeker: bungee swings, roller coasters—the more frightening, the better. So it only makes sense that when we had to shelf a family vacation to Disneyland due to the pandemic, we wanted to make up for those years-long anticipated thrills during the August long weekend.

Enter Whistler.

If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, there’s an endless number of options in the resort municipality and surrounding areas. We had our five-year-old in tow, so options like ziplining, treetop walks, the Mountain Bike Park and backcountry ATV’ing weren’t feasible options. We also have been strict with social distancing, so we wanted to choose activities that were outdoors and social distance-friendly.

I should also state that many local hotels and attractions have B.C. resident discounts available—especially if you book days in advance. Do your research.

First up was Vallea Lumina, a night-time trek through an enchanted forest as you work to uncover a mystery. The production value on this is fantastic, and our little one was ENTHRALLED the entire time.
10/10 would do again.

Next was a once-in-a-lifetime activity: a helicopter tour around the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort with a 15-minute pit stop on top of Rainbow glacier. We had a snowball fight and climbed to the very top of the rocky peak to look out above the clouds. Having an energetic kid climbing rocks and running along the ice on the top of a 12,000-year-old glacier is not for the faint of heart. Is this what they mean by a helicopter parent?
10/10 would do again despite a near heart attack.

After those first few thrills, downtime was needed. We spent the next few days booking socially distanced swim times in our hotel while the adults drank margaritas poolside. We also squeezed in early-morning walks to the nearby lakes—although we didn’t stick around due to the growing crowds. (It’s less busy during weekdays.)

Finally, on our last day, we trekked up Blackcomb Mountain via gondola (kiddo gives up on hikes and is too big to carry) and then did the Peak-to-Peak to take in the views. The helicopter adventure must have had some lasting effect because only mild internal panic was experienced. Also, a PSA: bring appropriate clothing for the higher altitude climate and hiking gear should you decide to do either route on foot.
7/10 I will only do it again if we’re hiking or hitting up the Bike Park in the future.

It wasn’t Disneyland, but it certainly provided a lot of memories and much-needed downtime after being cooped up at home together during a global pandemic.

– Katie


6. Weekend Getaway at Paradise Valley

A Canadian Paradise at Paradise Valley

Don’t like wasting a chunk of your vacation in transit? You’ll find Paradise Valley to be the perfect place for a mini getaway.

Tucked away in Squamish, B.C. between the waterfalls and glaciers—Paradise Valley is a popular yet quiet residential area that people from all around come to visit for some ideal camping, or in our case—glamping. The drive up from Vancouver is absolutely stunning, with views that stretch across the coastal fjords, all the way to the soaring Tantalus Range we all look to and admire from Vancouver.

I went for a weekend getaway with two of my GMD coworkers-turned-friends, Mamio and Liv, and our goal for the trip was to completely disconnect and relax, which is easy to do when you’re in Paradise. We stayed at a beautiful Airbnb situated right along the Cheakamus River bank, offering beautiful views of the coastal mountains, enchanting forests and rushing blue waters—while still being minutes away from the downtown Squamish core. We had all the amenities and then some available to us, including everything from a blender for our margaritas to a hot tub facing the river—I did say it was glamping, didn’t I? 

We enjoyed every minute of our stay, and my only regret is not booking an extra day or two at the cabin, but that’s OK because it’s motivation to go back sooner!

While in Paradise Valley, I highly recommend making a day trip to all the provincial parks in and around Squamish, starting with a ride up the Sea to Sky Gondola and ending off at Lovely Water Lake. If you want to spend time in the city, there are many charming restaurants and shops where you can pick up some souvenirs and grub while still enjoying stunning views. Even better—Squamish is home to some of the best breweries in B.C., so you have that to look forward to after a day of hiking!

Brunch is the most important meal of the day, so on our day trip outside of the cabin, we had to make a stop at the popular Watershed Grill, which is also along the lip of the Cheakamus River. Let me just say—it did not disappoint. 

Even if you don’t want to go for a vacation, Squamish is only a 2-hour drive from Vancouver, and I mean it when I say it’s 100% worth it, even when gas prices are not in our favour!

– Shana


7. Natural Beauty at Harrison Hot Springs

A World-Class View Close to Home

For years our family would visit Harrison Hot Springs, camping just north of town at Sasquatch Provincial Park. It was an annual summer tradition with a big group of friends, kids, and dogs. We would roll through Harrison for supplies on our way to camp. Until this year, I had never really experienced the town itself for more than an hour.

This year was so different. Looking for a quick getaway, we booked a lake view room at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort which was originally built in 1886. I was fascinated by the different additions to the hotel, which you could almost gauge by decade: ’50s cottages, ’70s wing, ’90s tower. The gardens behind the hotel were fabulous to stroll through, and I was most impressed by the soaring native trees around the pool that were left intact rather than cut down. The ambiance is distinctly Canadian, charming and rustic.

We walked the trail to the actual hot spring. The natural warmth and sulphuric benefits can be seen in the health of the plant life all around it. It is magical. The hot springs were seen as a sacred place by the Coast Salish people. The nearby campsite, Sasquatch, was thusly named for the Sasq’ets, who they believed could move between the physical and the spiritual worlds as well as change forms to a tree or a bird.

– Laura