Touring Around Comox Valley
From the triple Cs—Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland—to smaller communities like Buckley Bay, Union Bay and Royston along the south coast and Merville, Black Creek and Saratoga Beach along the north coast, the Comox Valley is full of discoveries. High above the valley, the Strathcona Parkway leads to Mount Washington Alpine Resort. Offshore, the twin islands of Denman and Hornby offer a chance to explore and relax.
BLACK CREEK & MERVILLE >> The rural community of Black Creek beckons visitors with a plethora of recreational opportunities. Strathcona Provincial Park and Miracle Beach Provincial Park are nearby, and just north of Saratoga Beach, strollers and cyclists enjoy the shoreline trail at Oyster Bay Shoreline Regional Park. South of Black Creek, Seal Bay Nature Park is a BC wildlife watch viewing site where California and Stellar sea lions, seals and migratory birds hang out at this sunny stretch of coastline. The Black Creek area is also where you can find Mount Washington Alpine Resort.
Denman Island ›› Best known for its beautiful beaches and forests and locally produced arts and crafts, Denman Island is a 19-kilometre long and 5-kilometre wide oasis of calm. It is only 2 kilometres from Vancouver Island and is located in the sheltered Strait of Georgia. It’s just a 10-minute ferry ride from Buckley Bay, south of Courtenay.
Named in 1864 after British Rear Admiral Joseph Denman, the island is marked by a rolling ride on the eastern side rising 60 to 100 metres towards the western flank of the island. Denman Island is punctuated by sandy beaches, rocky coves, hiking trails, lush forests and farmlands. It is home to a diversity of wildlife, including deer, pheasants, herons, hawks and bald eagles. The island boasts three provincial parks: Fillongley, Boyle Point and Sandy Island—making it a popular destination for cycling. Located on the northeast side of Denman Island, Fillongley Provincial Park features some of the largest remaining stands of Douglas Firs and Cedars in the region. Boyle Point Provincial Park encompasses 125 hectares at the south end of the island and is an excellent place to watch bald eagles, especially during the spring herring run. Vociferous California and Stellar Sea Lions come to the area to feed on the herring. Sandy Island Marine Provincial Park, located just off Denman Island’s north tip, is a 32-hectare preserve of sand dunes, fragile vegetation, diverse animal species and a variety of birds.
Many nationally-renowned musicians and artists call Denman Island home, and they are inspired by its natural beauty and tranquillity. There’s a large selection of local, handmade arts and crafts, such as pottery, jewellery, textiles, woodwork, paintings, sculptures, music, books and specialty foods.
Hornby Island ›› Reached by a 10-minute ferry ride from Denman Island, Hornby Island entices with sheltered coves, bays and bluffs waiting to be explored, superb sand beaches, sheltered waters for scuba diving and a laid back atmosphere that has made it a favourite counter-culture hangout. Tribune Bay Provincial Park boasts one of the best sand beaches in all the Gulf Islands, while rock and gravel beaches at Helliwell Provincial Park and Grassy Point offer a chance to see intertidal sea life up close. Hornby Island is also home to dozens of exceptionally talented artisans, and the pottery is renowned for quality and reasonable prices.
Saratoga Beach ›› North from Courtenay on the starfish marked Oceanside Route, Highway 19A, Saratoga Beach is sprinkled liberally with full-service RV parks, resorts, cottages, bed and breakfast retreats and a marina. The tide along this stretch of cobblestone shoreline goes out for more than 300 metres, creating a hard-packed flat sand playground perfect for children and sandcastles, sunbathing and exploring tidal pools. The 137-hectare Miracle Beach Provincial Park sits at the heart of the area’s superb beachfront. North of Saratoga Beach, strollers and cyclists enjoy the shoreline trail at Oyster Bay Shoreline Regional Park.
Life in the fast lane takes over at Saratoga Speedway, a 3/8-mile D-shaped track. It’s ranked as one of the finest tracks in B.C. Saratoga Beach Golf Course offers 18 holes of miniature golf and Pacific Playgrounds golf course operates on a larger scale with nine leisurely par three holes and a driving range. The Pacific Playgrounds Marina is an excellent jumping off point for salmon fishing and guided charters are available. Kayak, canoe and paddleboat rentals are available at Saratoga Beach Resort Rentals.
Union Bay and Fanny Bay ›› Travelling south from Courtenay on Highway 19A, a cluster of restful seaside communities offer a chance to understand some of the area’s rich history. Formerly a major shipping port for the Union Coal Company, Union Bay is where huge docks were constructed to handle the rumbling coal trains and seagoing freighters. Situated on Baynes Sound, the sheltered narrow strait separating Vancouver Island and Denman Island, Fanny Bay is a tiny oceanside community and home to the world-famous Fanny Bay Oysters. The venture grows, processes and exports farm-raised Pacific oysters and tours of the processing plant can be pre-arranged. Fanny Bay and the surrounding area is home to diverse bird life and Mud Bay, just south, is a shallow tidal bay with extensive mudflats exposed at low tides—important winter habitat areas for waterfowl and shorebirds.
Cumberland ›› Founded in 1888 as a coal-mining town by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, Cumberland quickly grew to become a bustling coal mining community, with workers streaming in from Europe, China and Japan. Today, Cumberland is home to 2,700 residents. The Cumberland Museum & Archives is filled with artifacts from this colourful era. Just north of town, clean and clear glacial fed Comox Lake offers sandy beaches, swimming, picnic areas, fishing, boating and camping.
Campbell River ›› Known as the Salmon Capitol of the World, Campbell River reclines on 22 km of shoreline fronting the Strait of Georgia, Discovery Passage and the Discovery Islands and is alive with restful beaches, luxuriant forests, crystal clear lakes and streams teeming with trout. The diverse alpine-to-ocean landscape and year-round moderate climate furnishes an exceptional diversity of outdoor adventures.
Qualicum Beach and Parksville ›› Approximately 60 kilometres south of the Comox Valley, Qualicum Beach is a vast sweep of sand backed by a charming seaside village. A little further south, Parksville is a popular choice for its tidal sand flats, coastal wildlife viewing and excellent year-round golfing.
West to the Pacific Rim ›› The 2004 edition of the Michelin North American Road Atlas ranks the drive west to Tofino and the Pacific Rim one of the top three drives in Canada—and no wonder. It’s a glorious journey of discovery and leisurely adventure. West of Qualicum Beach on Hwy 4, MacMillan Provincial Park offers the chance to get up close and personal with 800-year-old giant conifers and ranks as Vancouver Island’s most accessible stand of big trees. The highway drops into the Alberni Valley and Port Alberni, a city of 30,000 that is the hub of the Pacific Rim and is also known as the Salmon Capital of the World (though this is self-proclaimed). Port Alberni is a jumping off point for diversions at the Alberni Valley, Sproat Lake and the slopes of Mount Arrowsmith Recreation Area. Westward on Highway 4 from Port Alberni, there are many places to pull over and admire the wild and rugged scenery. This clean and green stretch of the rugged west coast includes Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and the bookend communities of Tofino and Ucluelet, with an excellent array of services and recreational opportunities.