One thing that will be forever etched in our minds from 2020, are the words please don’t come here. Said over and over again all across the world, it was a frustrating year in the travel-sphere. Borders closed, flights grounded and cancelled, tourists trapped in their destinations or on cruise ships while frantically trying to make it home. Travel is often a means of escape, but even researching travel in 2020 came with the disclaimer, please don’t come here. This left us searching for adventure closer to home.
Adventure Closer To Home
We have been blessed in British Columbia, still being able to travel around most of the Province during the summer months, but that had its cost too, with further restrictions once September came. Some destinations are open, with mandatory quarantine on arrival, and chances are a mandatory quarantine when you return home as well. Who really has that much time to spend in quarantine?
So used to always being on-the-go and finding new places to explore, we asked some fellow travel bloggers how they found adventure closer to home. You do not always have to travel far to have a great adventure. These finds below are a great testament to incredible adventures being in your own back yard.
We hope this inspires you to explore your own backyard to find adventure closer to home while we all continue to wait this out, and even after we are able to freely travel again.
Take a look at the great adventures found close to home:
Wells Gray Provincial Park
One of our favorite discoveries in our own backyard of British Columbia, Canada was Chasing Wateralls in Wells Gray Provincial Park, located in the Thompson Nicola Region of Interior BC . With over 41 named waterfalls, believe us when we tell you that Wells Gray is HUGE, with 5000km² of Canadian wilderness. You can easily have a full week of exploring and still feel like you have barely scratched the surface of British Columbia’s fourth largest park. We had always talked about visiting Wells Gray for an adventure closer to home, and having to stay within BC this last summer helped us make our visit a reality.
The most well-known of the waterfalls is the iconic Helmcken Falls, cascading 141m to the canyon below. It is a real beauty. Our favorite was Moul Falls, where we could walk behind the waterfall and feel the powerful force of nature. I would, however, not recommend that small kids go behind the falls because the path is a bit sketchy. Our kids happily viewed the falls from the base instead.
The most impressive part of Wells Gray Provincial Park is how easily accessible many of the waterfalls are. A short stroll from the parking lot, or a fairly easy trail takes you to some of nature’s most impressive feats of erosion and the magic of Mother Nature.
There are also great hiking trails to explore in Wells Gray. The Trophy Mountain meadows are one of the most easily accessible sub-alpine meadows in B.C. Blooms are at their peak in July and August, making this trail one of the most popular hikes in Wells Gray Provincial Park. Our visit fell right between the first and late wildflower blooms, but even without wildflowers all around us, the views were still spectacular and worth the trip.
Exploring Dinosaur Sights in Alberta
When we realized we’d be staying close to home this year, we decided it was high time to take our kids to explore some dinosaur-related attractions in our province. Our two kids are huge dinosaur lovers, so it only made sense!
One small town in Alberta, Drumheller, is even called the “Dinosaur capital of the world.” Starting there, we climbed right up into the mouth of the World’s Largest T-Rex, went dino sculpture spotting around town, saw the famous hoodoos, and spent a day at the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology, considered the best in the world.
Next, we traveled further south to Dinosaur Provincial Park. It’s lesser known than Drumheller, but has produced one of the highest concentrations of dinosaur bones in the world, including the discovery of more than 50 new dino species.
We stayed in the excellent campground, surrounded by the spectacular badlands landscape. We also took a guided tour into the nature reserve, normally off-limits to visitors, where we saw real dinosaur bones half buried in the ground. We even found some fragments of dinosaur bones while hiking around, which of course we left behind, as it is highly illegal to take them home. All in all, the trip was one our kids and we will remember forever!
Nick Kembel is a Canadian travel writer and photographer living in Taiwan for 10 years, founder of Spiritual Travels, and father of two.
Bath Skyline Walk
Bath is a wonderful city for exploring, there are so many back lanes and historic sites that it’s almost impossible to see it all. There are many must-see places from the Roman Baths to grand streets like the Royal Crescent. However it’s the little backstreets and hidden walkways that have been wonderful to explore during this lockdown and have given me a new insight in to this beautiful city I call home. I’ve been rambling through evocatively named paths like Shepherd’s Walk and Pope’s Walk and losing myself in areas of Bath I’ve never come across before.
The favorite has to be the Bath Skyline Walk which is often overlooked by visitors to the city. Here, high above above the honey colored brick buildings is a forest walk which gives the most spectacular views of Bath. If you’re looking for things to do in Bath with kids then this is perfect as there’s also a fun, wooden based playground in amongst the trees here. This is the perfect way to walk and enjoy gorgeous views in complete tranquility.
Nichola is from Globalmouse Travels, finding amazing family travels in the UK and across the world. Find her at https://globalmousetravels.com.
Canoeing the River Wye
During lockdown we have been looking for family fun a little closer to home. I’d always wanted to canoe down the Wye Valley, an area of outstanding natural beauty on the border between England and Wales, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
The river forms a convenient horseshoe shape, so after half a day’s paddling, you hop off not far from your launch point. We arrived to find the valley as beautiful as its billing, but the speed of the river flow was incredible. Recent torrential rain had caused flooding and we were to be the first group to launch for several days. As such, we were strongly advised to strap our two 2-person canoes together to form a raft and prevent tipping.
The upside of the heavy rain was a dramatically green setting, and almost no need to paddle at all for the entire journey down the valley. We propped our paddles on the side and floated along past verdant meadows and sheer cliff faces, around islands and even down a couple of mini-rapids. The river wildlife was a real treat. At one point we picked up a pet duck, taking the opportunity to tailgate our slipstream of a free ride. The family behind us were engulfed by an enormous flock of swifts. But the absolute highlight was spotting the flash of a kingfisher wing on the river bank.
Sometimes you don’t need to travel far from home to find your own little slice of adventure Heaven.
Helen Fletcher (Holidays from Hels): My younger carefree self spent 2 and a half years pottering around the world. I am now all grown up and work in a school, which does allow me plenty of time, if not money, to keep exploring with my children and sharing the mishaps, surprises, stories and lessons learned in my new family adventures travel blog at https://www.holidaysfromhels.co.uk.
Nestled a few hours north of San Francisco, California along the rugged coast sits a spectacular placed called Mendocino which I re-discovered in 2020 when our international plans fell through. With sleepy towns dotted along the coast, you’ll find a plethora of activities that any outdoor enthusiast would love – check out the towering redwoods at Navarro River Redwoods State Park , rent a kayak and explore the Van Damme State Marin Conservation Area or discover how a city using the ocean as a dump decades ago has produced Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.
Adults only trip? Check out one of the many bed & breakfasts along the coast and in the quaint town of Mendocino. For kids, or kids at heart, consider staying at B Bryan Preserve where you can feel like you’re on safari! Whether you do a day visit or stay in one of their unique cabins, you will be treated to some truly magical animal encounters.
Kristina Bullock is a family travel blogger based in San Jose, California. Follow her and her family on their adventures near and far on Million Miler Mom.
Street Art in Playa Del Carmen
The most popular street in Playa Del Carmen is 5th avenue, but much like the Strip in Las Vegas it is crowded with people, vendors, and overall a mess if you are looking for an authentic experience in Mexico.
To truly experience Playa Del Carmen, walking through the neighbourhoods in Centro will give you a taste of life in Mexico. Street art is the main attraction in these areas. The creativity is inspiring.
You will encounter traditional Mayan figures, Disney characters, art depicting revolution, and even everyday life. Some of the best street art is in the smaller neighbourhoods, so walking the street between 35th and 10th avenue will leave you in amazement.
My favourite piece, which was recently painted is the mural at Fundadores Park, before 10th avenue. There is something about the little girls, dreaming about all of the possibilities. It makes you think about what you want out of life and also reminds you there is a little kid inside of us all.
Living in Playa Del Carmen for the last 5 months has been a treat. Although you may be familiar with the popular hotels, tours, restaurants, beaches, and eco-parks. The true gems in this city can be found in the most unexpected places.
Corritta is the creator of It’s a Family Thing. The blog was started as a way to document their family gap year around the world, but the pandemic hit just as their adventure began. Now she lives in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico with her family exploring the city and helping locals.
The Catlins in New Zealand
The Catlins is a small region in the very south eastern point of the South Island of New Zealand. In fact, Slope Point is the most southern point of the South Island, despite common belief that the township of Gore claims this landmark fact.
The Catlins is still an untouched wilderness, a far cry from the flashy tourist attractions and high priced hotels, the Catlins is the classic kiwi holiday from yesteryear (yes they still exist). You are more likely to find campgrounds and retro kiwi baches (holiday homes here) than chain accommodation.
The highlights of the Catlins region are its nature, waterfalls and wildlife. The Catlins waterfalls are truly beautiful and there are many within a 30 minute walking distance from the roadside, making it accessible to most people. Our favourites are Purakaunui Falls and McLean Falls. Make sure you do both as they are quite different.
Those who love wildlife will put Roaring Bay and Curio Bay on their list for their chance to see wild blue penguins and seals are often found on the rocks at Nugget Point Lighthouse and at Surat Bay.
While the coastline can be beautiful here, do not expect it to be very warm for swimming, you are on the southern coast after all, next stop Antarctica. One of the most beautiful beaches here is Purakaunui Bay. There is a lovely basic campsite here and the tall cliffside makes for a dramatic setting.
Written by Jennifer Parkes from Backyard Travel Family: Active Family Travel Specialists in New Zealand.
Greece: Kyparissi in Lakonia and the Tzoumerka Villages
We live in Greece, which is a very popular travel destination year round for people from across the globe. There is so much to explore here, from buzzling islands and magnificent beaches in the summer, to ski resorts in the winter, mountains and quaint villages all year long.
We love traveling in Greece with our twins, but the pandemic had us being more careful this year. We avoided flights and ferries, so we traveled inland. From all the destinations we discovered, I loved Kyparissi in Lakonia and the Tzoumerka villages.
Lakonia is a county in southern Greece, which prided itself of being covid free in July when the county borders opened. Kyparissi is a very small and too remote quaint village by the beach (with crystal clear green waters, no less), so that’s another reason why we chose it: it was empty and we could keep our distances. I fell in love with it and we plan to visit again in June 2021.
Tzoumerka mountains had been on my list for years. They are also remote and as I discovered they aren’t advertised much. It was so refreshing to not see any tourist signs anywhere. I loved how people didn’t drag us into their shops. We were virtually the only tourists there, when the rest of the country was packed and covid cases were soaring. We hiked, explored stone villages and walked on picturesque pebble alleys. We loved it!
Anna Paparizou is a traveler, happy wife and proud mom of twin boys, blogging about her travels at https://dreamista.gr.
Kariya Park in Mississauga, Ontario
Kariya Park in Mississauga, Ontario, is a local spot that’s situated almost in the middle of the city, but small enough that it’s often overlooked. It truly is a hidden gem and that’s a very good thing. Mississauga has called Kariya, Japan, its sister city for over 40 years and Kariya Park was opened in 1992 as a way to honour that relationship.
Kariya Park is situated in the heart of downtown Mississauga, just across the road from the largest mall in Ontario. The beautiful Japanese themed gardens and flowing stream effectively blocks out the hustle and bustle of city life just outside the park walls. The park is home to many Japanese trees, flowers, and sculptures that were gifted to Mississauga by the city of Kariya.
The focal point of the park is a Japanese styled pavilion that’s located in front of a large pond. The pavilion is made up of two sections with an intricately carved bronze bell called the Friendship Bell hanging in the middle. The deck of the pavilion offers a most relaxing view of the pond where families of ducks, turtles and small fishes can be observed. On the other side of the pond is a little bridge that is featured in many wedding photos. Kariya Park is also home to a number of Japanese cherry trees. Around the middle of May the trees are a sight to behold as that’s when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
One interesting fact is that in Kariya, Japan, one will find Mississauga Park which features a miniaturized version of the Mississauga City Hall along with lush gardens and Canadian themed sculptures.
Davindra Ramnarine is the voice behind Goat Roti Chronicles, where he shares his fascination for travel, food, technology and general lifestyle trends.
Baytown in Texas is located just 30 mins away from Houston and is a great local gem to visit in Texas. It is located near the San Jacinto River, on the north side of Galveston Bay, and makes a perfect day trip from the city. There are many things to do in Baytown for both families and couples.
The city has a vibrant arts scene. You will find many murals and art installations in the city. One of the highlights is the Umbrella Alley. This empty and abandoned alley has been converted into a beautiful Instagram space filled with striking murals and dozens of hanging colorful umbrellas. Many art galleries and antique shops are also located downtown.
Another must-visit attraction is the historic Lynchburg Ferry. Visitors can take the ferry across the Houston Ship Channel from Baytown to San Jacinto Monument. Here you can admire the beautiful monument, know more about its history at the museum, and ride to the top of the monument to see 360 views of the area. The Battleship Texas State Historic Site is also located here.
Baytown also has many parks, nature trails, and is a great place for bird watching. The city has a variety of restaurants with diverse cuisines and many shopping malls. Pirates Bay Waterpark is a great place to beat the heat if you are visiting Baytown in the summer.
Ketki is the voice behind Enchanting Texas, a website dedicated to helping you plan your perfect Texas adventure.
Centennial Park – Baltimore, Maryland
Centennial Park is a 337-acre county park located less than 15 minutes from our home and just a 20 minute drive from Baltimore.
This peaceful setting is the perfect break from suburbia! It’s centrepiece is a 54-acre man-made lake, which is stocked by the State Department of Fisheries.
This award-winning park has four playgrounds, racquetball, tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts as well as horseshoe pits and plenty of open space for picnicking.
One of my favourite activities is to walk or jog around the 2.6 mile path of rolling hills around the lake. No matter where you are in the park, you can catch a gorgeous view of the sun sparkling on the water.
There are many varieties of trees and plants throughout the park with plaques that identify and explain the vegetation. Our kids always love to read these and collect sticks and rocks along the way.
Occasionally, we can catch a glimpse of some wildlife too. The park is home to several species of birds, turtles, beavers, and deer.
There are also over 7 miles of interconnected paved trails that weave around the picnic pavilions, playgrounds, and area neighbourhoods.
Another fun thing to do is rent a canoe, paddle boat, or kayak from the Adventure Shack. You can also buy snacks and even rent fishing equipment there.
You can catch free live music during the summer Sunset Serenades concert series. Plus, there are festivals throughout the year and occasionally outdoor movies too!
Darla Slade is the voice behind FunFitnessFamily.com, designed to inspire happy, healthy, active families by sharing local experiences and travel adventures, fitness tips, and wellness resources.
Lakes Entrance, Gippsland – Victoria, Australia
Lakes Entrance is a holiday mecca that people flock to in the summer months but few know the hidden gems that surround the seaside town. You’ll find families relaxing on the 90-mile beach or enjoying the amusements, especially in the summer months. Lakes Entrance is a wonderful place to visit with kids. But there is so much more to see in Lakes Entrance.
You can take a short drive out to a mighty relic of the past. The Stony Creek Trestle Bridge is a 247m long wooden trestle bridge that stands 20 meters above the Aussie bush below. Once a lifeline to farmers in the area it now lies unused. You can have a BBQ right near it and walk around underneath it but you are no longer able to walk on it.
Another amazing thing to do in Lakes Entrance is the entrance walk. You start from the footbridge located on the main street and walk along either the 90-mile beach or the Cunningham Arm section all the way to where the Lakes meets the sea. Here you can find seals lazing on the rocks or you may be lucky enough to see the Dolphins that are unique to The Gippsland Lakes system. The Burrunan dolphin is only found here in Gippsland.
Many people visit here in the cooler months as well. It is not as busy and at times you can have a stretch of one of the most beautiful, unspoiled beaches to yourself at times. It is a beautiful place to visit and spend some time.
Recommended by Mark from Travels in Gippsland.
What adventure did you find closer to home during the challenges of 2020?