Pack your bags and unplug with your gal pals this fall
You may think of Parksville as a family destination—and with good reason. With the warmest swimming beach in Canada, mega-sized mini-golf and plenty of kids camps and activities, it’s a holiday favourite for Lower Mainland families.
But there’s also plenty for grown-ups to do in this easy-to-reach stretch of Vancouver Island’s east coast. It’s a great place for a girlfriends getaway, whether you’re celebrating a milestone birthday, thanking your bridesmaids, or just wanting to spend some quality time together.
Here’s our guide on the best ways to spend a few days of rest and reconnection in Parksville, just a couple of hours from home...
Where to stay
Photo credit: Christina Newberry The huge one-bedroom suites at The Beach Club Resort feel like luxury apartments perched right over the beach. The king-sized bed and pull-out sofa sleep up to four adults, but for more space you can add a connecting studio suite with two additional queen-sized beds. With a gas fireplace, full kitchen, oceanfront patio and plenty of lounging space, you’ll be perfectly set up to spend lazy mornings and long evenings in your pyjamas, catching up.
What to eat
Facebook/ Lefty's Fresh FoodIf you’re looking for lunch or breakfast on a weekday, you can’t do better than Bread and Honey, rated one of Yelp’s top 100 restaurants in Canada and a consistent local award-winner. The menu features local specialties like bannock with cedar jelly and blueberry sage preserves or eggs Benny with sockeye lox. Parksville is all about quality of life, and the owners have embraced this by closing the restaurant to spend time with family on evenings and weekends, so make this a Monday-to-Friday daytime stop. On the weekends, head to Lefty’s for great eggs and hash browns.
For a hearty lunch or dinner, visit the Black Goose Inn, a traditional British-style pub in a 1921-built Samuel McClure house overlooking the water. With roaring fireplaces for winter and a lively patio for summer, it’s a hit all year long serving satisfying dishes like steak and stilton pie or ploughman’s platters perfect for sharing. There’s also an extensive vegan menu, with veggie takes on classics like fish and chips or bangers and mash. The sticky toffee pudding is the perfect way to end your meal.
What to do
Photo Credit: Christina Newberry At Morningstar Farm, take a self-guided tour and top it off with a cheese tasting at the Farmgate Store. The home base of Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, Morningstar is a great place to experience the rural side of Parksville, with great countryside views and a chance to see the cows and calves up close. You’ll also learn about some of the innovations the family farm owners have made to improve both animal welfare and milk production, including a robotic milker that allows cows to choose their own milking times. Bring a clean empty bottle to fill with fresh whole milk at Canada’s first milk-on-tap dispenser.
Photo credit: Christina Newberry For stunning ocean and mountain views with a side helping of B.C. wildlife, get out on the water with Adventuress Sea Kayaking. Owner Jan Kretz hosts multi-day kayaking trips for women off the coast of Vancouver Island, but for a quick getaway a two-hour paddle in single or double kayaks is just the right amount of exercise and teamwork. In early spring and fall, it’s a short paddle to see the hundreds of sea lions that make this their seasonal home. If your visit falls on the date of a full moon, join a Full Moon Howl tour to paddle into the sunset and back by moonlight.
Photo credit: Christina Newberry To work your creative muscles, book the Hot Glass Experience at Robert Held Art Glass (Tuesday through Saturday by appointment). You’ll work with one of the studio’s experienced glass blowers to make a colourful glass paperweight or ornament to take home. It’s a completely immersive process to work with molten glass in the 1000-degree oven, and it’s surprisingly exciting to watch your friends fight gravity and time to create a perfect art object out of glass and fire. Your work needs to cool overnight for pickup the next day, so schedule accordingly.
How to relax
Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-MaraIt’s not a girls’ getaway without some serious spa time, and the Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-Mara is the place to get your robe and slippers on. The grotto itself is all stone and waterfalls. Soaking in the warm mineral pool is said to help reduce inflammation while stimulating the metabolism—which will come in handy if you opt for the Dip & Dine package.
Treetop Tapas & GrilThe Treetop Tapas & Grill, perched on the spa’s third floor, is open only to spa guests, and bathrobes are mandatory. Luckily, the robes are long and luxurious so you don’t feel exposed while you work your way through 15 to 20 small courses with unlimited seconds. At first it feels strange to watch other diners noshing on house-made biscuits and smoked salmon in their dressing gowns, but by course three you’ll be too absorbed in your own plates to notice. Raise a glass to not worrying about how tight your pants feel at the end of a two-hour meal.