Off-Season Fun in Parksville and Qualicum Beach

February 24, 2017
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Four ways to live it up with off-season activities in Canada’s picturesque Oceanside region.


In the summer, visitors enjoy relaxing on the beach in Parksville and Qualicum Beach. But even in the off-season, these two refreshingly timeless BC communities on the east coast of Vancouver Island have more to offer than sand castles, golf courses, and B&Bs. Here’s how to make the most of a weekend getaway.

1. Wet and Wild Caving

Want to indulge your inner Indiana Jones? Head to the Horne Lake Caves and take the thrilling, three-hour “Wet and Wild Adventure.” At this time of year, a creek flows through these limestone caverns laden with crystals. You’ll climb an underground waterfall, squeeze through tight spaces, and slide down ramps and ladders. Temperature inside the caves is 8 degrees Celsius. Rubber boots and rain gear are highly recommended. It’s pure adrenaline.

The Horne Lake Caves burgeon with wild limestone formations. Photo: Boomer Jerritt/Tourism Vancouver Island
The Horne Lake Caves burgeon with wild limestone formations. Photo: Boomer Jerritt/Tourism Vancouver Island

2. Fine Food and Wine

A paradise for gourmets, the Parksville Uncorked festival runs Feb. 23-26, 2017. It’s the ninth annual edition, co-hosted by the Beach Club Resort and Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort. At the Tigh-Na-Mara Winemakers’ dinner, savor smoked lamb chops paired with a 2012 Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir. Or quaff local beers like Driftwood Pale Ale paired with regional cuisine at the Parksville Untapped event.

Local chefs team up with BC winemakers and brewers at Parksville Uncorked. Photo: Parksville Uncorked

If you’re into sustainable gastronomic experiences, head to the recently re-branded Realm Food Co. (formerly Radius Food Co.) in Parksville and guzzle such healthy and tasty offerings as The Qualicum Bowl (braised pork belly, marinated kale, spiced slaw, steamed rice, cucumber, sprouts, carrot, cabbage, salsa verdé, turmeric aioli).

At Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and the adjoining MooBerry Winery, you can tantalize your taste buds with artisan cheeses like Island Bries or Monterey Jill, or sip delicious fruit wines.

3. Wonderful Wildlife

The 2017 Brant Wildlife Festival (March 13-April 15) is an exciting celebration of wildlife on Vancouver Island and ongoing conservation efforts.

Here’s how the Vancouver Sun described the festival: “Party at the opening-night gala, enjoy bird-watching with Pacific Rainforest Adventure Tours, attend concerts ranging from indie-folk to chamber singers, and visit the recently built VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station to learn about the surreal sight of birds feeding on herring spawn in aquamarine waters.”

At the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, forage for shellfish or view a gray whale skeleton. Photo: VIU
At the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, forage for shellfish or view a gray whale skeleton. Photo: VIU

The Field Station, an ultra-modern, environmentally friendly building with a curved, clam-shaped roof, is the main venue.

4. Quirky Shopping

Head to Qualicum Beach to shop for some quirky, one-of-a-kind finds. Bibliophiles flock to The Bookcase, with teddy bears nestled on the shelves next to a huge selection of used books. You can get everything from native jewelry to handmade pottery at cozy Smithfords. And the 4,000-square-foot Yesterday’s Child Antiques brims with vintage tea sets, carriage clocks, and silver spoons. Most shops are within easy walking distance downtown.

The Old Country Market sells everything from Mexican avocado oil to toy pianos. Photo: Lucas Aykroyd
The Old Country Market sells everything from Mexican avocado oil to toy pianos. Photo: Lucas Aykroyd

Info: Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism, Tourism Vancouver Island, or Destination BC.