Mara Gulens
September 25

Parksville, B.C.: Home to Canada's Best Beach

Before slipping into bed on our second night at Parksville, my 10 year-old daughter made a vow (threat): I’ll be coming into your room every hour to check the clock so I don’t miss the low tide sunrise, she said.

That got me pumped, too. The beach along the peaceful, inner side of Vancouver Island stretches out for almost a kilometre when the waters recede. We’d witnessed the beautiful sunset glow the evening before, the high-tide water teeming with translucent, non-stinging jellyfish. Now, 4:45 in the morning, I was up, urging everyone out of their pyjamas to catch the other end of the solar cycle.

Past the sleepy cabins of Beach Acres Resort, the docile rabbits (hopefully nothing to do with U Vic’s feral rabbit population) and early morning deer, we were down on the beach. Two of my daughters settled in to catch the sunrise in sketches. The rest of us headed across the ever-expanding sandy shoreline towards the place where the sun would rise, just a half-hour before the tide would be at it’s lowest.

Suffice to say, from this moment on, knowledge of tidal charts was integral to our trip. Here at Rathtrevor Provincial Park, low tide meant a desert-like expanse great for long walks, digging in the sand, and collecting sand dollars. High tide was good for swims in water heated by the sand, warmed by the sun.

Ultimately, it had happened again. We came to a part of Vancouver Island for various reasons, and ended up loving it, just like that, for its natural wonders.

Inland fun

On day two, to get some reprieve from the sun, and witness other wonders of the area, we drove about 20 minutes inland towards Tofino and the forest of Cathedral Grove. This is where 800 year-old Douglas firs tower over you, lie lengthwise in the forest, and, stand sliced apart by lightning, letting you step inside. Great signage provides background information on the vegetation, fauna and what’s happening with the trees, all best witnessed early in the day, before the tourists converge.

Soon after we were clambering among the cliffs and rocks of Little Qualicum Falls. While some (myself included) will be either put off or intimidated by the signs and frigid waters, my daughters considered the dips and jumps in the unbelievably crystal-clear pools an absolute highlight.

As goats had been a theme since our first visit to Victoria’s Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, a stop at Coombs Country Market for “the goats on the roof” was a must. In addition to mouth-watering mile-high ice cream cones, and an incredible variety of local BC blueberries, cherries and peaches.

Super-natural fun

Our final day was reserved for wonders of the super-natural kind. Parksville’s annual Sand Sculpting Competition, rapidly growing in popularity, had us yearning to be back on the beach working on our own creations. That is, until we discovered that real sand sculpting requires tons of special, fine sand of the non-beach kind.

En route back to Victoria (sans beach stops), we stopped in Nanaimo for some above-ground adventure at WildPlay, where a just-married couple was getting strapped together for their first marital bungee jump (a serious tying of the knot!). We opted for Monkido so we could zip, climb and swing 60-feet up in the Douglas firs. The kids’ version, much to my sunrise-seeking daughter’s dismay, was a lower-to-the-ground alternative.

Driving down the Malahat we passed by the observation point that gives a great view of Finlayson Arm. If you didn’t catch it on your way up to Parksville, make sure you find a turnaround point and do it on your way down, before you’re back at sea level.

[Originally published on]

Parksville, B.C.: Home to Canada's Best Beach

Before slipping into bed on our second night at Parksv...

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