An entertaining day out can be spent in and around Parksville, British Columbia, just 35 kilometers northwest of Nanaimo. Commercial tourist attractions with stiff admission fees abound but many of Parksville’s best sights are free. The five places below are described in greater detail in our Oceanside Route Driving Tour which features a printable version and map. Here are some places to go for those who dislike buying tickets:
1) Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. The two kilometres of scenic sandy beach are the main attraction here and at low tide up to a kilometer of sand can be exposed offshore. Two picnic shelters and a nature house are provided. Park admission and parking are free.
2) Parksville Community Park. Adjacent to downtown Parksville, this family-oriented recreation park offers picnic tables, a children’s playground, baseball, skateboarding, tennis, and other sporting facilities. In mid-summer some of the warmest sea waters in Canada lap the park’s shallow tidal beach and the swimming is excellent on an incoming tide. The parking is always free.
3) Morningstar Farm. This delightful attraction just west of Parksville is a must if you have children along as there are barns sheltering cows, hens, horses, pigs, and sheep, plus a 30-minute self-guided farm trail offering excellent views of Mount Arrowsmith. Morningstar Farm is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. For driving directions, see our Oceanside Route Driving Tour.
4) Old Country Market. The ice cream scooped out at this commercial sales outlet in Coombs southwest of Parksville isn’t free (or cheap) but there’s no charge to take pictures of its famous goats on the roof. The surrounding area has lots more tacky shops and it’s fun to stroll around if you can resist buying anything. The parking is free if congested.
5) Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. A hiking trail loops through old growth Douglas fir forest around a canyon between two waterfalls south of Parksville. The water arrives fresh from Mount Arrowsmith, and in summer you can swim in the river below the lower falls.