Port Alberni’s Stamp River Provincial Park

 Stamp River near Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The timeless – and very beautiful – Stamp River

It had been more than 40 years since I last visited Stamp River Provincial Park in the beautiful Alberni Valley, and I have to admit that I headed over there recently with some trepidation.  Back in the 1970s the place was wild and essentially undeveloped, 327 hectares (800 acres) tucked in at the far north end of Beaver Creek Road.  Few folks visited – it was little more than a local hidden gem then.  Would it, like so many other natural treasures, have changed for the worse through ‘enhancement’?  It turns out I needn’t have worried.

Black bear on the Stamp River, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

It’s not unusual to see black bears along the river

We were delighted to find that although things have changed at Stamp Falls, the developments have been minor and truly wonderful. The 23 unserviced campsites are private and nicely scattered through the forest. The two kilometers (1.2 miles) of walking trails are better groomed and more accessible for many visitors.

Picnic tables at Stamp River Provincial Park, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Picnic tables for a riverside meal…

The four picnic tables perched along the riverside offer a lovely spot for a sit-down and an informal al fresco meal. The well-conceived interpretive signs are a great educational addition to the park.

Beach along Stamp River, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

…or a quiet bit of beach for relaxation and reflection

There is even a television screen serviced by an underwater camera that allows visitors to see the salmon working their way up the fish ladders that were installed at the falls back in the 1950s.

Stamp River falls, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Park visitors gather on the bluff above the falls to watch the journey of the salmon…

Happily, the timeless unadorned natural world of the area has remained the same, too.  The Stamp River continues to run clean and clear, a wide, mesmerizing swath of blues, greens and white foam.  Stamp River falls, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaThe falls continue to tumble through a nine metre (30 feet) gorge and every autumn, as they have for untold eons, the cohoe, sockeye, Chinook and steelhead make their way up the river and battle through the falls (or the fish ladders) to answer the instinctive call to return to the spawning grounds on the upper reaches of the river and at Great Central Lake.Migrating salmon at Stamp River Falls, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia Black bears appear on a regular basis in hopes of securing a meal – one ambled along the other side of the river and down below the falls during our recent visit, much to the delight of everyone who was perched on the bluff above the falls expecting to see only the courageous journey of the fish.

Interpretive sign at Stamp River falls, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Interpretive signs introduce visitors to the natural rhythms of the river

While there are certainly more visitors to the park than in the past it is still a bit of a hidden treasure – during the couple of hours we lingered there we probably saw no more than 30 people, of all ages.  Youngsters gamboled along the pathways and sat, mesmerized, watching the leaping fish. Senior citizens, parents, dogs (on leash only, due to the bear situation) all enjoyed the perfect Indian Summer afternoon. Travellers and locals leaned over fences to watch the water swirl and eddy its way along, lingered at the excellent interpretive signs that explained the natural ecology of the area, paused to chat.

 

Walking trail at Stamp River Provincial Park, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Trails are wide and well-groomed – a perfect spot for a family walk

The fish runs will continue into December, so anyone keen to experience this natural phenomena still has plenty of time to get to the falls.  Even if you are visiting at other times of the year, there is plenty to see and enjoy at this lovely park – the world is still as it should be at Stamp River Provincial Park.   It is so worth the 14 kilometre (8 ½ mile) drive from Port Alberni, any time of year.

            More information about Stamp River Provincial Park can be found at:

http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/stamp_rv/

 The park is located near the end of Beaver Creek Road, which branches off Highway 4 just out of Port Alberni, on the way to the west coast.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.34386052916214  Long.  -124.91905185215

 N 49 20.632 W 124 55.143

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Ladysmith’s Wild Poppy Bistro

Duck Salad Bowl at Wild Poppy Bistro, Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Duck Ponzu Salad Bowl

Who knew? Who knew that a tiny town of 8,500 perched on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island could be home to an upscale bistro – gluten and peanut-free, no less! Well, the good residents of Ladysmith know, and that’s obvious the minute you step through the door of the Wild Poppy Bistro. You wait for tables, even at 1:30 on a weekday afternoon, and you wait a bit for your food. But all of that, we discovered recently, is more than worth it.

Wild Poppy isn’t large, by any stretch of the imagination – seating tops out at accommodation for a couple of dozen. There are large artistic renditions of poppies on the walls, bare wood floors, bare wooden tables. In other words, there is absolutely nothing over-the-top fancy about the place. The food follows the same mantra. There is nothing high-end on the menu, but plenty of innovation, plenty of local-and-fresh, plenty of gluten-free and plenty of really tempting stuff.

By the time we arrived the daily quiche was sold out, so we took up our menus again and pondered the numerous mouth-watering options. One of the many salad offerings? A cup of house-made soup? Veggie enchiladas? Or maybe the pulled pork grilled cheese?

Yesteryear Farms Sausage Plate at Wild Poppy Bistro, Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Yesteryear Farms Sausage Plate

Ultimately, I settled on the duck ponzu salad bowl and my husband opted for the Yesteryear Farms sausage plate.

It took 35 minutes from the time we entered the Wild Poppy until our meals hit the table so, a warning – don’t go through that door if you are starving and need to eat right now. Plan ahead to allow the kitchen to work its magic – it will be worth the trouble.

The duck ponzu salad bowl arrived in the form of a colourful, artistic heap of duck confit, edamame, ramen noodles, shaved fennel, Savoy cabbage and snap peas, finished with a ponzu sesame vinaigrette. My mouth is watering at the thought of it – the flavour and texture combinations were masterful, and the vinaigrette was a perfect complement to the ingredients.

Wild Poppy Bistro, Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Inside the Wild Poppy – packed, bright and busy!

My husband’s sausage plate featured two flavourful, tender, plump sausages with a perfect blend of seasonings. The sausages were accompanied by a substantial chunk of aged cheddar cheese, rhubarb chutney, a gluten-free roll and house and potato salads (the latter of which he said he hadn’t enjoyed anything as good in a very long time).

Of course, we couldn’t pass up all the goodies in the display case, located right next to the till. So, a decent gluten-free ginger cookie for himself and a really lovely not-too-sweet butter tart in an excellent gluten-free pastry for me.

In addition to all the goodness on the food end of things, it was nice to see that the Wild Poppy also features locally-roasted Peaks coffee, tea from the nearby Westholme Tea Farm and botanically-brewed sodas from Fentiman’s.

We learned during our foray in to the Wild Poppy that the bistro has just celebrated its four-year anniversary. In a world where restaurants appear and fail with regularity, it’s no small wonder that the Wild Poppy continues to survive and thrive. Great food, friendly service, upbeat vibe. Now, if they had just offered a refill on our coffee….

Wild Poppy Bistro doesn’t have a website, but it can be found on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/Wild-Poppy-Bistro-281703711967723/

Price rating: $-$$

The Wild Poppy Bistro is located at 541 First Avenue, Ladysmith

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat.: 48.993942 Long.: -123.817997

48° 59′ 38.1912” N 123° 49′ 4.7892” W

Posted in DUNCAN/COWICHAN, EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, KID FRIENDLY, WHEELCHAIR ACCESS, WHERE TO EAT | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Fanny Bay Conservation Area

 

Fanny Bay conservation Area, Vancouver Island, british columbia, Canada

It’s not very obvious and you have to go in search of it, but the Fanny Bay Conservation Area is worth the trouble. Located 23 km (14 miles) south of the city of Courtenay on the Island’s east coast, the 160 hectare (395 acres) conservation area offers a wide variety of habitats, an easy, level walk and beautiful views of water, mountains and big sky.

We explored this pretty spot when the wild roses were in bloom, so there was an extra bonus of their heady fragrance all along the 1.6 km (1 mile) pathway.

The Fanny Bay Conservation Area is bordered by Highway 19A (the Old Island Highway), the pretty community of Ships Point and Fanny Bay’s infamous Wacky Woods. The area is home to more than 140 species of birds, which vary throughout the year depending on the season. Deer, elk, river otter, beaver, mink and muskrat also inhabit the region.

Fanny Bay Conservation Area, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaThe conservation area encompasses a mix of wildlife habitats that include a sheltered bay, mud flats, intertidal and fresh water marshes, grassland, forest and woodland swamp. There is a viewing platform along the pathway that opens up wider vistas of the surroundings.

Information kiosk at Fanny Bay conservation Area, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaThis walk is a great spot to take youngsters for a good leg stretch and an exploration of the wildlife that lives in the Fanny Bay Conservation Area – even the shortest little legs should be able to traverse the wide, flat pathway, and the youngest of the young will no doubt take great delight in discovering the wildlife secrets there.. It’s a great spot, too, if you are looking to enjoy a peaceful al fresco lunch – it seems to be little-known and thus offers much in the way of tranquility.

Wacky Woods at Fanny Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

One of the Wacky Woods art installations – a reflection of George Sawchuk’s sense of humour

You might also find yourself wandering through George Sawchuk’s Wacky Woods – a crumbling but intriguing outdoor art installation that will have you wondering at the mind of the man who created it. The Wacky Woods actually infringe on part of the forest component of the Fanny Bay Conservation Area, so they are pretty easy to find and explore, and they certainly add to the interest of a walk there..

Observation platform at Fanny Bay Conservation Area, Fanny Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The observation platform

There are a couple of easy access points to the Fanny Bay Conservation Area. You can head north on Highway 19A (The Old Island Highway) past the Fanny Bay Community Hall and about 50 feet north of Jacob Road you will see a yellow gate across a trail on the east side of the highway.  The trail leads along the Fanny Bay waterfront and there are several branches off  to the right to access the Wacky Woods.  Or, turn on to Ships Point Road (at the Fanny Bay Community Centre), follow Ships Point Road to Little Way, turn left on Little Way and then left on Bates Drive.  The
Wacky Woods trailhead (which is unmarked) will be at the end of Bates on the right hand side.  This is probably the safest access if you don’t want to have to cross the highway, and there is easy parking there.  It also puts you immediately into the magic of the Wacky Woods rather than having to hike along the waterfront trail.

GPS co-ordinates for the Wacky Woods access point are:

Lat.: 49.494506 Long.: -124.813274

49° 29′ 40.2216” N 124° 48′ 47.7864” W

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Sointula – still a place of harmony – offers a warm welcome

Looking towards Sointula from Rough Bay

Looking towards Sointula from Rough Bay

How can anyone fail to love a place where little girls can set up a lemonade stand in the middle of ‘town’, unaccompanied by adult supervision, whiling away their summer days and maybe making a little bit of pocket money?  How can anyone fail to admire a settlement that still honours the pioneers that founded it more than a century ago?  And really, is it possible to not appreciate the sweeping beaches, mountain views, gorgeous trails, the history, in that place? Those are only a few of the things that entranced us during a visit to Malcolm Island and Sointula, the tiny, isolated 600-soul village that is its heart.

Quadra Queen ferry on the way to Sointula, British Columbia

The Quadra Queen services Sointula and Malcolm Island from Port McNeill

Sointula was founded as a socialist Utopian community in 1901 by Finnish immigrants fleeing the brutal and dangerous life of coal miners on Vancouver Island. The Finns settled on Malcolm Island with nothing in the way of job prospects – there was absolutely no industry there – but with the vision of developing a creative and harmonious life.

Ultimately the dream died but many of the Finns, noted for their perseverance and work ethic, remained in Sointula (which in Finnish means ‘place of harmony’).  They carved out lives in the fishing and logging industries, raised families, built homes and farms.

One of the many beautiful sweeping beaches to be found on Malcolm Island

One of the many beautiful sweeping beaches to be found on Malcolm Island

One of the most endearing things about Sointula is that it continues to honour that heritage.  Finnish is still spoken periodically in the community, some signage and publicity literature includes Finnish translation as well, and there is an excellent museum that illuminates the legacy and hardships of the past.

Lemonade stand at Sointula, Malcolm Island, British ColumbiaAlthough the Utopian ideal didn’t survive there is still a lovely sense of community  on Malcolm Island.  And for those who think that remote communities may be lacking in things to do, think again.

Gillnet rugs were designed by a Sointula resident in the 1950s and are still unique only to the community. This display can be found in the excellent museum

Gillnet rugs were designed by a Sointula resident in the 1950s and are still unique only to the community. This display can be found in the excellent museum

In addition to visiting the museum – which is staffed almost entirely by volunteers – there are some charming galleries and restaurants to enjoy in Sointula.  The Upper Crust Bakery became our favourite spot for a light lunch and delectable goodies, and the Burger Barn proved to be purveyors of some of the best burgers we have ever consumed.

Bere Point Regional Park is a lovely stretch of forest and waterfront.  If you are lucky, you might see orca whales rubbing on the beaches in that area.  We spent a couple of hours hiking the Beautiful Bay Trail that skirts the shoreline – not what anyone would call a groomed trail but most certainly manageable for anyone who is reasonably fit and wearing a good pair of walking shoes. There are other well-documented trails on the island as well – unfortunately time limitations prevented us from exploring all of them.  That’s fine with us though – it gives us an excuse to return some day.

The beautifully maintained cemetery is the final resting place for many of Malcolm Island's pioneers - a history lesson in itself

The beautifully maintained cemetery is the final resting place for many of Malcolm Island’s pioneers – a history lesson in itself

It’s also worth taking the time to explore the beautifully-located cemetery, which is a history lesson in itself. Many of the original pioneers are buried there, overlooking the ocean.  It is rather poignant in many ways – there are headstones marking the deaths of everything from hardy pioneers to a mother and four children who died in a disastrous fire that swept through the communal sleeping quarters of the original settlement.

Sunset at Mitchell Bay, Sointula, Malcolm Island, British Columbia

Sunset at Mitchell Bay, near Sointula on Malcolm Island

There are sailing charters available out of Sointula, regular organized public events and, of course, there is the delicious opportunity to simply kick back, relax and revel in the spectacular scenery and the peace and quiet of the place.

Malcolm Island is progressive in a good kind of way

Malcolm Island is progressive in a good kind of way

The Sointula Resource Centre is the ‘go to’ organization for information on the community and on Malcolm Island in general.  Their website can be accessed at:

http://www.sointulainfo.ca/

Malcolm Island is located a 25-minute ferry ride across from Port McNeill.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 50.62716178796512  Long. -127.01726400000001

N 50 37.630  W 127 01.036

 

Posted in DOG-FRIENDLY, KID FRIENDLY, NORTHEAST ISLAND, SPECIAL PLACES | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ucluelet’s Jiggers Fish and Chips

Fish and chips at Jiggers, Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Some of the best fish and chips on the Island

Somehow it seems sacrilege that many of Vancouver Island’s seaside communities aren’t able to offer up a great order of fish and chips. Fake frozen French fries and soggy fish batter take the pleasure out of this simplest of dishes and, unfortunately, they are frequently found where you would least expect them – waterfront eateries. To date, one of our best finds for fish and chips has been in Ucluelet at Jiggers.

Jiggers isn’t on the waterfront and it’s ‘just’ a food truck, but being smack in the middle of a fishing village has obviously influenced the quality of the meals on offer. We all opted for fish and chips during our visit, but there are other offerings on the chalkboard menu for those who aren’t crazy about fish.

Picnic tables and food truck at Jiggers Fish and Chips, Uclulet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Al fresco dining…..

The food truck is set up in the parking lot of a vacant building on Ucluelet’s main drag. Jiggers customers have access to the building for wet weather dining, but on the fine day that we visited diners were scattered among the picnic tables in front of the food truck. We arrived fairly early for dinner – 5-ish – and were happy that we had. Line-ups started shortly after our order went in and wait times for food, of course, increased exponentially.

We had our dinner in front of us within 15 minutes. We requested the three piece fish and chips ($27) instead of three one-piece orders (at $15 each), bit the bullet for extra tartar sauce ($1.75 per container) and sat down to enjoy our meal.

Jiggers Fish and Chips, Ucluelet, Vancouver Island,k British ColumbiaThe fish, with light and crisp batter, was very fresh and flavourful and the chips – hand-cut, of course – were perfectly cooked. The fries were crispy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside. Accompanied by excellent cole slaw and mouthwatering house-made tartar sauce, the meal made for the best fish and chips we have enjoyed in a very long time. And, despite three hearty appetites, there was plenty of food in that $27 deal.

Please note that Jiggers takes cash only if you decide to dine there. And truly, you should eat there if you are in the area – our meal was proof positive that Jiggers’ great reputation is well-deserved.

Jiggers doesn’t have a website, but is on Facebook under Jiggers Fish and Chips

Price rating: $-$$

Jiggers is located at 1385 Peninsula Road, Ucluelet

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.938794 Long. -125.542902

48° 56′ 19.6584” N 125° 32′ 34.4472” W

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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

Posted in DOG-FRIENDLY, EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, KID FRIENDLY, SPECIAL PLACES | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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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