Updated November 21, 2020
Parksville attractions for fun family adventures on Vancouver Island, BC.
Parksville, BC 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.
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.
Here are 15 fantastic things to do 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 and Tiger Lily 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
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 activities you won’t want to miss.
Note: As things are changing rapidly due to COVID / restrictions, check recommendations and business hours before making plans.
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Parksville Things To Do
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.
Build a Sandcastle at Parksville Beach
Our first stop was the Parksville Community Park and Beach.
At low tide the 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 or dipping your toes.
If you go in July / August, you can visit the annual summer sand sculpting competition, the Parskville 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.
Fun Tip: Bring a kite, and fly it when the tide is low!
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.
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.
FUN TIP: If you have any questions, email the goats, they are happy to provide you answers.
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.
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.
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 $2
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
Tiger Lily Farm
Open: Barnyard 10-4 daily seasonally. Closed over winter.
Cost: $7.25/person, Family $25, Family Seasons Pass $160 + GST
Tiger Lily Farm is located in Errington, and offers a variety of barnyard animals to enjoy, including baby goats, chicks, rabbits, and pigs,
Most years you can also bottle feed the baby goats and take horses for trail rides through the surrounding west coast forests. Unfortunately these remain closed at this time.
1692 Errington Rd. Errington, BC 250-248-2408
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
Englishman River Falls
The Englishman River Falls is part of Englishman River Falls Provincial Park . This park 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. 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. Guided Tours must follow COVID protocols.
Horne Lake Park Trails – open 7 days a week
Note: as of Nov. 15th tours and visitors centre closed until further notice. Trails still open.
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 if you book a tour through the Outdoor Centre.
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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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.
Unfortunately the Grove is closed at the moment, as it is a popular park, with little ability for people to socially distance. Keep this one in your back pocket for next time though.
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: every day 10am-5pm
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”.
The tasting room is unfortunately closed until further notice, but you can pick up your bottles or cans to go.
4134 Island Hwy W #1, Qualicum Beach, BC (250) 228-2477
Realm Food Co
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11:30am – 7pm
Sunday 9:30 – 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
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.
Higher End – Tigh-Na-Mara Resort,
I have had a few friends who have stayed at the Tigh-Na-Mara Resort for both couples retreats and family vacations and they have all spoken highly of their experiences.
Less than a 10 minute drive south of Parskville, this resort offers something for everyone.
For the Adults, try out the Grotto Spa, a mineral pool designed to emulate a natural stone grotto. Follow your relaxing mineral soak, with their Endless Tapas experience. It’s a 16 course tapas meal in a special dining room for robed guests only.
For Families you can rent paddle boats, swim in their indoor an outdoor pool , and enjoy their Sunday Brunch, to name a few activities.
Parksville has many AirBnB options to suit your needs and budgets. We chose a lovely one bedroom cabin away from the ocean. The highlight for our daughter was feeding the chickens residing on the property. We enjoyed our morning coffee on the deck, surround by beautiful gardens and delicious fresh eggs.
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 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.
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
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