Parksville & Qualicum Beach – the Oceanside Region..
With scenery second to-none, the picturesque beachfront communities of the Oceanside region are ideal for relaxing weekend getaways and family vacations.
Stretching along Highway 19A are the unique and diverse communities of Parksville, Qualicum Beach, French Creek, Nanoose Bay, Arrowsmith Coombs Country and Lighthouse Country, including Qualicum Bay, Bowser and Deep Bay. Boasting miles of sandy beaches, spectacular mountain and ocean views, lush parks and numerous attractions, this vacation playground is home to more than 140 annual events, fine dining, quaint shops, marinas, first-class accommodations and of course, great golf.
With one of Canada’s highest concentrations of artists, gallery and studio browsing is a favourite pastime, while for outdoor enthusiasts, activities include fishing, diving, kayaking, mountain biking, boating, caving, horseback riding and windsurfing. Bird-watching is also big in Oceanside, where more than 250 bird species live year-round or visit during spring migration.
Parksville, with a population of more than 10,000, is Oceanside’s largest community. Its mild climate, incredible beaches, golf courses and beautiful parks have established the beachfront resort town as “Canada’s Riviera,” ideal for romantic getaways, spa distractions and family vacations. Nearby, Englishman River Falls Provincial Park draws hikers, anglers and picnickers, while Top Bridge Regional Park is a haven for mountain bikers.
About 10 minutes north of Parksville is the charming town of Qualicum Beach, a pedestrian-friendly gardener’s paradise with more than 50 quaint boutiques, galleries, antique stores, cozy cafés and stunning panoramic views of the Strait of Georgia. Be sure to take in a summer sunset with the accompanying breathtaking vistas, and visit the town’s oldest resident: a 70,000-year-old walrus at the Qualicum Beach Museum.
Arrowsmith Coombs Country offers even more sightseeing and activity options. The Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve is a unique micro-climate and ecosystem that has received aUNESCO designation, one of only 11 in Canada. Not-to-miss attractions include the new Orchid Garden with more than 800 living orchids for your enjoyment at Butterfly World and Gardens, the World Parrot Refuge, North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre, Tiger Lily Farms, Blue Stone Alpaca Farm, Little Qualicum Cheeseworks (complete with farm tours) and the Old Country Market where you can watch the antics of the goats grazing on the market’s grass roof before you explore the eclectic market and neighbouring shops. Pick up a picnic lunch and stroll the pretty paths of Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. Just north, Lighthouse Country is a remarkably picturesque coastal area with marinas, restaurants, art studios, shops and activities.
For information, call 1-888-799-3222 or the Qualicum Beach Visitor Centre,
752-9532 or 1-866-887-7106, on the beach in Qualicum Beach at 2711 West Island Hwy. Call the Parksville Visitor Centre at 248-3613, or visit 3km south of Parksville at 1275 East Island Hwy.
West of Parksville off Highway 4, at the tip of a long saltwater channel called the Alberni Inlet, Port Alberni is the heart of Vancouver Island’s awe-inspiring Pacific Rim region. A world-renowned sport fishing destination, Port Alberni fishing charters operate year-round and saltwater rewards include halibut, cod and salmon. For freshwater anglers, productive streams abound with cutthroat, rainbow and steelhead trout. Other activities include everything from helicopter and floatplane tours, diving and golfing to kayaking, wildlife viewing and wind surfing.
At the Alberni Valley Museum, discover fascinating exhibits on pioneer history, folk art and First Nations culture – including a special exhibit honouring B.C.’s 150th anniverary this year – while at the Rollins Arts Centre and Gardens, works by local artists and summertime tea on the terrace are featured. Alberni Harbour Quay is a colourful collection of waterfront shops, galleries and eateries where you’ll also find the Maritime Discovery Centre, the clock tower, which grants panoramic views of the Alberni Inlet, and the boarding area for the MV Lady Rose, a passenger and freight vessel offering scenic journeys to Bamfield and Ucluelet.
Other historic highlights of the summer season include the 35-minute Steam Train excursion from the historic Port Alberni Railway Station to the McLean Mill National Historic Site.
Near Port Alberni, Sproat Lake Provincial Park draws freshwater recreation enthusiasts and anglers. It’s also home base for the Martin Mars Flying Tankers, the world’s largest water-bomber aircraft used for fighting forest fires. Other nearby spots to visit include the Robertson Creek Fish Hatchery, the J.V. Cline Bird Sanctuary, and Paper Mill Dam and Rogers Creek parks.
For information on Port Alberni, call
724-6535. The Visitor Centre is located at 2533 Port Alberni Hwy.