1) Explore inside Caves
Did you know that Vancouver Island has caves?! The only other cave I've visited is the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, but this was completely different. We took a tour at Horne Lake Provincial Park and visited the Riverbend Cave. It was full of tight crawls and our guide gave us a good background on the geographical formation of caves.
We went down that little hole!
The two hour tour was $39 per person. It doesn't require any experience or skills. I really enjoyed the experience as it was so different from what I imagined. You have to wear long sleeves and runners but I was surprised at how authentic the experience is. In the group we were in, there were 2 kids and most people were in their 30's/40's. The helmet is provided for you and is included in the tour cost.
Just to note, you'll need to drive about 15-20 minutes on a dirt road to get to the provincial park! A car wash is recommended afterwards!
2) Walk on Sandy Beaches
Canada is known for being cold but you don't have to go very far to get to sandy beaches. During low tide, Parksville Beach extends out one kilometer! We went to both Qualicum Beach and Parksville Beach and they are quite similar. We walked pretty far out and I took a screenshot of Google Maps thinking I'm in the ocean!
Parksville beach was very soft and sandy with tons of little crabs crawling around! It was still cold when we went but I can imagine it to be very warm during the summer months!
Qualicum Beach is about a 20 minute drive north of Parksville and there's lots of parking right along Island Hwy. We ate at Shady Rest restaurant which was just above the beach and had a wonderful view! Make sure to time your visit with when the daily low tides are so you can walk far out into the ocean!
3) Go Back in Time at Cathedral Grove
The west coast is known for being environmentally friendly and possibly even tree huggers. You can find that side of you in Cathedral Grove which features an ecosystem of rare ancient Douglas fir! It's about a 20 minute drive west of Parksville and is situated inside MacMillan Park. The parking spots are just on the side of the highway so don't drive too fast!
The biggest trees are about 800 years old and 9m in circumference. It felt like we were transported back to prehistoric times with no human effects in sight. There are two trails, one on each side of the highway. The trails are much shorter than expected. It only takes about 20 minutes to walk each of the loops and that includes taking photos.
It's a really cool experience to be reminded of what the world used to look like and how impressive nature is. There is no admission fee.
Take BC ferries either from Horseshoe Bay - Departure Bay, or Tswasassen - Duke Point. From there, it's about a 30 minute drive up to Parksville.
Where we Stayed- Sunrise Ridge Waterfront Resort
There are lots of cabin and vacation rentals available. Since we booked a little bit later during the busy long weekend, we weren't able to book any of the rustic cabins. However, we stayed at Sunrise Ridge Resort which was very nicely appointed and comfortable! It has it's private beach access and we even saw two deers on the grounds!
Here are some other weekend trip ideas from Vancouver