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B.C.'s BOUNTEOUS BACKYARDS Slideshow [Slide Show Photos ©Margaret Deefholts]

Margaret Deefholts
(For Travel Writers' Tales)

"You'll find your happiness lies, right under your eyes…back in your own backyard," warbled Sammy Davis Jr. How true! We travel abroad in search of new and exciting adventures, often forgetting that tucked into our own British Columbian "backyards" are gorgeous wilderness trails, cruises along the spectacular west coast waters, restaurants offering distinctive West Coast cuisine paired with local wines, and markets with uniquely crafted treasures.

Here are some suggestions:

[1. Riding the Ferry]

Day One and Two: Catch the Tswwassen ferry to Swartz Bay and spend a day and night in our charming capital, Victoria. Stroll the sun-splashed waterfront, splurge on a box of chocolates at Rodgers, chow down a meal in Chinatown, or take a cruise around the harbour. Drop by the Royal B.C. Museum to explore their special exhibitions, and take an evening tour of the Butchart Gardens-at dusk the grounds are a fairyland of miniature lights.

Day Three: Drive up the Malahat on Highway 1. Visit the First Nations' Quw'utsun Cultural Centre in Duncan and listen to Cowichan Band elders spinning intriguing legends and folklore during an hour long tour. You also won't want to miss the B.C. Forest Museum-kids and adults alike get a kick out of riding the train as it travels along a narrow gauge line through wooded glades bordering Somenos Lake. Peek into vintage logging bunkhouses and dip into this Province's yesterdays as displayed in archival photographs.

[2. Chemainus Mural]

Enjoy Chemainus' vast outdoor art gallery - the town's heritage is proudly emblazed on the walls of its streets and commercial buildings. Take in a performance at the elegant Chemainus Theatre before turning in for the night.

Day Four: Stroll Nanaimo's Waterfront walkway and pop into the newly renovated Museum where the first Nanaimo Bathtub Race bathtub is on proud display. Fitzwilliam Street is picture-postcard pretty: cobbled streets flanked by art stores, curios, crafts, books, and boutiques. Don't leave town without munching on a Nanaimo Bar.

At Parksville/Qualicum treat yourself to a spa experience at The Grotto (Tigh Na Mara Resort). Luxuriate in a sensuous massage with scented oils, thermal wraps and soothing rubs. Afterwards, indulge in an epicurean meal (while wearing a cozy bathrobe!) at their Treetops Tapas Restaurant. Pricy, but worth it

Day Five: Drive to Coombs and check out whether the goats at the Old Country Market are still chomping the turf on the roof. Allow yourself to be diverted by funky knick- knacks on display at the adjoining arts and craft shops.

[3. Wendy Huntbatch of World Parrot Refuge]

For an "aah" moment drop by the World Parrot Refuge in Coombs. Even if you don't know a parrot from a pigeon, this is a melt-your-heart experience. The inmates' offer a raucous welcome - they are curious and adore visitors; Wendy Huntbatch who owns this "orphanage" for 800 sick or abandoned birds, will be happy to show you around.

Call it a day in Comox - a small town with quiet charm. Be sure to explore The Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park with its rustic lodge, nine acres of flowering shrubs and west coast cedars. Their resident deer love posing for pictures.

[4.Incomparable BC Westcoast scenery]

Day Six: The scenery that unfolds along the forty-minute cruise to Earl's Cove is sheer West Coast panorama: a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, with inlets threading between islands that lie fold upon fold, dark green in the foreground and purple or pale blue silhouettes in the distance. The route winds past fish farms and the occasional rustic cabin half hidden in stands of evergreens.

The Sunshine Coast is an enchantment of dappled forest glades, hiking trails, hidden coves and small communities that fringe the coastline. It is also home to an extraordinary range of handicrafts ranging from blown glass, crystal ornaments, wood carvings, enamel ware, pottery, oil and water colour paintings, woven rugs and shawls…and much more!

[6. Yvonne Stowell Fibre Works]

Just follow the Purple Banner signs that indicate that an artist's studio is open to visitors stopping at Fibreworks Studio & Gallery (housed in a yurt!) near Madeira Park and Blue Dot Art Studio (south of Sechelt).

[7. The view from bedroom window at the Painted Boat Resort Spa and Marina.]

Every holiday deserves at least one night in surroundings that take you out of the ordinary and into the exceptional. If you indulge in only one such pocket-book splurge, let it be The Painted Boat Resort and Spa in Madeira Park. Set amidst five acres of wooded glades, the airy and spacious two bedroom suites (with a loft) are a knock-out! Each room boasts tasteful furnishings, impeccable décor and state-of-the art kitchen appliances-every little detail that has been chosen to please the eye and delight the heart. What could be better than lolling on the deck with happy hour drinks, while looking out on idyllic views across the waterfront, and listening to the long, plaintive cry of a loon wafting on the evening air.

Day Seven: Gibsons Landing catapulted into fame with the TV Series The Beachcomers, and Molly's Reach restaurant is still an iconic landmark in Lower Gibsons. Several boutiques and art galleries line Marine Drive (Lower Gibsons) including the curiously named Waltzing Whippet, as well as elegant galleries such as the Spirit of Place and Gift of the Eagle. The town has a cornucopia of trendy little restaurants, among them Smitty's Oyster House where on a summer evening, residents and visitors alike vie to sit elbow-to-elbow at their 27-ft spruce dockside table, while tucking into fresh oysters, mussels, clams and prawns.

[8. Cindy Buis of Artworks Tours]

Cindy Buis of Artworks Tours has a fund of lively anecdotal tales about the famous - and infamous - characters who once lived here. We then drive out to several art galleries and studios, notably Cutting Edge Stained Glass (Roberts Creek) with a fine selection of artwork, and Jack Ploesser's Fire & Ash Studio with its distinctive display of stoneware and porcelain.

[5. Cutting Edge Stained Glass - Klimpt Painting]

Day Eight: The final leg on the tour takes you back to the mainland. Catch an evening ferry and watch the lights of West Vancouver spangle the dusk as you pull into Horseshoe Bay.


See B.C. Ferries for schedules and prices:
Royal B.C. Museum:
First Nations' Quw'utsun Cultural Centre:
B.C. Forest Discovery Centre:
Parrot Refuge:
Tigh Na Mara Grotto and Spa:
The Painted Boat Resort and Spa:
Sunshine Coast Information:

Photos by Margaret Deefholts

1. Riding the Ferry.
2. Chemainus Mural
3. Wendy Huntbatch, owner of World Parrot Refuge in Coombs with one of her lodgers
4. Incomparable B.C. West Coast scenery
5. Cutting Edge Stained Glass studio version of Klimpt painting
6. Yvonne Stowell, owner of Fibre Works Studio & Art Gallery, Madeira Park, Sunshine Coast
7. The view from bedroom window at the Painted Boat Resort Spa and Marina.
8. Cindy Buis of Art Works Tours and Framing

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