Qualicum Beach is one of the most delightful communities on the east coast of Vancouver Island,and is sure to capture your heart. This picturesque town and its surrounding areas are a mecca for sun lovers, beachcombers, shoppers, golfers, fisherman and water enthusiasts.
The community is loaded with beautiful British heritage, and is well known for its English gardens, local arts and crafts, all amongst an amazing environment with seemingly endless sandy beaches and gentle countryside.
Qualicum Beach and the Strait of Georgia
The original Coast Salish settlers of this area knew it as "where the dog salmon run" - a wonderful place to fish, pick berries and dig for clams. The name Qualicum Beach is derived from Quallchum, an early variation of this term.
Like its close neighbour Parksville, Qualicum Beach is an enchanting seaside village that will capture your heart. Discover for yourself why so many people return again and again to this central Vancouver Island getaway. Accessible by road, rail or air, the central location of Qualicum Beach makes this oceanside playground a convenient base from which to enjoy all your vacation activities on Vancouver Island.
Location: Qualicum Beach is located on the eastern shores of Vancouver Island, 7.5 miles (12 km) west of Parksville on the Oceanside Route (Hwy 19A). The Oceanside Route is an especially scenic section of the Island Highway System that runs parallel to the Inland Island Highway (Hwy 19). Coach Lines offer regularly scheduled trips north, south, and west through the Oceanside area connecting to other parts of Vancouver Island. Buses also leave the Vancouver Bus and Train Terminal for the Island ferries on a regular basis, with connections to Oceanside communities through Nanaimo. BC Transit also offers regular bus service between Nanaimo and Oceanside.
The Oceanside Route follows the coastline from the Nanoose Bay area all the way to Campbell River. Enjoy the sights of Parksville and Qualicum Beach and the Lighthouse Country communities of Qualicum Bay, Bowser and Deep Bay. Follow the Oceanside Route through the charming communities of Fanny Bay, Buckley Bay, and Union Bay and continue north through Merville, Black Creek, and Oyster River to Campbell River. Parks, beaches, golf courses, and dozens of attractions are located along the Oceanside Route, making it one of the Islands most popular driving tours.
- Arts and crafts abound in the area, which is home to painters, weavers, sculptors, carvers, glass blowers, and other artisans who welcome visitors to their studios. The Old School House Gallery and Art Centre, in the heart of Qualicum Beach, exhibits local artisans' creations, as well as holding frequent workshops, classes, and concerts. Pick up a brochure and map of the local galleries that are open to the public for tours and visits, available from the Visitor Info Centre.
Bear and Thunderbird totem, Qualicum Beach promenade
- For live theatre fans, the Village Theatre in Qualicum Beach offers shows in both summer and winter. Many of these productions are put on by the resident ECHO Players who specialize in musicals and lighter fare.
- The Power House Museum has a growing collection of "powerful" artifacts. You can test your own power on the Power Cycle and turn on the lights! Other collections highlight family histories, woodworking and blacksmithing tools, rooms depicting early Qualicum pioneer home life and storyboards recording early settlement history. Learn about early Georgia Strait shipwrecks and examine antique golf paraphernalia. Open mid-June to early October, adjacent to the Qualicum Beach train station at 587 Beach Road. A new exhibit in the adjacent Old Train Station's restored Freight Shed defines the history of the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway on Vancouver Island.
- Take a journey into our prehistoric past at the Vancouver Island Paleontology Museum, which displays one of the most complete collections of Vancouver Island fossils, featuring fossils from all over British Columbia and the world. The star of the museum is Rambling Rosie, a 60,000-year-old adult female walrus discovered just 10 km north of Qualicum Beach in 1979. Open mid-June to early October in the Power House Museum complex.
- Fire and Ice is the premier May event in Qualicum Beach, attracting more than 6,000 local and out-of-town visitors. Over 30 teams compete to prepare and serve up the Ultimate Chili. At the same time, some 20 ice-carvers compete to create block ice sculptures, while enthusiastic kids display their carving prowess in jello! Festivities include street entertainment, a firewalking display and the awards ceremony.
- The Art in Action Summer Festival at the Old Schoolhouse Arts Centre in July features art displays, auctions and art demonstrations. Try your hand at pottery, painting, and other artful action!
Stroll through the forest and the rhododendrom-lined glades that are carpeted with trillium, cyclamen and other indigenous plants at the Milner Gardens and Woodlands. It is 70 acres of unspoiled natural beauty and is a sight to behold. At the heart of the gardens you will find a unique 1929 heritage home that has become a delightful tea house.
- The Heritage Forest of Qualicum Beach is located only minutes from the centre of town. The 35-acre nature reserve showcases an old-growth Coastal Douglas Fir eco-system, complete with forest trails and a salmon-bearing stream.
- The annual Brant Wildlife Festival celebrates the migration of up to 20,000 Brant geese from Mexico to their Alaskan breeding grounds. The beaches around Qualicum and neighbouring Parksville have been the site of an annual migration of tens of thousands of brant geese since well before the settlement of the town. With the establishment of the Brant Goose Feeding Area by the Mid Island Wildlife Watch Society, the arrival of the geese has been the trigger for annual festivities in mid-April. By then, thousands of the black-hued, duck-size sea geese touch down on the beaches and marshlands surrounding Parksville and Qualicum to rest and feed on the algae, eel grasses, seaweeds, and especially herring roe. Most of the migrating birds are travelling from Mexico to the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta of western Alaska. Guided tours of the feeding areas take visitors to special viewing locations, or you can simply walk out on the beach with a pair of binoculars and stalk them (and the more than 200 other bird species passing through at the same time).
- Hamilton Marsh provides natural habitat for such marsh birds and is particularly active in spring and fall with migrations of ducks and geese. Woodland trails from the small parking lot lead you to and around the marsh, with a viewing platform for closer observation of marsh inhabitants. The privately-owned Hamilton Marsh (360 hectares) is surrounded by second growth forest, and is located approximately 10 minutes drive due south of Qualicum Beach, on South Hilliers Road, just off the Alberni Highway 4.
- Golf: There are no less than 6 world-class golf courses in the Qualicum Beach area, and the pleasant, sunny climate means play continues year-round. Select from the Arrowsmith Golf & Country Club, Eaglecrest Golf Club, Glengarry Golf Links, and the Qualicum Beach Memorial Golf Course.
- Horseback Riding: The area offers many opportunities to explore the backcountry of Vancouver Island on horseback. Outfitters in the area offer instruction as well as short trail rides and overnight excursions. From alpine meadows to wooded trails, horseback riding will give you a unique perspective of this beautiful region.
- Fishing: Teeming with halibut, cod and salmon, the Strait of Georgia is a haven for salt water anglers, while trout fishing is popular at several nearby lakes and rivers. Fishing charters are available in the area.
Qualicum Beach Visitor Info Centre
- Accessible shorelines and good weather entice windsurfers and kayakers. Local outfitters will provide you with everything you need, including lessons. The federal dock at French Creek on Hwy 19 south of Qualicum Beach is sheltered by a sturdy breakwater, a hint that conditions do get breezy here on occasion, most notably in winter months when winds blow from the southeast. When conditions are favourable, this is a good place to launch your kayak.
- A site particularly suited to launching a canoe, kayak, or light-weight boat is the Little Qualicum River Estuary in Qualicum Beach beside Hwy 19A, where you'll find easygoing paddling in the Marshall Stevenson Wildlife Preserve and Qualicum National Wildlife Area.
- The Little Qualicum Spawning Channel on the Little Qualicum River is accessed via Melrose Road. Turn north off Highway 4, 3.5 miles (6 km) west of Coombs, and follow the signs to the hatchery. Over 4 million chinook salmon are raised annually, with the best visiting times being February to June and October to November.
- On the road to the Horne Lake Caves is the Qualicum Fish Hatchery, located on the Qualicum River. Take a tour of the fish hatchery and learn about the amazing life cycle of the salmon in B.C. Have an eye-to-eye encounter in the underwater viewing area. The Big Qualicum River is a typical coastal stream. From its source at Horne Lake, the river flows approximately 7 miles (11 km) to the Strait of Georgia. All species of Pacific salmon return to Big Qualicum, as do steelhead and cutthroat trout. Chum represent the highest production, followed by good populations of coho and chinook. Each year, approximately 100,000 steelhead and 25,000 cutthroat trout are also produced at the hatchery. If you visit the hatchery during the fall you can see spawners as they ascend the fish ladder leading to the holding ponds. The best time to see adult salmon is from October to December, while February through April is a good time for steelhead.
- Caving: There are several hundred significant caves to explore on Vancouver Island, including those at Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park, 9 miles (14 km) west of Hwy 194 near Qualicum Beach south of Bowser. The park protects seven caves in the Horne Lake Cave system. A small fee is charged for tours in July and August, conducted by knowledgeable guides from the Canadian Cave Conservancy, a nonprofit organization devoted to proper management, protection, and interpretation of Canada's cave resources. If you're here in summer, plan on joining the challenging Karst Trail and Riverbend Trail tours, which last about two hours. Tours leave the trailhead on the hour between 10am and 4pm. You can take a self-guided tour of Main Cave and Lower Main Cave throughout the year. Although the distance covered isn't great - about 0.1 mile (0.2 km) you'll have to bend, duck, and squeeze your way through a series of narrow passages.
No matter when you arrive, prepare yourself for a tour by dressing warmly, wearing sturdy boots, and carrying a bright flashlight. (Helmets and lights are provided on guided tours. For those with a lust to squeeze deeper into the cave system, the three-to-four-hour Riverbed Bottoming trip leads down through a series of vertical pits, the deepest of which is nearly 60 feet/19 m). A gravel road leads to the parking area and trailhead at the far end of Horne Lake. A footbridge spans the Qualicum River, from where a rough limestone trail leads to the Main Cave.
- North of Qualicum Beach is the small oceanside community of Deep Bay, a town seemingly devoted to angling. Mapleguard Point is the elbow of an arm and spit that protect Deep Bay's natural harbour. Rich salmon grounds lie in the bay near the Norris Rock, Chrome Island, and Eagle Rock.
- Farther north along Highway 19A in Lighthouse Country is another friendly seaside community. Qualicum Bay combines natural scenic beauty with a wide variety of unique beachfront motels, cottages, bed & breakfasts, RV parks and campgrounds.
- Offshore to the north of Qualicum Beach lies Lasqueti Island, the first of several northern Gulf Islands that you catch glimpses of as the Island Highway heads north towards Courtenay and Campbell River. Farther off in the distance is the dark profile of Texada Island. Largely undeveloped, Lasqueti Island lies southwest of Texada Island, a short distance across the Strait of Georgia from Parksville and Qualicum Beach. The island is a quaint and eccentric little community of self-reliant homesteaders who enjoy the island's mild climate and relative isolation. Catch the ferry from French Creek, midway between Qualicum Beach and Parksville.
- Check out the waters off French Creek, 3 miles (5 km) south of Qualicum Beach on Hwy 19A, rumoured to be a great spot to hook the big one. Kids enthusiastically cast their lines off the dock, hoping for their own vacation story to tell. The annual fall salmon run at the mouth of French Creek as it enters the Strait of Georgia attracts anglers to the French Creek Marina and the public boat launch adjacent to the federal dock and Lasqueti Island ferry.
- Neighbouring Qualicum Beach is the seaside resort town of Parksville, favoured as one of the most popular summer family vacations destinations of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.
- From the town of Qualicum Beach, Highway 4 (Pacific Rim Highway) begins to wind across the spine of the Vancouver Island Mountains to Port Alberni and the open ocean at Ucluelet and Tofino, all three of which are sheltered harbours. This is the route to the Pacific Rim.
Qualicum Beach Airport is located south of Qualicum Beach. See the tables for flight times to get to Qualicum Beach from Vancouver or Victoria.