Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre

Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, Bamfield, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The old centre (left) and the Rix Centre for Ocean Discoveries (right)

It’s kind of hard to believe that there could be anything magical at all contained in the great concrete behemoth that greets visitors as they arrive by boat in the tiny settlement of Bamfield. The Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre is, without a doubt, one of the least attractive buildings in the entire remote settlement perched on the west coast of the Island. On the inside, however, BMSC is full of beauty, intrigue and history.

Visitors at research lab at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre

Tours visit the research labs

The centre is sited at the entrance to Bamfield Inlet and ultimately replaced (very sadly) an original building designed by renowned architect Francis Rattenbury, who created such notable landmarks as the B.C. legislative buildings and the Empress Hotel in Victoria.  Rattenbury’s grandiose structure perched on the hilltop looking out to Barkley Sound and provided a fine base for employees of the Pacific Cable Board cable station, the eastern terminus of a 4,000 kilometre undersea trans-Pacific telegraph cable. Dining rooms, an extensive library, music and billiards were all available – it certainly must have seemed like extravagant luxury in the wilds of the Pacific coast in 1902!

Francis Rattenbury building at Bamfield

The original building on the site, befitting of the spectacular location, was designed by renowned architect Francis Rattenbury

            The concrete building that currently houses the marine station was built in 1926 to accommodate offices for employees of a second submarine cable. When the Rattenbury place fell into disrepair it was demolished and the concrete structure became the dominant feature at the entrance to the inlet.  The cable station was shut down in 1959 and for a decade the building that had housed it sat unused until the concept of a marine sciences centre was floated for the location. Now it serves as a research and public education hub supported by no less than five western universities – an admirable collaboration that has brought world-class work to one of the most isolated settlements in the country.

Touch tanks at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, Bamfield, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The touch tanks are a great hit with visitors young and old

We were fortunate enough to be able to participate in a 1 ½ hour tour of the centre during a trip to Bamfield. About three dozen visitors of all ages gathered at the centre on a sunny afternoon and were greeted by Kelly Clement, our engaging tour guide.

            Kelly launched the tour by telling us a little bit about the community of Bamfield, after which we moved inside to the main entrance foyer.  It is pretty much the most attractive part of the building, finished in wood and featuring aquariums displaying sea creatures native to the area.  The rest of the place is strictly utilitarian, housing labs, classrooms and offices.  But by traversing all three levels of the centre we came to appreciate so much of the importance of what goes on at BMSC. Kelly told us about the endangered abalone – a species I recall consuming with gusto way back in the 1970s, but now in serious decline due to over-fishing. We learned that star fish can re-grow legs, and we had the opportunity to speak with a researcher who was studying pipe fish. There were touch tanks that absolutely entranced visitors, young and old. And down the final steep flight of stairs to what Kelly calls the ‘creepy’ basement – low ceilings and all – we found yet more research projects in progress.

Sea anenome at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, Bamfield, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaThe final stop on the tour was a classroom setting that featured real skeletons of salvaged sea creatures, the largest of which was a baby whale – I don’t think an adult one could have been fitted in to the available space.

Main entrance at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, Bamfield, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Main entrance to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre

Truly, taking the tour was an afternoon well-spent. Learning about the marine life and environment that help to make Bamfield and the west coast the very special places that they are was not only enlightening, but fun. In addition to the research the station runs a great variety of special programs for students, school groups and the general public.  I think we may have to return!

            And, as an aside: as if to compensate for the less-than-enchanting edifice of the main concrete building, the 2004 addition of the extremely beautiful glass-fronted, scallop-shaped  Rix Centre for Ocean Discoveries has helped immensely in redeeming the site on the aesthetic front.  It also houses labs and offices as well as a stunning auditorium – and, of course, an aquarium.

Marine mammal skeletons

Skeletons of various marine animals instill an appreciation of scale and size

Further information on the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre and its extensive program offerings can be found at the website:

 www.bms.bc.ca

            The centre is located at 100 Pachena Road in East Bamfield

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.83528900115949  Long. -125.13547897338867

N 48 50.117  W 125 08.129

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Big Qualicum Regional Trail

Pool at Big Qualicum River Regional Trail, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

A fisherman’s delight – one of the pools along the Big Qualicum

There isn’t anything much better on a warm Summer afternoon than exploring new-to-us territory, so we recently set out to the Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery and the many miles of trails that snake along both sides of this lovely spot. By the end of our 1 1/2 hour excursion I found myself wondering why it had taken so long for us to check out this marvellous spot.

Rapids on the Big Qualicum River

Rapids along the Big Qualicum River

The Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery proper is dedicated to increasing populations of Pacific Salmon. It is the first of the modern enhancement programs in British Columbia, and serves as the hub for the Rosewall and Little Qualicum facilities. Tours are available for those so inclined, but our goal was to explore the hiking opportunities that abound in the area.

Stump and root of upended old-growth tree at Big Qualicum River, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

This is the upended root of an old-growth tree that obviously toppled many years ago – there were two large trees growing from it, reaching for the light

It took us a little bit to track down the start of what is known as the Big Qualicum Regional Trail which, essentially, is a 10 kilometre (6 1/4 mile) unused gravel access road that leads almost all the way to the Horne Lake Caves. We discovered a sign leading to the trail to the far right of the spacious parking lot and set off, wondering what the afternoon would bring.

Trail sign on Big Qualicum Regional Trail

Once you actually find the head of the Big Qualicum Regional Trail signage is pretty good

A few minutes out in the sun and dust of the gravel road convinced us to follow the signs for the cooler and shadier Cutthroat Trail, which meanders alongside the river, past small rapids and quiet pools. We paused frequently to admire our surroundings, and eventually came upon a rustic bridge composed of a single long, sturdy log (with, thankfully, rope strung along its length to aid balance and navigation).

Log bridge over Big Qualicum River, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Two views of the rustic and perfectly serviceable log bridge

Log bridge over Big Qualicum River, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaAcross the bridge we headed along the Steelhead Trail, through shady forest, up and down several sets of well-constructed stairs and along the river bank. The serenity and beauty of this trail is all-encompassing – a lovely retreat. We eventually found our way back to the parking lot after following the trail as it abutted a chain link fence. The pathway isn’t quite as well marked at this stage, a point worth noting. The noise from an excavator working on a hatchery project also indicated that we were getting close to reaching our vehicle.

Wooden stairwell at Big Qualicum Regional Trail, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Good shoes and good knees required for the multiple stairwells

We hiked a total of 5.75 kilometres (3.6 miles) in just over 1 1/2 hours, taking our time to enjoy our surroundings and the quiet beauty of the river and the spawning channels (which, incidentally, are much more ‘natural’ than the set-up at the Little Qualicum Hatchery). This is not a difficult walk, but good shoes (and good knees to traverse the stairwells) are recommended.

Further information on the Big Qualicum Regional Trail can be found at:

http://www.rdn.bc.ca/cms.asp?wpID=2582

The Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery is located in the Qualicum Bay area.

From the Inland Island Hwy (19), take the Horne Lake exit (75). Follow Horne Lake Road until you pass the railroad tracks and take the next left (continuing onto Horne Lake Road). On your immediate left (you will see a Big Qualicum Hatchery sign), turn onto the gravel road (River Road). Follow that down to the hatchery parking lot.

From the Island Hwy (19A), take the exit on Horne Lake Road. Take the first right onto a gravel road (River Road) and continue until you reach the hatchery parking lot.

GPS Co-ordinates for the Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery are:

Lat. : 49.393766 Long.: -124.616646

  49° 23′ 37.5576” N124° 36′ 59.9256” W

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Rob’s Lighthouse Eatery in Cowichan Bay

Fish and chips at Rob's Lighthouse Eatery, Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaEating outdoors is a rite of summer for us, whether we are at home or on the road. It is one of the great pleasures of the season, especially when a dining experience turns up a happy new find like Rob’s Lighthouse Eatery, located on the main drag in Cowichan Bay.

We have traipsed ‘through’ this place countless times during our visits to the pretty seaside village – the community walkway cuts between the the Rob’s Lighthouse Eatery food dispensary and its covered outdoor eating area. We finally stopped long enough to sample the fare during a trip back from Victoria. We were in search of lunch, and the menu at this place certainly didn’t disappoint.

Covered patio at Rob's Lighthouse Eatery, cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British columbia

The covered patio offeres protection from the elements and great people watching

The culinary offerings included breakfast plates, paninis, hamburgers, wraps, salads, seafood – and a kids menu. We both had a hankering for fish and chips on this particular day, so broke our standing rule of each ordering something different with the intent of reporting more variety in the blog posts. Judging by what arrived at the tables of others dining at Rob’s fish and chips are a perennial favourite. One table ordered wraps that they deemed delicious and very filling (no surprise, judging by the size of them).

We ordered at the window and settled in to a corner table under cover that allowed us to enjoy the various lighthouse-themed items that adorn Rob’s. There are several tables beyond the covered area as well, and a pretty water fountain featuring – you guessed it – lighthouses.

Lighthouse water feature at Rob's Lighthouse Eatery, Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The water feature next to the patio includes, of course, lighthouses

Lunch arrived within a reasonable amount of time. A large, lightly-battered piece of flavourful cod arrived atop some of the best hand-cut fries I have had the pleasure of consuming. The fish batter was light and crispy, and the chips were crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside. Clearly, Rob’s has mastered the art of the perfect French fry! The meal was accompanied by a generous scoop of really good cole slaw finished with a light dill dressing – a nice change from the usual pre-made stuff that often arrives with a plate of fish and chips. Even the tartar sauce was special.

Having now sampled Rob’s fish and chips I am keen to return and try some of their other menu items. The prawns look especially appealing.

sign for Rob's Lighthouse Eatery, Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaSo, a nice meal diversion if you are traipsing around Cowichan Bay and looking for a generous, freshly-prepared meal served with good sides and great cheer. Our lunch was large enough, in fact, that it became our dinner, and I didn’t have to cook that night. Another advantage to eating at this charming little place!

Further information about Rob’s Lighthouse Eatery can be found on their Facebook page.

Price rating: $

The eatery is located at 1751 Cowichan Bay Road, Cowichan Bay.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat.: 48.740540 Long.: -123.621133

 48° 44′ 25.944” N 123° 37′ 16.0788” W

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A magical overnight journey on the venerable Uchuck lll

Uchuck III, Gold River, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaThis post is an ‘encore presentation’,  filed again (with some updates) because the trip on the Uchuck III was one of our most memorable and delightful.  Anyone with a taste for a bit of the wild in their travels should consider it.

  Our many travels on Vancouver Island have taken us to a wide variety of locations, but a trip up the northwest coast is one that will remain in my memory until the day I die. It was nothing short of magical thanks to a combination of very fine summer weather, breathtaking scenery, the great crew of the MV Uchuck lll and a destination that was tiny, remote and serenely lovely.

Scene3ry on Uchuck III voyage, Gold River, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Spectacular scenery abounds

Our journey with Get West Adventure Cruises (an adjunct to the cargo deliveries performed by the packet freighter) commenced very early on a perfect summer morning, when 16 of us straggled on to the dock at Gold River, traipsed downstairs with our luggage and settled in for the day-long trip to the minute fishing village of Kyuquot. Elaine, the cheerful queen of the full-service kitchen, had coffee and breakfast options ready, and away we went, chugging along at 12 knots an hour.

Log sort during trip on Uchuck III, Gold River, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The voyage includes stops at all sorts of remote enterprises, including logging camps

While the overnight trip involved two pretty long days on the water there was never a lack of things to do and see. The scenery all the way up the coast, through Nootka Sound and Esperanza Inlet was nothing short of spectacular. We made many freight drops during the course of the day, delivering food to fish farms, supplies to remote fishing lodges, equipment to isolated log-sort operations – the list of stops was endless and engaging as we watched the skillful crew hook and lower a huge variety of goods to waiting recipients.

And, of course, our fellow passengers were a source of interest. Lazing on the comfortable benches on the upper deck or below-decks in the indoor lounge we found ourselves talking to folks from England, France, New York, Seattle and many Island locations.

Interior of Uchuck III, Gold River, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The comfortable interior of the Uchuck III

There was plenty of wildlife to enjoy along the route as well, including a whale, black bears, bald eagles, Great Blue Herons, seals, otters and, at one of the freight drops, hummingbirds.

Uchuck III berthed at Kyuquot, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Berthed at Kyuquot

Although the weather was sunny and warm it was fairly windy, which meant when we hit open water for the final couple of hours to Kyuquot things got a little rough. We were hitting 10-foot swells on a pretty consistent basis, so Gravol was the order of the day at that point. A few of our fellow passengers were sea sick, but we managed to survive the rough water.

Just before 5:30 p.m. we pulled into Kyuquot, were introduced to our respective hosts and were whisked off to our accommodations for the night – some went by small boat, while we sauntered up the wharf and briefly along the waterfront to the very comfortable and welcoming home of our hosts.

Evening stroll at Kyuquot, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

An after-dinner stroll in Kyuquot

At 6:30 we all assembled at the old school house, now a restaurant, and enjoyed an extraordinarily good meal, served family style. Post-supper some of us wandered back along the waterfront trail, exploring beaches and pretty vistas and enjoying dusk in this stunning, remote location. Kyuquot reminds me of what Tofino was like 45 years ago when I first ventured there – just a simple, lovely spot perched on the edge of the wild Pacific, unencumbered by commercialism, traffic or the intrusions of cell phone service or internet.

Daybreak in Kyuquot, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Daybreak in Kyuquot

Early the next morning we were on the deck with coffee, enjoying a peaceful waterfront sunrise and a generous breakfast, then it was back down the hill to the Uchuck and heading out for the long trip back to Gold River. There were more freight drops on the way back, along with pick-ups of kayakers and passengers from a remote camp. By 5 p.m. we were back on solid land with hundreds of spectacular photographs and memories to last a lifetime. I am so thankful that Get West Adventures offers such a unique experience – if you don’t mind roughing it a bit, and if a little ‘wild’ is your idea of a good time you will never regret making this trip.

Kayakers waiting for the Uchuck III in Esperanza Inlet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The Uchuck III routinely picks up kayakers durings its travels

More information on Get West Adventures can be found at the website:

http://www.getwest.ca/

Get West Adventures is located at the wharf about a 15 minute drive from Gold River.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.68033966169039 Long. -126.11745544683521

N 49 40.820 W 126 07.047

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Tofino Botanical Gardens

Frog pond at Tofino Botanical Garden, Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The frog pond

I am never quite sure what to expect when I am visiting a ‘botanical garden.’ I know about show gardens (Butchart’s in Victoria) and woodland gardens (Milner in Qualicum Beach and Kitty Coleman in Courtenay), but the term ‘botanical garden’ seems sometimes to be a catch-all for disparate collections of plant materials. There are almost always surprises, often of the most delightful kind, and the Tofino Botanical Gardens certainly don’t disappoint on that front.

Waterfront view at Tofino Botanical Gardens, Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

There are beautiful views of Browning Passage….

Derelect Volkswagen van, Tofino Botanical Gardens, Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

….vintage whimsy….

Boardwalk at Tofino Botanical Gardens, Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

…and lovely forest walks

Located on 12 acres just outside the tourist town of Tofino, the botanical gardens spare us the craziness that descends on its neighbouring village during the busy summer months. There is peace, plenty of room for visitors to walk and explore, and a measured pace to life both at the gardens and the affiliated eco-lodge and Darwin’s Cafe.

Trail at Tofino Botanical Gardens, Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The trails are all well- maintained…..

Patio at Darwin's Cafe, Tofino Botanical Gardens, Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Darwin’s Café offers a charming place for a refreshment or a bite to eat

We arrived on a sunny Summer afternoon to take in the wonders of the Tofino Botanical Gardens and were delighted at the combination of peaceful pathways and boardwalks, pocket gardens, pretty views of Browning Passage and the Tofino mud flats and…a lot of whimsy that brought smiles to our faces at every turn.

Story telling hut at Tofino Botanical Gardens, Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The story telling hut

Pink flamingos at the frog pond at Tofino Botanical Gardens, Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

A flock of pink flamingos stands sentry at the frog pond

During the 1 1/2 hours we spent exploring the botanical gardens (we easily could have squandered even more time than that) we meandered through a demonstration food garden, a medicinal herb garden, past a pretty frog pond enhanced by a magical Tolkien-like structure and a flock of pink flamingos (!). All-told, there were 24 points of interest on the map we received at the entrance. There is a tip of the hat to First Nations culture in the form of a stunning carved canoe, there is a spectacularly-designed story telling hut, and there are sculptures in various media in many nooks and crannies. The shoreline offers several well-constructed viewpoints, and whimsy abounds throughout the 12 acre site.

Picnickers at Tofino Botanical Gardens, Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Al fresco dining with a very unique backdrop!

The Tofino Botanical Gardens are proof positive that a picture is worth a thousand words, so without further ado I am going to publish extra photos of this magical spot with this week’s post. Enjoy, and if you can possibly get there, do so – it’s an experience of a whole other kind that is well worth the time and the entrance fee. They do offer a seniors rate but don’t advertise it, so be sure to ask about that if you are over 65.

Entry to Tofino Botanical Gardens, tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The entry to the gardens

Carving of family at Tofino Botanical Gardens, Tofino, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaFurther information on the Tofino Botanical Gardens can be found on their Facebook page.

Tofino Botanical Gardens is located at 1084 Pacific Rim Highway, Tofino

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat.: 49.133149 Long.-125.890467

N 49 07.989 W 125 53.428

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Pender Island’s Sea Star Vineyards

Al fresco dining at Sea Star Vineyards, Pender Island, British Columbia

Al fresco dining at Sea Star

A beautiful setting, award-winning wines, talented artisans and good food – who could ask for more? We were entranced by a recent visit to Sea Star Vineyard on Pender Island when we were introduced to their weekly Wednesday Winery Market. The market runs all through the summer months until the Labour Day weekend.

Tasting room at Sea Star Vineyards, Pender Island, British Columbia

The tasting room

As vineyards go, Sea Star is not large – it encompasses 26 acres of hillside that terrace up to Mt. Menzies and cascade down to the beach. Planted in 2002, the vineyards include a wide variety of grapes, all of which are put to use producing Sea Star’s award-winning product. Although the vineyard is one of long standing the wines coming from it are only in to their fourth vintage under the Sea Star name. The fact that the winery’s offerings often sell out quickly says much for the quality of the product.

But, I digress. Sea Star’s weekly Wednesday market is a delightful combination of not just wine tasting, but an opportunity to enjoy the very relaxed ambiance of a true Gulf Island experience. The Wednesday Winery Market includes a limited number of vendors offering everything from fresh produce to artistic endeavours. There is live music – a very talented guitarist the day we were there – and a food truck.

Food truck at Sea Start Vineyards, Pender Island, British Columbia

The food truck serves us a tasty and varied selection of foods

We settled ourselves at a table under one of the pretty green Sea Star umbrellas and wandered over to inspect the lunch menu, which was varied and very reasonably priced. Three of us ended up sharing a generous portion of yummy Wagon Fries, a bowl of palate-pleasing sweet potato and orange soup, and some truly amazing cod tacos.

Truth be known, we could have done without the soup but the flavour combinations piqued our curiousity. No regrets there – a cup gave all three of us a substantial tasting and combined with our other choices provided plenty of fuel for the rest of the afternoon.

Cod tacos at Sea Star Vineyards, Pender Island, British Columbia

Cod tacos

The cod tacos came loaded and very attractively presented, with a mouth watering combination of vegetables and fish. My salivary glands get going just looking at the photos.

Vendor table at Se3a Star Vineyards, Pender Island, British Columbia

Vendor tables are situated around the perimeter of the dining area.

The beauty of this ‘market’ is that it is so unhurried. Neighbours take time to chat, the live music keeps us settled in our chairs just listening and savouring the moment, and a wander into the tasting room doesn’t go amiss either. It’s a perfect way to spend a sunny Summer afternoon.

Further information on Sea Star Vineyard can be found at the website at

http://seastarvineyards.ca/

Sea Star Vineyard is located at 6621 Harbour Hill Drive, North Pender Island

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.778605 Long. -123.253565

N 48 46.716 W 123 15.214

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The Malahat Chalet and Bakery

View from Malahat Chalet and Bakery, Malahat, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The spectacular view from the Malahat Chalet and Bakery

The Malahat Chalet and Bakery was one of those places that we never seemed to have time to check out during our travels to and from Victoria. We finally stopped there for lunch on a recent trip, and were happily surprised at a number of things about the place.

The Malahat Chalet and Bakery has been perched at the 1,150 foot (350 metres) summit of the famed and treacherous road whose name it bears since 1935, when the Malahat trail was first built to connect Victoria and the community of Mill Bay. These days the road is a modern highway that sees traffic whizzing by; in the era when the restaurant was constructed vehicular traffic faced an epic journey that often contributed to overheated radiators, flat tires and hair-raising steep drops off the narrow roadway.

Wrap and dirty fries at Malahat Chalet and Bakery, Malahat, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Wrap and Dirty Fries

The Malahat Chalet and Bakery were recently purchased by new owners. The past three years have seen renovations to upgrade the facility, which offers breathtaking views of mountains and inlets. Still, there is a tip of the hat to the place’s history with the whimsical addition in the lobby of a skeleton playing an upright piano.

The Malahat Chalet and Bakery offers varied breakfast, lunch and dinner menus as well as a kids menu. They take pride in sourcing ingredients locally as much as possible.

Halibut and chips at Malahat Chalet and Bakery, Malahat, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Halibut and chips

My husband opted for the halibut and chips ( less expensive cod doesn’t even appear on the menu). The fish arrived in a crisp, light batter, accompanied by hand-cut fries and a tasty cole slaw.

I was intrigued with the Dirty Fries, and when the waitress described them to me (hand cut fries tossed in garlic butter and parmesan, served with a garlic mayo dip) I succumbed to temptation and ordered them along with a flavourful and very large wrap. Half of the wrap came home with us, but every morsel of those killer fries made their way into my stomach on the spot. ‘To-die-for’ is hardly an adequate description.

Interior of Malahat Chalet and Bakers

Interior of Malahat Chalet and Bakery

The large dining room can be a little noisy when things are busy but the picture windows opening on to spectacular views more than compensate. The Malahat Chalet and Bakery appears to be a very popular spot for family gatherings, ladies who lunch and couples – it was clear that many of our dining companions were ‘regulars’, which says nothing but good things for the consistency of food and service at the restaurant. We enjoyed prompt, friendly and courteous service.

Skeleton playing upright piano at Malahat Chalet and Bakery, Malahat, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

A little whimsy….

We managed to resist all the baked goods in the display case on the way out, but it’s good to know that there is always a pick-me-up treat available in this almost-the-middle-of-nowhere location.

The combination of history, beautiful surroundings and good food is clearly a winning combination for the Malahat Chalet and Bakery – they certainly wouldn’t have survived 82 years without all those assets!

Price rating: $-$$

Further information on the Malahat Chalet and Bakery can be found at the website:

http://moonwaterlodge.com/restuarant

The Malahat Chalet and Bakery is located at 265 Trans Canada Highway, Malahat, Vancouver Island

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.544032 Long. -123.564498

N 48 32.642 W 123 33.870

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Little Qualicum Fish Spawning Channels

Bridge across Little Qualicum spawning channel

Sturdy metal bridges cross many of the spawning channels

One of the prettiest, most pristine and easily accessible nature walks on Vancouver Island is just a stone’s throw from the village of Qualicum Beach.

Bench at Little Qualicum spawning channels, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

You can rest awhile at the riverside…

The site is home to a steelhead recovery plan program and salmonid enhancement and watershed restoration projects, and encompasses a very large chunk of acreage bordering the west side of the lower Little Qualicum River. The surroundings are enough to please any lover of the outdoors, but this intriguing spot also offers close-up glimpses of the life cycle of one of Vancouver Island’s most important natural assets – salmon.

fish ladders at Little Qualicum spawning channels, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Fish ladders are a source of fascination during the Autumn salmon runs

Access to the network of meandering trails, spawning channels and the Little Qualicum River itself can be found by travelling a short distance along a gravel road and turning right into a spacious gravel parking lot. From there visitors can take time to watch whatever may be going on at the complex of fish ladders adjacent to the parking area, or they can strike off on an easy loop walk that, done at a leisurely pace, will take about an hour. The trails are wide, well-maintained and level and offer a variety of visual delights that include wildlife sightings, views of the river, spawning channels, forest and open spaces. Black bear and cougar are not unheard of in the area, although not commonly encountered. This is essentially wild land and the presence of fish, most especially in the autumn when the salmon are spawning, is an attractant for wildlife.

Walking trail at Little Qualicum spawning channels, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaA walk or bicycle ride at this very lovely location can take you in a variety of directions. We have been known to stray off the main path and end up at the river, mesmerized by the upstream struggle of spawning salmon. We have trailed across the sturdy metal bridges that span the man-made side-channels and found ourselves almost eye-to-eye with a blue heron. We have enjoyed the antics of gambolling deer, the cries of bald eagles on the hunt. Every adventure brings new surprises and delights.

Golden Retrievers out for a walk at Little Qualicum Spawning channels, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The area is a great place to walk dogs

We have taken our dog there, and have come upon other visitors who also take their canine buddies along. There are no signs prohibiting off-leash activity, but be aware that an encounter with wildlife could be problematic with a loose dog, especially if it isn’t well trained on the recall.

Little Qualicum spawning channel, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Known locally simply as the Little Qualicum spawning channels, this lovely spot is located at 1380 Claymore Road. You can reach Claymore by taking the Laburnum Road bypass around the village of Qualicum Beach.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.35037310874317 Long. -124.49569702148437

N 49 21.022 W 124 29.742

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Fairy magic at Milner Gardens

One of our favourite fairy houses - the attention to detail in all of the creations is amazing

One of our favourite fairy houses – the attention to detail in all of the creations is amazing

When the lives of children are so caught up these days with scheduled activities, the cyber world and the hard business of growing up in modern times, it’s refreshing to find a place and occasion where magic, timelessness and imagination predominate.  We have found that at the annual Milner Gardens fairy festival, scheduled this year for June 22 – 25.  Even the grown-ups are enchanted.

This one came complete with a fairy-sized hammock....

This one came complete with a fairy-sized hammock….

Every year around the summer solstice, the story goes, the fairies at Qualicum Beach’s Milner Gardens and Woodland allow their homes to be visible to humans.  Upwards of 50 of the miniscule dwellings appear, tucked into the woodland and gardens, hidden among shade-dappled trails.

Tea in the fairy garden....

Tea in the fairy garden….

Created by volunteers, the fairy houses ran the gamut, from the very simplest and most basic to elaborate.  There are fairy homes created from wood bark, dried ferns, moss, bird nests, teeny tiny bits and pieces gleaned from woods and beach. Visitors are guided to them by ribbons hung from branches with notes asking to please not touch the houses, as the fairies would probably be napping.

Human fairies at Milner Gardens fairy festival, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Human fairies are also plentiful

It isn’t just the houses that enchant, though.  Many of them are surrounded by tableaux that are evocative of a slower, gentler life.  Miniscule ladders lead to tiny swings, miniature hand-made tables and chairs are located in petite garden settings that suggest a fairy tea is about to commence.  There are tiny hammocks, tiny beds, tiny patios, pathways, floral displays.  Some fairy houses hang from branches while others are tucked among the woodland beauty that is Milner. All of them fired the imagination and bring magic to the day.

Another beautiful creation

Another beautiful creation

The other great thing about this event is that the children (and some of the adults, too!) really get in to the spirit, There are dozens of fairies of the human variety, complete with fancy dresses and wings, flitting about the gardens.

Be-ribboned signs helped show the way to the hidden houses

Be-ribboned signs helped show the way to the hidden houses

On our last visit to this event we spent a good 90 minutes seeking out the hidden gems, then wandered along to the historic and very lovely Milner house where tea, lemonade and fairy cakes were being served in the shade of the back terrace. I can never say enough about the dedicated ladies who volunteer their time to run the inside tea room and outdoor venues for special events like this – they offer superb, cheerful service every time we are there, along with tasty sustenance.

Human fairies need sustenance too - fairy cakes and lemonade on the terrace at the house

Human fairies need sustenance too – fairy cakes and lemonade on the terrace at the house

We finished the day by purchasing a couple of jars of the house-made jams on offer at the house.  Created with fruit from the gardens, they are some of the best, and proceeds go to supporting the heritage treasure that has become a popular destination for residents and visitors alike.            Fairy signSo, thanks to Veronica Milner, her belief in fairies and the many staff and volunteers who keep her vision alive and thriving, another delightful event at Milner Gardens and Woodland. We are so fortunate to have this beautiful estate on the Island, and to have it open to the public.

this year’s Fairy Festival runs from Thursday, June 22 – Sunday June 25 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day.

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            Further information on Milner Gardens and Woodland and coming events can be found at the website:

            https://www2.viu.ca/milnergardens/

            Milner Gardens is located at 2179 West Island Highway, Qualicum Beach

            GPS co-ordinates are:

            Lat. 49.353670  Long. -124.414487

            N 49 21.220  W 124 24.869

Posted in ATTRACTIONS, EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, EVENTS, KID FRIENDLY, SPECIAL PLACES, WHEELCHAIR ACCESS | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Nanoose Bay Art in the Garden

Nanoose Bay Art in the Garden

The beautiful venue includes great gardens, a pond and shaded trails

Nanoose Bay Art In The Garden, Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbika

Can there be a lovelier place to be on a fine summer’s day than a beautiful garden filled to the brim with talented artisans and musicians?  If you think that nothing could be better, be sure to mark your calendar for the weekend of June 24-25 and head to the eighth annual Nanoose Bay Art in the Garden event.

The beautiful 10-acre garden meanders along shady trails surrounding a large pond and across lush lawns.  All along the way artists in various disciplines display their creative and very attractive wares, all of which are for sale.  I never manage to get away without purchasing something that has caught my eye – it is often a starting point for my Christmas shopping, promising gifts that are unique and won’t be found anywhere else. Garden décor is another big favourite of mine at this event – there is always so much beautiful and different work available.

Vendor booth at Nanoose Bay Art in the Garden, Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

80 vendors will display their beautiful and unique wares

We usually plan to spend at least a couple of hours wandering this delightful site, enjoying the summertime ambiance, live music emanating from the platform suspended over the edge of the pond, and always, a sit-down with a beverage and something to nibble on.

The event has grown tremendously during the eight years it has been in existence, beginning with just a handful of artists and a great vision.  This year there are 80 artisans who will be setting up their canopies, so we are looking forward to the expanded offerings and an excuse to linger even longer.

Vendor building at Nanoose Bay Art in the Garden, Nanoose, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Several vendors can be found indoors, as well

The other wonderful aspect of this occasion is that all proceeds from the donated admission fees are given to Nanoose Community Services.  To date Nanoose Bay Art in the Garden has raised upwards of $20,000 that has been used to help  those less fortunate – a feel-good aspect that comes as a bonus to those attending.

The 2017 event runs from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday at 2525 Northwest Bay Road, with admission by donation ($5 per person minimum suggested)

             wheelchair-mFurther information can be found at:

www.nanoosebayartinthegarden.com or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nanoose-Bay-Art-in-the-Garden/221049994574742?fref=ts

 GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.2871544  Long. -124.19079139999996

N 49 17.229  W 124 11.447

Posted in ARTISAN GALLERIES, ATTRACTIONS, EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, EVENTS, KID FRIENDLY, WHEELCHAIR ACCESS | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment