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.

wheelchair-m

            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

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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

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Ladysmith’s Appetit – Food For Thought

Thai pork stir fry at Appetit, Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Thai pork stir fry in a mild coconut curry sauce

Hole-in-the-wall eateries are always an adventure, and Ladysmith’s Appetit-Food For Thought is no exception. We first ate there several years ago when we enjoyed a quick, cheap ($4) and hearty dinner when we were in town for the annual Christmas Light-up Festival. It has taken us all this time to get back there and sample the fare in less hurried and less crowded circumstances. There were absolutely no regrets.

Martin Tang in the kitchen of Appetit, Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Martin in his kitchen

Chef-owner Martin Tang has been operating his 15-seat restaurant for 17 years in the mid-Island town. Appetit’s appeal is its smallness. Bright orange and green walls and a small bay window looking out onto Ladysmith’s main street can’t fail to improve the spirits of anyone who walks through the door. That lift is further enhanced by Martin’s cheery patter as he visits with patrons from his wide-open kitchen, discussing everything from local affairs to sailing as he chops and stirs.

It takes a special kind of place to build up the kind of customer loyalty that Martin obviously enjoys, and it is pretty clear that a combination of factors has helped in that direction.

Beef wor wonton soup at Appetit, Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Beef Wor Won Ton Soup

For starters, the food at Appetit is memorable for all the right reasons. Great flavour combinations united with reasonable prices and large servings keep patrons coming back. The diverse menu – I suppose you could call it a fusion menu, although not in the truest sense of the word – also encourages folks to return. At Appetit you can enjoy hearty traditional North American breakfast offerings, Asian-inspired lunches, perogies, soup and sandwich specials, one of the daily specials or something off the ‘value menu’ (smaller portions for $6-$7). So, ‘fusion’ for sure – of all sorts of ethnic specialties allowed to star in their own way with no messing around.

Interior of Appetit, Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Small but welcoming describes the interior of Appetit

We managed to engineer our most recent visit to Appetit so as to arrive at lunch time. My husband ordered one of the daily specials – a Thai pork stir fry in a mild coconut curry sauce, jammed with noodles and vegetables. The stir fry was accompanied by the house-made soup of the day, which was a flavourful sweet pea and bacon combination. Both dishes were beyond scrumptious, packed full with pleasant surprises for the palate. The stir fry was large enough for both of us to share, for which I was thankful – the flavour combinations had me swooning with delight.

Sweet pea and bacon soup at Appetit, Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Sweet pea and bacon soup

I ordered the acclaimed Beef Wor Wonton Soup (accompanied by Caesar salad), thinking that it would be just enough to top up the share on the stir fry. Well, I was wrong on that front – the soup, brimming with a tasty broth and chock-full of meat, won tons, vegetables and noodles, had me defeated by the time I was half-way through it. The remainder got packed into a container for later consumption.

Exterior of Appetite, Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaI suppose it should come as no surprise that Appetit has had such a successful long run. Martin trained in Germany and has worked at some top-flight hotel restaurants over the years. His passion shines through in everything that hits a plate in this tiny delight of a place. The welcoming ambiance, Martin’s cheerful presence, efficient service and wonderful food at very reasonable prices ensure that we will dine at Appetit at every opportunity when we are in the Ladysmith area.

Appetit is open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Appetit doesn’t have a website, but the restaurant is on Facebook under Appetite Food For Thought.

Price rating: $-$$

Appetit is located at 534 First Avenue, Ladysmith

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat.: 48.993634 Long.: -123.818168

N 48 59.618 W 123 49.090

Posted in DUNCAN/COWICHAN, EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, KID FRIENDLY, WHERE TO EAT | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Bamfield’s Music By The Sea festival

Sheet music at Bamfield's Music By The Sea concert, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

There are not, I don’t think, enough words to describe the enchanting Music By The Sea concert series held each July in the tiny west coast hamlet of Bamfield. ‘Superlative’ comes to mind, as do ‘magical’, ‘marvellous’, ‘exquisite’, ‘awe-inspiring’, ‘spectacular’, ‘splendid’….well, you get the idea. Essentially, it is an experience I would wish for on behalf of anyone who has a love of any type of music.

Musicians at Music By The Sea, Bamfield, Vancouver Island

What could be lovelier than world-class music performed at sunset…

View from Rix Centre for Ocean Discoveries, Bamfield, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

… with a world-class view of Barkley Sound

Music By The Sea was launched in 2006, the brainchild of Christopher Donison of Victoria. Donison has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the musical world, but I have to think that the fulfillment of his dream of creating a gathering of some of the most talented musicians from around the world in a stunning natural setting is the zenith of everything he has accomplished. Happily, music lovers as well as the musicians benefit from that dream.

Christopher Donison at Music By The Sea festival, Bamfield, Vancouver Island

Christoper Donison is the mind behind the magic

Donison’s vision has included a myriad of musical activities during the course of the nine-day festival, but for the general public the big draw is primarily the performances, based at the stunning Rix Centre for Ocean Discoveries. The Rix Centre is affiliated with the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre on the east side of the inlet. It reflects much of what is special about the west coast of the Island – the scallop-shell shape, astounding acoustics and floor-to-ceiling glass walls that look on to breathtaking scenery make the perfect setting for inspirational evenings filled with music and good fellowship.

One of the real beauties of this international gathering (of both musicians and spectators) is the eclectic range of music on offer. Every year and program is different, but classical, jazz and popular tunes are frequently heard in a single evening. Musicians specializing in various genres collaborate between performances and present their combined musicianship for the patrons – another interesting experience. While there certainly are classical pieces scheduled, which might lead folks to think this is a pretty high-brow event, it is far from that. At one point during a performance we were treated to three pianists playing at once – one on the spoons and two others on the piano (including Donison, who plays a pretty mean jazz piece despite his ‘classical’ demeanor). It was fun, upbeat and about as far from snobby as you can imagine.

Rix Centre for Ocean Discoveries, Bamfield, Vancouver Island

The Rix Centre for Ocean Discoveries – home to the Music By The Sea festival

One of the things we love best about this event is the very relaxed and hospitable mood. The evening concerts are scheduled to coincide with the sunsets, enhancing the exquisite atmosphere. Those attending are able to purchase a glass of wine and visit indoors or on the wrap-around balcony prior to the commencement of the evening performance, or during the break. Attire ranges everywhere from casual to high-end. No one seems to care about the fashion aspect – the music and magical ambiance are what it’s all about.

While Donison is the driving force behind all this wonderfulness it needs to be noted that a legion of volunteers also help to make this special event what it is. They are there helping to serve wine, sell Music By The Sea souvenirs (only tasteful ones, of course) and performing a myriad of other tasks. There can be little doubt that the integral community involvement contributes to all that is special about this most unique and extraordinary event.

Musical instruments at Music By The Sea festival, Bamfield, Vancouver Island

If you plan to go, make sure to stick around Bamfield for a few days so that you can enjoy the full range of musical talents at the performances. If you stay in West Bamfield you may well end up chatting with some of the musicians as they wander along the boardwalk or head for a water taxi –  that informal access makes the entire experience all the more memorable.

It should also be noted if you do stay in West Bamfield and need to get across the narrow inlet to the Rix Centre for the performances that there is a free water taxi ride included in the price of your ticket. Check with your accommodation hosts about pick-up times and locations.

Quite simply, Music By The Sea is one of the highlights of our year, steeped in good will, enchanting music and one of the most beautiful environments anyone could possibly imagine. Its scintillating memory ensures that we will return, year after year after year. If you still need convincing, go to the website listed below and click on the ‘Watch the 2012 Video’ link. It will be enough to have you booking tickets as soon as you have finished watching.

This year’s event runs from July 22 – 30

For further information on Music By The Sea, visit the website at

www.musicbythesea.ca

The Rix Centre For Ocean Discoveries is located at 100 Pachena Road, Bamfield

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.83493590001798 Long. -125.1366376876831

N 48 50.096 W 125 08.198

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Denman Island’s Home and Garden tour

Des Kennedy Garden, Denman Island Home and Garden Tour, British ColumbiaWhat could be more appealing following a long, cold winter and a non-Spring than a home and garden tour on one of British Columbia’s most beautiful Gulf Islands? The Denman Island Home and Garden Tour runs only every second year, and the 2017 version is slated for June 9-10. The tour benefits the Denman Island Conservancy Association, and has been named by the Globe and Mail as one of Canada’s top six horticultural events.

Denman Island Home and Garden TourThis year the Denman Island Home and Garden Tour will include an eclectic collection of gardens located everywhere from sea front to forest. Spectacular ornamental and vegetable gardens, flourishing farms and vineyards will draw attendees along pathways to drink in the sweet fragrance of early summer and the visual delight created by endless hours of work and inspiration on the part of the property owners. This year’s tour includes the East Cider Apple Orchard and the ever-popular home and garden of horticultural celebrity Des Kennedy and his partner Sandy.

Denman Island Home and Garden TourThe ‘home’ part of the Denman Island Home and Garden tour will highlight a wide variety of housing styles, from a tiny home to more palatial digs featuring breathtaking ocean views and forested hideaways. Several of the homes are constructed of recycled materials. A century-old church is also on the tour agenda.

Those heading to Denman for the tour are being encouraged to cycle rather than drive, with special prizes being offered for those traversing the island on two rather than four wheels.

Denman Island Home and Garden TourThere is also a popular plant sale being held in conjunction with the Denman Island Home and Garden Tour. This year the sale will be at the community hall, and it will benefit the Denman Island Community Education Society. This promises to be an added delight to the day and may just render souvenir possibilities for the gardens of those visiting and enjoying the tour.

Denman Island Home and Garden TourIn addition to the delights of enjoying a day out, the Denman Island Home and Garden Tour is sure to send attendees home with new ideas for their own properties. For me, this is always one of the best reasons to participate in these events.

Tickets for the Denman Island Home and Garden Tour are $20 and are available at the following locations:

Bowser: Salish Sea Market

Campbell River: Apple Seed Cottage

Courtenay: Art Knapp Garden Centre

Home and Garden Gate

Cumberland: Rusty Rooster

Denman Island: General Store

Abraxus Books

Hornby Island: Hornby Island Gas Bar

Parksville: Cultivate Garden and Gift

Qualicum: Ken Dor Garden Centre

Nanaimo: Green Thumb Garden Centre

For a sneak peek at the homes and gardens on this year’s Denman Island Home and Garden Tour you can go to the website at:

http://www.denman-conservancy.org/home-and-garden-tour/

Hours for the tour are 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

GPS co-ordinates for the Vancouver Island ferry terminal where you catch the boat to Denman are:

Lat. : 49.525455 Long. -124.847617

N 49 31.527 W 124 50.857

Posted in ATTRACTIONS, COURTENAY/COMOX VALLEY, EVENTS, GULF ISLANDS, SPECIAL PLACES, WELCOME | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Nanoose’s Moorecroft Regional Park

Boathouse at Arabe Cove, Moorcroft Regional Park, Nanoose, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The old boathouse at Arab Cove is one of the few remaining structures left in the park

I am always at my most content in the natural world. When we find a place like Moorecroft Regional Park in Nanoose Bay, my happiness quotient multiplies ten-fold. Apparently it does that for a lot of people – the day we discovered this magical spot we encountered a number of other visitors who were exploring the park for the first time, and everyone was having similar reactions.

Gertrude Moore cabin at Moorecroft Regional Park, Nanoose, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Miss Moore’s cabin

Moorecroft has a very long history in the central Island area. It was established in 1934 as a summer camp for girls by Gertrude Moore, and was operated continuously by her until 1954, when her failing health necessitated the decision to sell the waterfront property. The United Church of Canada purchased the property for the princely sum of $50,000, and continued to run it as a camp.

Picnic area at Moorecroft Regional Park, Nanaoose, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

There is an upgraded picnic area at the park, overlooking Arab Cove

And what a camp it must have been! Over the years hundreds of young people would flock to the pristine site to share cabins and traditional camping activities, and to create memories that would last them a lifetime. Historical records reveal that the campers were supervised by an average of 90 employees over the course of the summer. The site eventually grew to encompass 17 cabins, staff quarters, caretaker’s house, a dining hall with a commercial kitchen, main lodge and several auxiliary buildings. On our first visit to Moorecroft several years ago many of those old buildings were still standing and that old-fashioned camp atmosphere continued to linger, creating a very unique ambiance seldom found in a public park. Things have changed in recent years – virtually all of the cabins, other than Miss Moore’s, have disappeared from the landscape. The old dining hall and main lodge are no more – dilapidation had crept in, rendering the buildings unsafe and an insurance risk.

Fenced trail at Moorecroft Regional Park, Nanaoose, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Trails have been upgraded and fenced to protect fragile habitat

Miss Moore’s cabin, perched on a bluff, has the entire roof covered in plastic tarpaulins. We hope that this is a sign that her home will be preserved. The views from that particular spot are spectacular, and left us thinking about how wonderful it must have been to wake up there each morning.

Bridge in Moorecroft Regional Park, Nanoose, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

No more muddy feet, thanks to well-constructed bridges over damp areas.

When the United Church decided to sell the 85-acre property in 2010 there was a great hue and cry, with many area residents fearing that developers would purchase the land and desecrate what had truly become a regional treasure. The property was listed in September of that year at a price of $7.95 million – a price that only a developer (or a lottery winner) could have contemplated. Happily for anyone who lives in or visits the Nanoose Bay area, the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Nature Trust of British Columbia had had the site targeted for a park since the mid 1990s, and they were able to make a successful offer of $4.8 million. It’s a credit, I think, to both the Regional District and the United Church that this lovely gem of a place will be available to the general public in perpetuity, and that the fragile eco-systems will be protected.

Arab Cove at Moorecroft Regional Park, Nanoose, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Looking out from Arab Cove, where campers enjoyed water activities

So, what will you experience at Moorecroft? It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine what magic this place must have seemed to campers when they arrived from big cities. Walking paths and trails wend their way along more than 2,800 feet (almost one kilometer, or two-thirds of a mile) of pristine waterfront. There is a serene cove ideal for swimming bounded on one side by a rocky spit (with a peaceful bench at the end of it, looking out to Georgia Straight) and on the other by Vesper Point. There is a fairly long walk from the waterfront through the woods up to what is now called the meadow, which once served as the camp playing field. There is a wetland area. There are 79 acres of natural forest that serve as home to a wide variety of flora and fauna (some of it endangered), including bald eagles. There are gorgeous panoramas of sea and shore. There are perfect picnic spots and places to laze away a sunny afternoon. Finally (and maybe this is because Moorecroft was operated for so many years by a religious organization – who knows?) there is a tremendous serenity, a soothing sense of sanctuary about the place. There is no busy-ness to it, no hum of activity – only tranquility and the beauty of the natural world. It may be as close to heaven as I will ever get.

Bench viewpoint at Vesper Point, Moorecroft Regional Park, Nanoose, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Spectacular views across the Salish Sea can be enjoyed from a number of viewpoints

Good walking shoes are recommended if you want to experience Moorecroft to the fullest. Dogs on leash are welcome. Further information on Moorecroft Regional Park can be obtained by going to the Regional District of Nanaimo website at:

http://www.rdn.bc.ca/cms.asp?wpID=2605

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.2978806 Long. -124.176654

N 49 17.873 W 124 10.599

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