The Oceanside Area of Vancouver Island consists of the small cities of Parksville, Qualicum Beach and the rural communities of Coombs, Nanoose, Errington and Whiskey Creek. This entire region is the ultimate British Columbia summer destination. Just a 30-40 minute drive north of Nanaimo's ferry terminals, you’ll enjoy incredible beauty. The beaches here on the south-central coast of eastern Vancouver Island are some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but without the pounding surf and dangerous tides. Absolutely perfect for a family vacation.
While summer by the sea is a great temptation, Oceanside is a four-season outdoor destination. Hiking, golfing, kayaking and mountain biking enthusiasts get to indulge in a rare, beautifully protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This area is noteworthy for its unspoiled watersheds, pristine deep lakes, extensive parkland, forests (must-see ‘old-growth treasure at Cathedral Grove’), and challenging trails leading to Mount Arrowsmith's fantastic vistas.
History Buff? The Craig Heritage Park & Museum takes you back to Parksville's history (open from mid-May to late September) with its heritage buildings including an early pioneer's log home. Be sure to visit the Coombs General Store which began its existence in 1911. The store is much like it was 100 years ago with wood oil floors and Coca Cola memorabilia. Stop in for 25 cent candy and a warm hello from Dale Cartwright, the world’s friendliest store keeper. The Coombs Agricultural Fall Fair began in 1913 so there is always a lot to celebrate. The Fair is usually the 2nd weekend in August.
Parksville is home to 11,000 relaxed, friendly, lifestyle-oriented residents who enjoy all the amenities of small city life – a diverse selection of great dining restaurants, a year-round calendar of well over 100 festivals and events, a lively arts scene, and everyday quality time at Parksville Community Park with ball park, skate park, beach boardwalk and a fantastic kids playground. Love the outdoors and nature? Be sure to visit Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park and the Englishman River Estuary, both natural sanctuaries and home to hundreds of bird species.
Coombs and Errington are just 15 minutes west of Parksville off Hwy 4A enroute to Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino. Coombs is a old pioneer town now famous for its eclectic shopping (Bamboozle, Old Country Market and shops around), rodeo events, and a series of family-friendly activity zones (Butterfly World, the World Parrot Refuge). Errington is a back-to-the-land refuge for farmers, B&B operators and urban exiles. Its attractions include the Saturday morning Errington Farmers Market, the petting zoo and trail rides at Tiger Lily Farm, as well as the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre's menagerie of the furred and feathered.
Old Country Market, CoombsThe original market was created by Kristian Graaten. Kris and his wife, Solveig, emigrated with their children to Vancouver Island from Norway in the 1950s. Kris, who grew up in the small community of Lillehammer, was inspired to include a sod roof in his design of the market. Many Norwegian homes and farm structures are built directly into the hillside with the sod roof becoming an extension of the hillside. With the help of sons, Svein and Andy, and son-in-law, Larry, Kris unwittingly began to build what would become perhaps the most famous sod-roof building in the world. Legend has it that on the weekend of the Coombs Fall Fair, the grass was noticed to be rather long. After a few glasses of wine, Larry suggested that they 'borrow' some goats to ‘mow’ the grass and perhaps provide some entertainment for passing cars. Needless to say, the goats became permanent tenants of the Coombs market that weekend and have been there for more than thirty years. Each spring, a family of goats makes their home on the roof, entertaining both locals and visitors from all over the globe making it one of the most famous thatched roofs in the world.
Nanoose Bay is due south of Parksville on a rocky peninsula of mostly undeveloped land that sits prettily between Nanoose Harbour and the Sea of Salish (Georgia Strait). Boating and salmon fishing, hiking trails around a mini "lakes district," and kayaking trips from scenic Schooner Cove are key to the Nanoose experience.
Qualicum Beach, with a population just over 8,500, is a charming, friendly and laidback community just 7 mins east of Whiskey Creek RV Campground. The local population includes unique artisans, gardeners and active locals and retirees. Like most visitors, they were drawn here by Qualicum Beach's quaint village atmosphere, mild climate, fabulous beach and shoreline, scenic beauty and wealth of recreational activities.
The compact picturesque town core is great for boutique shopping, and the sandy beaches are a nice place for a long stroll. There are also golf courses, artists' studios and a variety of cafés or restaurants to enjoy. A postcard beach and stunning views of mountains and white-capped ocean explains why Qualicum Beach has been one of the west coast's premier getaway destinations for nearly a century now.
Little Qualicum Falls Large segments of central Vancouver Island's wilderness forests, pristine lakes and whitewater rivers are protected in a series of provincial and regional parks by Qualicum Beach. One of the most treasured parks is Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park just off Highway 4 being particularly popular with families. Within its boundaries are dozens of picnic tables and a lovely trail along the gorge, the crystal clear waters of the Little Qualicum River and several series of cascading falls. If you like to hike on forested trails, this is one of the most beautiful tranquil walks in the world. A little further down the highway towards Port Alberni, the cold, deep waters of Cameron Lake tempt brave swimmers and sailboarders who ride the gusts that swirl down from the surrounding mountainsides.
Just 8 minutes west from your home at Whiskey Creek RV Campground is Cathedral Grove – a rare and endangered remnant of an ancient Douglas fir ecosystem. Cathedral Grove is a BC Provincial Park preserving a section of lush old-growth forest that is unique to Vancouver Island.
The Grove boasts trees over 800 years old, as high as 250 feet and 29 feet in girth. About 350 years ago, a forest fire raged through the area. Many of these old trees survived the fire and even more the devastating invasion by early settlers who colonized the Island from 1849. The First Nations indigenous people cared for this biological treasure over thousands of years and preserved it as a big tree heritage for all human beings.. Plan to spend a few hours wandering Cathedral Grove's trail system and gazing up at the ancient magnificent wonders. Cathedral Grove gives the visitor a sense of what Vancouver Island and the west coast looked like before the arrival of European settlers.
Horne Lake Caves Crystal clear water, amazing caves, underground waterfalls & spectacular scenery make Horne Lake one of the best adventure destinations on Vancouver Island. Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park (30 kms from Whiskey Creek RV Campground) offers cave tours of its deep caverns filled with crystals and unusual rock formations. It is famed for its caverns and more than 1,000 caves. Group caving tours range from easy to extreme and take amateur spelunkers deep underground. The more challenging expeditions begin with a rappelling lesson and include a few tight, belly-crawling passages in the dark. Not for the claustrophobic! Swimming and boating are popular at Horne Lake.
Cameron Lake Wonderful though the oceanfront may be, the beaches found at our many rivers and lakes are perfect for cooling off on a hot day or for a quiet hike. Cameron Lake (Hwy. #4, on the road to Cathedral Grove, about 10 mins past Little Qualicum Falls Park and only 5 mins from Whiskey Creek RV Campground) shouldn’t be missed. Forested slopes surround the lake, and the pea-gravel beach is a lovely spot to warm up after an afternoon dip. The water is crystal clear and incredibly refreshing on a hot day. Watch for signs reading 'Cameron Lake Day Use Area'.