OUT AND ABOUT ON VANCOUVER ISLAND
Our whirlwind getaway starts with a BC Ferry ‘cruise’ across scenic Georgia Strait. Disembarking at Nanaimo’s Duke Point terminal, we settle 37-kilometers north in Parksville, our favourite Vancouver Island destination.
Overlooking beautiful Craig Bay, Sunrise Ridge Resort becomes the perfect base for reconnoitering area attractions. Set amid soaring evergreens, our spacious condo’s well-equipped kitchen sparks self-catering excitement! And following a trail to the beach below, we happily familiarize ourselves further.
Next morning’s daytrip begins ten-kilometers west in Coombs’ eclectic shops. Old Country Market dominates this funky village. Nicknamed ‘Goats on the Roof,’ sweet nannies and frisky kids graze its sod rooftop. Inside, shelves brim with imported specialties. We gather artisan breads, local cheeses and nutritious deli-salads…and produce at an outside stand.
In the central courtyard’s outdoor ‘gallery,’ sculptured marble gods, exotic animals and comical dogs driving cars inspire and amuse. And steps away, family-owned Cuckoo's Trattoria and Pizzeria prompts an unhurried lunch. Sipping herbed Italian lemonades in patio shade, we select scrumptious, thin-crust pizzas from the menu’s enticing traditional dishes.
Nearby, Butterfly World introduces us to Asian and South American winged beauties. Flying freely, they sometimes land on sliced fruit…sometimes on us! Flowering shrubs attract flamboyant blue morphos; swallowtails hover and flutter. Suspended in the Emerging Area, cocooned pupae await their delicate adult wings. Here, an attendant shows us tiny, about-to-hatch butterfly eggs on a leaf’s underside. Sharing this marvelous tropical atmosphere, a red-bearded dragon, albino gecko and rare African spurred tortoise reside in luxury terrariums.
Up the highway, MacMillan Provincial Park furnishes a diverse forest ecosystem. On both sides of the highway, boardwalks encircle Cathedral Grove’s 800-year-old Douglas firs. Illustrated placards detail unique aspects of these endangered giants.
Stopping at Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, an easy path along moss-covered bluffs loops us around its canyon to splendid waterfalls. Wooden bridges span Qualicum River and permit thrilling close-ups of tiered Upper Falls crashing into the canyon. Trailside viewpoints feature Lower Falls’ gentler cascading vistas.
Back at the condo, palate-pleasing sundeck meals enhance daily fun-factors. Simple ‘cooking’ seems effortless, even festive. Comfort-food dinners like fresh asparagus and poached eggs on toast help us unwind; granola, banana and yogurt parfaits launch action-packed days.
Leaving the condo another morning, we pedal our bikes into Rathtrevor Beach Park. Weaving past families staking out spots on its renowned two-kilometer beach, we roll smoothly through forested campgrounds and out into an adjacent neighbourhood. Gradually, the quiet roadway curves inland. Braking near Englishman River’s lush delta to admire dramatic Mount Arrowsmith beyond, we return to the resort. Leisurely spa soaks reward our endeavor.
That afternoon, Milner Gardens and Woodland in Qualicum Beach proves another highlight. Winding forested pathways bring us to fences defending treasured plants against marauding deer. Inside the high, latched gate, a student art collection catches our eye. Among striking metal sculptures exhibited on the Artist Trail, dangling abstract bluebirds, a big-eyed owl, koala bear and silver cello stand out.
Another path takes us among enormous heritage rhodos, gloriously red, pink and lavender. From atop an ocean-side bluff looking over Georgia Strait, we survey the stunning Coastal Mountains. An illustrated panel and powerful telescope help us identify snowcapped peaks as far away as Vancouver’s stately Lions.
Across grand lawns, a storyboard at Milner House unveils unexpected history. Often planting specimens found during extensive business travels, the Milners developed this idyllic 10-acre English garden into their retreat. It also served as a haven for royalty when hosting cousin Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince Charles in 1986. And again in 1987 when Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip stayed. Today, the elegant Camellia Tea Room serves afternoon tea to the public. And these outstanding gardens host numerous special events each year.
Returning to Parksville, we check out the Community Park. At the concrete skateboard playground, wheeled tricksters perform entertaining stunts. Monstrous black octopus kites drift and dive above. While beachcombers investigate tide-pools on expansive sands, we meander the oceanfront promenade. At the boardwalk’s end, a shaded pavilion provides a pleasant breather before heading back.
Morningstar Farm wraps up our explorations. Home to Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and MooBerry Winery, this 90-acre working dairy offers lots to do! Airy barns shelter bunnies, goats, piglets and weeks-old calves. The ‘Moo-seum’ displays family history and early machinery. And folks buy fresh milk ‘on tap’ at Canada’s first dispenser. Meanwhile, we sample mouthwatering cheeses and award-winning wines over in Farmgate Store.
Homeward bound with Island goodies, we carry lasting memories of three fun-filled days around Parksville.
IF YOU GO:
• BC Ferries: www.bcferries.com
• Sunrise Ridge Resort www.reservations.com/SunriseRidge
• Cuckoo’s Trattoria and Pizzeria firstname.lastname@example.org
PHOTOS by Chris Millikan:
1) Craig Bay beachscapes lie below Sunrise Ridge Resort.
2) Sculptures at Coombs, a funky roadside village lying 10 km from Parksville
3) Herbed Italian Lemonade toast in patio shade at family owned Cuckoo's Trattoria and Pizzeria in Coombs
4) a+b At Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park find Lower and Upper Falls
5) Mt Arrowsmith lies beyond the lush Englishman River delta.
6) Hot Tub soaks reward activity and bike ride.
7) Milner House still stands at Milner Gardens and Woodland in Qualicum Beach, open to the public seasonally.
8) Parksville Community Park promenade provides a leisurely kilometer long oceanside stroll.Travel Writers' Tales is an independent travel article syndicate that offers professionally written travel articles to newspaper editors and publishers. To check out more, visit www.TravelWritersTales.com
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