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21 Ideas for Family Fun in the Valley this Summer

Updated: Jun 3, 2023

The summer holidays are fast approaching, and parents and children alike are already starting to imagine the long weeks ahead, perhaps anticipating lazy afternoons by the Cowichan River, trips to see friends or family near and far, or time in the garden. For those who must work, or who appreciate the reprieve from full-time parenting that school provides, you may already be lining up some options to see you through till September.

Read on for some great options for summer camps, family activities, and other helpful tips for smooth sailing this summer.

Summer Camps

The go-to for working parents, summer camps are a great way to engage the kids, get them together with other children and busy with learning life skills, crafts, or just having fun. Our Sunrise community has more than its fair share of camps to offer our families:

Mothes Summer Camp

Hosted by seasoned Waldorf teachers Hans-Peter and Christiane Mothes, this camp offers crafts, outdoor games, singing and more.

Age: 6 and up

Location: Sunrise Waldorf School

Dates: July 24 – August 4 and August 7 – 18

Cost per week: $290

Contact: 250 597 2217

Warmland Dance Camp

Sunrise parent, teacher and owner of Warmland Dance, Leah has been offering her colourful summer camps of dance, arts and crafts, and outdoor activities for a few years now.

Age: 4-8

Location Cowichan Station HUB

Dates: July 24 – 28 and August 21 - 25

Cost per week: $350


Coastal Bliss Adventures

Long-time PE teacher Georgia, owner of Coastal Bliss, says, “Coastal Bliss Adventures kids and youth programs at Cowichan Bay Kayaking have a fantastic program of activities for younger and older children throughout the summer. Kids will kayak, stand up paddle board, canoe, play games, explore the marine environment and make new friends while having fun in the outdoors. Many of our camp instructors are Sunrise alumni.”

Age: 8 and up

Location: Cowichan Bay

contact: 250 715 0034

Jessica’s Horse Camp

Back by popular demand, Sunrise mama Jessica will be running her horse camp again. Participants will experience riding, horse language and care, barn chores and crafts from Jessica’s childhood farm in Cobble Hill. Sunrise student Winter will also be assisting.

Age: 8 and up

Location: Cobble Hill

Dates: July 10 – 14 and August 14 – 18 (June dates TBC)

Cost per week: $300

Take a look at the May and June editions of the Valley Voice for listings or check out here for more summer camp ideas in the Valley, including KinPark Kids Camp that runs all summer, and Science and Nature Summer Camp at the Cowichan Bay Estuary.

Activities Out and About in the Cowichan Valley

River Days

Many Sunrise families practically live at the Cowichan River during the summer – Vimy Pools is a favourite as it has the easiest access and a large shingle beach. Koksilah River at Bright Angel Park is a preference for some, with its more gentle flow and ample shade. Pack your towels, water shoes (those pebbles hurt!) sun protection and picnics and head down for the day. Floating devices and chairs or blankets are also a good idea.

Fuller Lake or Shawnigan Lake

For more water fun, these lakes are a great option for safe swimming as there is a cordoned off swimming area and dock. There is also plenty of space to spread out your blanket and sit with a podcast while the kids splash about. Fuller Lake is a favourite for Sunrise families and also has a lifeguard.


An easy family slow moving tube ride is beginning at Lake Cowichan Visitor Centre or Jakes on the Lake and ending at the bridge. Be sure to have drinking water, water shoes, hat and sunscreen. Some areas of Cowichan River have fast rapids, deep water and submerged rocks and sticks that can result in accidents and injury. Tubing is not recommended for children who are not swimming independently yet.

Summer Hikes

Grab yourself a copy of Family Hikes on Vancouver Island, which is available in several downtown stores including Monk Office, Volume One Bookstore and Ten Old Books. Work through the book, checking off hikes between Nanaimo and Victoria – our island offers a stunning range of natural habitats. Favourites in the valley include Bright Angel, Stoney Hill, Mount Tzouhalem, and Chemainus River.


The Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) offers great programs all year round, including the Summer Reading Club for kids.

Bowling Alley

The Duncan Bowling Alley offers free bowling for kids all summer! Sign up here.

A Day at Cowichan Bay

You can happily spend a whole day at this little seaside village.

Start off just outside the village with a walk along the estuary, looking out for birds and other wildlife in the mudflats of the delta.

Visit the Cowichan Estuary Centre, situated right next to the beach, to learn about local marine life in the bay. There are plenty of hands-on stations for kids, including a bird look-out tower.

Head to the True Grain Bakery and adjoining café for fresh-baked treats and lunch items. Sit in or find a bench overlooking the water to munch your lunch.

The Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre is a great place for kids, and usually offers an option to make your own wooden boat!

By now you will no longer be able to hold out against the pleas for ice cream. Udder Guys offers a delicious selection of in-house made ice creams. Take them out and walk up and down the docks looking at the boats and peering into the water to spot darting fishes.

Coastal Bliss offers kayaks for rent! Why not set out in a couple double kayaks with your kids? There’s really no better way to experience the bay than by being in it!

Take your pick from any of the great little restaurants dotted throughout the village to end your perfect day.

“But there aren’t 39 days in July!” objects my daughter. “In Duncan there is!” Between the end of June and the beginning of August there’s no place for chillin’ in Duncan like outside the Duncan Garage (iced matcha anyone?) on the grass with some live music or performances by local talent, MC'd by the incomparable Longevity John. It is amazing how much talent one little town can hold!

Birds of Prey

Spend a day at the Raptor Centre just north of Duncan. Children of all ages will be enthralled by the majesty, grace, and in-your-face closeness of these epic birds.

Screen-Free Fun at Home

Holidays can create challenges when you’re trying to maintain rhythm and good habits at home. One of the biggest challenges can be keeping media away from the kids. Whether it’s YouTube, social media, or games, the lure of our phones and computers for our children is significant. We know that young people are better off with less exposure to media. Read How does Screen Time Impact Kids from Sparkle Stories to learn more about this.

You can reduce screen-related arguments at home by keeping passwords and timers on your devices and keeping them out of sight as much as possible while the kids are around. And stay firm about media rules in your house – both for yourself and for the kids.

Kids are very easily distracted, and sometimes this is the best way to avoid the media battles. Take a few minutes to set them up with something you know they’ll love. Here are some ideas:

  • Print out a recipe for them to make and put out the main ingredients – it could be a cake for an upcoming visitor or energy bars for a hike, or fancy popsicles. Not only will they be engaged, they’ll also be unwittingly reinforcing learning like math problems, concentration and learning to read instructions. Everyone gets a treat afterwards, so it’s win-win!

  • Create a scavenger hunt in the yard, or do one while on a nature walk. You can find lots of great ideas here. A mini version that my daughter enjoys, especially when friends are over, is a popsicle hunt. Hide their popsicles out in the yard (choose shady spots). Can they find them before the popsicles melt?

  • Commission them to create postcards (many art supply stores sell postcard painting pads) for loved ones far away. They could paint about a recent family adventure, and you could write the back together and mail it. Everyone loves getting real mail with an extra artistic touch!

  • Get them excited about gardening. Maybe a straight up vegetable patch doesn’t appeal. What about a fairy garden with a tiny pool, painted rocks, succulents or baby trees? This could even be created in a large pot on the deck if space is an issue.

  • If they are in grade school, challenge them to complete a series of books over the summer, or read them together with your younger child. There are many wonderful series for children, including Limindoor Woods by Sieglinde De francesca - the much sought-after series from Freya-Sophia Waldorf Store - which is perfect for 5 to 9 year-olds. Browse the Waldorf Store's extensive collections for other books that meet your child's age, interests, or what they are learning about at school. The Duncan Library's Summer Reading Club supports reading by offering extra incentive.

  • Commit to learning a new board game or card game for family fun. A recent favourite in our family is Dixit which is not only visually gorgeous but also develops imagination, language, and creativity. Wildcraft is another wonderful cooperative game that teaches about plant uses.

  • Build an obstacle course. This is good for children in so many ways, and they love it! Balance, strength, and flexibility, as well as reflex integration, are important for the developing child. An obstacle course can be as simple or as complex as time and imagination allow. Consider pillows, rocks, tree stumps, rope, ladders, hula hoops, benches etc. Will it be inside or outside, movable or semi-permanent? So many options!

  • Audio-books can be a life-saver for busy parents and for long journeys. Sparkle Stories is a favourite for Waldorf families, providing an extensive collection of wholesome and value-based stories that calm and inspire children aged 3 and up.

Katherine Lampson

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