Fun Activities in Parksville for Super family adventures – Vancouver Island, BC.
Parksville, BC Canada is a sweet laid back town of around 13,000 people, on the sheltered east coast of Vancouver Island. Known for its warm ocean waters, kilometres of sandy beaches, and proximity to many year round actitivities, it is the perfect place for a family get-a-way. There are so many fun things to do in Parksville, and close by you won’t want to miss.
Parksville holds a special place in my heart. Many a childhood summer vacation was spent in this seaside town. While many things have changed, the essence of what made this seaside spot a great place for a family vacation has remained.
Each summer my mom and dad would pack us kids in the car and drive up island for our week long family vacation. Between the sandy beach, perfect for sand castle building, the warm shallow waters, and 36 holes of mini golf, it was the highlight of our summer.
Surprisingly, the small motel we frequented each year, the Sea Edge Motel is still there, amongst the towering newer complexes. When last in Victoria, I took my daughter, and partner for a weekend adventure up island to some of my favourite places. It was super fun to share these experiences with them.
So without further ado, I’d like to share with you some of my favourite things to do in Parksville, BC and surrounding area, places to eat and stay, plus fun kid friendly activities you won’t want to miss.
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How to get to Parksville, BC
Parksville, BC is part of the larger Oceanside Community, which includes Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanoose Bay, Errington and Coombs. It is a 40 minute drive from Nanaimo and a 1 hour 45 minute drive from Victoria. Qualicum Beach & Parksville are only a 7 mile / 12 minute drive apart.
- From South Vancouver & the Airport – catch the BC Ferry in Tsawwassen and take the ferry to Duke Point (south Nanaimo). Head north on Highway 1 and then exit to Highway 19 to Parksville.
- From Vancouver & Fraser Valley – At Horseshoe Bay take the BC Ferry to Nanaimo. Drive off the ferry and keep to the 2 right lanes, then take Highway 19 North towards Parksville.
- From Victoria, BC – Drive north on Highway one for about an hour and a half. Take the exit for HIghway 19.
Parksville Accomodations: Where to Stay
Parksville offers everything from higher end resorts, quaint cabins and airbnb options to excellent camping by the ocean or on rivers. Check out our Parksville accommodations guide for all our top choices.
Here are a couple of favorite spots:
- Higher End – Tigh-Na-Mara Resort – Couples retreat or family vacations, this resort offers something for everyone. Less than a 10 minute drive south of Parskville. For the Adults, try out the mineral pool in the Grotto Spa, and their 16 course Endless Tapas experience. Families you can rent paddle boats, swim in their indoor an outdoor pool , and enjoy their Sunday Brunch, to name a few activities.
- Cozy Beachfront Condo – Tanglewood Condo – Gorgeous views, proximity to Rathtrevor Beach, and great amenities make this a great choice for families and weekends away.
- Camping – The Parksville area has plenty of campgrounds to chose from, whether you are looking for an RV Resort or a place to set your tent amongst the west coast forest. Here is just a few options:
- Rathtrevor Provincial Park
- Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park
- Englishman River Falls Campground
- Surfside RV Resort
- Paradise Fun Park RV Grounds – easy access to beach and mini golf
- Riverbend Cottage & RV Resort – RVs, Yurts, Cottages & Camping
PARKSVILLE THINGS TO DO
Build a Sandcastle at Parksville Beach
Our first stop was the Parksville Community Park and Beach.
At low tide Parksville Beach stretches 1 kilometre from the shore into the Straight of Georgia, leaving a sandy wonderland, perfect for sandcastle building. The shallow pools and water edges are also perfect spots for a bit of skim boarding, dipping your toes and swimming for toddlers and kids.
If you go in July / August, you can visit the annual summer sand sculpting competition, the Parksville Beach Fest. Sculptors from around the world compete, having 30 hours over 4 days to create their masterpieces.
Many many hours of my childhood vacations were spent playing on this beach. Endless exploring for beach treasures, wading in the knee deep sun warmed waters and building moats and castles.
Play at Parksville Community Park & Skate Park
Parksville Community Park is a massive park and playground, situated just off the beach boardwalk.
Kids will love the waterpark features, complete with water cannons (yes you heard right, water cannons. It’s pirate time!), zipline, slides and multi-person teeter totter. The playground is also wheel chair accessible.
Or try out the beach volleyball courts, skate park or outdoor fitness gym.
I was slightly sad to learn they no longer have the “dangerously fun” merry-go-round from my youth. But not to worry there is plenty to keep your kids occupied. This is number one on my list of favourite Parksville things to do.
Wade, Swim, Walk Along Rathtrevor Beach
Parksville has the warmest ocean waters for swimming in Canada.
Rathtrevor Beach is a world reknowned 2km long beach. Wade in ankle deep water, or take in a sunrise or sunset walk along the sea. Don’t miss the tidepools near the rocks. Keep a look out for starfish, crabs and other sea creatures. Your kids will love spotting them.
If you are looking for camping, Rathtrevor Provinical Park offers lovely spots amongst Douglas Firs as well as hiking and biking trails.
The 5.5 km of easy walking trails follow the beach and meander through forests of Douglas fir, western red cedar, hemlock, balsam, spruce, and arbutus. Many of the trails are wheelchair accessible.
Visit in early February to May, to view the Brant Geese migration.
Play Mini Golf – Paradise Adventure Mini Golf & Bumper Boats
Continuing down memory lane. If your family likes mini golf, head on down to the Paradise Mini Golf & Fun Park, right off the Island Highway.
Open early March to mid-October you will be pleasantly surprised by the two 18 hole golf courses. Putt your way past cascading waterfalls, a pirate ship, treasure cave, watermill, lighthouse, while aiming for that hole in one. This was always one of our favourite Parksville thing to do as kids (and adults).
Cool off on a hot day in their bumper boats, with working water cannons. Douse your family members. There are mini bumper boats for the younger kids and larger ones for the older kids.
375 W. Island Hwy, Parksville, BC (250) 248-6612 or (866) 325-1874
Little Mountain Lookout
Directions: From Parksville drive towards Coombs. Turn left off of Bellevue Rd, take a left onto Little Mountain Road, head uphill until you arrive at the top parking lot.
For a gorgeous mountainside view, head to the top of Little Mountain Road, 5 minutes outside Parksville. Sunrises and sunsets from the top of the cliffs are well worth a visit. On a clear day you get a wonderful view of Mount Arrowsmith.
PRO TIP: Use caution with kids and dogs, as the cliff edge appears suddenly, and it can also be slippery.
908 Little Mountain Rd, Parksville, BC
See Goats On The Roof At Coombs
Open: Every day March to December
Hours: Coombs Country Market & Root Cellar 9am – 6pm
Coombs is a world reknown gem, for good reason. Goats on the Roof!
Coombs started out as a fruit market back in 1973. The original owners the Graatan’s emigrated from Norway and styled it after sod roofed buildings built into the countryside back home.
Story goes that the grass got too long before one fateful Coombs Fall Fair. Their son in law suggested using goats to mow the lawn and provide entertainment for passers-by. And shall we say, the rest is history.
We went to Coombs near the end of March and missed the goats by a week. Boo! Next time. If you are heading up in the shoulder season, give them a call to make sure the goats will be there. It’s top of our list for fun family friendly things to do near Parksville.
Coombs Country Market
During my childhood, Coombs was a small grocery with goats on the roof. Now it is the Coombs Country Market and has grown into a complex and beyond.
Entering, your senses will be delighted by the sights, colours and sounds.
On a road trip? Fill up on fresh produce and imported groceries. Touring? Enjoy their hand crafted items, wooden toys, woven baskets, and more in the gift shop. There is also a garden centre offering garden pots, herbs and locally grown plants where possible.
WHERE TO EAT: Dining is available in three restaurants; the Italian Trattoria, the Market Cafe or try their authentic Mexican cantina.
Looking for treats? Head out back to the building behing the goats.
Try a delicious donut at Billy G’s Donut Shop (we bought a dozen last time we were there), or our perennial favourite, ice cream from the Billy Gruff Creamery. They have 60 flavours of ice cream and 30 flavours of their homemade gelato and sorbetto.
Parksville has so many fun, fantastic things to do for families. Whether you are looking for an weekend adventure by the sea, or a week long family vacation, this is a great place to be, year round.
Coombs Country Market, 2326 Alberni Hwy, Coombs, BC (250) 248-6272
Hamilton Hobby Farm
Cost: $6, Family of four $20, Under 2 free, Pony Rides $3, Chicken Feed $1
Hamilton Hobby Farm is a family friendly delight, located on 12 acres of beautiful land in Coombs Country. It’s only 2 minutes from the Goats on Roof Market, and right across from Butterfly World.
The Farm is full of horses, goats, potbelly pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, emus and many other critters to visit. Try out a hayride, or purchase some of their seasonal veggies, eggs and chicken.
2679 Alberni Highway, Qualicum Beach BC 250-927-1655
Qualicum Beach Farmers Market
Hours: Open year round on Saturdays from 8:30 – noon
The Qualicum Beach Farmers Market runs year round. Their policy, “Make it, Bake it, Grow it” ensures you will be supporting local business. Support organic and conventional farmers who sell produce, eggs, meat, and cheese. You will also find jams, sweet treats as well as handmade local crafts.
644 Veterans Way, Qualicum Beach, BC
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OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN PARKSVILLE & NEARBY
Englishman River Falls
The Englishman River Falls is part of Englishman River Falls Provincial Park and is a fantastic place for swimming, hiking and mountain biking.
Our last trip we enjoyed hiking the three kilometres of well maintained trails, following the river to the stunning upper and lower falls.
The Lower Falls ends in deep pool, which is good for swimming when water levels are low, and the weather is warm.
You can take the trails leading from the campground or day use area through lush old-growth and second-growth forest of Douglas fir, cedar, hemlock and maple.
Recently a 2.3 km multi use trail was completed, a partnership with Arrowsmith Cycling Club. Try out their easy and family friendly Milky Way , Little Dipper or Big Dipper mountain bike routes.
Camping is also available in the Englishman River Falls Campground From May 1 – Sept 30 each year. A family favourite. The Park is open over the winter for day use.
2245 Errington Rd, Errington, BC
Make sure to plan out your road trip food list and snacks.
Top Bridge Park & Trail
For a more suspenseful time try out the Top Bridge Trail. This exciting 5-kilometre hike / bike, connects Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park with the Top Bridge Crossing. Ending in a wonderful pedestrian-cyclist suspension bridge across the Englishman River.
Top Bridge Park is also a local favourite for it’s popular (but cold!) swimming holes. Take one of the various short trails from the suspension bridge down to the river side.
If you don’t want to hike or bike the 5 km, take Allsbrook Road off of Alberni Highway (Hwy 4) past the gate (open during the day) to the parking lot. The main trail takes you to the Suspension Bridge.
175 Allsbrook Road, Parksville, BC.
Little Qualicum Falls
Little Qualicum Falls is located 15 minutes west of Parksville on the Alberni Highway (Hwy 4) and is part of Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. This park encompasses the Qualicum River (and Falls) and Cameron Lake.
You can hike on 6 km of well maintained trails that leave from the campground or day use area up and down the Qualicum River. There are some stairs and uneven ground leading to the gorgeous cascading waterfalls.
For an easier walk choose the Loop Trail, which has viewpoints of both the Upper and Lower Falls and takes about an hour.
Cameron Lake, 10 minutes west of the campground on HIghway 4, offers a day area and perfect spots for swimming, picnicking, canoeiing and fishing.
4001 Alberni Hwy, Qualicum Beach, BC
Horne Lake Caves
Hours: Cave Tours: Reserve in advance. Self-guided tours closed currently.
Horne Lake Park Trails – open 7 days a week
Vancouver Island is home to over 1600 discovered caves, more than the rest of Canada combined. Horne Lake Caves is not to be missed if you love a little adventure and spelunking.
An hour north of Parksville, Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park offers 4 to explore; 1 for a self-guided tour, and 3 additional caves for guided tours. Note: Self-guided tours are not available at the moment.
Don’t forget to rent your helmet with a light, it is DARK inside. Inside you will explore the cave system and see amazing views of limestone, crystal formations and fossils.
Open all year round the caves remain a constant temperature of 8°C (46°F) which is great for a hot summer day.
You can also hike the moderately strenous 1.5 km / 30 minute loop known as the Phil Whitfield’s Fossil Geology Trail. the hike will take you through lush coastal rainforest and past geology features with interesting informational signs.
3905 Horne Lake Caves Rd, Qualicum Beach, BC (250) 248-7829
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Cathedral Grove – MacMillan Provincial Park
I can’t mention the Parksville area without mentioning magical Cathedral Grove. This grove is home to ancient and HUGE trees. One of the largest trees in the park is an 800 year old Douglas Fir.
These trees and their energy always leaves me in awe, and feeling humbled by their presence.
Cathedral Grove is in MacMillan Provincial Park, located about a 30 minute drive from Parksville along Alberni Highway 4. Trails on either side of the highway lead visitors through the mighty stands Red Cedars on the north side, and Douglas Firs on the south.
RAINY DAY ACITIVITIES IN PARKSVILLE
When traveling with kids it’s a good idea to have a few rainy day activities in your back pocket, just in case. Here a few things you can do, in and near Parksville that won’t rain out the fun:
- Qualicum Beach Museum – Learn about the local history of the Indigenous peoples of the area as well as fossils.
- Parksville Museum – Explore 8 heritage buildings and view settler history through their artifacts at Craig Heritage Park.
- North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre – Take the family to get up close with rescued black bears, eagles, owls, ravens. Explore the interactive Learning Centre and gift shop while you are there.
- Butterfly World, Coombs – watch these delicate creatures flitter overhead, and see if you can find their resident tortoise Samson. Also check grab lunch and check out Coombs while you are in the area.
- Little Qualicum Cheeseworks – Not just for cheese! Self-guide yourself into farm cuteness with cows, bunnies, and some cheesy snacks at their cafe.
- Horne Lake Caves – Spelunk out of the rain, and explore some cool caves.
- Shopping trip to Nanaimo – always a favourite during our summer trips. Woodgrove Centre is the largest.
- Beachcombing in the rain – So many beaches, so little time! Tray a little beachcombing in hte rain for a different experience.
- Rainy Day Activities for your hotel – make sure you have some activities you can pull out in your room like Coloring & Activity Books or games, like these:
- A to Z Dinosaur Coloring Book with Fun Dino-facts
- Magical Unicorn Activity Book for Kids
- A-MAZE-ing times with the Playful Animal Maze & Coloring Book
Where to Eat In Parksville (& Area)
Here are a three of my family’s favourite places to eat / drink in Parksville and surrounding area. Four if you include the options at Coombs, mentioned above, because you KNOW we are making a day of it there and eating lunch, and snacks and some ice cream.
Little Qualicum Cheese Works
Hours: 10am-4pm Tues-Sun (CLOSED Mondays)
Now that you have worked up an appetite, head on down to the Little Qualicum Cheese Works for some delicious artisinal cheeses.
Experience the working Morningstar Farm and taste their wide variety of farmstead cheeses made with milk from their own cows. Visit their farmgate store for a little cheese tasting, browsing of local foods, and a sip of moo-tastic lattes at their Calfe.
Yes there is definitely a theme here ( and no that wasn’t a spelling mistake….puns intended). If you are lactose intolerant, we forgive you for missing out, otherwise, this a place you won’t want to miss.
403 Lowry’s Rd, Parksville, BC 250-954-3931
Love Shack Libations
Hours: Sat 1-5pm
Love Shack Libations is a cool spot made from a labour of love. This small brewery started as a hobby and has now morphed into a part time gig for Dave Paul, selling craft beer one day a week out of his “Shack”.
4134 Island Hwy W #1, Qualicum Beach, BC (250) 228-2477
Realm Food Co
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11:30am – 7pm
Realm Food Co is a wonderful, kid friendly place to eat. They focus on locally sourced and seasonal ingredients cooked up into delicious comfort food for your belly and soul.
Realm Food CO offers everything from tacos, to bone broth and ramen to rice bowls. Bring your kids along for their kids menu.
180 Craig Street, Parksville, BC 250-586-1158
Checklist of fun activities in Parksville and nearby:
- Build a sandcastle at Parksville Beach
- Play at Parksville Community Park and Skate Park
- Wade, swim, walk along Rathtrevor Beach
- Play mini golf at Paradise Adventure Mini-Golf and Bumper Cars
- Little Mountain Lookout
- See goats on the roof at Coombs
- Visit farm animals at Hamilton Hobby Farm
- Browse Qualicum Beach Farmers Market
- View the Englishman River Falls
- Hike to Qualicum Falls
- Bike or Hike the Top Ridge Trail & Suspension Bridge
- Go spelunking at Horne Lake Caves
- Experience 800 year old trees in Cathedral Grove
- Cheese tasting at Little Qualicum Cheese Works and Morningstar Farm
Have you been to Parksville, BC and have some special places you love to visit we’ve missed? Or which Parksville attraction would your family choose first? Let us know in the comments below, or on social media. We’d love to hear from you!
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15 Things To Do In Parksville
Featured Photo: “Tamas-V via canva.com”
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