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Qualicum Beach is another one of the fantastic destinations on Vancouver Island. This little town is known for its astonishing views of the ocean and Mount Arrowsmith (one of the tallest mountains east of Port Alberni). The local artists, flowers, and produce give Qualicum Beach a colorful look with a unique smell of mountain air mixed with the sea breeze.
This is a beautiful coastal destination with plenty of things to do in and around town. We always like stopping in when we’re making the drive from Nanaimo to Tofino.
Fishing, kayaking, hiking, salmon fishing, golfing, boutique shopping, and dining are some of the main activities in the area. Still, the first thing that comes to mind whenever I talk about Qualicum Beach is the ocean! The beach here is stunning, and it’s the main drawcard for the thousands of tourists that visit every summer.
We really loved visiting Qualicum Beach, and want to share it with you in this complete guide to visiting Qualicum Beach.
About Qualicum Beach, BC
Qualicum Beach, BC is a small town located 15 km (9 miles) west of Parksville. It’s easily accessible from the mainland by ferries that go to Nanaimo or Victoria, at about a 40-minute drive from Nanaimo or a 2.5-hour drive from Victoria. The town is located in the Qualicum First Nations territory.
With its main economic activity being tourism, the whole community has a very welcoming vibe and everywhere you go, you’ll be received with a big smile.
Locals are committed to keeping the surrounding parks and forests safe from industrial activities and their heritage intact. It takes only one short visit to their museum to comprehend how proud they are of their little corner of Vancouver Island, and honestly, I don’t blame them – this place is stunning!
You’ll have plenty of restaurants to choose from and some of them will be seaside. If you are a seafood lover, you will truly enjoy Qualicum Beach. However, delicious food is only one of the many attractions this town has to offer. If you are an art lover, you’ll have a great time visiting the galleries or witnessing the ice sculpting competitions in May, while theater enthusiasts can also enjoy original shows put on by local artists.
The lush green forests right outside of town have some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world with dozens of hiking trails, picnic areas, birds of all kinds, and salmon-full rivers. Qualicum Beach, BC is a small town with very strong roots and a very deep impact in one of the most beautiful regions of British Columbia.
The BEST Things to do in Qualicum Beach
1. Learn some history at the Qualicum Museum
The Qualicum Beach Museum was one of our first stops on our recent trip and it was such a lovely experience. We didn’t know much about the museum, so we entered without much expectation, and we ended up having a great time.
They have a phenomenal collection of fossils from all over Vancouver Island. The last thing we expected was to come across huge dinosaur femurs and other prehistoric fossils of all sizes. If you are traveling with kids, they are going to love this museum!
The other exhibits were fantastic too. We learned quite a lot about the history of Qualicum Beach through countless artifacts and short stories about the community.
There’s no entrance fee but you can leave a donation or purchase something at the gift shop.
I would recommend this experience to anyone, especially if you are traveling with your kids. Cozy place, with great staff and overall an interesting little museum. It’s also the perfect rainy-day activity in Qualicum Beach since the museum is indoors.
2. Shop at the Qualicum Farmers Market
If there’s a farmers market, we are going! Every Saturday morning the whole community of Qualicum Beach gathers at 644 Veteran Way to buy and sell local produce and promote a healthier way of life. The Qualicum Farmers Market opens from 8 am to 12 pm.
Each vendor follows the Qualicum Farmers Market motto word by word: “grow it, make it, or bake it”. Everything you’ll see is actually grown and made by locals. Some fruits and vegetables are of a variety specific to Vancouver Island, so be sure to try as many new things as you can while you are there.
This market is open all year round, there’s parking nearby, live music during the summer, and delicious pancake breakfast, coffee, and tea. There are plenty of 100% organic options from certified vendors and a happy vibe all around.
The Qualicum Farmers Market is one of those things to do in Qualicum Beach that you can’t miss, and I guarantee you’ll have a great time.
Related Read: Popping into a local market is also one of the best stops on the drive from Nanaimo to Victoria!
3. Go hiking in the Heritage Forest
The Heritage Forest is a hidden gem of Vancouver Island and one of the best hiking spots in the area (if not the best!). This 50-acre park is only 5 minutes away from downtown Qualicum Beach and it’s home to some of the tallest, most mesmerizing trees in the world, endangered species of plants, and countless species of birds that you won’t get to see anywhere else.
It’s the perfect place to go for a relaxing hike. Locals absolutely love this forest, so you’ll get to see a lot of friendly faces on your way.
The people from Qualicum Beach actually raised the money to buy the land so they could preserve the forest as it is. Not only that, but the whole park is immaculate and the trails are in perfect shape
This can also be an educational stroll because there are plaques with the names of the trees and a little bit of information about them. Such a relaxing activity surrounded by nature, definitely one of my favorite experiences in Qualicum Beach.
4. Check out Englishman River Falls Provincial Park
Located about a 20-minute drive from Qualicum Beach is Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. Here you’ll find a beautiful forest with a 3-kilometer (1.9-mile) hiking trail that will take you to two impressive waterfalls.
Wander through old-growth Douglas-firs, cedar, hemlock, and maple trees. The hike itself is breathtaking, with two bridges that cross the river and offer excellent views of the narrow canyon and the river that winds through the rocks. If you’re visiting in the warmer months, the lower waterfall empties into a crystal clear pool that is an ideal spot for a swim.
You’ll love Englishman River Falls Provincial Park so much that you might want to stay – in which case, there is a convenient campground with tent and RV sites. Amenities at the campground include potable water, bathrooms, and trails, and it is dog friendly, so your four-legged family members can enjoy the beauty along with you.
5. Try Vancouver Islands’ best burger at Q Burger
Want to try an incredible burger? Then trust us when we say you just have to visit Q Burger in downtown Qualicum Beach. Here you’ll find a selection of tasty burgers served with a generous portion of crispy french fries.
Honestly though, Q Burger was actually voted one of the best burgers in Canada! After you try one for yourself, I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a worthy title.
Far from ordinary, menu items consist of burgers like the Royal Q, which is made with hand-smashed beef, BBQ braised onions, local sausage, and beer cheese (lots of it!.) All of the ingredients are placed on a bun and then wrapped in a tortilla and baked in the oven, so it comes out in a crispy shell.
For a more classic burger option, try the Q-Boom, which is served with roasted garlic and cream cheese and topped with a bacon crumble.
6. Walk the beachfront
One of the best things to do in Qualicum Beach? You guessed it, going to see the ocean!
There’s a boardwalk along the beach where you can go for a walk – a beautiful place for a stroll! The first time we went was early in the morning, it was sunny and there were a lot of people exercising in the area. There are park benches where you can simply sit and relax for a bit.
It’s the perfect place to go for a stroll after lunch or before dinner to catch the sunset.
It can get a little bit crowded, depending on the time of the year, and the beach is actually small. The views are beautiful, though, and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore really makes you feel like you are on vacation.
There are picnic areas and washrooms. You’ll also find a couple of restaurants and cafes if you want to stay for a while and have some food (the ice cream is superb!).
7. Little Qualicum Cheeseworks
Little Qualicum Cheeseworks is more than just a cheese shop, it’s a cute little farm with cows and calves, fresh milk, and lots of opportunities to learn how cheese is made.
This dairy farm is home to the first on-tap milk dispenser in Canada. If you bring a bottle with you, you can even take some milk home! Regrettably, we didn’t get to take a bottle of milk with us, but we did try it in the cafe (delicious!).
We had a dozen types of cheese freshly made and we even got to see how some varieties were made. The brie was our favorite!
The petting farm was an absolute charm. They offer other activities for children like scavenger hunts, so if you are traveling with kids, you have to take them to Little Qualicum Cheeseworks.
There’s no entrance fee and it’s a self-guided tour so you can stay for as long as you want. We thought we were going to stop by just to see what the fuss was all about and we ended up spending almost all afternoon.
8. Goats on the Roof Farm in Coombs
One of my favorite things I did while visiting Qualicum Beach was actually heading to the nearby town of Coombs for the day. Here, we visited the Old Country Market, or as it’s more commonly known, Goats on the Roof Farm.
This market was made famous because of the oats that actually just hang out on the grass roof all day long! The goats have been around for more than 30 years after the owners decided they needed some help mowing the grass. Now, you can see goats chowing down on the green grass roof of the market. It’s quite a funny sight, actually.
Although the goats are the main attraction, there is a cute little walking area nearby that features a variety of boutique stores and restaurants. Explore the booths of local vendors, bakers, craftsmen, and organic gardeners, and pick up some tasty treats for a picnic or even a souvenir to remember your time in Parksville.
It’s well worth planning on spending couple of hours here. Grab an ice cream, have lunch, do a little shopping, and of course, check out the goats!
Opening hours are from 9 am until 7 pm daily, but some of the restaurants located in the area have their own unique hours, so be sure to call ahead.
Goats on the Roof Farm is located in Coombs only a 10-minute drive from Qualicum Beach.
9. Beach day in Parksville
While Qualicum Beach does have it;s own beach, I have to say that I much prefer the beach in Parksville. The beach here is larger and offers the perfect opportunity to relax for a day or two. Plus, it’s easy enough to get there, only a 15-minute drive from Qualicum.
Parksville’s public beach is one of the liveliest places to spend a full day swimming and relaxing while taking in the stunning scenery.
The public beachfront is located directly in front of the Community Park and is walkable from most of Parksville. Pack a beach blanket, your favorite snacks, and a good book head to the beach.
The Community Park directly behind the beach features fun activities like volleyball and plenty of picnic tables to enjoy a nice meal outdoors. There is also a large playground and waterpark for kids to enjoy. Nearby, you can also often find food trucks in case you want a convenient bite to eat.
10. Have a beachfront meal at Shore
Nothing beats a beachfront meal! Shore was our favorite restaurant in Qualicum Beach, not only for its food but for its amazing views. It’s a fantastic place to go for lunch or dinner (drinks are very good too!) while enjoying the ocean view.
They don’t have an extensive menu, but everything is delicious. We went several times and got to try most things. Don’t be afraid to ask the staff for recommendations, that’s how we ended up having an A+ crushed-fruit smoothie (you can order with a shot of rum or tequila if you want!).
Being one of the most common dishes in Vancouver Island, fish and chips is the first thing on their menu and it’s very good. The spicy shrimp tacos are a delight you can’t miss. The halibut burger was perfect and the pulled pork was our favorite. Great onion rings too.
Shore is also a beautiful place to sit at sunset with a cocktail. Be sure to book a table in advance though, they do get very busy especially in the peak summer months.
11. Walk among giants at Cathedral Grove
Not far from Qualicum Beach you’ll find one of the most popular attractions in all of Vancouver Island – Cathedral Grove! Located in MacMillan Provincial Park, Cathedral Grove is an old-growth forest filled with towering Douglas-fir trees – they are huge!
Cathedral Grove offers one of the easiest opportunities for visitors to view the ancient giants. There are plenty of walking trails here and even some stroller-friendly boardwalks.
Some of the trees are more than 800 years old, and if you follow the Big Tree Trail, you’ll arrive at one of the largest trees in the park, which measures more than a 9 meter circumference and has been growing for centuries. In addition to the massive Douglas-firs, there are also groves of Western red cedar.
Cathedral Grove is free to visit and located only about a 20-minute drive from Qualicum Beach. Parking is limited so I recommend visiting early in the morning or later in the evenings.
12. Start your day at De L’ile Bakery and Cafe
If you wish to start your day on the right foot while staying in Qualicum Beach, there’s no place like De L’ile Bakery and Cafe. This is the most popular bakery in town. They open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm so it can get quite busy. However, even if there’s a line, it will be worth your while.
Great coffee, yes, but the pastries… I tried plenty of them and everything was delicious! The Portuguese custard tart is one of the most exquisite pastries I’ve ever eaten (order more than one for yourself). I also love their quiche!
De L’ile is also de place to go if you want a pretzel or a bagel with your coffee. The caramelized onion alpine cheese was delicious too (all dairy products in Qualicum beach are fantastic). Make sure you get there early, they run out of things pretty quickly, especially during high season.
Like most businesses in Qualicum Beach, they source their ingredients locally so they change their menu seasonally.
13. Drink craft beer at Fern + Cedar Brewing Company
Located in the heart of Qualicum Beach, this is the go-to place to have a local beer. They have an extensive selection so naturally, we had to try a few. The service was spectacular and after our first round a staff member started to recommend different beers and each one was better than the last. The Honey Lagger was really special, but the ones we enjoyed the most were the Moonlit Lagger and the Oceanside Lagger (their can designs are amazing as well).
Associating new flavors with a new place is one of my favorite ways to build memories, that’s why we always go for a crafted beer in any place we visit.
The Fern + Cedar Company is rather new, but they are already making a name for themselves. They’ve quickly become a mandatory stop for travelers visiting Vancouver Island and they keep expanding their menu.
Now they not only serve crafted beer, but they also have mixed drinks and fantastic food too. If you plan to stay for a couple of hours, I suggest you order some food. If you do, you must order the Parmesan truffle fries with aioli. The salads were delicious and the burgers were pretty good, too.
Related Read: One of our favorite breweries on the island was actually in Campbell River. Check out the other things to see and do in Campbell River!
14. Play Golf!
For all the golfers out there planning a trip to Vancouver Island, know that there are plenty of options to play a round of golf. The Qualicum Beach Memorial Golf Club has been open since 1913 and it hosts various tournaments throughout the year, so the course is in perfect shape.
It’s not the biggest golf course, but the vistas are phenomenal. The golf club is next to the beach so you can see the ocean while you play. To give it an even more magical look, you will probably encounter a friendly and curious deer during your match (they are all around Qualicum Beach).
Try to reserve your tee time ahead of time if this is one of the things you want to do in Qualicum Beach. This is a very popular golfing spot for locals and visitors, plus the food at the club is very nice.
The fees are pretty standard at $34 CAD for 9 holes and $58 CAD for 18 holes. If you don’t mind playing early in the morning, you might get cheaper fees.
What’s a vacation without a little bit of shopping? There are some art galleries, boutiques, and craft stores you can visit in Qualicum Beach and get the most beautiful and unique souvenirs.
One of my favorite things about small towns is the fact that you can walk to most places. In Qualicum Beach, you can do most of the shopping on a single street downtown and make an afternoon out of it.
The Oceanside Art Gallery was one of our favorite places in Qualicum Beach. Filled with dozens of paintings from local artists, this wasn’t your typical small-town gallery where most things look the same and it ends up being more a souvenir store than anything else. This is an actual gallery with some of the most beautiful paintings we’ve seen in a while. You’ve got to stop by!
At Covet Boutique you can get anything from ornaments and little trinkets for your home to beautiful jeans, hoodies, boots, dresses, and fedoras. Also, organic beauty products made locally, candles, bath salts… You name it! They are located at 702 Memorial Ave.
If you are into aromatherapy and 100% natural skincare, you will love Purple Essentials. The range of products they sell is amazing and the owners are really friendly and knowledgeable. They made some pretty good recommendations based on my current skincare routine.
Where to Stay in Qualicum Beach, BC
As a summer vacation hot spot, there are lots of options when it comes to accommodation in Qualicum Beach. In fact, there are almost too many choices – it can be overwhelming. To help you decide where to stay in Qualicum Beach, we narrowed it down to our favorite hotels and guest houses.
For a comfortable stay with an affordable price, Laurel’s Cottage by Elevate Rooms is perfect. Located in the heart of Qualicum Beach downtown, this small bed and breakfast offers rooms from $155 CAD per night. Room are basic, but the price is great considering it also includes breakfast.
If you don’t mind spending a little more, Crown Mansion Boutique Hotel & Villas is a beautiful little hotel. All rooms have air conditioning and are complete with elegant décor. Some rooms also feature an ocean view and pedal stool bathtub. Rooms start from $205 CAD/night.
Our favorite hotel in Qualicum Beach as to be Qualicum Beach Inn. This hotel is large and features many amenities that the other smaller hotels and bed & breakfasts don’t including an indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, and gym. This hotel is also located right across the beach. You can grab a room here for as little as $240 CAD/night.
Thanks for reading!
And there you have it, the best things to do in Qualicum Beach, BC! With this blog, we hope that you’re equipped with all the info you need to enjoy Qualicum Beach as much as we did.
Be sure to check out our other blogs about Vancouver Island including some other popular blog posts: