Some places are so down to earth you may not realize how much magnificent history they’ve experienced. Parksville Qualicum Beach fits into that class of destination. An idyllic area in the middle of Vancouver Island loaded with immaculate beaches, Parksville Qualicum Beach played an important role in British Columbia’s early years.
In the late 1800s, European settlers joined the Coast Salish people, including members of the Nanoose and Qualicum First Nations, as residents of the area, and developed industries along the Strait of Georgia. The workers in those industries desired a place to let loose, and the Rod & Gun Hotel provided it. Opened in 1898, the Rod & Gun, which still operates in downtown Parksville, has been around for nearly three decades longer than Vancouver’s oldest existing drinking establishment, the Lamplighter Pub.
Gentrification began in the early 20th century with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Esquimalt and Nanaimo extension. Its inception in 1910 boosted both the population and the wealth of the community. High-end hotels were built, a landmark water tower was erected to help power steam engines, golf courses spilled onto the landscape, and lush, carefully envisioned gardens began to blossom.
Among the dignitaries who arrived for visits to the seaside community were Queen Elizabeth II, King Rama V of Siam, and Hollywood’s elite. Shirley Temple, Errol Flynn, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were some of the stars who spent time in the Qualicum Beach Hotel and Golf Links to stay, explore and play.
Today, you can do the same, while also discovering the richness of this area’s history for yourself. A series of inns, lodges, and cabins are within walking distance to the shorelines of Parksville Qualicum Beach.
The property of Milner Gardens and Woodland, now part of Vancouver Island University, includes a 70-acre garden on the edge of a bluff overlooking the Strait of Georgia. Its beautiful trails and gardens are packed with the colours of cyclamen, trilliums, rhododendrons, and more.
At the Parksville Museum and Archives and the Qualicum Beach Museum you’ll learn details about the challenges and victories of the area’s settlers, who helped to transform a rough stretch of wilderness into a thriving community of 12,000 residents. Among the displays are heritage buildings, a world-renowned paleontology exhibit and video interviews with early pioneers. In addition, you’ll see the train station that ignited the community’s growth and which is now home to a local potter’s guild.
As the years have passed, one thing about Parksville Qualicum Beach remains constant. Its natural beauty and charm continues to attract visitors by the thousand every year. Perhaps 2017 will present you with the opportunity to experience the community’s fascinating past and exciting present.
How to reach Parksville Qualicum Beach
Most travellers from British Columbia’s mainland arrive in Parksville Qualicum Beach via a sailing on a BC Ferries vessel and then a short drive north on Highway 19, aka the Island Highway. Two BC Ferries terminals are in the vicinity of Parksville Qualicum Beach. The Departure Bay Terminal (30 km from Parksville) receives sailings that originate in Horseshoe Bay while the Duke Point Terminal (45 km from Parksville) is the landing point for vessels departing from the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. After disembarking, you can enjoy a leisurely drive to Parksville Qualicum Beach.
From Victoria, it is a straightforward 150-kilometre trek to reach Parksville Qualicum Beach. Travellers simply need to drive north on Highway 1 and connect with Highway 19, following the signs to the destination.