Prior to having children, we considered ourselves avid campers and BC Parks explorers. When our daughter was two years old we planned an amazing ten day trip to Cortes Island at Smelt Bay Provincial Park. Below are our top 10 tips for car-camping with toddlers:
- A hammock. Makes for a great swing, a great place to cuddle up with your little one to read books, and is so relaxing to have a morning coffee and read your own book in those couple of minutes you may get alone. Double check with the park operator for confirmation on using hammocks in specific parks.
- A push toy. Preferably something novel and not from home to keep them busy while you set up the tent or make dinner.
- Snacks, snacks, snacks. More snacks than you could ever imagine.
- A dust pan and broom for the tent. You have never had so much dirt and sand in your tent until you have a toddler running in and out.
- A toddler sized camp chair. We learned that younger toddlers are too short and uncoordinated to sit at the standard picnic tables… PLUS they like to sit around the campfire just like us adults.
- A few of the toddler comforts of home. We brought favourite books and stuffed animals, to help make bedtime easier.
- A backpack/carrier/stroller. Toddlers like to walk and hike on their own but get tired quickly. It is nice to have an option for longer hikes and naptimes.
- Towels, wipes, extra clothes for everyone. Toddlers are dirty little things especially when camping and they get you dirty too (this is what camping is all about right?).
- A two burner stove. We previously owned a single burner backpacking stove. From a safety perspective the backpacking stove was too tippy and the flame was far too enticing for toddler hands.
- Coffee! And a way to make it (for the parents). We prefer the French press (and remember to buy ground coffee).
Our camping adventure at Smelt Bay Provincial Park
The Cortes Bay Campground has a new eating shelter building with a fireplace and picnic tables. This was a great spot for us to retreat from the changing elements. We spent a few hours painting at the picnic table.
The campground is a 5 min walk to a beautiful beach and grassy day use area. Cortes Island locals will tell you that this is the best spot to watch the sunset. We felt the walk from our campsite to the day use area was a great length for a two year old; we did bring the stroller to help with the uphill back to the campground. We went down there most evenings between dinner and bedtime to burn off some energy, watch the sunset and explore.
The best part about Smelt Bay Provincial Park is how close it is to nearby communities and Manson’s Landing Provincial Park. Manson’s Landing Provincial Park has soft white sand, nice toddler friendly shallow warm lake water for swimming, and marine tidal lagoon and marine sandy beach.