Fondly referred to as Oceanside by locals, Parksville, Qualicum Beach and the handful of quaint neighbouring communities including Coombs and Nanoose Bay offer families an idyllic paradise of swimming, sandcastles and infinite play. Oceanside is a place where iPods and 3DS are traded for buckets and spades, and little hands, sticky from oversized scoops of ice cream are washed clean in the warm tide pools. Here, the words ‘I’m bored’ are forgotten and bedtime is almost effortless thanks to the hours spent running barefoot on the beach.
Better still, the majority of family-friendly activities are within a short walk or drive and cost very little, or nothing at all!
The 19-kilometre stretch of soft-sand beach spanning Oceanside might be all that you need to keep the children entertained. At low tide the water recedes almost one kilometre out revealing shallow tide pools filled with starfish, crabs and sand dollars to spark the imagination and inspire a Jacques Cousteau style exploration. The knee-deep, pool-warm sea water at Qualicum Beach and Parksville’s Rathtrevor Beach reaches upwards of 20 degrees Celsius in summer months and is perfect for swimming, splashing and general horseplay.
Lions Ventureland Playground at Rathtrevor Provincial Park
Sponsored by the Parksville Lions Club, Ventureland draws more than 50,000 visitors a year and might just be the coolest playground in Canada. Included in the more than 80 different attractions are a merry-go-round, slide tower, bridges, cable ride, teeter totters, diggers, trucks, airplanes and a Spray Park with 13 water jets that cool kids down and have them squealing with delight. Mid-July through August playground visitors can also experience the incredible Sand Sculpting Competition & Exhibition, which attracts an international crowd and is a qualifying event for the World Championship in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. The children’s festival Kidfest, complete with live entertainment, face painting and a kids sandcastle competition is held on the last day of the month-long event.
A trip to Oceanside is not complete without a visit to the Coombs Country Market. Aptly nicknamed ‘Goats on Roof’, for the trip of cute horned lawnmowers living on the grass covered roof, Coombs Market has quickly become a destination unto itself and welcomes visitors from around the world on a daily basis. Inside the quaint general store are a bevy of local and international gourmet goods, freshly baked artisan breads, pies and other mouth-watering goodies, local cheeses, charcuterie, an unbelievable array of smoked salmon, farm-fresh produce, fabulous ceramics, hand-crafted gifts and children’s toys from around the world. The market’s ice cream stand is a must, with sixty-nine flavours including salted caramel, birthday cake and banana fudge. In addition to a casual style 125-seat eatery, which serves up juicy burgers and fat-cut fries, Coombs Market has a beautiful Italian restaurant with large patio for summertime sangria and fresh fruit Bellinis.
Home to the delicious duo Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and Mooberry Winery, Morningstar Farms is a must for anyone travelling to Oceanside. Happy cows create delicious cheese, and at Qualicum Cheeseworks the cows are ecstatic. Fed only sweet grass and grains, the amiable herd comes in from the field each morning for milking. Small batches of creamy Island Brie, traditional Mediterranean Feta, Fromage Frais, raw milk Raclette, flavoured Monteray’s and squeaky Cheese Curd are produced from the farm fresh milk. Each of these delicious products, along with Mooberry Winery’s amazing selection of fruit wine can be sampled and purchased at the Morningstar’s Farmgate Store. A self-guided tour and kids scavenger hunt is the best way to explore the property and meet its many four-legged residents. The farm’s horses, pigs and piglets, cows and calves, rabbits, sheep and llamas are sure to keep the little ones amused.
Kids of all ages absolutely love Paradise Fun Park. A fantasyland of sorts, the park features two themed miniature golf courses, amusement centre, bumper boat pond and Italian Café. Waterfalls and fountains, lush greenery and twinkling lights surround the two 18-hole courses. Highlights of the Turf ‘N Surf course are a 45’ foot women’s shoe, old waterwheel and Victorian mansion, while course number two, the pirate-themed Treasure Island includes a skeletons’ treasure cave and fully rigged pirate ship. The bumper boats have quickly become the most popular summer attraction at the park due to the water cannon mounted on each vessel – great for both cooling off and surprise attacks on mom and dad. A big scoop of Island Farms ice cream at the café is the perfect way to complete a trip to Paradise, and perhaps the only way to convince the kids to leave the park.
When travelling with kids to a beachside resort town, having a kitchen and washer dryer is ideal. The Beach Club Resortin Parksville offers these critical child-friendly amenities in luxurious one-and-two bedroom beachfront suites. The kitchens feature stainless steel appliances, including microwave and dishwasher, granite countertops, cork flooring and all of the cookware, flatware, glassware and utensils needed for extended stays. Sunsets and stunning ocean views can be enjoyed from the living room, master bedroom and private balcony. And, when it’s time for a romantic night without the children, take advantage of the resort’s in-suite babysitting and head downstairs to the Pacific Prime Steak and Chop Restaurant. The Oceanwise Seared Halibut with cucumber pappardelle, garam masala spiced yogurt, cherry tomatoes and Dungeness crab fritter, and sinfully delicious S’more Cheesecake with cinnamon marshmallow, Chantilly chocolate and graham crumb are highly recommended. Fall specials at the Beach Club Resort start from just $129 per night. BC Ferries Vacations also offers packages, starting form just $219 per person, which include two-nights accommodation, round-trip ferry from Vancouver Mainland to Vancouver Island and a lunch entrée for two guests.