Who doesn’t love being able to get up close and personal with animals of all kinds? Even though my kids are getting older, they are always willing to visit someplace where animals are the focus. And thankfully, there are several Vancouver Island zoos and aquariums to choose from.
It’s true; you won’t find a traditional zoo with exotic mammals or a large aquarium here. What we do have, however, are several smaller establishments that, in my opinion, are just as good, if not better.
Better, because at the locations mentioned below, you have the opportunity, and are encouraged, to get up close and personal with the animals.
If you and your young ones love animals, this post will help you find all the locations across Vancouver Island that will allow you to pet, touch or view animals extremely close up.
South Vancouver Island Zoos, Petting Farms and Aquariums
Beacon Hill Children’s Farm
Located in the heart of downtown Victoria, Beacon Hill Children’s Farm has operated since 1985. The running of the goats is a hoot to see, and those same funny goats provide hours of entertainment for the young and young at heart. Although the goats are the main attraction, you’ll also see pigs, birds, ducks, chickens, peacocks, and possibly a few other surprises.
Hours: Open Daily 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: Beacon Hill Park (Circle Drive, Victoria)
Victoria Bug Zoo
This is definitely not your typical zoo! However, it lets you get up close and personal with various large bugs. If bugs are your thing, Victoria Bug Zoo is the place to be. There are approximately 50 fascinating species to view, and you get to choose the level of interaction you have with them. (If you are anything like me, it will be from a very safe distance).
Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (exceptions apply)
Location: 631 Courtenay Street, Victoria
Victoria Butterfly Gardens
In a space roughly the size of three basketball courts, thousands of butterflies fly through the air. As you wander through the lush indoor garden of tropical plants and flowers, you’ll also encounter dart frogs, tortoises, iguanas, flamingos, tropical ducks, and free-flying tropical birds. If that’s not enough, head over to the insectarium to experience an array of impressive insects and invertebrates from around the world.
Hours of operation:
- September – June: open daily from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
- Summer hours: open daily from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: 1461 Benvenuto Avenue, Brentwood Bay
Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea
With 3,500 animals at the aquarium from over 150 species, specifically from the Salish Sea, there is much to explore at the Shaw Centre. You can also view many works of Coast Salish art and a marine mammal exhibit, which includes a rare orca skeleton. They offer guests a fun, interactive and informative experience of science and culture.
Hours of operation:
- Open six days per week (closed on Wednesdays) from 10:00 am – 4:30 pm (last entry is at 4:00)
Location: 9811 Seaport Place, Sidney BC
Pacific Northwest Raptors Centre
The flying demonstrations are the highlight of any Raptors Centre visit. It’s definitely something you should plan to see. There are opportunities to walk through the woods with a hawk, look into the eyes of an owl, or even spend the whole day or week immersing yourself in the world of raptors. No matter what experience you choose, you will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close to these fascinating creatures.
Hours of Operation:
- Summer Season (mid-May until the beginning of September): open daily from 10:30 – 5:00 pm. Flying demonstrations are at 11:00, 1:30 and 4:00
- Spring Season (March until mid-May), open daily from 10:30 – 3:00. Flying demos are at 11:30 & 1:30
- Fall Season (September – October): open daily. Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 – 4:30; weekdays from 10:30 – 3:00. Flying demonstrations are at 11:30 & 1:30, with an additional time slot of 3:30 on weekends.
Location: 1877 Herd Road, Duncan.
Mid-Vancouver Island Zoos and Aquariums
Yellow Point Farms
Visit the cute and friendly miniature livestock at Yellow Point Farms as they hang out in their pasture. This experience is called an “interactive barnyard” because the animals are not in individual stalls or cages but freely roaming in their natural habitat. There are goats, sheep, mini donkeys, mini horses, and kune kune pigs. And you are welcome to hang out with them as long as you like.
The cost is $9.00 per person.
Spring hours of operation: Fridays & Saturdays from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
This family-run farm has been collecting mini animals for years and now shares them with the rest of us. The lovely little petting farm has mini pigs, dwarf goats, babydoll sheep, miniature cattle, donkeys and horses. There are also Bantam chickens, Holland Lop Rabbits, dwarf rabbits, and an honorary “mini” goose named Lucky. Although you aren’t allowed inside the pen with the donkeys or miniature horses, when they see people coming, they tend to head over to the fence for a good pet anyway.
Spring & Summer Hours: open daily from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.
Location: 7995 Superior Road
This happy little animal village is a small collection of various animals. View chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, sheep, pigs, peacocks, cows and horses. Purchase your tickets from the beautiful Lavender Shop, where you’ll find a wide variety of products. And while there, grab an espresso, a gelato or a picnic lunch and stay a while!
From festivals to high-tea luncheons, there is always something fun happening at Arbutus Meadows. Make sure to check out their online event list.
Spring Hours: Thursday – Saturday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm; and Sundays from 12:00 – 4:00.
Location: 1515 Island Hwy E, Nanoose Bay
Home to Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, Morningstar Farm is also a great petting zoo. Grab a self-guided tour map and explore the farm at your own pace (it’s free to do so!). Meet and greet the animals and learn from the informative and entertaining signs. Then head over to watch the robotic milk from the live stream video and taste a range of cheeses and wines in the Farmgate store. If you are hungry, there’s an onsite seasonal ‘calfe’ serving fresh-baked goods and various gourmet paninis.
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.
Location: 403 Lowry’s Road, Parksville.
North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre
You’ll find a world-class wildlife recovery centre in the small farming community of Errington. Since 1986 this eight-acre rehabilitation facility has cared for ill, injured or orphaned cougars, bears, wolves, and birds. Along with caring for these creatures, the centre takes great pride in providing the public with extensive education programs.
Public viewing hours are from 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM daily
Location: 1240 Leffler Road in Errington
This tropical oasis in Coombs will have you strolling among gardens filled with plants, flowers, and butterflies from around the world. The hundreds of free-flying butterflies come in various shapes, colours, and sizes. If you are lucky, they will mistake you for a flower and land on your shoulder or hat! You’ll also have the opportunity to gawk at turtles, tortoises, reptiles and koi fish.
2023 SEASON APRIL 7TH – OCTOBER 8TH
Hours of Operation: open daily from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.
Location: 1080 Winchester Rd, Coombs
Hamilton Hobby Farm
Right across the street from Butterfly World, mentioned above, you’ll find a cute hobby farm full of many animals. Get close to horses, goats, potbelly pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and many other critters. They also offer hayrides, as well as horseback riding lessons.
Spring hours: Saturdays & Sundays, from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.
Summer hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: 2679 Alberni Highway, Coombs
Deep Bay Marine Field Station
This unique green research facility is designed to host a wide variety of public education activities. You can take a guided or self-guided tour around the facility while viewing various local species in the aquariums and touch tanks. While you are there, research scientists are hard at work in their labs, which you can view from the mezzanine. You are also able to explore the wetland habitat adjacent to the station.
From May 20 – September 3, 2023 – the facility is open daily to the public from 10 am – 4 pm.
Location: 370 Crome Point Rd., Bowser.
Comox Valley & Campbell River
Filberg Heritage Park
The Town of Comox operates The Hands-on Farm at Filberg Park during the summer season. There are a variety of unique and cute animals living at the farm for the summer, plus a few animals make cameo appearances, much to the delight of onlookers. After visiting the farm, stroll through the beautiful nine landscaped acres of Filberg Park.
Open daily from June 13 – August 21 from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm (rain or shine).
Location: 61 Filberg Road, Comox
Holly Hill Farm
Feed, pet, hold and mingle with countless friendly farm animals. The animals at Holly Hill Farm are free-range. This means you get to walk amongst them, in their home! A truly unique experience. Hold baby bunnies and chicks, feed chickens and sheep, snuggle or brush mini-goats, and scratch the potbelly pig. Hayrides are also available.
$9.00 per person (cash only)
March 18th-October 29th 2023
Open Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm. (weather dependent)
Location: 2311 Ida Road, Campbell River
Discovery Passage Aquarium
The Discovery Passage Aquarium offers fun and unique hands-on educational experiences. See, touch and feel the local marine species and habitats. Specimens are collected from the marine environment in the spring and returned to the same area at the end of the season. The tanks used to house the animals in the interim are essentially an extension of the natural marine environment. It’s a great way to learn about marine life found in the Discovery Passage area and surrounding Islands.
Open daily from May until early September, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (2023 hours of operation were not posted on their website at the time of this updated publication, so please check their website).
Location: 621B Island Hwy, Campbell River
West Vancouver Island Aquariums
The Ucluelet Aquarium is Canada’s first collect and release aquarium. You’ll get a personal view of the fish and invertebrates from the local waters in Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds. There are three large touch tanks, plus several smaller ones, where you can interact with urchins, sand dollars, sea stars, anemones and more. This small aquarium offers a great hands-on experience. They also host ongoing events of interpretive talks and guest speakers.
Open daily from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: 180 Main Street, Ucluelet
As you can see, there are plenty of Vancouver Island zoos, aquariums and petting farms to keep you and your kids busy!
How many of the above-mentioned have you been to? Which one is your favourite? Let us know in the comment section below.
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