If you travel to Vancouver, you should try to plan a few extra days and head to Vancouver Island, too. An enjoyable hour and 40-minute ferry ride on BC Ferries from Horseshoe Bay will get you there. Afterwards, an easy drive up the Island Highway will take you to one of our favourite places in Canada, Parksville-Qualicum Beach.
It’s a bustling area in the summer, but, come winter time, it might appear too sleepy for some — but there is still plenty to keep you busy.
Qualicum Beach Museum
I know what you’re thinking, Qualicum Beach is a small town, how interesting could their museum possibly be? The answer is very interesting. They have extensive Qualicum First Nations display, and a social history exhibit including pioneer dioramas (everybody loves a diorama am I right?). But what has gotten them world recognition is the palaeontology exhibit.
As their website explains: The Museum’s Paleontology Exhibit is recognized as one of world-class stature by paleontologists from all over the world. British Columbia is home to some of the richest fossil beds in the world, most of which are located on Vancouver Island and the Northern Gulf Islands – especially Hornby Island, lying along the geologically active “ring of fire” encompassing the Pacific Ocean.
Their collection counts over 20,000 pieces and includes items from the Precambrian Era (545 million years ago) to the Pleistocene Era.
Currently closed for renovations, they plan on reopening in Spring 2015
The Heritage Forest in Qualicum Beach is not too far from downtown Qualicum and has well maintained walking paths.
It is mostly second growth forest, but does have some impressive old growth Douglas Fir trees that are hundreds of years old, too. You can also see various types of mushrooms and berry trees, and if you’re lucky you might spot a barred owl, pileated woodpecker or bald eagle.
Check out the wildlife
If you don’t see wildlife at the Heritage Forest, try heading to the bird sanctuary at the end of Kinkade Rd. Thousands of trumpeter swans stop here every winter. You may also see some bald eagles, whiskey jacks, mergansers, oyster eaters (image below) and many more.
If for some reason you still don’t see any wildlife, head to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre where you’re sure to see some local fauna.
If you don’t feel like cooking, there are plenty of restaurants that would love to feed you. Places such as The Black Goose Inn, a classic English pub in Parksville, or Bistro 694 and Lefty’s in Qualicum Beach are very popular with the locals. And they all serve fresh food and local drink at reasonable prices.
If you’re adventurous, buy yourself a fishing license, bring your own rod or rent equipment at Nile Creek Fly Shop, and try and catch your own dinner by fly fishing in one of the local rivers. If you’re there at the right time of year, you may be able to catch a Coho right off the beach.
If you’ve never been to Vancouver Island, you should consider it for your next high-season or even off-season vacation. It’s the perfect place to wind down, relax and recharge. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.