A vacation shouldn’t require work. Sometimes it seems like it takes longer to plan a holiday than the time actually spent away. It’s no wonder many of us choose instead to staycation. Sticking close to home makes sense for travellers who don’t want the hassle involved with venturing far afield.
For those living in Vancouver or Victoria, Parksville Qualicum Beach is a place to escape normal routines without worrying about a complicated journey to get there. Unlike long-haul flights, there’s no need to figure out transfers or concern yourself with checked-baggage fees or how you will find comfort while crammed into a tight row of seats.
Once you’re in this coastal destination, it’s a complete change of scenery from life in the city. The area is surrounded by tranquil waters and wilderness parks and restaurants and attractions that you can’t find in Vancouver.
So, instead of spending thousands on a flight that takes you far away, why not plan a relaxing staycation in the seaside towns of Parksville Qualicum Beach and unwind for a few days?
Located on the sheltered east coast of Vancouver Island, just 30 minutes by car north of Nanaimo, Parksville is a getaway that offers an abundance of natural beauty, small-town charm and hospitality.
Here are seven reasons to entice those looking for some peace and quiet without breaking the bank or enduring a long plane ride.
Of course you’re going to expect water. This is Vancouver Island, after all, but what makes Parksville Beach different is its protected sandy shoreline. In the summer, Parksville Beach is dotted with swimmers in the sun-warmed salt water, basking in the sand, picnicking on the shore and walking barefoot along the remarkable wide tidal sand flats.
At low tide Parksville Beach stretches out a kilometre into the Strait of Georgia. Outside of summer, the water is a bit too chilly for swimming but there are year-round activities that visitors can still enjoy. A stroll along the waterfront boardwalk never goes out of style or season.
Then, when the water warms up, Parksville Beach is one of Canada’s top holiday destinations. Its terrific playground facilities, including water cannons and slides, are perfect for kids and anyone who feels like a kid when they’re on sand.
The Beach Club Resort
Sometimes a resort is so welcoming there’s no need to venture elsewhere. Staying at The Beach Club Resort is worth the trip to Parksville alone. With direct access to Parksville Beach, stunning views of the ocean, modern self-contained studios and suites, private balconies, indoor pool, hot tub, and an on-site spa and restaurant, the Beach Club Resort is the ideal place for families and couples to get away.
The staff members are friendly, accommodating and knowledgeable, always willing to give tips on places to go. The wide range of amenities at the resort include the Pacific Prime Lounge and Restaurant. Executive chef Rick Davidson, who was born and raised in the region, adds a luxurious twist to standard menu items. For example, you will enjoy poached eggs with seared foie gras on the Sunday brunch menu. Diners are treated to stunning views with beachside seats at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and if you really want to put the “stay” in staycation, there’s even room service so you never have to get out of your robe!
If you do feel like venturing off the grounds, the hotel is a short walk to the centre of town. Or you may choose to hop on a bike to get to nearby attractions like the beach or golf courses.
Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-Mara Resort
Looking for a place to really enjoy some downtime and relaxation? In Parksville, there’s nothing quite like a day of pampering at the Tigh-Na-Mara Resort’s Grotto Spa. It was named by Spas of America Online as one of Canada’s top spas and it’s easy to see why. The Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-Mara offers a wonderful and calming experience through a variety of signature treatments and services.
Guests can take a soothing dip in the spa’s detoxifying mineral pool. Designed to emulate a natural stone grotto, the 2,500-square-foot pool is infused with natural minerals and trace elements to detoxify the body and rejuvenate the spirit.
The spa also offers an array of treatments: body wraps, massages, manicures, pedicures and facials many with a focus on natural west-coast ingredients. There’s also a Relaxation Lounge where visitors can enjoy complimentary fresh fruit along with a selection of teas and coffee, and a splendid restaurant that serves spa cuisine. Treetop Tapas & Grill welcomes spa-goers to dine in their robe and slippers before or after their treatment, or dip in the pool.
If that’s not relaxing enough, book an overnight stay at one of the log cabins. There are one- and two-bedroom cottages available, as well as studio units. All of them have wood-burning fireplaces. Plus, dogs are welcome — so everyone in the family can enjoy a staycation.
Island SodaWorks Brewtopia
Sure, every place these days has at least one hipster microbrewery. But how many have a soda distillery? Island SodaWorks Bistro is a tiny establishment focusing on seasonal and organic ingredients. Having moved from its original location on the owners’ farm to Qualicum Beach’s old firehall, Island SodaWorks is seeing a pop in demand for its product. Using natural fermentation to create its trademark bubbles, Island SodaWorks’ bottled beverages are sweet but not sugary sweet. Their sodas even contain living probiotics. The different tastes originate from whatever is in season, a careful blend of fresh and exotic botanical flavours that varies from wild Salal and Ginger, Nootak Rose, Bloomint (blueberries, shisandra berries and mint) and Skookum Tonic.
Island SodaWork’s healthy tonic “helps to boost immunity,” says owner Mandolyn Jonasson, and is an alternative thirst-quencher for kids with diabetes and people following sugar-free diets.
Island SodaWorks also sells whole foods sourced from local farms and food producers. The menu is small, offering items such as handmade, GMO-free corn tortillas topped with farmer’s market greens, local pastured chicken and fresh salsa, and organic Korean pulled pork pho.
Morningstar Farm, located between Parksville and Qualicum Beach, is home to two of the island’s most famous specialties, Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and MooBerry Winery. You’ll find a fantastic range of handcrafted cheeses (made on-site with milk produced from the farm’s own dairy cows) and a variety of delicious award-winning fruit wines. MooBerry’s fruit wines are a favourite take-away from the island, because they’re not available on the British Columbia mainland. Some of the known favourites include blackberry, blueberry and sparkling rhubarb.
The Old Country Market – Coombs
Coombs is another destination that is a short drive from Parksville. Its Old Country Market draws more than one million visitors every year. This accidental tourist attraction originated 40 years ago when Norwegian immigrants brought a remnant of the old country in sod roofs to their adopted home. As the grass grew higher than expected, goats came to the rescue to serve as lawnmowers on rooftops that are eight feet above ground.
Each spring, as they have for decades, a herd of goats takes up occupancy on the “green roof.” They munch away in order to keep the grass manageable while entertaining both locals and visitors from all over the world.
Aside from featuring this remarkable habitat built especially for its goats, the Coombs market is chock-a-block with gourmet goodies, making it the perfect spot to pick up grocery supplies and treats.
From October to May, the coastline of Parksville Qualicum Beach is quiet enough for fairies to appear. All along the beaches, visitors venturing out can often find a tidal treasure of brightly coloured glass that has been left there by Float Fairies. Fishermen once used glass floats to keep their nets afloat and when those shiny glass broke loose and washed up on shore, they were eagerly collected by beachcombers. Local glass artist Robert Held first came up with the idea of hiding glass floats on the beaches in Parksville Qualicum Beach as a treasure waiting to be discovered by a new generation of beachcombers. Other glass artists from Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands joined in and the Tidal Treasures program was born. The fairies only appear in the off-season to generate excitement during winter and the non-profit group runs with volunteers and donations. Glass floats are hidden above the high tide line on the beach. Visitors who find one of the tidal treasures get to keep it and other specially marked ones can be redeemed at the Parksville Visitor’s Centre or the Lighthouse Gift Shop in the village of Bowser to collect a prize.
BC Ferries has two terminals — Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen — that offer service to Vancouver Island.
Sailing time from West Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) to Nanaimo (Departure Bay): 1 hour, 35 minutes. Sailing time from Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to Nanaimo (Duke Point): 2 hours.
Driving time from Nanaimo to Parksville: 30 minutes. Driving time from Victoria: 2 hours.