Ten Things to see and do on Vancouver Island!
Cindy Ladage – Senior News & Times
August 2, 2017
The beauty of Vancouver Island is like something out of a movie. I had the remarkable experience to be part of a group of travel writers who attended the BC Shellfish and Seafood Festival and Expo in early June. On the plane from Vancouver to Comox Valley, I got a hint of the lifestyle from my fellow passenger who showed me pictures of his wife holding a huge salmon. “We fish and put up salmon for the winter,” he said. He then showed me a picture of a grizzly he had viewed and told me about three cougars roaming into the small northern town where he lives. While Vancouver Island’s Comox Valley is full of wildlife and fresh fish, there are also the beautiful towns filled with wonderful dining opportunities and activities.
If you want to go to the BC Shellfish and Seafood Festival next year, information should be online around December. Make reservations and buy tickets early; they go fast as this is a much loved local event. I had the best seafood ever, and it was cooked by Canada’s best chefs. For this event, just picture Top Chef at several receptions, amazing seafood, and you will have the premise of the festival. Off the coast of BC, there are over 100 sustainable seafood products that are exported to both domestic and international markets. The BC Shellfish and Seafood Festival embraces the sea life and serves it up on a plate by the best chef Canada, and in some cases beyond, has to offer. Whether visiting during the festival or another time, here are ten things you might want to do while visiting Vancouver Island.
- Stop by the wineries! Two of the events we attended were at local wineries, and they both had their own very cool vibes. The Coastal Black Estate Winery is a former dairy farm, and they have kept the original barn which today is still rooted in agriculture. They offer a 600 acre estate fruit winery located at the base of Mt. Washington on the outskirts of Comox Valley. The fourth generation is now producing wine, fresh market fruit, raw honey, and custom milled lumber. We also stopped at the lovely 40 Knots Estate Winery which is the largest winery on Vancouver Island. Using no additives, the Craig family, owners of the winery, let the soil make the grapes. Using no additives, they let the soil at the edge of the Salish Sea give their light wines their distinctive windswept taste.
- Dining is always high on the to-do list. If you end up on Vancouver Island during the Shellfish and Seafood festival, there is a wonderful variety of options to choose from; but if you are there at another time of the year, there are not as many but still great choices. One of my favorites was the Locals, in Courtenay, where Chef St. Pierre has a great menu. I loved the scallops and mushroom entrée. One night a fellow writer and I dined at the White Whale, which is a traditional local site located along the water. A few diners floated up dockside. The flatbread pizza was great, and we finished off our evening with a baked cheese appetizer and hot chocolate drink at the beautiful Black Fin. Located right next to the wharf, it provided a bird’s eye view of the harbor! These are just a few of the selections. Be sure to order seafood because it is hard to discover fish this fresh!
- Wharf tour – Comox Valley has a thriving fish harbor. Ron Clark, Wharfinger for the Comox Harbor Marina, provided a tour of this harbor that’s been sheltering ships since the late 1800’s. “There are 117 licensed vessels with 266 with commercial licenses,” Clark shared. The gamut of seafood raised and caught includes halibut, prawns, shrimp, cod, salmon, and tuna, which can all be found at the dock. You may be able to purchase fresh seafood here, but if nothing else, a walk through is quite informative and picturesque.
- Seafood Farm Tour – A visit to a salmon farm requires a boat ride from Campbell River, which is considered the Salmon Capital of the world. The ride is marvelous in itself. The salmon farms consist of floating sea cages, and the workers maintain an on-again-off-again schedule. If you want to see a sea-farm on land, there are Fanny Bay Oysters and a few other oyster farms or Manatee Holdings which harvest Geoduck clams and sea cucumbers. Both are located along the coastline and have lovely, educational settings.
- Whale Watching in this land of so much beauty and sea life: Take the time to go on a whale watching tour. While I didn’t see any whales, I did sight several seals and sea lions. One writer who went on an earlier tour saw a grizzly on shore. The scenery is amazing, mountains and the Comox Glacier in the background, ocean and forest… this is a must do!
- Enjoy a walk along the river walk. Each morning before the day got hectic, a writer from Washington and I hit the beautiful nature/river walk behind our hotel. We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Courtenay, and this walk provided glimpses into an estuary with seals, flowers and grasses, and a park that we later discovered went all the way downtown. With a nice wide path, walkers and bikers can enjoy a tranquil way to get around, get some exercise, and clear the mind while enjoying the beauty of the island.
- Comox Valley Farmers’ Market is a delightful stop. The Market started in May of 1992 with ten farmers and has grown to have 90 members with 45 primary producers. Products include bison, water buffalo, beef, fruits, vegetables, and more. Before leaving, I bought a small jar of Ivan’s Truffles. I chose his lavender truffles and a glass of London Fog tea, a great hot tea with a bit of vanilla and milk.
- To learn a bit of the history of the area, a visit to the Courtenay and District Museum and Paleontology Centre is a great stop. The museum profiles history of the First Nation Peoples who have lived and still live in the area. You can also see fascinating fossil history with the amazing first Elasmosaur dinosaur found west of the Canadian Rockies. They also offer fossil tours.
- Wayward Distillation House is a True Craft distillery and is the first distillery in Canada using honey as the base for all of its spirits. While I am not a spirit drinker, it is very cool to take the tour and see how honey becomes a much sought after product and the tasting room is quite artistic.
- Last but not least, make sure to visit the beach. We stopped by the beautiful Goose Spit Beach and just watched the waves roll in. This is a great place for taking pictures, and there were even some remnants of fires where others had grilled or enjoyed the fire Oceanside.
These are just a few of the things to see and do in Comox Valley. You can ski, fish, hike, shop, and enjoy local entertainment and more; but the best thing about this beautiful place is the scenery, the seafood, and the wonderful people.
Check with the www.hellobc.com/visitorcentrelisting/4577704/comox-valley-visitor-centre.aspx and www.bcshellfishfestival.com for more information.