The area on the east side of Vancouver Island that has come to be known as Oceanside has many things for the tourist. Located about half way up the Island, the mild climate and sandy beaches are a sure summer time draw.
The small town of Parksville has had a history of drawing summer visitors to the beaches and celebrates them. Currently the Brant festival recognizes the spring migration celebrates their return from California on their way to the Arctic. Thousands of Pacific Black Brant geese(Brante Bernicia nigrans) converge along the beaches to feast on the herring eggs being released at this time.
There are too many interesting places to take in in one day, but a drive up to Coombs is a must. They have parlayed the public’s fascination with the growing of grass on the roofs of buildings and pasturing goats there into a touristy place to eat and shop for the usual souvenirs.
Further up the road, Butterfly World is the place to go on a gloomy, rainy day. It is heated to tropical temperatures, has blooming tropical plants and of course, butterflies. They are purchased from a butterfly farm in South America and delivered in cocoons. Visitors are able to walk the pathways getting close to the insects, sometimes finding the little creatures landing on them. The facility has expanded their offerings recently and now includes an orchid garden in the price of your admission.
If you are up for a hike, take in Englishman River Provincial Park. Admission is free and parking is free. The park has 97ha of old and second growth forest with picnic tables and toilet facilities. Camping in the park is available in the summer months. The Englishman River has two spectacular falls. The upper falls is easily accessible from the car park, the lower one is reached by trails. Bridges span the river below the falls so the hike can take a circle route.
If you are a foodie, there is plenty for you to sample in this area. Fresh, wild salmon(most Islanders turn up their noses at that farmed stuff), oysters and scallops are on offer. Farms are often available for visits and the farmers are happy to explain the workings of a non-industrial operation. I visited Morningstar Farm which produces cheeses and wines along with producing beef and pork for sale. This farm is part of the SPCA Certified programme. This farm provides brochures and encourages visitors to walk about on their property.
There is so much more to see and do in this area, from the serious business of rehabilitating wildlife to a game of miniature golf. Come for a visit to see why Vancouver Ilanders are so passionate about their environment.