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 even a large-sized 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 the ability to either 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 been in operation 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 – 5:00 pm
Location: Beacon Hill Park (Circle Drive, Victoria)
Victoria Bug Zoo
This is definitely not your typical zoo! It does, however, allow you to get up close and personal with a variety of very 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:
- Mar 9-Jun 30: 10am-4pm (explore until 5pm)
- Jul 1-Aug 31: 9:30am-5pm (explore until 6pm)
- Sept 1-Sept 29: 10am-4pm (explore until 5pm)
- Sept 30-Mar 8: 10am-3pm (explore until 4pm)
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 a lot 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.
- Summer Hours (mid-June to Labour Day weekend), daily from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
- 10:00 am – 4:30 pm for all other dates (exceptions apply)
Location: 9811 Seaport Place, Sidney BC
Pacific Northwest Raptors Centre
The highlight of any visit to the Raptors Centre is most definitely the flying demonstrations. It’s most definitely something you should plan to see. There are opportunities to take a 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:
- Peak Season (Mid-May until the end of September) open daily from 10:30 – 5:00 pm. Flying demonstrations are at 11:30, 1:30 and 3:30
- Shoulder Season (October, & March until Mid-May), open daily from 10:30 – 3:00. Flying demos are at 11:30 & 1:30
Location: 1877 Herd Road, Duncan.
Mid-Vancouver Island Zoos and Aquariums
Superior Farm is the newest petting zoo in the mid-island area. This family-run farm has been collecting mini animals for years, and just recently decided to share them with the rest of us. Their 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.
Summer Hours: Monday – Saturday from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; Sunday’s from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: 7995 Superior Road
Home to Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and Mooberry Winery, 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 a variety of gourmet paninis.
Open daily from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm
Location: 403 Lowry’s Road, Parksville.
North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre
Located in the small farming community of Errington, you’ll find a world-class wildlife recovery centre. Since 1986 this eight-acre rehabilitation facility has cared for ill, injured or orphaned cougars, bears, wolves, and birds. Along with the care of 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 a variety of 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.
Hours of Operation: During the summer season they are open 7 days a week from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm. For all other months, please check their website for up-to-date information.
Location: 1080 Winchester Rd, Qualicum Beach
Hamilton Hobby Farm
Right across the street from Butterfly World, mentioned above, you’ll find a cute hobby farm full of a myriad of animals. Get up close to horses, goats, potbelly pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and many other critters. They also offer hayrides, as well as horseback riding lessons.
Summer hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: 2679 Alberni Highway Qualicum Beach
Deep Bay Marine Field Centre
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 a variety of 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.
The facility is open to the public from 10 am – 4 pm Monday to Friday.
Location: 370 Crome Point Rd., Bowser.
North Vancouver Island Zoos and Aquariums
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.
The Hands-on Farm is open daily during the summer from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm (rain or shine). Please note: Filberg Park, including the Hands-on Farm, will be closed July 30 to August 1 for Festival set up, and closed August 6 & 7 for the Festival takedown.
Location: Filberg Road, Comox
Seaview Game Farm
Seaview Game Farm is a working farm that provides fun and entertainment for the whole family. Your one-hour farm tour includes a tractor-pulled cart ride, a hands-on visit to the Mini Farm, and a tour through the greenhouses. The tours are suitable for children and adults of all ages.
JULY 1 – AUGUST 31 2019 Tours run seven days a week, two times a day. Reservations are required.
Location: 1392 Seaview Road, Black Creek
Holly Hill Farm
Feed, pet, hold and mingle with countless friendly farm animals. The animals here 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.
Open Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. (mid-March through mid-Oct.)
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
Location: 621B Island Hwy, Campbell River
West Vancouver Island Aquariums
The Alberni Aquarium
The Alberni Aquarium aims to take you on the journey of a salmon – from its freshwater origins through to the deep ocean. The exhibit tanks feature different environments a salmon will travel through during its life. The dome tank offers a real close-up of aquatic life. There are also four touch tanks for a hands-on learning experience.
Open daily from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Located in the Harbour Quay: 7-5440 Argyle Street, Port Alberni
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 – 5:00 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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