Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 02 Apr, 2011
We drive "up island" from Parksville to Campbell River and Quadra Island. We take the "Oceanside route" rather than the main highway. You can't really see the coast from the road, but it's never far away and in most cases just parking the car and…Read More
We drive "up island" from Parksville to Campbell River and Quadra Island. We take the "Oceanside route" rather than the main highway. You can't really see the coast from the road, but it's never far away and in most cases just parking the car and peeking through the trees will take you to the water's edge. It's raining, mostly, but we are still tempted to stop at several moody, pretty much deserted, misty beaches. Oyster shells, colourful seaweed and driftwood - piles of driftwood - cover the shores. In the water, occasional wrecks, and in the distance the mountains of the mainland are just about possible to make out. It's raining, but strangely beautiful.Courtney and Campbell River are a come-down, as any town would b, but soon we are on a ferry, making a short hop across to Quadra Island. We keep the windscreen wipers going during the crossing which is obviously a mistake as the car refuses to start on our arrival on the other side. The ferry staff seem pretty used to such an occurrence, as an efficient person with a jump-starting device appears immediately and soon, despite mysterious ways the automatic cars operate, we are on our way. Our host family are on the other side of the island , but it's not a big place and we should be there in a few minutes. Or so we think. Unfortunately, the piece of paper with the address has ended up in the footwell, trod on by at least two pairs of muddy boots and is now impossible to decipher. My phone doesn't have any coverage, but I remember – vaguely – the directions. We end up driving round in something resembling a circle, getting lost in what seems like magic woods of Quadra. Eventually, we stop by a walker on the roadside, and ask, reasoning that people here might just know each other. She doesn't quite, as she is a new resident – a poet, actually - but she takes us home and searches in a local directory and soon we are on our way. We eventually manage to find our host and her brood in a big, ramshackle house full of children, animals, toys, nice food and animated conversation. Close
Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 16 Nov, 2010
Vancouver Island is a large island off the coast of British Columbia, not far from Vancouver city. Most travellers will be arriving there from Vancouver or its environs (although it's also possible to travel to the island from the US). The island is 270 miles…Read More
Vancouver Island is a large island off the coast of British Columbia, not far from Vancouver city. Most travellers will be arriving there from Vancouver or its environs (although it's also possible to travel to the island from the US). The island is 270 miles long (stretching roughly along the NW-SE axis) and approximately 70 miles wide, although the spine of the island is mountainous while the coast often indented and thus the actual road distances are much larger. The principal way of travelling to Vancouver Island is by using the services of BC Ferries. Vancouver has two ferry terminals, one south of the city in the suburb of Tsawwassen (technically in Delta) and another in the north west (technically in Western Vancouver) at Horseshoe Bay. Vancouver Island has a lot to offer to a visitor: a charming and cultured city of Victoria is the obvious destination, but it's up-island that the best destinations are. North of Victoria is the second biggest city on the Island, Nanaimo, with an attractive waterfront area and some decent accommodation, and north of it, Parksville and the coastal strip up to Campbell River, which among others includes Qualicum Beach, a picturesque and arty seaside town with more gentle beach. Parksville itself is unexceptional but makes a very convenient base for exploring Vancouver Island, sitting as it is on a junction of roads going north towards the Comox valley, Campbell River, mountains of Strathcona; south to Nanaimo and Victoria and west via Port Alberni to Pacific Rim National Park with Tofino and Ucluelet. The best known destination for the lovers of wilderness is the Pacific Rim on the west coast. Originally, most of the Vancouver island was covered in forest, bust as it has been intensively logged for over a hundred of years, there are only relatively small vestiges of this original forest left. Some of it has been preserved as part of the Pacific Rim National Park, which incorporates incredible old-growth temperate rainforest, beaches, rock formations, caves and sea stacks, streams and waterfalls. The Park is divided into three separate units. The West Coast Trail is a 75 km hiking trail accessible only on foot or (in an emergency by boat, starting at Pachena Bay south of Bamfield). This is a gruelling seven day hike, with limited access points and a lot of rough, wet and muddy terrain. The Broken Group Islands form archipelago of over hundred islands scattered throughout Barkley Sound between Ucluelet and Bamfield and is only accessible by boat, with some local operators offering kayak drop-offs. The most popular, accessible and the smallest of the Pacific Rim National Park units is the Long Beach, located between Ucluelet and Tofino.Nearer to Parksville the interior has plenty to offer. Within an approximately half hour drive (and some accessible by public transport via the bus to Port Alberni) are three outstanding nature parks, including Englishman River Falls, Quallicum Falls and the best of all, Cathedral Grove. Further north, Comox valley has some skiing in the winter and beyond that, Campbell River offers excellent fishing, whale watching, and an easy ferry connection to the picturesque and unspoilt island of Quadra. Beyond Campbell River things get considerably wilder and less populated. Many visitors head for Port Hardy, which is where BC Ferries' vessels depart for trips along the Inside Passage all the way to Prince Rupert via Bella Coola. Vancouver Island offers incredible wilderness, wonderful landscapes, great surfing, fantastic hiking and friendly, down to earth, often quirky people. The city of Victoria is a sophisticated urban centre which provides a great contrast to the wilderness of the up-island areas. The climate is relatively mild, and the tourist infrastructure exists but doesn't overwhelm. All in all, Vancouver Island is one of the best places in British Columbia and whole Canada to visit and deserves at least a week, and will easily fill several weeks of exploration. Close
Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 07 Jun, 2010
Parksville is a small community (around 11,000 inhabitants) on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, about 40km north along Highway 19 from Nanaimo. The town itself is a popular summer tourist destination, with a lot of beach action including a popular Parksville Beach Festival which…Read More
Parksville is a small community (around 11,000 inhabitants) on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, about 40km north along Highway 19 from Nanaimo. The town itself is a popular summer tourist destination, with a lot of beach action including a popular Parksville Beach Festival which incorporates the Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition, a sandcastle building contest which takes advantages of vast areas of hard packed sand exposed when the tide recedes. The waters of Georgia Strain warm up well and the weather is generally much better (read: drier) on the east coast of the island than on the west coast, so sunbathing and swimming as well as windsurfing (and kayaking) are all popular options. There are plenty of facilities for visitors, including a good playground for the children and several golf courses in the immediate vicinity of Parksville. Nearby is the Qualicum Beach, a picturesque and arty seaside town with more gentle beach and just outside Parksville the Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, with a huge sand-and-shingle area ideal for beach-combing Parksville is a very convenient base for exploring Vancouver Island, sitting as it is on a junction of roads going north towards the Comox valley, Powell River, mountains of Strathcona; south to Nanaimo and Victoria and west via Port Alberni to Pacific Rim National Park with Tofino and Ucluelet. But the interior of the island nearer to Parksville has also plenty to offer. Within an approximately half hour drive (and some accessible by public transport via the bus to Port Alberni) are three outstanding nature parks.Englishman River Falls Provincial Park has a striking canyon linking two quite impressive waterfalls. Waterfalls seem to be everywhere on Vancouver Island and all quite amazing by our standards. A site that would be a major national tourist attraction in many countries in Europe is here a provincial park, warranting a couple of rough camp-sites and an outhouse loo. The Falls here are sited in an old-growth forests, not as spectacular as the Cathedral Grove, but still pretty impressive, with statuesque red cedar, arbutus, fir, maple and hemlock. Ferns spread lushly in the undergrowth and moss hangs from branches as the trail winds its way from the upper to the lower falls, and a clear pool of dark water by a small pebbly beach below the lower falls (locals swim here in the summer). Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park is located slightly further away from Parksville, 15km west on the Highway 4. It is one of the bigger provincial parks in the area and follows the course of the Little Qualicum River, with more beautiful waterfalls, rapids and pools suitable for swimming in the summer. There are also trials to the nearby Wesley Ridge (2-3 hours one way). Cameron Lake, the beautiful lake surrounded by mountains and bordering the Cathedral Grove virgin rainforest, is part of the park. The queen of them all is undoubtedly the MacMillan Provincial Park, furthest away from Parksville (30km west on Highway 4) incorporating the Cathedral Grove, a stand of giant Douglas-fir trees and a significant area of old-growth rainforest. The park area was, somehow ironically, donated by the logging company (thus the name), partially responsible for the fact that such preservation actions are even necessary. Still, the park presents a magnificent opportunity for all to experience an ancient rainforest. In addition to the giant Douglas Firs (encountered on the loop of the trail on the southern side of the road) there are also groves of ancient Western Red Cedar, the tree that not only is a main element of the local rainforest ecosystem but also an economical and cultural mainstay of the lives of the native inhabitants of the Pacific North West. From cloth to house building, sculptures to boats, ropes to baskets, the cedar was known as a Tree of Life. The northern trail loop winds its way around the woodland area dominated by the cedars, many of them fallen after a relatively recent wind storm, but all utterly awe inspiring. I have never before been to such a magnificent forest. The trees are tall and thick, but this is only part of the story: the branches are covered in hanging lace-work of moss and lichen, fungi pain the fallen logs in intricate patterns, the open and decomposing wood of the older logs takes all the shades from muted brick red to fire-like gold and rotten brown. The huge variety of greens, together with the plethora of surface textures produce an outstandingly rich sensory experience, despite the fact that in some ways it's almost monochromatic: everything is a shade of green or brown, and yet everything is clear and striking. The rain that is falling makes for a fitting background and in a swampy area a melange of rotting logs and freshly growing new shrubs and leaves create yet another symphony of greens. We can just make the Cameron Lake through the foliage, shrouded in mist, with the mountains faintly visible in the cloud. It's no wonder Canadians adopted the word "awesome" so readily to express all things good and beautiful: after all Canada is a rich source of awe inspiring sights and experiences. Close
Vancouver Island is the westernmost part of Canada, and on Vancouver Island it's the west coast that is famous for its unique natural environment and associated outdoor pursuits. Originally, most of the island was covered in forest, bust as it has been intensively logged for…Read More
Vancouver Island is the westernmost part of Canada, and on Vancouver Island it's the west coast that is famous for its unique natural environment and associated outdoor pursuits. Originally, most of the island was covered in forest, bust as it has been intensively logged for over a hundred of years, there are only relatively small vestiges of this original forest left. Some of it has been preserved as part of the Pacific Rim National Park, which incorporates incredible old-growth temperate rainforest, beaches, rock formations, caves and sea stacks, streams and waterfalls. The Park is divided into three separate units. The West Coast Trail is a 75 km hiking trail accessible only on foot or (in an emergency by boat, starting at Pachena Bay south of Bamfield). This is a gruelling seven day hike, with limited access points and a lot of rough, wet and muddy terrain. The Broken Group Islands form archipelago of over hundred islands scattered throughout Barkley Sound between Ucluelet and Bamfield and is only accessible by boat, with some local operators offering kayak drop-offs. The most popular, accessible and the smallest of the Pacific Rim National Park units is the Long Beach, located between Ucluelet and Tofino,. Despite its name the Long Beach incorporates significant areas of coastal forest in addition to the sandy sea shore. Ucluelet and Tofino are themselves not parts of the national park, but both form convenient launching points for exploring the Long Beach (Ucluelet has also a choice of boat trips to the Barkley Sound & the Broken Group Islands). The whole of the Long Beach and surrounding areas are an excellent location for many outdoor activities. Surfing is among the big ones, especially in Tofino which is definitely a bit of a cult surfing destination, with a correspondingly relaxed and slightly New-Agey vibe and plenty of beach-bum culture in evidence). Sea kayaking is also common, particularly in the islands of the Barkley Sound. Sunbathing or swimming are not really a serious option, as the area has a huge rainfall and rather low summer temperatures (around 15C), while water never gets warm enough for swimming; but diving in the Long Beach resorts is excellent and by some considered to be the best in the world. Hiking is deservedly popular, with numerous short trials accessible from the road in the Long Beach area of the national park, while Ucluelet has its own (and still growing) walking path under the name of Wild Pacific Trail, incorporating sections of the forest, rocky cliffs and beach. Fishing cabins and resorts are present in many locations, especially in Ucluelet, while among the most common and most advertised local attractions are whale and other wildlife watching boat trips. There are many operators, usually running covered boat and zodiac (rigid hull inflatable) trips, charging around 100 CAD per adult plus minus 10% and various amounts for children. The area is known for frequent whale sightings, being on the migratory route of grey whales (these are most often seen in the spring) as well as having some resident local greys, humpbacks and an occasional orca. Some companies offer "guaranteed sightings" which sadly doesn't mean your money back if you don't see a whale, but rather a possibility of going on another trip for free. If your chosen tour operator offers such guarantee, make an effort to go on a trip earlier during your stay so you can go again if you don't see any whales on the first trip. There are also bear watching trips as well as tours that combine marine life watching with a hike on land, for example the Hot Springs trip from Tofino. But perhaps the best thing to do when in the area is beach-combing. A gentle hike combined with a wildlife safari and a treasure hunt, a not-too-serious beach-combing expedition shows the endless fascination that the liminal space between the land and the ocean holds for human beings. Its hard to imagine a more overtly boring and actually fascinating activity than walking along a beach in a pounding surf, soles polished by the fine sand, feet caressed by the water (even when cold it's strangely pleasurable), iodine rich salt spray filling the lungs with joy, eyes shifting from the sand underneath (was this a piece of eight shining under that clump of seaweed?) to the sky (is it brightening up, perhaps?). The Pacific beaches of the west coast of Vancouver Island are great for such aimless beach wanderings. There are living ecosystems to explore, with numerous shells and species of algae washed out onto the shore, and birds soaring above. There is lots of driftwood, mostly from logging operations, but some naturally produced, large and small pieces bleached and polished by the sea to a smooth perfection, convoluted, organic forms surreal like Jean Arp sculptures.Storm watching has became a recognised activity in the recent years (whatever next?) and winter beaches of Tofino and Ucluelet are a fabulous location to indulge. The Pacific, in its raw strength, is pretty impressive even when relatively calm and I can just imagine how awe inspiring the power of a real storm here must be. Anybody looking to stay in the Long Beach area would need to choose between Tofino and Ucluelet (although there is no reason not to split the stay between both places). Tofino is prettier and located at the very north-western edge of the area accessible by road. The sandy beaches are closer to Tofino, as are the Hot Springs and other locations of the Clayoquot Sound. The village itself is more beach-bum, surfer kind of place, more overtly touristy, with every single shop front and business devoted to tourist trade. Ucluelet seems a slightly more real place, although it's also very touristy. It's further from the vast surfing beaches (but it's all within a 20 minutes' drive anyway) but closer to fishing and kayaking areas of the Barkley Sound. It is also slightly cheaper as far as accommodation goes and has more hiking featuring rocky cliffs.I personally liked Ucluelet more, though how much of it was to do with the fact that we had slightly better weather there than in Tofino is hard to say. Tofino does seem to have certain magical quality of its very own, which is still there despite totally relentless exploitation by the tourist industry. All in all, some tourist traps are tourist traps for a reason: Tofino and Ucluelet form a prime example of that - unless you can reach some of the boat-only locations, one of these villages is pretty much unmissable in any Vancouver Island trip. Go on, dip your feet in the Pacific. Close
Vancouver Island is located off the coast of British Columbia, about 20 nautical miles from the mainland and Vancouver city. The island is not huge, but still big enough to merit some travel planning. The island stretches roughly along the North-West to South-East axis…Read More
Vancouver Island is located off the coast of British Columbia, about 20 nautical miles from the mainland and Vancouver city. The island is not huge, but still big enough to merit some travel planning. The island stretches roughly along the North-West to South-East axis and is about 240 miles long and 70 miles wide. However, a lot of the island is mountainous and often pretty wild and undeveloped, especially in the northern part of the island, and thus areas that might seem near can only be accessed by road in a very round about way or not at all. Many roads are unpaved and some communities are only accessible by a rough track, boat or sea plane. http://www.bcferries.com/schedulesIf you are travelling by car, and intend to explore more than the southern and eastern coasts of Vancouver Island, it's essential to have a decent road map, which has indication of the road quality.For those travelling by public transport, the main option is bus. Victoria has a good network of city buses, as do some other larger communities on the island (Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Courtenay/Comox and Campbell River). Inter city bus services are provided by Greyhound as well as a few other companies, but most of the services are well integrated and operate from the same bus depots. The main roads are Highway 1, from Victoria to Nanaimo, Highway 19 from Nanaimo all the way to Port Hardy and Highway 4, which runs west from Parksville through Port Alberni to Tofino and Ucluelet. These highways also mark the extent of reasonably comprehensive bus service. There are four buses a day between Victoria and Nanaimo and one between Nanaimo and Port Hardy. Tofino and Ucluelet have two buses a day, operated by Tofino Bus, one arriving in the afternoon and one in the evening. In addition to the Greyhound there are several seasonal services aimed explicitly at the tourists. West Coast Trail Express has a shuttle service (May to September) from Victoria and Nanaimo to the trail heads of the West Coast Trail and the Juan de Fuca Trail.In addition to the bus network, Vancouver Island has also something of a skeleton of a railway service, with one train a day between Victoria and Courtenay that stops in Duncan, Nanaimo and Parksville among others. This is a fairly scenic journey, skirting the coast, and if bought in advance the tickets are cheaper than bus tickets on the equivalent route, but as it only runs once a day its usefulness is limited. Many communities on Vancouver Island have small airports or (more often) an air service provided by float planes. Some places, especially on the west coast of the island, are in fact only accessible by air or boat. Hitch-hiking is common and popular, especially in areas with little or no bus service (for example on the islands of the Vancouver Island coast, like Quadrant) and so is ride share. On the west coast, there are boat services that connect otherwise inaccessible locations, for example a three-times weekly mail boat from Port Alberni to Kildonan and (in the summer only) between Bamfield and Ucluelet or the Nootka Sound trips from Gold River. http://www.ladyrosemarine.com/rates.htmlhttp://www.mvuchuck.com/ Close
Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 06 Jun, 2010
Vancouver Island is a large island off the coast of British Columbia, not far from Vancouver city. Most travellers will be arriving there from Vancouver or its environs (although it's also possible to travel to the island from the US). This article covers the options…Read More
Vancouver Island is a large island off the coast of British Columbia, not far from Vancouver city. Most travellers will be arriving there from Vancouver or its environs (although it's also possible to travel to the island from the US). This article covers the options for travelling to Vancouver Island from mainland Canada.The island is 270 miles long (stretching roughly along the NW-SE axis) and approximately 70 miles wide, although the spine of the island is mountainous while the coast often indented and thus the actual road distances are much larger. The principal way of travelling to Vancouver Island is by using the services of BC Ferries. Vancouver has two ferry terminals, one south of the city in the suburb of Tsawwassen (technically in Delta) and another in the north west (technically in Western Vancouver) at Horseshoe Bay. Tsawwassen has frequent (hourly for most of the day) connections to Swartz Bay, 20 miles from the island's (and BC's) capital Victoria. There are also several daily ferries to Nanaimo, located 80 miles up from Victoria along the eastern coast of the island and the best launching pad for the west coast resorts of Tofino and Ucluelet. The crossing to Victoria takes 1h 40 minutes, and to Nanaimo 2 to hours. Horseshoe Bay has several ferries to Nanaimo, usually every two hours during the day. There is also a connection from Comox (about half way up the eastern coast of the island) to Powell River on the Sunshine Coast. At the time of writing (2010), the crossing costs 14 CAD per passenger, and 47 CAD per car (children aged 5 to 11 are half price and under fives travel for free), Powell River to Comox is slightly cheaper. The precise schedules and fares can be checked on the BC Ferries site at http://www.bcferries.com/schedules/mainland/The choice of the route thus depends entirely on the destination on the island and their initial location in Vancouver. If you are travelling to or from Nanaimo without the car, the journey from the Horseshoe Bay downtown is easier (one express bus) than from Tsawwassen (bus and SkyTrain, or possibly two SkyTrains). If you are planning to tour the island (or, as it's often the case, its most popular parts, i.e. Victoria and the west coast resorts near Pacific Rim National Park) then the best option is to take a ferry to Victoria from Tsawwassen and then return from Nanaimo to either Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay. Both of these routes are very scenic and I personally think that it's nicer to arrive in Swartz Bay (you get a good look at many of the lovely Gulf Islands on the way) at one end and at Horseshoe Bay at the other end (the approach to the mainland is very beautiful here, with good views of the mountains). Tour companies offer joint tickets from Vancouver to Victoria, but these costs about a double of what it costs to travel by public transport (approximately 45 CAD one way) and frankly are not worth the bother unless you have a lot of cumbersome luggage. The double decker city bus from Swartz Bay to Victoria takes you all the way to the centre of the city for all of 2.50 CAD and runs frequently.You can also, of course fly to Vancouver Island, although it's by far the most expensive option, with the tickets costing at least around 100 CAD one way. Island Express fly from Abbotsford to Nanaimo and Victoria, Air Canada has scheduled services to Victoria from Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto and from Vancouver to Nanaimo, Pacific Coastal Airlines fly to Campbell River, Comox, Port Hardy and Victoria to Vancouver while WestJet fly from Kelowna to Victoria and from Calgary and Edmonton to Comox.The fastest and most exciting way to travel to Vancouver Island is by float plane, with several companies providing connections directly between downtown Vancouver and downtown Victoria as well as to Nanaimo. Campbell River and numerous other island communities. It's also likely to be the most expensive way to travel, with one-way tickets from Victoria to Vancouver around 150 CAD or more. Close
Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 26 May, 2010
Victoria is very attractive. A large town (or a city, really, with a population of 80 thousand in the city itself and over 300 thousand in the metro area) it has a strong European feel and is the first place since Quebec City that I…Read More
Victoria is very attractive. A large town (or a city, really, with a population of 80 thousand in the city itself and over 300 thousand in the metro area) it has a strong European feel and is the first place since Quebec City that I felt I could live in.The town is centered on the Inner Harbour, flanked by the ornate legislature building (very reminiscent of the one in Winnipeg) and the Empress Hotel (similar to other grand railway hotels we have seen in Canada, but only matched by the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec).Seaplanes take off and land frequently (there is a regular service to Vancouver, as well as many sightseeing trips) from the terminal in the Harbour and little oval Harbour Ferries play the busy waters taking tourists round.A couple of minutes' walk from the Empress is the Royal British Columbia museum, apparently the best in Canada and one of the best in North America. We (shamefully) give it a miss, on the principle that we have probably (more or less) seen all the museum material Canada has to offer (apart from the Royal Tyrrell one).A. takes the children to see one of the "dreadful attractions" of Victoria (as per Rough Guide), the Miniature World. I skip, but they seem to love it!The downtown Victoria is very pleasant indeed, with wide pavements, long stretches of pedestrianised streets, old buildings (old being a relative term here: we are in Western Canada and NOTHING is really old here, Victoria was founded in 1843 as a Hudson Bay Company trading post, but of this time only a single mooring ring remains) and tree lined residential streets. There are coffee and tea shops, chocolate and cake shops and numerous ethnic (this includes mock-British) restaurants.We have a good fortune to stay in what's called the Cook Street Village, a lovely neighborhood of leafy streets, old houses with deep porches and eco-conscious inhabitants filling locally-run cafes.Nearby is the large and lovely Beacon Hill Park, with large old trees, nice playground, petting zoo and a lookout affording lovely views to the snow capped Olympus Mountains in Washington state.After two nights in the friendly house of our hosts we take a bus north along the east coast to Nanaimo. Our next host is to pick us up there and take us to her place near Parksville.It's raining (as it should be, apart from the southern end/Victoria, the Island is a very wet place) but we can still see the views, inlets, rivers, gorges and more trees than one can shake a chainsaw at (but boy, they keep trying). Close
Written by moatway on 09 Jun, 2007
CoombsThe log-frame Old Country Market is open every day and features a bit of everything: decorative items, toys, dishware, sushi sets, baked goods, ice cream, fresh vegetables, imported foods and deli. I can’t possibly do it justice…it goes on and on and there are things…Read More
CoombsThe log-frame Old Country Market is open every day and features a bit of everything: decorative items, toys, dishware, sushi sets, baked goods, ice cream, fresh vegetables, imported foods and deli. I can’t possibly do it justice…it goes on and on and there are things there that I’ve never seen before. It really has the feel of a big farmer’s market. Around it, you’ll find outbuildings that contain a number of shops with whimsical names: Pyromania Pottery, Baa Quest, The Prancing Pony, The Rubber Stamp Farm, Dr. Leather and Mrs. Hide and Dogpatch, for example. I often use the word "eclectic"; I should have saved it for Coombs. It’s a lot of fun and in the summertime, it’s the home of the Goats on the Roof. (You’ll have to check that out!)
NanaimoNanaimo reminded me of my own area…it is somewhat nondescript. It would be less so if one were to live there as they have paid attention to a lot of the details that would make a city livable. The waterfront, built around the blockhouse originally built to protect the area (It’s called the Bastion, which may be a little hyperbolic.), is pretty and has a number of coffee shops and an elevated boardwalk overlooking the harbour.
The Commercial Street area (aka Downtown) has a number of attractive shops. At 150 Commercial Street there is the Nanaimo Art Gallery, the downtown face of the main gallery which is on the Malaspina campus. At the gallery, it is possible to buy or rent art; rentals start at $20/month. Great idea! Down the street at 223 Commercial is Gallery 223. It has an extremely large selection of quality oils, photographs, prints, watercolours, glass, and pottery. Upstairs there is studio and display space for several local artists.
The Old City Quarter of Nanaimo is a short walk up Bastion Street (which becomes Fitzwilliam Street). It contains a lot of redevelopment and a number of restaurants. The areas that have been developed are attractive, but the "quarter" isn’t extensive and it has the feel of a good idea that is currently stalled.ChemainusChemainus is just a dot on the map north of Duncan, but it has become a tourist magnet. In 1982, the town invited artists to do murals on the exterior walls of its buildings. There are now 37 murals and 13 sculptures around the area. The visitor need only follow the yellow footprints on the sidewalks to see them all; there are actually two areas involved: the upper town and the old town near the beach…both are an easy walk from Water Wheel Park.
Chemainus is also the home of the Chemainus Theatre Festival; a professional theatre company calls the town’s attractive theatre its home base. As for the town itself, the main shopping area on Willow Street retains its old charm and makes for a nice visit without the murals. I think that in order to get a building permit here, you’ll need to use the word "quaint" in your building description. The town is a good example of what people can accomplish with a little imagination.
Tofino is a small, scattered community on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is accessible by Highway 4 from the east island through Port Alberni. People travel the twisting, and very scenic, road to visit a town that is legendary for its outdoor activities:…Read More
Tofino is a small, scattered community on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is accessible by Highway 4 from the east island through Port Alberni. People travel the twisting, and very scenic, road to visit a town that is legendary for its outdoor activities: surfing, whale and bear watching, and kayaking. It is also at the northern end of the Pacific Rim National Park, the home of beautiful Long Beach.
Having set out for Tofino, be sure to stop at MacMillan Provincial Park, also known as Cathedral Grove. A few short walking trails loop through old stands of Douglas fir; I’m tempted to talk about the majesty of the trees and the power of nature, but it really is something you should see for yourself. It is rain forest and these trees have grown as a consequence…it’s quite extraordinary. In fact the entire stretch of highway to Port Alberni is surrounded by natural beauty as it winds through dark forests and passes calm lakes.
In tiny Tofino, there are a number of surf schools as well as several places offering hot springs and whale watching tours. Personally, the only time I ever had a chance to "hang ten," I was standing on a curb waiting to cross, so I prefer to head for the galleries. There are several that feature clearly superior work by island artists, both native and non-native. On Campbell Street (don’t worry, you won’t need a map in Tofino.), you’ll find the Eagle Aerie Gallery, disguised as a clan house, with the work of Tsimshian artist Roy Henry Vickers. Definite native themes run through his prints and reproductions. There is also the Reflecting Spirit Gallery across the street which represents a number of island artists and has work in all price ranges…some of it very nice.
On Fourth Street there is The Shorewind Gallery. It features oils and sculptures by several artists and I thought that some of the work displayed there was just a step-above. I was inclined to go for my wallet, but I thought that it might destroy my beer budget, and let’s face it, some things are sacred. On Main Street, the Himwitsa Gallery is the place for aboriginal art with an excellent variety of masks and other objects. You’ll need deep pockets; even a small mask can be quite expensive.
Enough of things artistic? Go back to Campbell Street to Storm, The Tofino Surf Shop. My daughter, who should know better, dropped $30 on a t-shirt with their logo. I suspect that you’ll exercise better judgement and rent a surf board and head for the beach. Cowabunga!
In Ucluelet, you’ll find a lesser display in a lesser town, but you might be drawn to the Canadian Princess for dinner, a drink or lunch, or perhaps to stay overnight. She is actually part of a resort that is renowned for its fishing…out of sight, off her port side is a dock filled with small, modern fishing boats for sport fishermen. She was once the William J. Stewart, a hydrographic survey ship (1932-1975). I thought it was worth stopping long enough to have a drink in the attractive bar. You can learn more at Princess.
For transportation to the area there is Tofino Bus--(866) 986-3466 or Tofino Bus--with service from Victoria, Vancouver, and Nanaimo. To learn more about Tofino, try Tofino.
Written by JanisIna on 29 Nov, 2003
Vancouver and Alaska Cruise. On RCI Points
For a few years we had expressed the wish to take a cruise to Alaska, after hearing how wonderful the scenery is in that part of the world. We thought this would have to wait until…Read More
Vancouver and Alaska Cruise. On RCI Points
For a few years we had expressed the wish to take a cruise to Alaska, after hearing how wonderful the scenery is in that part of the world. We thought this would have to wait until we retired. Then we entered into the points system with RCI, we own two separate weeks at Barnsdale Country Club in Rutland. We have been owners at Barnsdale for around 8 years and exchanged our weeks with RCI, on the weeks exchange program. The points system offered us a points partner program were you can use your allocated points to buy other holiday requirements. For those who have not looked at the points program or are skeptical of it, an example: the points allocated for just our mid-season week at Barnsdale gave us a weeks exchange in the Caribbean and a week car hire. That has to be good value. When we entered into the points system we had a couple of unused banked weeks.
We decided to look at the possibility of our dream trip with points thinking this would still be out of reach. I rang RCI Points and they put me on to their cruise specialist, who asked me which cruise line we would prefer and the dates we would like and the standard of cabin. I went for what we thought we would really like thinking he would quote far more points than we could afford. To my surprise, he was able to quote the points value for our trip while we were on the telephone and gave me a choice of cabin on the deck I had requested and with a balcony as requested. For two people this was within the points we had to spend, so we booked.
We decided to take flights to Vancouver 7 days prior to the start of our cruise and spend the extra time exploring Vancouver Island and Vancouver city. RCI booked our hotel accommodation for the first week through Points partners too. We arrived in Vancouver on the evening of Saturday, August 16 and stayed in one of the airport hotels. On Sunday morning we picked up our rental car (booked with points) and headed for the ferry to take us to Vancouver Island. For three nights, we were to stay in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. Victoria is a great place, very clean and friendly. It was the annual Dragon Boat races the weekend we arrived, so the atmosphere was very exciting. Our hotel was very central, near the Inner Harbour. We found we were spoilt for choice of good, reasonably priced restaurants - the seafood was exceptional and lots of choice. We are both scuba divers and decided to take the opportunity to dive the breakwater of Ogden Point. The sea life was really very good - we saw large sunflower starfish, lots of large sea cucumbers, and an octopus. The water was very clear and not as cold as we expected - the temperature was 11 degrees Celsius at 15 metres. We took a day trip, travelling north up the Island, staying a while in Nanaimo, and walking along the seafront, where we had the best fish and chips ever tasted. The fish was fresh caught that morning. We then travelled across the island to Tofino on the Pacific Rim National Park with its long sandy beach. We returned to Victoria in time to get a late evening meal. More time is needed to explore Vancouver Island. We returned on the ferry to Vancouver. Staying in the city, we explored Chinatown, Gastown, Granville Island, Robson Street for shopping, and Stanley Park. We found the trolley bus tour very good value and made the best use of our time in the city.
We joined Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship, the Vision of the Seas, on the Sunday morning. A buffet lunch was served in the Windjammer Café; our luggage was delivered to our cabin. The cabin was spacious and well-equipped, and we were very happy with our choice; the cabin steward was very attentive but not intrusive.
The ship was wonderful. We had been concerned about the number of passengers, as we do like our own space, but these were unfounded concerns - we enjoyed it all. We had lovely weather, dry and warm for the region. On the third day, we arrived at the Hubbard Glacier. It was breathtaking - no picture can do it justice. We spent about 1.5 hours viewing it from the ship. It is such a wonderful sight and so peaceful in the area, you can not quite believe what you are seeing.
The next morning, we docked at Skagway. We had decided to take a trip to the Yukon Territory by coach. This was interesting. We travelled over the summit of White Pass and through glacial-carved valleys. We had a stop at the village of Carcross to explore the historic town. It was misty as we went over the mountain from Alaska to the Yukon, but the views and scenery were stunning - lots of photos taken. We then had time to explore the town before we departed Skagway for our next port of call, Juneau, the capital. We arrived at 7am. Our choice for this day was Mendenhall Glacier and wildlife quest. We started out by coach along the shoreline to a small dock, where we boarded a waterjet powered catamaran for wildlife viewing. We saw whales, stellar sea lions, and harbour seals. A naturalist onboard explained the behaviour and habitat of these species. Our coach was waiting as we returned to the dock to take us to the Mendenhall Glacier. Nothing we had experienced prepared us for this - it was magnificent, and the photos taken are beautiful. The sun shone and it was just awesome. We then had time to explore the town of Juneau before returning to the ship to depart at 4pm. At 8am Friday morning, we arrived in Ketchikan. This was our last port of call. We went to the Saxman village to view one of the world's largest gatherings of totem poles and then to the historic George Inlet Cannery, where we were shown a short video of the way things were done to harvest and process the abundant Alaska salmon. From the Cannery dock, we again took a boat trip to see whales, seals, and bald eagles, returning to the dock where our cruise ship was anchored. Again, we had plenty of time to stroll around the town of Ketchikan before our ship departed for Vancouver. That evening we cruised the Misty Fjords as darkness fell. The following day was spent at sea and around 5:30pm that evening we spotted orca whales - what magnificent animals.
The food onboard was first-class, and you really could have put pounds on if you were not very careful.
Breakfast: served in three locations - Poolside 6am -7am, Windjammer Café 6:30am - noon, and the Aquarius dining room from 7am – 9am.
Lunch: two locations - Windjammer Café 12pm – 3:30pm and the Aquarius dining room from 11:30am – 1:30pm.
Dinner: two formal dining sittings - in the Aquarius dining room at 6:15pm and 8:45pm.
Casual Dining: in the Windjammer Café 6:30pm – 9pm.
Snacks: Solarium 10am – 6:30pm and 10pm – 3am, Windjammer Café afternoon tea 3:30pm – 5pm, waiters strolling the lounges with midnight delight snacks or Aquarius dining room special buffet 12:15am – 1am. (Taste of Alaska, Everything Chocolate, Gala Buffet.)
Plenty of good entertainment onboard during day or evening.
Bar: prices were about the same as in Vancouver, open from 9am until wee hours.
Shopping was very reasonable, with lots of special offers daily, open 8am – 10pm.
Casino Royal open from 10am to wee hours.
Day Spa open 8am – 8pm.