Head To This Little-Known Area On Canada's Coastline For A Family-Friendly Beach Getaway

Many know Vancouver Island, located off the western coast of Canada, for cities like Victoria and Tofino, the country's unofficial surf capital. However, you can also find the Parksville Qualicum Beach area there. The collection of smaller communities on the eastern coastline makes the destination one of the best islands for a family-friendly summer getaway, thanks to its natural beauty and the range of activities available. To get to this part of Vancouver Island from the mainland, consider traveling via helicopter, with regular service run by Helijet out of Vancouver to Nanaimo; it only takes about 20-30 minutes. You can also take a Hullo ferry, which takes about 70 minutes.


For a unique taste of the Parksville Qualicum Beach area, stop by Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville. The locally-loved, family-run dairy hosts a self-guided tour (via scavenger hunt if you want!) to learn more about the farm. Visitors can also meet the cows that produce the super-creamy, delicious milk, which makes for some particularly tasty cheese. You can enjoy even more barnyard animal close encounters (and yummy food) at the Old Country Market in Coombs, featuring a green roof where goats graze between May and October. Pick up a goat plushie inside, along with other souvenirs, groceries, and fresh deli treats, including local wild smoked salmon. Those with a sweet tooth may opt to head to the artisanal donut shop next door or around the corner to a beloved ice cream shop.


Outdoor activities of all kinds in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area

While the island is worth visiting in the off-season, it shines during the summer thanks to access to a broader range of outdoor activities. If you prefer your animals on the wild side, stop by North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington to see non-releasable, resident eagles, white ravens, owls, and bears and take in interesting facts about the local fauna. Adventure-loving families should take an epic island hike through the woods and down under the ground at Horne Lake Caves. It has a great range of cave tours, depending on the ages of your kids and how tight you want your experience to be as you explore the unique underground geology. To stay above ground, head to the nearby Horne Lake Regional Park for fishing, camping, hiking, and boating.


The driftwood-strewn Parksville Beach experiences a dramatic high and low tide change that allows visitors to walk over half a mile out onto the sand. Depending on the time of day, the sand gets warmed by the sun, leaving it a delightful temperature and lovely for swimming when the water comes back in. You can also kayak and paddleboard; just stay mindful of those tides! Those who don't want to get wet can still enjoy the views over the water with a stroll along the wide, wooden boardwalk. For easy access, book a night at The Beach Club Resort. Located next to the ocean, every room has its own private balcony or patio.

Enjoy the arts and visit a spa

"We have good reason to believe we have more artists and creatives per capita than anywhere else in Canada," Kathy Holmes, President of the Arts Council of Ladysmith & District, told Parksville Qualicum Beach News. This feature makes Vancouver Island an ideal destination for families with artistic leanings. At The Old School House Arts Centre in Qualicum Beach, you can watch artisans at work. You'll also encounter a number of art galleries and boutiques in pretty much all of the small coastal communities in the Parksville area.


If you aim to relax and refresh on your vacation and have kids aged 13 and older, book a visit to the Grotto Spa At Tigh-Na-Marae. It has cedar saunas, warm pools, hot tubs, and a cold plunge waterfall, along with a tapas restaurant. You can soak, then dine, and then soak some more. The resort also features a tennis court, basketball court, and bikes and paddle boards you can rent. The accommodation options range from single rooms to two-bedroom cabins. However, you don't need to stay on-site to access to the spa area.