Escape to Vancouver Island, Canada
Full disclosure: I’m an Albertan. Or at least that’s what my birth certificate claims. But aside from being born there, the West Coast of Canada has always been home. And while I must admit I share a mild curiosity for the country boys in Stetsons, I’ve grown accustomed to the salt-licked seafaring lads of the coast decked in Stanfields and flannel.
Surrounded on all sides by emerald seas, the Rock (as it is commonly referred to by locals) is dotted with untrammelled communities and wayward fishing villages just begging to be explored. I especially enjoy heading ‘up’ island as the crowds quickly disperse the further north you go. That’s precisely where I like to head whenever my soul needs a little replenishing.
The Island has quick access to such an amazing backdrop of unspoiled terrain. While I find it difficult to choose just one favourite spot, when I need a quiet weekend escape I like to head in the direction of the Comox Valley. Within a three-hour drive from the capital city, Victoria, Applewood Cottage has the alluring promise of quiet reflection.
I was looking for an affordable staycation one rainy November when I sniffed out this lovely place, just five minutes from Courtenay. I was instantly attracted to its rustic charm. The suggestion of sinking into a clawfoot tub or curling up next to a wood stove definitely had all the essential components of a West Coast getaway.
The suggestion of sinking into a clawfoot tub or curling up next to a wood stove definitely had all the essential components of a West Coast getaway.
Hidden at the end of a private laneway amid apple trees and honey bees, you’ll find no disturbances here. The refurbished barn offers a cozy cabin feel. It’s the ideal place to create solitary moments for self-reflection, or to channel your inner genius and seek inspiration from the surrounding landscape. Just be sure not to spend all your time huddled next to the fire.
On the doorstep of Strathcona Provincial Park, the Comox Valley has it all, from freshwater lakes to mountain views, forested hikes and ocean strolls. It’s the perfect jumping-off point to so many Vancouver Island treasures. Pack your hikers and get out and do a little nature scrubbing while you’re here.
Drive along the Old Island Highway and treat yourself to an afternoon spa date at the Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa—the Pacific Misc Hydropath is well-worth the experience. Simulating the Vancouver Island’s natural environs, the path winds its way through sandstone-sculpted pools, caves, and waterfalls. Afterwards, sit patio-side cozied up to one of their fire bowls with a libation or two while taking in panoramic ocean views and watching the horizon glow crimson pink as the sun begins to set.
It’s also worth exploring surrounding sites. Check out the spirited town of Cumberland, just a 10-minute drive from Courtenay. Founded as a mining town, Cumberland has come a long way from the colliery days that first illuminated the town. Dripping with character, the town’s main drag is etched in well-preserved architectural impressions of the past. It also enjoys a thriving arts scene, along with the many outdoor pursuits. I personally enjoy strolling down Dunsmuir Avenue gazing into colourfully arranged shop windows filled with vintage finds.
While I must admit I share a mild curiosity for the country boys in Stetsons, I’ve grown accustomed to the salt-licked seafaring lads of the coast decked in Stanfields and flannel.
If you want to get out of town, do as the locals do and ramp up your activity level with a two-wheeled adventure on Cumberland’s extensive network of mountain biking trails. When you’re done, take a dip in nearby Comox Lake, or quench your adventurous appetite by enjoying handcrafted tacos and margs at Biblio Taco. They serve locally sourced ingredients and freshly caught fish.
Last but not least, no trip to Vancouver Island would be complete without a walk on the beach. As a child, my sisters and I would lose ourselves for hours wandering along the beaches of our island home looking for treasures. And bounty we sure did find! The Oyster River Nature Park, located between Courtenay and Campbell River, offers encapsulating views of the Strait of Georgia. I never tire of them.
Best of all, this 12-acre nature park contains a selection of walking trails that weave through Douglas fir, broad-leafed maple, and western hemlock, eventually spitting you out at the ocean’s edge so you get an ample taste of both land and sea.
Escape to Vancouver Island, Canada.
You can follow along the Jack Hames Trail all the way to the Salmon Point Pub (about 1.8 km) to enjoy a cold beverage and casual West Coast-style dining, before returning back. If you’re here in summer, the river pools just below the bridge are a great place to cool down.
No matter what you’re drawn to, finding a piece of yourself on Vancouver Island isn’t hard to do with these natural elements. Although I’m questioning dishing out these little secrets for fear of never having these precious attractions to myself again! But I do sincerely hope you enjoy your escape, as any local island host would.