Story by Kathleen Kenna
Vacay.ca Senior Writer
PARKSVILLE, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Parksville beaches offer the trifecta of Canadian beauty: Ocean. Old-growth forests. Mountains.
Its Mediterranean climate draws family beachcombers year-round, and even in winter, lures walkers eager to explore an extra kilometre of beach, when low tides roll back to reveal flat sands.
“It’s a little piece of heaven,” said Comox Valley artist Colleen Greenwood, 53. She gathers cousins from British Columbia and Alberta every year for a reunion here every year because “it’s a great place to go exploring. It’s very tranquil, very peaceful.”
They join many beachcombers searching for sea stars and other critters in tidepools, then rest on driftwood strung like a necklace along a 19-kilometre curve of beach communities known as Oceanside.
“I just like walking along the beach,” said Cathy Weston, a 53-year-old truck driver. She marvelled about being on the sand within hours of leaving her home in Fort McMurray, Alberta. “There’s a waterpark, families are building sand castles — you can just walk up and down the boardwalk and see one gorgeous beach after another. Each has its own feel to it.”
Parksville’s beaches are among the most popular in the province because they’re so accessible for people of all ages and abilities. The long boardwalk draws dog walkers, cyclists, elders with walkers, and skateboarders all year.
Marine consultant Jim Armer, 49, said he returned to Parksville after living in Mexico and across BC because “this is the nicest beach. It’s a great place to raise a family. There’s a kite field, a playground, lots of open space — the BC Volleyball Championships are here — and the kids can play on the beach without getting hurt.”
He and wife Sharla, a 37-year-old landscaper, were watching 15-month-old Mia in a stroller, while Tayah, 10, whizzed by on rollerblades.
“There are lots of sand dollars here,” Tayah said. “I like to play here with my friends and explore new adventures. We [collect] lots of beach glass and pretty shells.”
Play on Vancouver Island
Beaches and playgrounds are free and open to the public, from the Parksville Community Beach to nearby Rathtrevor Provincial Park, which has picnic sites amid old-growth Douglas firs, along a 5-kilometre stretch of open sand.
Eat in Parksville
The only eatery on the Parksville beach is Pacific Prime Steak & Chop, an upscale restaurant and patio facing the ocean, at the Beach Club Resort. Recommended: lobster bisque ($7 for a bowl), and fresh halibut and wild salmon (about $28 for entrees).
For homemade burgers, pizza, wraps and more, Lefty’s Fresh Food. Their Nirvana dessert ($6), featuring layered shortbread and chocolate caramel pudding, is rightly named.
Camping is open year-round at Rathtrevor Provincial Park and fees range from $10-$30. Oceanside camp sites are so popular, reservations are required from the last week of June to Labour Day. The park has 174 drive-in sites and 25 walk-in only.
More than 100 lodgings in Oceanside range from grand, old resorts like Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort ($159-$359, high season) to multilingual B&Bs like Cedar Song B&B and Cottage, where staff speak French, Spanish, German and Dutch ($90-$125, hot breakfast included).
Highly recommended: The Beach Club Resort is one of Vancouver Island’s largest resorts, with an indoor pool, hot tub and gym facing the ocean. Rates: $239-$439, high season. Location: 181 Beachside Drive, Parksville, BC. Telephone: 888-760-2008 (toll free) or 250-248-8999.
What else is there to do in British Columbia this summer? Lots! Take a look at these other amazing activities on the west coast!