ancouver Island’s Oceanside Region, featuring Parksville and Qualicum Beach, is the destination winter travelers are choosing for their winter getaway more than ever before. The region’s mild climate combined with one of the lowest annual rainfall levels on Vancouver Island means great outdoor & indoor activities are enjoyed year-round in a scenic, Island setting.
There are many reasons why Oceanside’s popularity continues to rise. While much of Canada is buried under white, visitors to Oceanside enjoy time on the green at one of six distinctly different golf courses. Oceanside’s golf courses are open year-round and seven additional courses are within an hour’s drive for the perfect golf holiday.
Qualicum Beach Memorial Golf Club, one of Canada’s most scenic courses, was opened in 1913, making it the fourth oldest course in British Columbia. A perennial favorite, it has a proven track record when attracting other golfers from across Canada particularly in the winter months.
This central region of Vancouver Island is teeming with wildlife during the winter months including colonies of sea lions, seals and flocks of birds. In fact, over 250 species of birds call the region “home”, with Autumn and Winter sporting a particularly exciting population, including the Savannah Sparrow, Loon, Common Nighthawk and Wigeon. Bald Eagles are frequently seen feeding on salmon along our many rivers. Thousands of waterbirds winter in the area including Yellow-billed Loons and hundreds of Trumpeter Swans.
During the first week of April the Brant Wildlife Festival celebrates the return of over 20,000 Brant Geese who stop at the beaches of Parksville and Qualicum on their way to breeding grounds in Alaska. Festivities include nature walks and talks, a birding competition and the Canadian Fish Carving Championships.
Spring arrives early at Oceanside. In April, Milner Gardens and Woodland, one of Oceanside’s garden jewels, opens to the public for tours, nature walks, many events, and afternoon tea. Afternoon tea service is held in historic Milner House from 1 to 4 pm, or you can visit the gift shop, have some refreshments or buy a special plant from the nursery. Of the property’s seventy acres, ten is a fabulous seaside garden overlooking the Strait of Georgia while sixty acres are old growth forest. This setting is like no other. Visited by Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles, and Princess Diana, the 60 acres of woodland, ten acres of garden surrounding a heritage house was the dream of one woman, Veronica Milner. Veronica gathered plants from the temperate zones of the world, including a significant collection of Rhododendrons. It was her vision that created this incredible combination of garden and old growth forest.
Stroll 19kms of safe, clean sandy beaches, explore the rivers, lakes, parks, and trail systems year-round to experience the quiet serenity of Island living. Contact any number of guided tour operators that lead educational and adventure tours through the heart of the Island wilderness. You may even spot some grizzly bears!
For a different experience of the wild and wonderful, drive down to either the Qualicum Beach promenade or Parksville Community Park and watch the winter storms from the comfort of your vehicle, or dress for the weather and feel the ocean spray cleanse your soul.
On those energetic days enjoy the extensive hiking and biking trails within the areas 7 provincial parks and numerous community parks. The Parks & Recreation programs in the area offer an immense list of activities both for the mind and the body. They can be contacted at 250-248-3252 or 250-752-5014. Many groups and organizations in the area welcome drop in visitors. Parksville Golden Oldies Association (PGOSA) is dedicated to assisting those over 55 years in maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. They meet at the Oceanside Place Arena every Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9:30 -10:30am. Play hockey in the morning, golf in the afternoon, and theatre in the evening.
The artwork, sculpture, and crafts produced in the area are evident everywhere, in a number of public art galleries, in public buildings and local parks, and in the many artists’ studios that can be found dotted around the countryside. Blue ‘Artisan’ signs indicate a studio open to the public while the local arts council produces a galleries and studios brochure, complete with visiting times and directions to a variety of potters, painters, sculptors, weavers and more.
The Old School House Arts Centre in downtown Qualicum Beach features galleries and a gift shop as well as working studios. Parksville has two large galleries: The Oceanside Arts Gallery showcasing a number of talented artists and The Station Gallery in the heritage E&N train station, home of the Arrowsmith Potter’s Guild and offers pottery classes, a large gift shop and display area. Special exhibits featuring local artists are held throughout the winter season.
If its long-term accommodation you are looking for there are more than 30 hotels, motels, resorts, B&Bs, vacation home rentals, and RV campgrounds offering excellent monthly rates for visitors seeking the opportunity to enjoy an Island winter getaway. Many offer price breaks for very inexpensive monthly stays, giving visitors a sense of ‘snowbird living’ on a budget!
For further information, and to begin planning your visit to the Oceanside region of Vancouver Island, visit http://www.visitparksvillequalicumbeach.com/
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