Finding a quiet beach or escaping into pristine nature doesn’t require flying far to the south or embarking on a long drive on a busy highway. Parksville Qualicum Beach is that ideal destination many crave when they feel the need to get away. It’s close to Vancouver and Victoria, it exudes beauty, it provides a refreshingly slower pace of life, and it’s full of friendly residents who will point you where you desire to go for a relaxing British Columbia retreat.
Here are four different ways you can unwind in this charming place that’s just a 30-minute drive from the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal on eastern Vancouver Island.
Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park features two kilometres of gorgeous sandy coastline running alongside the Georgia Strait. At low tide, the water retreats for nearly a kilometre, so you have lots of space to spread out on the beach while taking in the sunshine and enjoying a good read or listening to your favourite tunes — with no disturbances but the gentle slap of the tide hitting the sand and the gulls squawking in the distance. Three kilometres north of Rathtrevor Beach is Parksville Community Park, an oasis that attracts beachcombers year-round. You can join them in exploring the beach for sea stars and other creatures in tidepools. The Parksville beach is also home to the annual Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition. You don’t have to be a master sculptor to grab a pail and shovel and test your skills on your beach vacay.
The Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-Mara Resort is a man-made wonder. Designed to appear like a stone cave, the Grotto Spa has a massive pool that contains natural minerals and trace elements to detoxify the body. Guests often follow a dip into the mineral pool with a spa treatment and a selection of endless tapas dishes from the restaurant located above the mineral pool. The Treetop Tapas & Grill is set amid a coastal forest of Douglas fir and arbutus trees. Its menu includes many dishes made from Vancouver Island ingredients prepared with Spanish flair. Among the enticing cuisine: Prawns served with chorizo, smoked paprika aioli, and a lemon and honey oil, and a kale salad topped with candied cranberries, ancient grains and red quinoa. Sit back and indulge.
Hit the Arrowsmith CPR Regional Trail and you will be surprised by how quickly you are able to push away your worries. Dating to 1912, when the Canadian Pacific Railway built it, the hiking trail winds through a private forest and regional parks to bring you to the top of an old ski hill. The best part of the experience is a spectacular lookout halfway up the route. From there, you are treated to a bird’s-eye view of the island’s lush greenery. It’s a scene worthy of a long, meditative exhale.
Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park is a preserved section of old-growth forest whose tallest occupants have been around for close to 1,000 years old. The Douglas firs dominate the park while red cedars have a distinct purpose — indigenous communities in the area prefer to use them when carving totem poles. Cathedral Grove, easily accessible off of Highway 4, is 25 kilometres west of Qualicum Beach. It is an awe-inspiring destination that will no doubt open up your perspective of life and what’s most important about it.
Vancouver Island, with its natural beauty and charming culture, is a perfect place to take a reset. In Parksville Qualicum Beach, you can rejuvenate your mind and body through a number of fascinating pursuits.