The area now occupied by Qualicum Beach was inhabited for millennia by First Nations' Coast Salish peoples.
"Qualicum" is an anglicized version of the Salish word "sqal-li," meaning "where the dog salmon run." Englishman Thomas Kinkade and his family were the first Europeans to settle in the area. In 1878, the Kinkades built a log home near the mouth of the Little Qualicum River in what is today the Marshall-Stevenson Federal Wildlife Preserve. (The house still stands but is not open to the public.)
Railway Spurs Growth
The arrival of rail service in 1914 was a critical turning point in Qualicum Beach's slow evolution from a sparsely populated outpost dedicated largely to forestry. Canadian Pacific Railways extended its Victoria-Nanaimo service up-island as far as Courtenay, boosting the tourist trade dramatically. The heritage train station (at the junction of First Ave and Beach Road) continues to traffic in VIA Rail daytrippers.