An Island Guide to Hidden Hot Spots
Vancouver Island is famous for its list-topping tourist hot spots – Goats on the Roof, Cathedral Grove, Parksville beach, and countless others. No one ever regrets hitting the top spots; they’ve earned their ranking for good reason. But anyone who has stumbled upon a to-die-for restaurant or breathtaking hidden waterfall while lost in a foreign place, or anyone who misinterpreted Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” in high school (hint – the forest paths were equally travelled) will intrinsically understand that there’s more to be seen than what can be found in the travel guides. Much more.
Locals keep secrets. Ask a local for a recommendation and they’ll rattle off a few tourist list-toppers, but ask a local where they spend their Saturday afternoon and you’ll receive a very different answer.
Hit the Hill: Local dog-owners, hikers, nature lovers, and others head out to Nanoose Bay to hike the trails up Notch Hill to get away from it all. The trail comes full circle in about two kilometres and boasts a lower and a higher lookout point, both perfect places for an afternoon picnic. From the South facing viewpoint it isn’t unusual to catch sight of the occasional Navy ship. The entire hike (leisure time to take in the sites excluded) should take about an hour.
Not So “Little” Mountain: Easy as pie to find, it’s surprising Little Mountain has stayed such a well-kept secret over the years. Right at the outskirts of Errington, intrepid mountaineers can turn left up Little Mountain Road and drive almost all the way to the top of Little Mountain. Once there, you’ll be treated to panoramic almost-aerial views of Parksville that are gorgeous at any time, but are indescribable at sunset. Turn 180 degrees from the edge of the mountainside and you’ll see a trailhead that runs through the forested area encroaching on the peak of the mountain – these trails are perfect for a short hike or a quick run with Fido; just keep him away from the edge!
Seaside Simplicity: Battling crowded beaches is all in a day’s work on summer vacation, but sometimes it pays to trade sand for serenity. French Creek Marina offers visitors a little piece of harbour heaven sans sandcastles; the marina is popular with locals for boat moorage, the French Creek Marina Pub, which offers pub fare and delicious libations with a phenomenal view overlooking the water, and local legend French Creek Seafood. A world away from buying fish and seafood from your local grocer, French Creek Seafood offers freshly caught fish that will ruin the taste of grocery store bought ocean-dwellers for years to come.
Eager for more insider secrets? Earn your islander stripes by finding a few of your own. Ditch the itinerary, forego the GPS, and spend the day getting lost. Take a wrong turn down a dirt road or pull over in the middle of nowhere if you notice other cars parked on the side of an unassuming side street. Often, you’ll find unmarked access to pocket beaches, trailheads that lead down to riverbanks, or forest paths perfect for hiking, biking, and general island merriment. Just remember to always take a fully charged phone, a bottle of water, and a buddy, because the best adventures are safe ones.