BC Seafood Festival

Oyster shucking, baskets of crab and fish galore, the 16th Annual BC Seafood Festival is the event for seafood lovers

Ok, I have to admit. Oysters are not my thing. For that matter, nor are mussels and clams … its a texture thing! Having said that, even though oysters arent my thing, there was a boundless variety of seafood that left me salivating for more during the 16th Annual BC Seafood Festival in the Comox Valley (held June 21-23).  

When I was invited to attend the festival, I said a resounding yesI What is not to love about indulging in copious amounts of fresh halibut, prawns, crab, cod, salmon and tuna? 

Arguably, no one celebrates our coastal seafood bounty better than the chefs that took part in what is dubbed Western Canadas largest seafood festival. For the second year in a row, it was held at Mount Washington Alpine Resort. Situated in the Beaufort Mountain Range, it was the perfect venue to take in spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding coastal mountain ranges.  

What began 18 years ago as a single event dinner (formally the BC Shellfish Festival), to raise awareness about our fishing industry, has morphed into a seafood bounty extravaganza that stretches over three days with some 35+ events.

a pendragron bottle of wine on a wooden table with tiny potted plants beside the wine
Chateaus Cona (Photo Credit: Cona Vacations Getaway)

I arrived on the Thursday, a day before the festivities began. My home away from home was  Chateau Cona, a comfortable, spacious chalet that I shared with fellow writers and organizers. Better yet, it was located only a few minutes walk from the resort. 

Canadian culinary talent, Ned Bell, was the festivals chef ambassador. A passionate leader in sustainability, Bell is well known in the hospitality industry as an advocate for local seafood, keynote speaker and educator; one who has forged a legacy in industry and beyond. 

a chef in white chef wear holding a bottle of golden haywire wine on his left hand and a plate of seafood crab burger with sauce on his right hand
Festival ambassador Ned Bell (Photo Credit: Krista Lochhead)

Thrilled with the turn out, Bell said: “Thank you to everyone who joined us from near and far for the 16th annual BC Seafood Festival on Mount Washington. We enjoyed three days brimming with laughter, great company, and the finest offerings from BC’s seafood industry. It was a delight to see attendees revel in the region’s seafood bounty. I’m eagerly anticipating next year!”

a man cleaning out clams on a steel pan ourdoors
Shucker Paddy (Photo Credit: Michelle Hopkins)

The festival included master classes with tastings, chef demos, chef-led breakfasts, lunches and dinners, happy hour events, evening parties and friendly competitions.  The Oyster shucking competitions attracted huge crowds urging on several well-known shuckers, including Patrick McMurray (aka Shucker Paddy). An oyster savant, McMurray holds the title of the 2002 World Champion Oyster Shucker and Guinness Book Record Holder for 39 Oysters in One Minute, and 1114 Oysters per Hour. 

Along with culinary wonders, the festival also included live entertainment, ziplining, chair lift rides, 

Heres a small taste of what the festival had to offer. 

Master classes that unearthed my inner chef: 

Over the course of the festival, I was asked to choose from several masterclasses, all of which were taught by the chefs; with many commercial fishermen on hand to discuss their ethical and sustainable practices.  


During the hands-on Grand Finale – All Chefs in the Kitchen – Leaning Towers of Seafood, chefs provided heaps of crab, mussels, tuna, halibut, and a few veggies, in a competition to see which team could create the winning tower. Although my team didnt win, we had a great time feasting afterwards, and I was equally happy to walk back up to the chalet.

a huge canopy area filled people sitting around long tables
Crab Fest kitchen party (Photo Credit: Cristian Oriak)

Another engaging class was the Prawn to be Wild – Our West Coast Treasure put on by two chefs that truly should have their own television cooking show. Besides delivering great tips, chefs Robert Clark of Organic Ocean Seafood and his sidekick Julian Bond, co-owner of Arame Consulting, played off each other and had us all laughing often. But seriously, I garnered great advice for cooking prawns, like this from Clark: Fresh prawns are best eaten right away, not peel and eat later. In a shallow dish, pour boiling water over the prawns for 30 seconds and then enjoy.” 

Sold out a few weeks in advance to 400 happy attendees, Saturday nights Gala Dinner was everything the festival organizers promised and more. The signature event of the weekend featured an impressive line-up of talent: seafood creations from 13 of some of the best of the best of culinary masters in the province – Dominic Fortin of Whistlers famed Bearfoot Bistro, Garret Kemp of The Vermillion Room at the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs, and Will Lew, at Pacific Reach. I was dazzled by the array of tasting stations. My favourites had to be the Indian butter halibut cheek and paneer curry by chef Welbert Choi of Fresh Ideas Start Here (F.I.S.H.), and the charcoal-kissed cured Pacific salmon served with potato, tarragon vinaigrette and bisque foam by talented, witty chefs Clark and Bond. We were greeted with a complimentary welcome cocktail and swayed to the live tunes from Brin Bad Quintet. 

a food bowl full of cooked crabs, some cilantro and a pcut piece of orange
Crab Fest kitchen Party (Photo Credit: Michelle Hopkins)

The Crab Fest Kitchen Party, a dining highlight celebrating local Dungeness crab (caught that morning), was another showstopper. When The Whiskydicks took to the stage during the soiree, it wasn’t long before some attendees were on their feet. Fusing elements of Celtic, country, rock and Roma music, this three-piece band, featuring Patrick Ernst on violin, Kyle Axford  on guitar, vocals, trumpet and bodhran, and Mike Bell on guitar, accordion and kick drum. The band was the perfect accompaniment to the old fashioned seafood boil – a fabulously messy medley of crab, corn, potatoes, clams and prawns served with a chilled glass of rosé… it doesn’t get better than that.


Hike off the calories at Strathcona Provincial Park

a huge green park with a huge lake in the middle and the mountains far behind in view covered with tall green trees
Strathcona Provincial Park (Photo Credit: Michelle Hopkins)

Designated in 1911, Strathcona Provincial Park is the oldest park in the province. Each morning, I found myself lured to return to this 250,000-hectare park, which is truly a hikers paradise. There are various trails that criss cross over mountain peak terrain, passing by wildflower meadows, craggy ridges, and serene rivers, creeks, and streams. No two hikes were the same and I guarantee you, I did work off some of the delectable calories. 

Its hard to imagine fitting so much excitement into three days, but I did. 

Getting there: BC Ferries offers a scenic, picturesque and relaxing way to adventure over to the Island. Terminals on Vancouver Island are located in Victoria (Swartz Bay) and Nanaimo (Departure Bay or Duke Point) with ferry service to/from the Vancouver area.

Where to Stay: Cona Vacations Getaway looks after a number of chalets in the area.

Chateaux Cona, 1187 Fosters Place, Mount Washington, sleeps up to 20 people and features three full bathrooms, on-demand hot water, two electric fireplaces, two hot tubs, sauna and washer and drier.

Min Stay summer – 2 nights

Min Stay winter – 3 nights

Closed to arrivals and departures on Saturdays

Starting at $550/night