Where is Parksville-Qualicum Beach you ask? Parksville and Qualicum Beach are two communities on the East side of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Together they have a population of just over 20 000 but in the summertime that number grows exponentially when people from all over come to experience their wonderful beaches and other natural beauty. We decided to go in the off-season and although most of the summer attractions were closed we still found many things to do to fill our days. We had an amazing time spending hours exploring and returning to our cozy accommodations to cook up some local delicacies. So what is there to do in the off-season of a summer destination? Here are some of our suggestions.
North Island Wildlife Recovery Association
Open March to December the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association is a rehab centre for wild animals recovering from injuries. They do wonderful work here and we stop in whenever we’re in town. You can see and learn about raptors, black bears and other Vancouver Island wildlife. Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm at 1240 Leffler Road, Errington, BC 250-248-8534
Foraging for Mushrooms
Spending time in the forest is one of our favourite things to do and it’s always a bonus when we find edible mushrooms. This time around we found chanterelles. It’s one of the reasons we always try to book accommodations with a proper kitchen. On this trip we were in heaven with our condo at Ocean Trails Resort where we cooked up our find into a tasty stew. If you decide to try foraging for mushrooms and haven’t done it before, please go with a guide. As fun as it can be, some mushrooms are poisonous.
Vancouver Island is nowhere near Fifth Avenue but you can still find some interesting places to shop. It’s often hard to find parking at Goats on Roof at the Old Country Market, one of the most popular shopping destinations in the Coombs district. They have an extensive selection of breads baked on the premises and a huge array of gourmet and local products. And yes, they do have goats on the roof. Another regular stop for many is Bamboozle and House of Leaves, two shops on one property. They sell women’s clothing and accessories, curiosities, toiletries and tea. They are open from May to December, Thursday to Sunday, the rest of the year they are traveling and searching out new products for the stores. Sounds like a pretty good life to us. Goats on Roof open 7 days a week 2326 Alberni Highway, Coombs. Please call as “Hours Of Operation Are Subject To Change Without Notice” 250-248-6272 Bamboozle and House of Leaves 774 Shawn Road Coombs, BC 250-248-8659
Walk the trails at Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Park and you will be walking amongst giants. This area is home to the biggest stand of Douglas Fir trees on the island, some as old as 800 years. It is quite accessible with parking right off of the highway and amazingly quiet. Hear the wind blowing through the leaves as you stroll the well maintained pathways.
Big Qualicum Hatchery
The hatchery is a great place to learn about the different salmon and their life cycle. Imagine thousands of fish swimming up river to fulfill their destiny. It is one of the most breathtaking spectacles you will ever witness. 215 Fisheries Rd., Qualicum Beach 250-757-8412
Depending on the destination you can have as much fun in the off-season. Sometimes all it means is better prices on accommodations and no crowds at attractions. Have you been to Parksville and Qualicum Beach? Did you enjoy it as much as we did?
Together for close to a quarter of a century, A Cook Not Mad‘s Tim and and Nat have indulged their passion for life and experience to the fullest, but they feel most alive when traveling, cooking and eating. An award winning chef, Tim has dedicated his life and career to cooking and the pursuit of honest food. As a professional photographer, Nat records their adventures with incredible pictures of everyday life and the extraordinary. They believe that everyone should get to know a culture by learning about the foods they eat and living like locals as much as they can.
Yet, another location in my home province I have not yet been. But on the upside, posts like yours are providing the appropriate motivation. Thanks for writing!
Henry, you have to go. We lived out West for 5 years and were always too busy to explore. Now we’re on the other side of the country and still haven’t seen as much of the West Coast as we’d like.
Our advice, don’t wait.
Wow! This looks amazing! That moment with the eyes glaring at you sounds pretty scary! Good on you for carrying on, and beautiful photos.
We are visiting Vancouver Island over Christmas so this will come in useful. We will definitely look into the wildlife recovery center 🙂
Enjoy the island, we always do!