Crofton’s Community Seawalk



Crofton Community Seawalk at Crofton, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaThe tiny community of Crofton (pop. 2,500) is probably best known as a jumping-off spot for the ferry to Vesuvius Bay on Salt Spring Island and, of course, for the massive Catalyst pulp and paper mill, perched on the northern edge of the town. But there is a recent (and much more attractive) feature in Crofton that draws folks from near and far to enjoy a leisurely waterfront stroll – the Crofton Community Seawalk snakes southward along the shoreline for just over a kilometre (about two-thirds of a mile).

Sand beach at Crofton Community Seawalk, Crofton, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The south end of the seawalk features a pretty and safe swimming beach

The seawalk is testament to just how much a determined little town can accomplish when it puts its mind to something. Originally conceived in the 1980s, construction on the walkway began in 2002 – Crofton’s centennial year – and continued on in three phases until the grand opening in March, 2013. It took a lot of fund-raising, volunteer labour, negotiation with First Nations and collaboration to ante up the $1.8 million to get the job done but the end result is a delightful addition to a small community that, generally, is far from the spotlight when it comes to plans made by tourists and Island residents.

Crofton Community Seawalk, Crofton, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaWe visited the community and found a well-constructed walkway that was also very well-utilized.. We began our ramble just off the ferry wharf, below the historic one-room schoolhouse that now serves as the community museum, and ambled along in company with families, dog-walkers and photographers.

covered seating area on Crofton community Seawalk, Crofton, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

There is a covered seating area along the walk

The first and third phases of the walkway are of sturdy, wide, plank construction made from recycled hydro poles, finished with a substantial railing designed to ensure the safety of users of all ages. The second/middle phase of the project is narrower and consists of a gravel pathway that fronts a popular recreational RV park. Towards the south end of the elevated board walk there is a gazebo with benches where visitors can rest and enjoy the scenery.

Our leisurely stroll concluded at a pretty little beachfront park that offers a safe spot for a swim or a paddle or just a nice location to sit and contemplate the surrounding beauty. The southern terminus of the walkway also links to shoreline and inland hiking trails.

White sand beach along Crofton Community Seawalk, Crofton, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaThe community of Crofton has done a great job with this project, bringing a different atmosphere to what, for many years, has been thought of by most as little more than a mill town. Apparently there has been some talk of extending the seawalk all the way to Maple Bay to the south – no doubt a long-term collaborative project, but what a wonderful addition that would be!

You can learn more about the Crofton Community Seawalk and all that it took to build it (along with some great photos taken during various construction phases) at :

The beginning of the seawalk is located at the end of Joan Avenue. Follow the signs for the Salt Spring Island ferry and turn right on Queen Street then left on to Joan Avenue. There is a parking lot right at the bottom of the street.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.86470064610297 Long. -123.63949298858642

N 48 51.882 W 123 38.370



Qualicum Beach’s Heritage Forest

Trail and sitting bench in Heritage Forest, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Well-groomed trails wend their way through the 50-acre Heritage Forest

The story of Qualicum Beach’s 50-acre Heritage Forest is one of commitment, inspiration and a community that values natural beauty. There aren’t many towns of 8,800 that can boast of pristine forest lands right in their midst, but thanks to the dedication of the Town of Qualicum Beach and hundreds of volunteers, this unspoiled jewel continues to exist and thrive for all to enjoy.

Entryway to Heritage Forest, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The main entrance to the Heritage Forest is well-marked

The Heritage Forest of Qualicum Beach was originally part of a large parcel of land owned by the Merchants Trust and Trading Company. After the original six lots comprising what is now the forest changed hands a couple of times in the early 1900s they were purchased mid-century by Bobby Brown, who also owned an adjacent five acres with a mansion (now the Crown Mansion, a boutique hotel and small condominium development). Obviously a man who enjoyed his peace and quiet and who abhorred unbridled development, Brown purchased the municipal golf course lands as well to ensure that he would never be surrounded by subdivisions and/or commercial development.

Old growth stump in Heritage Forest, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Signs of days long-gone – notches left by loggers in old growth stumps

When Bobby Brown died in 1972 his family sold the golf course to the village for a reasonable price. The mansion and surrounding 55 acres remained in the hands of the Brown Family Trust until 1995, when the decision was made to sell.

Information plaque in Heritage Forest, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Information plaques throughout the Heritage Forest explain the intricacies of the eco-system

Thanks to the fact that a neighbouring resident was out for a stroll and discovered a stray piece of paper on the road, the Heritage Forest of Qualicum Beach exists today. The paper contained detailed plans for a 110-lot subdivision on the forest property. Obviously horrified, the local resident gathered together a group that dubbed itself the Brown Property Preservation Society. Between 1996 and 2004 hundreds of volunteers and the Township co-operated to raise the almost-$2 million purchase price for the 50 acres of forest. Fund-raising events of every sort imaginable were held until the goal was reached and the forest was saved.

Woodpecker holes in tree in Heritage Forest, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

There is no lack of wildlife in the Heritage Forest – the large holes in this tree have been created by woodpeckers searching for sustenance

The Heritage Forest is bounded by several of Qualicum Beach’s residential neighbourhoods, with the main entranceway facing across Crescent Road East to the municipal golf course. The property offers up a well-maintained intertwined network of shaded forest trails that are peaceful and safe; memorial benches are scattered along the trails for those who need to rest or simply relax in a lovely setting. Visitors interested in the flora and fauna of this area will be spellbound by the hundreds of natural features and the numerous information plaques that tell of the ecology of the region. It is a unique area of young and old-growth forest, and serves as home to many rare species of both animal and plant life. An information kiosk situated in the middle of the park provides those with a naturalist bent with all sorts of interesting information. A biologist for the Victoria Conservation Data Centre has designated the forest as a rare example of outstanding special ecological significance.

Information board in Heritage Forest, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The eco-system of the Heritage Forest is illustrated on this large information board

The Heritage Forest of Qualicum Beach welcomes visitors with dogs, but due to the fragile ecosystem canine companions must be kept on leash.

Beach Creek in the Heritage Forest, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

A view of Beach Creek, which runs through the Heritage Forest

The Heritage Forest of Qualicum Beach can be accessed off Crescent Road East, just west of the Crown Mansion, which is located at 292 Crescent Road East.

GPS co-ordinates are (roughly):

Lat. 49.35388151335319 Long. -124.4347357749939

N 49 21.233 W 124 26.084


Nanaimo’s Pipers Lagoon

Pipers Lagoon and Shack Island, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, british Columbia

A view of Pipers Lagoon, with Shack Island in the distance

We enjoyed a junket down to Nanaimo recently, to explore Pipers Lagoon. Located off Hammond Bay Road, we discovered not only a lovely place for a pretty easy walk, but some intriguing history.

Bench, arbutus tree and walkway at Pipers Lagoon, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Beaches, benches and pretty views abound

Depending on the time of year and the time of day that you visit, you may be able to complete the 2 km (1.2 miles) loop walk along the shoreline of the long isthmus that forms the park. The winding trail offers up beautiful views of open water on one side and the serene lagoon on the other. Completion of the walk will depend on tides – on the wintry afternoon that we visited the tide was high, so our adventure concluded at the terminus of the flat, gravel trail that snakes its way out the spit. We explored the rocky bluffs, home to a few arbutus trees and a small Garry oak meadow and enjoyed the views from ‘on high’.

View of Pipers Lagoon trail, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The view from the top of the rocky bluffs

When the Piper family purchased the land in the area in 1917 the intention was to establish a sheep farm. Unfortunately the local cougar population found it all too easy to come down from the surrounding hills for an easy meal, so the farm idea was eventually put to rest. There was another short-lived spate of commercial activity in the 1940s and 1950s when the area was home to a sawmill and a whaling station.

Shack Island, Pipers Lagoon, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The shacks on Shack Island

One of the really interesting historical features of Pipers Lagoon is Shack Island, a pre-World War l settlement that evolved when local residents found themselves unable to afford even the inexpensive real estate in Nanaimo. Primarily home to fishermen, Shack Island grew in to something of a squatter’s community during the 1930s and remains so to this day. The original residents had to fight off property developers in the 1950s until an agreement was reached that allowed them and their descendants to continue occupying their very rustic abodes in perpetuity. The colourful shacks are used primarily these days as summer retreats for relatives of the long-gone founding families. There are no services to Shack Island, and if disaster strikes and a cabin is destroyed the squatters are not allowed to rebuild. Neither are they allowed to sell.

Visitor sitting on rock bluff at Pipers Lagoon, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

If you are looking for a little solitude, Pipers Lagoon is the place

Shack Island has become a beloved feature of the Pipers Lagoon area, keeping alive the history and family connections that date back almost 100 years. The shacks are built on stilts to help protect them from the ravages of wind, weather and salt water.

Serpent shower at Pipers Lagoon, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The very unique serpent shower, where swimmers can rinse off at Pipers Lagoon

Although the walk along the isthmus that skirts the lagoon is easy until you hit the rocky bluffs, there is plenty to see. Benches situated in convenient locations invite visitors to sit awhile and enjoy beautiful sunrises and sunsets. There are plenty of beachcombing possibilities, easy beach access if visitors feel inclined to enjoy a swim, bird and wildlife watching – the prospects are endless. Pipers Lagoon Park is also a popular spot for dog walkers and (on windy days) kite flyers. If the tide is right you can venture over to Shack Island and enjoy the historic ambiance there.

So, while Pipers Lagoon Park may not be among the largest of Nanaimo’s Parks, it has enough charm, beauty and history to please almost anyone on a year-round basis.

Further information on Pipers Lagoon Park can be obtained at the website:

Pipers Lagoon Park is located at 3600 Place Road, Nanaimo

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.223363 Long. -123.947675

N 49 13.402 W 123 56.861


Qualicum Beach kicks off Island Seedy Saturday season

Crowds at Qualicum Beach Seedy Saturday, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Crowds flock to the first Seedy Saturday on Vancouver Island, held in Qualicum Beach

They are popping up as readily as weeds in a garden, but the dozens of Seedy Saturdays planned for Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands can’t help but lift the spirits (and, perhaps, hopes, that this year’s events will reveal a magical method of eliminating weeds permanently?).

Seedy Saturdays have sprung up all over the place thanks to the renewed interest in gardening and home-grown food that has flourished over the past 10 or 15 years. Even if you aren’t a gardener and have no aspirations to become one, a visit to one of these diverse events will instill a new spring in your step and a lightness of heart. The Seedy Saturdays are, of course, the precursors to the gardening season, and if that is the case can warmer weather and sunny skies be far behind?

So what exactly is a Seedy Saturday, you may be wondering. There are actually no hard and fast rules on this one, but the general concept is to introduce the general public to new and/or existing information about gardening, whether it be flowers or foodstuffs. Most often there are seed swaps, many of the larger events have vendors, speakers, demonstrations, raffles, door prizes, information booths. It is entirely possible that you will find heritage seeds to purchase (remember those marvellous, flavourful tomatoes your grandmother used to grow? You may well be able to grow them too). There are often ‘started’ plants available, you might find the perfect piece of ornamentation for that difficult spot in your yard, or you may have an opportunity to speak to some of the local growers who comprise your area’s farmers markets. There are frequently Master Gardeners to consult for free gardening advice. One of the beauties of these events is that you are able to talk to growers in your own area, which means they have a good idea of what does – or doesn’t – do well in your particular region.

Tomatoe seed display at Qualicum Beach Seedy Saturday, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

You may be able to find seeds that will produce the same delicious vegetables that your grandmother used to grow

One of the grand-daddies of the Seedy Saturday concept is located in Qualicum Beach, where it is moving in to its 15th year. It is the first such event each year to be held on Vancouver Island proper; until recently it was the first each year in all of western Canada. All of the features mentioned in the paragraph above, and many more, can be found at the Qualicum Beach event. It is always the first Saturday in February (this year, Saturday, February 4) and since its inception has grown to the point where vendors now overflow into the parking lot at the large Civic Centre site. In excess of 2,900 visitors pour through the doors to enjoy the varied displays and lectures, and to revel in that first breath (or at least, hope) of Spring.

The theme for this year’s Qualicum Beach Seedy Saturday is Flourish and Nourish, At 10:30 a.m. There will be a lecture by Linda Gilkeson about flourishing food gardens year-round. At 12:30 p.m. Amy Robson will speak on ‘nourishing your soil – the world beneath your feet.’

Vendor at Qualicum Beach Seedy Satuirday, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

There are many opportunities to talk to local growers

Other features at the Qualicum Beach event include more than 70 vendors, an indoor farmers market, seed swap, the Milner Gardens Shoots with Roots children’s program, door prizes, raffles and the seedy cafe. The Town of Qualicum Beach will have a truck in the civic centre parking lot to collect garden chemicals. From its start 15 years ago in a single room at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre this Seedy Saturday has flourished to the point where the civic centre now bursts at the seams with activities and features. Organizers are expecting in excess of 3,000 visitors this year. The volunteer force for this event is impressive too – 104 of them will be on hand to ensure that the day goes smoothly.

Outdoor displays at Qualicum Beach Seedy Saturday, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The Qualicum Beach fixture has grown to the point where it now is bursting the seams of the Civic Centre

Entry to the Qualicum Beach Seedy Saturday is by donation, with proceeds going to a variety of school and community garden projects. The doors open at 10 a.m. and things wind up at 3:30.

After Qualicum Beach’s event there is a Seedy Saturday almost every weekend somewhere on the Island(s) until early April. Some events have become Seedy Sundays, but a quick look at the events listing on the Seeds of Diversity website at will tell you exactly which events are on, and where, anywhere in Canada. Just click on the Events tab on the website for the listings. Virtually all of the Seedy Saturday events are organized and run by legions of volunteers in their respective communities, so be sure when you attend to thank them for all of their hard work and dedication to the cause of local, sustainable growing and marketing practises. They truly do make a difference.

Further information on the Seedy Saturday event at Qualicum Beach can be obtained by going to the website at

The Qualicum Beach Seedy Saturday is held at the town’s Civic Centre at 747 Jones Street

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.34626334450604 Long. -124.4491982460022

N 49 20.776 W 124 26.952


A slower pace in the pretty seaside village of Cowichan Bay

Sign at entrance to Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaIf you are looking for a pleasant way to dawdle away a leisurely morning or afternoon, Cowichan Bay, located on the east coast of the Island, just may be the ticket. The funky little waterfront village is located smack in the middle of the route between Victoria and Nanaimo, just an hour’s drive from each of the Island’s major cities.

Storefront of True Grain Bread in cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

A stroll along the main road abuts the waterfront and serves up quirky shops like this one.

The laid-back atmosphere of the village can’t help but transmit to visitors, who will find a cornucopia of interesting shops and galleries to visit, several top flight restaurants to enjoy, many outdoor activities and scenic views from every vantage point.

Float homes in Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

There is a vibrant floating home community in Cowichan Bay

The Cowichan Bay area has served as home to First Nations people for thousands of years, and was the gateway for European settlement of the area in the 1860s. Sport and commercial salmon fishing and log and lumber exports served the area well in later years; sportsmen from throughout the British Empire traveled to the area to enjoy some of the best salmon fishing to be found anywhere in the world. Although much was going on in the small community during the 19th and 20th centuries, it was bypassed by both the Island Highway and the railway that ran north-south on the Island. In retrospect, that was probably a blessing – that extra bit of an out-of-the-way location has no doubt helped to preserve the ambiance that attracts so many visitors today. The pretty drive along the back roads to get to Cowichan Bay helps set adventurers up for the slow pace they will encounter in the village.

Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The maritime centre is located in a number of pods stretched along a waterfront wharf

In addition to all the expected visitor-oriented businesses in the area, Cowichan Bay serves as home to the Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre, which stretches along 82 metres (269 feet) of wharf into the bay. The centre is operated by the Cowichan Wooden Boat Society and serves as home to all sorts of interesting artifacts related to the area’s maritime history. Designed and purpose-built by a member of the society, the centre’s four galleries are an attractive addition to the waterfront scene and offer an unusual diversion during a tour of the area.

Waterfront homes in Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Waterfront homes in Cowichan Bay

We found when we visited Cowichan Bay that the best plan was to park our vehicle at the far end of the village and walk the length of it, so as not to miss anything. Depending on the time of year that you visit you may end up parking on one of the residential streets and having to hike a little, but it’s worth the trouble. There is so much to see and enjoy in this appealing little community, and much of it is tucked away down obscure alleyways and through hidden entries that are easy to miss if you are moving at anything more than a strolling pace.

Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Pretty views abound

It should also be noted that Cowichan Bay would be a good spot to stay for a few days if you like touring wineries and great places to eat. There are many bed and breakfast accommodations available in the area, and the Cowichan Valley wineries are gaining considerable attention for the excellent vintages they are producing. Foodies will love the area as well – it serves as home to some of the very best culinary experiences to be had on the Island.

Boat garden in Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaFurther information on Cowichan Bay can be obtained at:

GPS co-ordinates are (roughly) :

Lat. 48.742047562461856 Long. -123.62569570541382

N 48 44.523 W 123 37.542


More great food at Qualicum Bay’s West Coast Food House

chicken pesto quesadillas at West Coast Food House, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Chicken pesto quesadillas

I don’t know how the tiny settlement of Qualicum Bay got so lucky in the ‘eating out’ department, but a second notable dining option in the form of West Coast Food House is helping put the seaside community on the map for lovers of good food.

It should come as no surprise that the new place is operated in partnership by Ashley Martz, owner of the much-loved and heavily patronized Tidal Taco Shack, just a few hundred feet down the Old Island Highway. The Taco Shack’s reputation has grown exponentially, based mostly on word-of-mouth and its generous and delicious offerings. The West Coast Food House seems destined to follow in the Taco Shack’s footsteps, if the new place’s track record in its first seven weeks is any indication.

Bar area at West Coast Food House, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The bar area, as seen from one of the separate dining areas

Normally we wait at least three months after a new place opens to give them a chance to settle in, get menus and service sorted and work out any other kinks there may be in the operation. We broke our own rule this time around thanks to the urging of foodie friends, who accompanied us on our initial venture to West Coast Food House. I am happy to report we suffered no regrets.

Kids room at West Coast Food House, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The kids room

The layout of West Coast Food House is kind of interesting – three distinct areas occupy the high-ceilinged cedar-clad building. Two separate dining areas are centred by a large room with a bar area and big-screen television sets. There is also a room for kids, complete with comfy sofas and a big screen TV, where the little ones can occupy themselves watching a movie while their parents enjoy a meal – a stroke of genius, to be sure. The high ceilings and bare floors combined with rather loud music made for a bit of a noisy dining experience, although I am sure that is all muffled when there are more patrons – we went for a late lunch, so not a lot of folks were there when we visited.

Comfort Zone Salad at West Coast Food House, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Comfort Zone Salad

And the food? Well – nothing short of delicious. Although the menu is fairly limited West Coast Food House does justice to the varied menu offerings. There is a focus on fresh local seafood, but for those who have other preferences there are options as well, including bison sliders. There is also a kids menu that is inviting for the younger set.

The day we visited West Coast Food House three of our party of four ordered the daily special – a plate heaped with chicken pesto quesadillas with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, spinach and red onion. The quesadillas were accompanied by a green salad with a delicious house-made herb vinaigrette (they should be selling this stuff by the bottle!) and crispy, perfectly-seasoned potato wedges. Plenty of good food, great flavour combinations and a reasonable price – all three in our party who ordered the special decreed it excellent, and all of us are hoping that the offering will eventually appear on the regular menu.

Apple caramel dessert at West Coast Food House, Qualicum Bay, Vanouver Island, British Columbia

Mouthwatering apple caramel dessert

Being the renegade that I am, (and wanting photos of more than one menu item for this article) I ordered the Comfort Zone Salad. The combination of generous portions of mixed artisan greens, candied pecans, crunchy nuts, sliced red onion and apple, dried cranberries and a bountiful dollop of a lovely creamy goat cheese combined with a maple vinaigrette to leave me happily full. There is great value in this offering as well, at just $9.

We finished off by sharing a decadent slice of an apple-caramel concoction nestled on a shortbread-style crust.

Exterior of West Coast Food House, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Look for this building on Highway 19A if you need a great meal!

Service, courtesy of our delightful waitress Lisa, was excellent, and we liked the fact that natural light floods in from the many large windows in the place. Lisa let us in on the restaurant’s plans for ‘special’ nights like Taco Tuesday (surprise!), Wing Wednesdays and features like buckets of seafood. (The Coconut Curry Mussels already on the menu come highly recommended by our dining companions, by the way).

Although West Coast Food House hasn’t been open long I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t remain a local secret for any great length of time. The combination of good, simple food at reasonable prices, great service and a relaxed ambiance is destined to have folks coming from near and far, just as they do for the Tidal Taco Shack. Personally, I can’t wait to get back there.

Further information on West Coast Food House can be found at the website at:

Price rating: $-$$

West Coast Food House is located at 6060 Island Highway West, Qualicum Bay.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.403678 Long. -124.630058

N 49 24.221 W 124 37.803

Posted in EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, KID FRIENDLY, WHERE TO EAT | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

History underfoot at Union Bay’s Washer Creek

Family and dog on Coal Hills Trail, Union Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The Coal Hills Trail is a perfect location for a family walk

On a recent cold, clear day we decamped to a rather obscure walking trail that found us, literally, walking on history. We had passed the parking area for the Washer Creek coal hill trails near Union Bay hundreds of times without ever having the time to stop, but a trip to pick up our regular bread order from Just Like Mom’s Bakery, also in Union Bay, afforded us the opportunity to explore this most interesting site.

Looking south from the Coal Hills trail near Union Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Looking south from the peninsula

The village of Union Bay was once a bustling coal port, with high grade coal from Cumberland being shipped by rail to the waterfront where it was washed, processed and loaded onto sea-going ships for delivery all over the world. The slim peninsula that stretches into the water across from the heart of the village is the most prominent vestige of the shipping port, although a wander along that pathway and back along the easternmost edge towards Comox offers up other residue as well.

Railway tie plate artifact at Coal Hill trail near Union Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Remnants of the colliery abound, including this railway tie plate

Known locally as the Union Bay Coal Hills, the trail network is a popular destination for families and dog walkers. There is a variety of walking options, all relatively easy and flat. Pretty vistas abound in all directions and, as mentioned earlier, the trails and beachfront are riddled with remnants of the yesteryear that saw Union Bay develop beginning in 1887. Several wharf pilings continue to dot the waterscape – the last signs that a 600-foot long pier once jutted out in to Baynes Sound to accommodate the ocean-going vessels. Many of the masted ships were so large that they had to be escorted up Baynes Sound between Vancouver Island and Denman Island by tug boats.

Wooden pipe on beachfront at Coal Hill trail near Union Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

An old wooden pipe, found along the beach front

In its heyday the peninsula was host to coking ovens, a railway that delivered the coal, machine shops and a coal washer (hence the change of name from Hart Creek to the more commonly -known Washer Creek),

View to Comox from Coal Hill trail, Union Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The view to the north, towards Comox, with some of the old wharf pilings in the forefront

Keep trekking back from the southern point of the peninsula towards the north and you will find bits of old railway grade, wooden pipes, broken bricks and a host of other industrial bits and pieces that speak to the past of the area. Walk even further along and you will end up at the 13 hectare (32 acre) coal hills, comprised of the offal from the coal washing process. This area is privately owned and posted by a development company that, since 2010, has been proposing a 3,000 home sustainable development with a 27-hole golf course, marina, hotels, capping of the coal hills and all the other bits and pieces that seem to go along with high-end developments these days. To date there appears to have been no movement on this, but for anyone interested in the history and remains of this vital area it would be worthwhile to visit sooner rather than later.

old rail bed at Coal Hill trail, Union Bay, Vanocuver Island, British Columbia

It’s a level, pretty easy walk, thanks to the old rail bed route

In any event, visitors to the Washer Creek area tend to hike up the coal hills, posted as private or not, to enjoy the spectacular views of big sky, water and mountains to the north. The slopes are gentle and an easy climb for pretty much anyone. All-told we spent just over an hour exploring the area, but your adventure can easily be made shorter or longer depending on the route you take.

Driftwood at Coal Hill trail, Union Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaFinding the Washer Creek trails is simple – just a little north of the village of Union Bay on the east side of Highway 19A there is a graveled parking area. You can pull in there and access the trails and pathways very easily.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.587447 Long.-124.887204

N 49 35.247 W 124 53.232

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Deep Bay Marine Field Station

Deep Bay Marine Field Station exterior, Deep Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaIt took almost two years to build, start to finish, but the careful design and consideration of natural habitat at the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, combined with a fascinating look at the sea life that surrounds us on the Island, has combined to create a compelling destination.

Fish at Deep Bay Marine Field Station, Deep Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaThe marine station is located a little off the beaten path at Deep Bay, a small waterfront community at the south end of Baynes Sound on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Operated by Vancouver Island University, the centre is home to research facilities, culinary events (usually featuring shellfish), educational opportunities, social events and a myriad of intriguing sea life. For visitors, it offers a glimpse into the spectacular world of the ocean and all the beautiful (and some not-so-beautiful) creatures that inhabit it. touch-tanks-overheadThere is a huge aquarium located on the upper floor and a series of ‘touch tanks’ on the lower floor that encourages kids of all ages to handle the sea life therein. Interpretive signage throughout the building chronicles much of what goes on at the centre, and views of the research labs can be seen from the upper mezzanine, looking downwards.

Upper mezanine at the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, Deep Bay, Vancouver Island, Britiswh ColumbiaThe building itself is an inspired design in the shape of a clam shell – fitting, considering its purpose. It is totally wheelchair-accessible and incorporates hundreds of environmentally-friendly features, keeping with VIU’s goals of sustainability. A glance at the poster featuring current and future plans for development of the site reinforces the dedication to the ‘greenest’ project humanly possible.

Fish artwork at Deep Bay Marine Field Station, Deep Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaIn addition to all of the sea life and interpretive displays the field station is graced with some fine-looking artwork in various mediums. On the upper floor there is a small gift shop area filled with beautiful ocean-oriented items courtesy of the Salish Sea Market, a unique shop in nearby Bowser that features local artisans.

Pink and white sea anenome at Deep Bay Marine Field Station, Deep Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaThe field station is open 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. daily with the occasional closing for special events, so best to check the website calendar prior to making a foray in that direction. Admission is a very reasonable $7 for adults, $3 for children (6-17 years) and kids under 6 get in free when accompanied by an adult.

Although visitors primarily partake of self-guided tours of the centre, special events offer a broader taste of what makes the place so special – there is something for almost everyone, young or old.

White sea anenome at Deep Bay Marine Field Station, Deep Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaOne way or the other, at any time of the year, a trip to the Deep Bay Marine Field Station is well worth the effort. It is filled with unusual beauty and educational opportunities not to be found anywhere else on the Island.

For further information on the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, go to the website at

The centre is located at 370 Chrome Point Road, Bowser/Deep Bay

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.45652068756555 Long. -124.73173141479492

N 49 27.391 W 124 43.904


christmas05[1]We are taking a few weeks off to spend time with family and friends over the holidays. Many thanks to our readers all over the world for your continued support,  loyalty and ideas – we are now wrapping up our fifth year of producing weekly stories for the website, and have loved every minute of it.  We will be off on new adventures in the New Year, beginning on Thursday, January 5.  Until then, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all.  See you in 2017!

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Port Alberni’s Great Sail Past

Decorated boat at Port Alberni Sail Past, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Boats came in all shapes and sizes, from small to large


We are greatly looking forward to attending this great community event again this coming Sunday, December 4.  This ‘encore presentation’ from last year’s sail past will give our readers a good idea of what fun it is, even in the worst weather.  Thankfully the weather gods are predicting better weather for 2016 – there may even be a little bit of snow to add to the festive atmosphere.  So bundle up the kids, pack up the camera and be prepared for a fun evening that will appeal to every member of your family. The Port Alberni Sail Past festivities are slated to run from 5-9 p.m.

Wow! What a night!  I am fast coming to the conclusion that Port Alberni residents are among the most resilient, tough and fun-loving people on the Island.  That was proven out once again this past weekend when we journeyed to the Alberni Valley to take in the second annual sail past at the city’s downtown Harbour Quay.

Decorated boat at Port Alberni Sail Past, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Being a big fishing town, there were lots of fishing themed decorations on the boats

The weather, in a word, was nothing short of filthy – torrential downpours and winds gusting up in the 70 kmh range – a bit of a challenge for an open air event.  But Port Alberni folks turned out in the hundreds to take in the festivities.

There was a bit of confusion over start times for the affair – some advance publicity had it commencing at 6 p.m., while other missives publicized a 7 p.m. launch.  Ever erring on the side of caution, we arrived shortly before 6 to discover that all the nearby parking spots were occupied – we ended up parking near the heritage train station, just a short walk away, and joined dozens of others headed for the waterfront.            Decorated boat at Port Alberni Sail Past, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaWe arrived at the quay to find two huge barbecues (under cover) being used to cook hot dogs, available by donation – or free if you couldn’t chip in any cash. From there we ventured out in to the wind and rain to hang over the railing and enjoy a colourful procession of 18 festively-lighted boats.  They were all shapes and sizes and they sported different themes – every one unique and beautifully executed. Each boat had a number attached so that spectators could vote for their favourites, with cash prizes handed out at the end of the evening.           Decorated fishing boat at Port Alberni sail past, Vancouver Island, British Columbia The lighted boats continued to circle in front of the quay for close to half an hour despite the high winds and driving rain.  And then, a huge barge set off one of the most magnificent fireworks displays we have had the pleasure of viewing – it went on for several minutes and featured some really spectacular pyrotechnics.

The boats headed for cover in the protected harbour following the fireworks – rising winds no doubt were causing some anxiety, and by then everyone was soaked to the gunwales anyhow.

Fireworks at Port Alberni sail past, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

A spectacular display of fireworks finished off the sail past

We sloshed back to one of several portable firepits (also under cover) to warm up, then headed over to the very busy Donut Shop, a permanent favourite fixture on the quay.  Hot chocolate and donuts purchased, we trundled over to another part of the quay’s commercial area where we discovered Santa, all snug and warm in his own little cubby hole, waiting to greet the children and hand out candy canes.

Several portable fire pits helped add to the cheer - and the warmth - of the evening

Several portable fire pits helped add to the cheer – and the warmth – of the evening

Also tucked over in that vicinity were a number of craft booths, under cover but outdoors.  It can’t have been a great evening for sales for the vendors, but they stuck it out. We couldn’t help but feel badly for them but once again the Port Alberni resilience shone through – they were all cheerful and helpful despite the miserable conditions, and they were exhibiting some really lovely and unique items.

Decorated Christmas tree at Harbour Quay, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

And of course, there is a giant Christmas tree located in the centre of everything

So, another great event on the Port Alberni calendar. Despite the nasty weather we enjoyed every second of the sail past activities and the festive atmosphere. There is an old saying about adversity bringing out the best in people and that was proven in spades – again – this past weekend.  Methinks this gathering is going to become a new annual Christmas tradition for us, come rain or wind or…well, whatever.

I don’t generally acknowledge commercial supporters of events in my articles, but we really need to offer a tip of the hat to the Blue Marlin Inn for getting behind this splendid family-oriented evening. I am sure that with each successive year the sail past will become bigger and better organized. It’s a great contribution to life in the Alberni Valley.

            There is no website for the sail past, but if you keep an eye on the Blue Marlin Inn’s Facebook page you will be able to get all the details for future sail pasts there:

            wheelchair-lThe sail past is held at Harbour Quay in downtown Port Alberni.

Alberni Harbour Quay is located at the foot of Argyle Street in downtown Port Alberni.

            GPS co-ordinates are:

 Lat.  49.23442732946449

Long.  -124.81503009796142

N 49 14.066  W 124 48.902