Travelling with the kids to the Parksville Qualicum Beach area of Vancouver Island – or Oceanside as it’s also known – is an annual ritual for us.
It’s a beautiful area of British Columbia, has family-friendly amenities and accommodations galore, and the pace of life is laid back and re-energizing for visitors of all ages. Whether you only have a long weekend or an entire week to plan a family getaway, these six activities for families in Parksville and Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, will remind you how life is meant to be.
Activities for Families in Parksville
This is a wonderful family adventure for nearly all ages. It’s a great physical workout (especially for teens), and you get up close and personal with sea lions, ocean creatures, and if you’re lucky, even whales. Our fabulous kayaking guide was Jan from Adventuress. She reported that she’s gone out on kayaking trips with parents and kids as young as four years old (in a double or open kayak). It’s a must-do west coast experience.
Caving in Parksville
Okay, caving may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It can be claustrophobic for a lot of people, children included. But going underground and shining your headlamp on the amazing stalactite formations made over thousands of years is pretty darn cool. The Horne Lake Caves are only a 45-minute drive from Parksville, and well worth a Family Cavern Tour. Reservations are recommended.
The Old Country Market in Coombs is a fun and funky place, complete with a killer ice cream parlor (see list below) and goats on a roof. The goats munch on the grass roof, and occasionally poop from above (look out below). In addition to the bustling market, filled with goodies from all over the world, and some killer jalapeno cheese bread, there’s a surf shop, garden store, and more than a few gift shops.
Walking on Rathtrevor Beach
Walking on the beach at Rathtrevor Provincial Park when the tide is way, way out, is one of our favorite activities for families in Parksville. It’s everyone’s idea of perfect fun. Kite-flying, sandcastle-building, crab racing and playing in the warm, shallow water makes for a perfect summer’s day at the beach. Adults, grab some chairs and a picnic, and watch the tide creep slowly ever closer on its way back to shore.
Enjoying Milner Gardens
A visit to Milner Gardens in Qualicum Beach (20 minutes north of Parksville) takes you into a woodland forest that transforms into an incredible English Garden, with an extensive collection of rhododendrons. The walking trails are child-friendly, and the natural environment is beautiful. The Milner House located in the Gardens offers tea and baked goods, with a stunning view to the gardens and the ocean.
Hugging trees in Cathedral Grove
A 30 minute drive east of Parksville brings you to the awe-inspiring world of giants: Cathedral Grove Provincial Park – home to some of the last remaining old growth Douglas Fir trees in the province. Trails on either side of the highway allow visitors to wander through the forest, gazing up to view the tops of trees (close to impossible), and around the trees themselves, many of which are several metres in circumference.
Where to Stay in Parksville
A busy day of touring Oceanside deserves a perfect place to rest one’s head. There are many family-friendly accommodation choices in the Parksville area, but few have the quaint charm and unbeatable beachfront location of Beach Acres Resort.
The two bedroom cottages and townhomes have all the comforts of home, including kitchens and wood-burning fireplaces, as well as patios and BBQs. There are communal laundry facilities for extended stays, as well as an indoor pool, shared fire pits, and tennis courts. When the cook wants a night off, the Black Goose Inn is located on the resort property. [The Inn offers traditional English pub fare (including very tasty fish & chips), and some great local draft brew, ciders & IPAs.]
And… the wide expanse of Rathtrevor beach is literally right outside your door. It really doesn’t get much better. The Provincial Park is your neighbour and the resort community is friendly and made up of regular annual visitors. It’s a serene, beautiful piece of heaven.
Photo Credit: C. Laroye
Disclosure: Our visit to Oceanside was sponsored by the Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism Association. As always, our opinions are honest and our own.
Have you visited Parksville Qualicum Beach? What is your favorite activity in Oceanside? Leave your comment below.