On to Coombs and our next B&B which was very close to the Country Market and its famous goats on the roof– also the best ice cream on the island, but ask for a child’s portion because they are huge! Our comfortable B&B was a smallholding in Coombs which had three gorgeous looking alpacas named Willie, Alonso and Jack. There are often other wildlife visitors to the farm including black bears and deer. Unfortunately we didn’t see a bear, but we did see a visiting stag and several deer that I almost ran over as we drove out one evening to visit Parksville.
We had decided to break our journey south to Victoria in this area as it is a region we didn’t explore on our previous visit to the island in 2005. On that trip we stayed on the Central Coast in Comox Valley, a little further to the north, which stretches some 50 km along the eastern side of Vancouver Island from Fanny Bay to Saratoga Beach. On that occasion we didn’t see anything of Qualicum Beach and Parksville known as “Oceanside” by the locals and “Canada’s Riviera” by the national press. With sandy beaches and shallow warm water (70 degrees) it’s easy to see why.
It is a very touristy region and geared for family holidays with bird parks and butterfly world and orchid gardens and local artisan shops including cheese-makers. You can’t miss the goats on the roof at Coombs Old Country Market of course (and it does actually have a very impressive food market, bakery and the best ice-cream and gelato – did I mention that earlier?). The sandy safe beaches offer panoramic views across to the mainland and the snow-capped mountains, seals perform acrobats before your eyes in the crystal clear waters, and kayakers can experience the region in a remarkable way. It’s not all golden fringes though as behind the scenes you can find a chorus of gushing waterfalls, dense ferns and majestic trees with relaxing walks through forests unchanged for generations.