From Stanley Park we drove directly to the Horseshoe Bay where we took a ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. It was 1.5 hour ride on a ferry crossing gorgeous Georgia Strait that separates Vancouver Island and the mainland coast of British Columbia, Canada.
As we arrived to the island, we drove to Parksville where we checked in Quality Resort Bayside. It is modest but nice hotel with many rooms facing the Georgia Strait. The region of Qualicum Beach & Parksville are called “Canada’s Riviera” because of its beauty, mild climate and great beaches. In summer water temperature in Qualicum Bay can reach 20 degree Celsius! It is close enough to the wilderness and yet quite civilized. We could see flying bold eagles right from our hotel’s balcony and they have bear-safe trash cans around the town. And yet there are multiple fancy resorts, golf courses and upscale real estate. It is very popular with Canada’s retirees.
View from our balcony during low tides:
Views from our balcony during high tides:
We decided to go to a restaurant just for oysters and then have cheese and wine in our hotel room. We went to Kalvas Log House Restaurant and ordered 3 oyster appetizers – Cajun style, Pan Fried and Angels on Horseback (oysters wrapped in bacon) – all very good. Then we walked on a boardwalk along the Parksville beach. A lot of very friendly people with all kind of dogs.
In a morning we started driving to the ocean side of Vancouver Island – Ulcuelet and Tofino via Port Alberni. We were planning to visit couple interesting places on our way. Fist one was North Island Wildlife Recovery Center in Errington. We visit it occasionally when we are taking this route. The center is a rehabilitation facility specializing in raptors and black bear. After treating injured animals or neglected baby animals they release them back to the wilderness whenever it is possible meaning when the animal or the bird can survive on its own. Some animal or bird injuries are too severe for full recovery so they are permanently kept in Recovery Center. This way they created small zoo that consists mostly of various birds of prey and one adult black bear named Knut. The most interesting birds are raven. There is two of them in a center. Ravens are very intelligent birds and need something to do not to be bored. They have all kind of development toys for young children in their cages that they love to use. They also love to interact with staff and like visitors attention.
One important thing the center has is eagle flying cage. This is large and tall barn where young or injured eagles are learning how to fly. They also have pretty serious medical facility where they treat injured animals and birds. Majority of employees in the center are volunteers who are working there purely because of their love for animals.
Our next stop was Englishman River Falls. We missed them during our last year visit and forgot how beautiful they are. There is short close loop trail that starts at the parking lot, takes you to the bridge over the upper falls and then along the river to the bridge over the lower falls and back to the parking lot. The waterfall was absolutely gorgeous and very powerful, probably the fullest we have ever seen it.
Our next stop was Coombs where they have large European style gourmet grocery store and many other small stores with gifts and art. Coombs is famous for their goats on a roof but this day they were still on a pasture. However, next to Coombs we saw a couple of VERY cure alpacas. They were recently sheared and looked pretty skinny.
Next we visited Cathedral Grove (McMillan Park). This is relatively large grove that has very old Douglas-fir trees. Then you look at these unbelievably huge trees, it is hard to imagine that they are just older versions of our regular Christmas trees! The largest Douglas-fir three is76m high, 9-feet diameter and 9m in circumference! Unfortunately, due to the size of the trees and the density of the growth it is difficult to show their grandness on the photographs but I will try anyway.
In general the whole route from Parksville to Ucluelet and Tofino is very beautiful. The road is pretty winding and challenging in some places but dense forest, snow covered peaks, lakes and fast flowing creeks and rivers make up for the inconvenience. The driving distance is around 100 miles but because of the challenging roads it takes more than 3 hours to get from Parksville to the west coast of the island.