Some of the Island’s sandiest beaches lay just north of Nanaimo. Take a quick drive over to Parksville beach, home of the annual Sandcastle Competition. Here you will find a long stretch of sandy beach, perfect for a picnic or a dip in the pacific. Also in the Parksville region is Rathtrevor Beach, home of the National Park of the same name. Rathtrevor beach has a beautiful campground and numerous resorts, perfect for a summer getaway or family retreat. The tide at Rathtrevor is one of the best – at low tide; it can retreat to over 1km long. In addition to the pristine beaches, the Parksville area has many great restaurants, trails, golf courses and recreational activities for families. Drive a little further North and you will find the quaint area of Qualicum Beach. The Qualicum beach is one of the most scenic and is a great spot to swim. Stop by the beachside snack bar and grab an ice cream cone or fresh cut fries and spend the day lazing by the waters. Here you will find starfish and sand dollars littering the sand.
If you aren’t up for the beach, Coombs is located in the Parksville/Qualicum area and is a great way to spend your day. Stop by the Coombs Old Country Market, home of the Goats on the Roof – yes Goats on the Roof! You have to see it to believe it. Spend your afternoon shopping in the funky shops, browsing the market for its fine selection of imported foods, sampling the baked goods or testing one of the sixty-nine flavours of ice cream they offer. Coombs is a must-see on Vancouver Island.
A few of our other close favourite spots are listed below:
Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park: Hop on a quick ten minute ferry from downtown Nanaimo’s harbour front and head over to Newcastle Island. Newcastle Island is a beautiful spot to spend your day exploring the island, hiking or biking on the numerous trails. Newcastle also has some of the most beautiful beaches and swimming spots. Rent a kayak directly from the park and coast around the island.
Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park: Pack a picnic and spend your day hiking little Qualicum falls. Hike through the dense, green forests and take in the spectacular views of the waterfall. A great way to spend your day!
Englishman River Falls Provincial Park: Spend a summer day lazing by the river at Englishman. Take a dip in the crystal clear waters or float down the mild rapids. Also enjoy the many trails and picnic areas set up for your convenience and enjoyment.
Mount Washington: One of the best ski hills around, and by far the best on the island! Known for a massive amount of powdery snow each winter, Mount Washington is a great day trip or weekend getaway. Ski, snowboard or go tubing down the mountain while you take in the incredible views. Stop by one of the many lodges or restaurants for a warm meal and a hot chocolate after your day in the snow! Mount Washington is a must-see!
Cowichan River Provincial Park: One of the most fun and exciting things to do on the island is to tube down the Cowichan River. Spend your day lazing on an inner tube and floating down the entire river. It’s a natural ‘lazy river’! Be sure to park one car at the top and one at the bottom!
Explore the Wineries of the Cowichan Valley: Enjoy a day exploring the numerous wineries and vineyards surrounding the Cowichan Valley. Sample the various wines, take in a leisurely lunch and be sure to bring home a few of your favourite wines. One of our favourite places to stop is the Venturi-Schultze Vineyards. In addition to sampling their wines, be sure to pick up a bottle of their Balsamic Vinegar!
Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Provincial Park): Explore the inner workings of a Canadian rainforest. Take in the towering Douglas Firs while you walk through the many marked trails. This is truly a must see for everyone. Moss covered grounds and trees up to 9 metres in circumference are some of the sights you will take in as you explore the over 800 year old trees in this magical ecosystem.
Vancouver Island Top Destinations
Nanaimo is the perfect central location to be in close access to all of the islands top destinations, as well as being in close proximity to the metropolitan City of Vancouver. Take advantage of your position on the island and explore Vancouver Island. Listed below are a few of our favourite Island Destinations.
Only a short drive away from Nanaimo lays BC’s capital city, Victoria. Known as the ‘City of Gardens’, Victoria offers a majestic beauty as well as a modern urban centre boasting a number of great restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues and cultural activities. Considered to have the mildest climate in Canada, Victoria is a great tourist destination all year long.
There is an endless supply of things to do in Victoria. Take in the great shopping, whether its at one of the various malls or just wandering downtown through Chinatown or the various boutiques and markets scattered throughout the city. The Royal BC Museum and the National Geographic IMAX theatre make a great rainy-day activity. Stroll the beautiful harbour front downtown and stop at one of the great restaurants along the way. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy in Victoria; numerous art galleries, museums, restaurants, nightclubs, outdoor activities and shopping centres are all scattered throughout the city.
In addition, Victoria proudly boasts two leading Universities and a number of Colleges. Both the University of Victoria and Royal Roads University are located within Victoria and are renowned for their innovative educational programs.
Victoria is a great day trip or weekend trip for Nanaimo residents and there is an endless supply of entertainment and things to do in Victoria. The drive itself from Nanaimo to Victoria is truly one of the islands best – the views over the Malahat are incredible. Enjoy your central location in Nanaimo to explore the beauty of Vancouver Island.
Mount Washington is Vancouver Island’s top all-season alpine resort. Open all year long, Mount Washington is a Vancouver Island must. Famous for its massive amount of powdery snow each winter, Mount Washington is one of the best ski hills around. December 2010 had Mount Washington boasting the deepest snowpack of any ski resort in the world! Located in the Comox Valley, Mount Washington lays claim to some of the most spectacular ocean to alpine views. Bordered by the Strathacona Provincial Park and the Beaufort Mountains, Mount Washington also takes in the incredible views of the Georgia Straight.
In addition to great snow conditions, Mount Washington also boasts mild temperatures, hovering around 0 degrees in the winter months, with an average winter temperature of -2 degrees Celsius. Skiers and snowboarders delight in the moderate temperatures at Mount Washington and the massive amounts of snow. Mount Washington is also known for its fantastic cross-country skiing, with approximately 55km of groomed cross country trails. Other popular winter activities include snowshoeing and tubing. In fact, many members of the 2010 Winter Olympic teams chose to use Mount Washington as their training grounds to prepare for the world games.
Summer months heat up in the Comox Valley allowing visitors to take advantage of the numerous summer activities provided by the resort. Home to an amazing bike park, Mount Washington becomes a haven for bikers in the summer months. In addition, visitors take advantage of the great hiking trails. Family getaways to the resort can also include fun activities such as mini-golfing and testing out the ‘bungee trampoline’. Festivals and events take place year round at Mount Washington making the resort a popular and attractive destination and numerous accommodation and dining options are available.
Whether you are an island resident, or a visitor, Mount Washington is definitely a top island destination. For more information, please visit the Mount Washington web site.
Pacific Rim – Tofino & Ucluelet
One of the most spectacular spots in Canada, the Pacific Rim area and the towns and beaches of Tofino and Ucluelet are by far a top destination on Vancouver Island. Long stretches of sandy, unspoiled beaches, dense and lush rainforests and incredible hiking creates an outdoor playground. Famous for its world renowned surfing, Outside Magazine voted Tofino the best surf town in North America! Tourists and Vancouver Island residents alike take advantage of the natural playground offered in this area; whale watching, incredible fishing, surfing, hiking and bird watching are only a few of the possibilities in Tofino and Ucluelet.
In addition, great dining and accommodations are scattered throughout the area. Some of the most incredible resorts are located here. Check out the incredible Wickaninnish Inn which was recently voted as the top rated Canadian hotel by readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine and one of the top four resorts in North America for 2010! The Black Rock Resort in Ucluelet is another outstanding luxury resort where visitors can take in the panoramic views of the roaring pacific. For those on a tighter budget, there are also many motels, hotels and of course campgrounds scattered throughout Tofino and Ucluelet.
Whale watching and storm watching are popular activities in the winter months. Also some of the best salt water fishing is found in Tofino and Ucluelet. Whatever your preference is, Tofino and Ucluelet possess incredible natural beauty, pristine beaches and adventurous activities for everyone. It is by far a top destination on Vancouver Island, better yet, Canada.