Set along Vancouver Island’s scenic eastern shoreline, Parksville’s laid-back coastal community of 23,500 (including the surrounding area) offers a hospitable haven of peace and tranquility. Road trippers seeking rest and recreation infused with wilderness and wonder will find plenty of both while winding their way through the region.
From Nanaimo, head north on Highway 1, then exit to Highway 19, for your easy 30-minute drive to Parksville. Too early for check-in? No worries. Keep driving along the coast to soak up the views or make your way to The Old Country Market (oldcountrymarket.com) in the community of Coombs. Check out the famed goats on the roof (really!) and eclectic merchandise inside. Bet you can’t leave without making at least one small purchase that you didn’t know you needed. Grab a bite in the restaurant or wander through the entire complex to discover other fun novelties on your shopping excursion.
For accommodations with beach proximity, Parksville offers a range of options. Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort and Conference Centre (tigh-na-mara.com) lives up to its mission of providing a sanctuary of rustic charm enhanced by immersion in nature. Book a newly renovated oceanfront room with private balcony for spellbinding sunrise views and beach combing outside your door. Guests can unwind with a swim in the pool or relax with a soak in the mineral pool, followed by a pampering treatment at the Grotto Spa, voted the “#1 Spa in Canada” by Spas of America.
Enjoy happy hour and dinner at the Cedars Restaurant & Lounge or indulge in an unforgettable “Endless Tapas” menu as you dine in your spa robe and slippers at the Treetop Tapas & Grill, the ultimate in relaxation. To explore options beyond Tigh-Na-Mara, Beach Club Resort offers an alternate casual-dining spot just down the road.
To enhance your restful stay, sign up for a Forest Bathing excursion, courtesy of Pacific Rainforest Adventure Tours Inc. (rainforestnaturehikes.com). Originally started in Japan, the practice focuses on the health benefits of nature while walking through the woods. Awaken your senses as you embrace old-growth groves of Douglas fir, western red cedar and western hemlock towering above the lush understory. Tree hugging is allowed.
Even a light hike can cause you to work up an appetite. Take a lunch break at award-winning Bread and Honey Food Co. or Island Soda Works Bistro in nearby Qualicum Beach
to savor local, sustainable and seasonal fare. Or pop into the intimate taproom at Parksville’s new craft brewery, Mount Arrowsmith Brewing Company, for a sleeve or a tasting flight.
Curious for a peek behind the curtains to see what fuels the local farm-to-table dining scene? At family-owned and operated Morningstar Farm, Little Qualicum Cheeseworks & MooBerry Winery, visitors can get up close and personal with grazing cows, as the animals feed, get milked or even enjoy a cow spa. View cheesemakers at work preparing dairy products daily, and pick up yummy cheese samples, along with pork, bacon and beef, for the road. Cap off your visit with a wine tasting of fruit wines produced by the MooBerry Winery.
What would the Queen do while visiting Parksville? Why, Queen Elizabeth and her entourage would stop by Milner Gardens & Woodland where in fact the royal family once paid a visit. The magical seaside setting of 60 acres of woodland combined with 10 acres of gardens overlooks the Strait of Georgia. Linger here on pathways lined with botanical beauties, then wrap up your visit with a traditional tea service in the heritage home where royals once stayed.
To plan your visit to the Parksville and Qualicum Beach area, visit the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Tourism website at visitparksvillequalicumbeach.com.