BEACHES, TREES AND GOATS
Self Guided tour of Nanaimo, Parksville, Qualicum, Cathedral Grove and Coombs!
This self-guided day trip leads you through Nanaimo, Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Cathedral Grove, Coombs and back and showcases the natural splendor of our region.
Departure Bay Beach, Nanaimo
Nanaimo’s most popular oceanside beach and former Snuneymuxw winter village. A beautiful welcome portal graces the shoreline and welcomes visitors to the area.
Turn left out of our driveway. Turn left at the traffic lights and proceed up Brechin Rd. Turn right at the first lights. Turn right at the stop sign. Proceed down Departure Bay Rd.
Pipers Lagoon Park, Nanaimo
This park has it all and is one of our favourites on Vancouver Island. Beach, rock walls, Garry Oak forest, nesting Bald Eagles, lagoon, forest walk and picnic area. Shack Island, home to fisherman’s cabins since the ‘30’s, is at the north end.
Continue towards the 7-11 store and turn right at the traffic lights onto Hammond Bay Rd. Turn right onto Lagoon Rd and right on Pipers Rd. Gate closes at 11 pm.
Neck Point Park, Nanaimo
Perhaps one of the nicest Nanaimo parks with it’s natural beauty and breath taking views. Over 30 acres of prime waterfront property which has been refurbished from it’s former residential development. Just past Piper’s Lagoon Park, on Morningside Road.
Large network of trails throughout the park take you beautiful vistas and rugged shoreline. Photographers are never disappointed with ever changing subjects and views.
Finn Beach is one of Nanaimo’s most popular and accessible shore scuba dives. Parking lot and porta-pottie nearby.
From Pipers Lagoon Park, make your way back to Hammond Bay Road and turn right. Continue on a short ways and turn right onto Morningside Drive. Continue past Hammond Bay Elementary School to park entrance. You will find ample parking, well marked trails, picnic areas and countless waterfront lookout points.
Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, Parksville
British Columbia’s most popular provincial park. The tide goes out for about a mile and Craig Bay is open for exploring. Tide pools galore.
Turn right on Hammond Bay Road and drive to Highway 19A. Turn right and drive north, merging onto Highway 19. Exit Highway 19 back onto Highway 19A at Parksville and follow the signs onto Resort Way and into the park.
Quaint village near the seashore. Shady Mile restaurant and pub is located on the oceanside and makes a great lunch stop. Or try the ice cream shop with it's myriad of soft serve flavours!
Turn right onto Highway 19A and drive through Parksville. At Qualicum keep to the right, on the same road and carry along to the beach.
One of the most accessible stands of giant Douglas-fir trees in BC. Short, accessible stroll on the trails meandering through the towering ancient Douglas-firs; some of which are more than 800 years old. The largest tree in Cathedral Grove is Douglas-fir measuring 76m high, 9-feet diameter and 9m in circumference!
From the beach in Qualicum, turn left. Turn right on Memorial Avenue (becomes Highway 4) and drive through the village. Continue on Highway 4 passing Cameron Lake on your right. Cathedral Grove is at the west end of the lake. Please exercise caution at the parking lot as there is a lot of traffic.
The Coombs Country Market, an excellent shop, boasts a great selection of imported items, deli and food and also has a few goats mowing the roof.
Turn east from the Cathedral Park lot (back the way you came). Turn right onto Highway 4A and proceed until Coombs
Come on home to The Buccaneer Inn
Continue east along Highway 4A. Merge onto Highway 19. Exit for Nanaimo and Departure Bay Ferry Terminal. Crossover the highway and drive south through Nanaimo. Turn left onto Brechin Road (just past Brooks Landing and just before Midas Muffler). Turn right at the light at the bottom of the hill. Your room is 3 blocks away on the right hand side.
Time to relax and enjoy the restaurants of Nanaimo! Our list of Top Ten Nanaimo Restaurants is available at the Front Desk.
Stay another day at The Buccaneer Inn
Still lots more to see! Use Nanaimo as the base for all your Vancouver Island holiday to places like Victoria, Cowichan Bay, Cobble Hill, Pacific Rim Marine Circle Route, Tofino, Ucluelet, Courtenay and Campbell River! Ask us for more information.
Day trip to Cathedral Grove, Pacific Rim National Park, Tofino and Ucluelet
Nanaimo’s central location on Vancouver Island allows you to visit all of Vancouver Island’s most popular attractions without having to move each day.
Long Beach, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Tofino and Ucluelet are located approximately 3 hours drive from Nanaimo on Highway 4. Along the way you can stop at Cathedral Grove and Wally Creek. This beautiful, scenic drive showcases nature’s best on Vancouver Island. This short guide will highlight points of interest and scenic vistas for you to enjoy.
Begin your trip early in the morning. Zero your trip odometer as you leave our parking lot. Turn left out of The Buccaneer and head north towards Departure Bay Ferry. Turn left at the traffic light and continue up Brechin hill. At the second set of traffic lights turn right onto Highway 19A. Continue through Nanaimo until Highway 19A meets up with Highway 19. About 20 minutes after departing The Buccaneer, take the exit for Highway 4 going towards Port Alberni, Tofino, Ucluelet and Pacific Rim National Park.
Cathedral Grove, located in MacMillan Provincial Park, is one of the most accessible stands of giant Douglas fir trees on Vancouver Island. Here you can stroll through a network of trails under the shadow of towering ancient Douglas-fir trees, some more than 800 years old.
Trails on either side of the highway lead you through the mighty stands of this coastal forest. On the south side you will find the largest Douglas firs - one measuring more than 9 meters in circumference. On the northern side of the road you’ll find groves of ancient Western red cedar.
The park has been restoring some of its trails after a severe windstorm on New Years day in 1997. The storm toppled hundreds of huge trees and obliterated sections of the trail system. These fallen trees open the canopy to provide light, space, shelter and nutrients for the next generations of plants.
Cathedral Grove was a well-known tourist stop on the Alberni Road in the 1920s and 1930s when the timber was owned by the Victoria Lumbering and Manufacturing Company. In 1944 H.R. MacMillan, a well-known forester donated the 136 hectares of land for the perpetual enjoyment of the public in recognition of the unique stand of trees. Three years later, the area was established as a Class A provincial park.
Lunch in Port Alberni
Port Alberni offers the Alberni Valley Heritage Network; a fantastic collection of a steam railway with a real steam engine; McLean steam powered sawmill; Maritime Museum and the Alberni Valley Museum. An interesting look at the historic life in and around Port Alberni.
Bare Bones Restaurant is, perhaps, one of the best fish and chip restaurants we’ve been to. They serve cod, halibut and salmon. English pub batter, panko coated or grilled. Five different dipping sauces. And it’s in an old church. Cool. On Alberni Highway at 4824 Johnston Road. Telephone: 250-720-0900
About 137 kilometres along Highway 4, after you have passed by Port Alberni and Sproat Lake, you’ll come to a small bridge over Wally Creek. On your right will be a small paved pull-out. Water erosion has carved some interesting and turbulent waterways through the soft rock of Wally Creek. When the sun is out, it’s a great place to stop for a refreshing swim, picnic or just to stretch your legs for a bit.
Between kilometres 151 and 160, Highway 4 becomes quite windy and narrow. Please drive with extra caution in this area.
Pacific Rim National Park
Backed by the mountains of Vancouver Island and facing the open Pacific Ocean, Pacific Rim presents the rich natural and cultural heritage of Canada's west coast. Its cool, wet maritime climate produces an abundance of life in the water and on land. Lush coastal temperate rainforest gives way to bountiful and diverse intertidal and subtidal areas. These natural wonders are interwoven with the long and dynamic history of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations and European explorers and settlers.
Divided into 3 units (West Coast Trail, Broken Group and the Long Beach Unit), the Long Beach Unit is the best-known and most easily accessible unit of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. This unit is on a broad coastal plain located between the villages of Ucluelet, in Barkley Sound, and Tofino, in Clayoquot Sound. The most famous features of the region are the long, sandy beaches of Wickaninnish Bay, stretching for 16 km (10 miles) and Florencia Bay, to the south, an additional 6.4 km. (4 miles) long.
If you plan on stopping in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve you are required to purchase a park permit. You can purchase a permit from the vending machines located in all park parking lots or from the Visitor Centres at the main junction of Highway 4 and Pacific Rim Highway or at the Wickaninnish Centre. The machines do not take cash, only credit cards. A family day pass is about $20
Nothing is more memorable than a relaxing time at a spectacular beach. But please remember the power of the ocean. Tides change every 6 hours, so there are two low tides a day. Low tides expose rocks and reefs, which offer endless hours for observing tiny crabs, anemone and urchins in tide pools (please be warned, most shells contain something living and therefore very smelly in a day or two). It is best to look at marine life and to collect pictures and ! Visit tide pools at low tide when the ocean is calm! Also be aware of large rogue waves anywhere near the edge of the ocean.
After years of going to Long Beach, we have found the following trails to be the most interesting and impressive.
Rainforest Trail (# 6 on your Long Beach Map)
Two 1 km trails explore the world of a pristine old growth rainforest. The boardwalk leads you through centuries of growth, where gigantic trees and ancient fallen logs are carpeted with hanging gardens of moss, ferns and young trees. Loop A (across the highway) uses interpretive signs to explore forest life cycles, Loop B (at the parking lot) emphasizes forest structure and inhabitants such as the salmon which spawn in the cool protective shade of the creek. Loop A is our favourite.
Schooner Beach Trail (# 8 on your Long Beach Map)
This 1 km trail leads you through a lovely mature rainforest, over a moss draped stream, and down a series of stairs to a very scenic beach on Schooner Cove. This wide secluded cove is at the northern end of Long Beach. Day use only.
Wickaninnish Beach/Centre (left on Wickaninnish Road just past the Bog Trail #5)
Wickaninnish Beach is at the south end of Long Beach. This area offers trails and viewpoints of storm waves from a safe distance. The Wickaninnish Centre is built right on the surf splashed rocks. The interpretive centre has exhibits and movies exploring the natural and cultural history of the Pacific Rim. A whaling canoe, murals of ocean life and whale bones are on display. Park interpreters will assist you with info. The centre also contains the Wickaninnish Restaurant. Open mid March to mid October. Wheelchair accessible. The absolutely best table in the house is table #13. This 2 seat table is in the foremost corner and both seats face towards the water. Reserve at 250-726-7706
Willowbrae & Half Moon Bay Trails (# 1 & 2 on your Long Beach Map)
This 2.8 km. round trip trail, traces a portion of the pioneer route linking Ucluelet & Tofino. This wooded trail begins from a small gravel lane marked Willowbrae Road, found two kilometres south of the Tofino - Ucluelet junction. (5 minutes drive from Ucluelet). After a few gentle hills the trail is relatively level until the boardwalk splits, then steep stairs & ramps descend through the rainforest to either Half Moon (a quaint cove) or Florencia Bay (an open, often misty beach).
Tofino is a picturesque fishing village at the tip of Esowista Peninsula near the entrance to Clayoquot Sound. Tofino was named in 1792 after the Spanish hydrographer Vicente Tofino de San Miguel.
The first trading post and hotel was established on Stubbs Island around 1875, where the building remained until 1905 before being moved to present day Tofino. Tofino was incorporated in 1932 and connected to the rest of Vancouver Island in 1959, when a gravel road was built to Port Alberni.
Tofino boasts miles of sandy beaches to the south, islands of old-growth cedar, migrating grey whales, hot springs, sea lions, and a temperate climate. Tofino's docks bustle with local fishermen and act as launching points for numerous sea kayaking, whale watching, wildlife, hot springs and cultural tours. Local boats also supply the 1,500 residents of five Nuu-chah-nulth communities and others who make their homes on the nearby islands and secluded shores of Clayoquot Sound.
Visiting Eagle Aerie Gallery, showcasing works of artist Roy Henry Vickers, is a must.
Tours featuring whale-watching, bear-watching or a trip to Hot Springs Cove can be organised through Jamies Whaling Station.
Also if you have time you might want to do the Big Tree Walk on Meares Island. You can arrange boat transportation to Meares Island from the 4th Street docks.
Or visit Flores Island and do the Walk on the Wild Side. This is a great, fairly secluded hike along a series of boardwalks and beaches and is a great day out. For a water taxi, head down to the Government docks and look for the vessel Ahousat Pride. This trip will take all day.
We strongly recommend the Schooner Restaurant, Upstairs Lounge at Schooner Restaurant (both at 250-725-3664), Long Beach Lodge (250-725-2442), Pointe Restaurant at Wickaninnish Inn (250-725-3100), Inn at Tough City (250-725-2021 and SoBo (250-725-2341) for your dining needs.
If you do stay in Tofino we can wholeheartedly recommend Pacific Sands Resort, Middle Beach Lodge and Sea Star Beach Retreat.
Ucluelet is a quaint fishing port and settlement located in a protective harbour. The natural harbour protects Ucluelet from the ferocious outbursts of the Pacific Ocean. Settled in prehistoric times, the name means "safe harbour" in the Nuu-Chah-Nulth language.
Ucluelet is surrounded by spectacular beauty and pristine nature of Vancouver Island's west coast. This hauntingly beautiful region is known world-wide for forests thick with old-growth cedars, fir, and hemlock. The richest fishing ground on the Pacific Coast is at Ucluelet's doorstep and one of the biggest draws to the West Coast is Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
We strongly recommend the Matterson Tea House (250-726-2200), Ukee Dogs (250-726-2161), Norwoods Restaurant (250-726-7001), Fetch Restaurant at Black Rock Resort (250-726-4811).
Wild Pacific Trail
The Wild Pacific Trail skirts the rugged cliff-edges along the extreme outer coast allowing hikers to get an up-close-and-personal look at the ocean's fury. Hewn by hand through old-growth thickets of twisted trunks, limbs and roots, the trail is a natural treasure-house of forest treats. Brochure at our front desk.
Storm-watching is a natural on this trail with many breath-taking views 20-30m above surge channels and outer reefs constantly pounded by ocean swells. During the annual Gray whale migration (late Feb-late May), whales can be spotted not more than 5 km offshore of this location as well as sea lions, seals, mink and otter playing in the nearby surf.
Brown’s Beach and the Artist Loop start from the Black Rock Resort wandering north for 3.4 km towards Peninsula Road. Great views of the black rock cliffs. You can return the same way or turn right at the highway and walk back to the Resort turning down Forbes Street and crossing Tugwell Sports Fields to Cynamoka Rd and Marine Drive.
The Lighthouse Loop leaves from Amphitrite Lighthouse parking lot. This 4.6 km loop trail wanders around the Lighthouse and along the boardwalks of He-Tin-Kis Park. There are a few spots you can walk down to the beach and look at the tide pools.
Make our Cottage your home base while exploring Nanaimo and surrounding Vancouver Island.
Explore the many exciting and delicious restaurants in and around Nanaimo. Here are some of our recommendations.
Do you need more information? We are happy to help you make your stay in Nanaimo as exciting as possible.