Quirky Attractions in the Kootenays
Unique, historic, and cultural gems to visit.
There isn’t much these days that a getaway to a cosy waterfront spot won’t fix. The soothing sound of the water, contemplative beach walks and the wonders of the natural world combine to cleanse the mind and body and return life to some level of sanity, if even only for a few days. Here are five oceanfront getaways on central Vancouver Island with varying degrees of service, pricing and amenities.
Just a few kilometers south east of Nanaimo is one of the Island’s iconic historic accommodation options. Yellow Point Lodge was founded in the mid-1930s with a grouping of cabins and a cookhouse. The original 1,115-square metre (12,000-square foot) main lodge opened in 1939 and attracted guests who returned year after year, making the place a family tradition for many. When the main lodge burned down in 1985, it was rebuilt within a year. There are also waterfront cabins of varying sophistication available on the lodge’s pristine 75 hectares (185 acres), which feature almost 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) of waterfront and 270-degree water views. At Yellow Point, all meals are included in the room rate. Forest walks, wildlife viewing and, if guests feel so inclined, dancing on the lodge’s coil-sprung dance floor are all activities that can be found at Yellow Point. Note to those incapable of ‘unplugging’ from the real world: there is no WiFi at Yellow Point Lodge.
Parksville has been famous for its spectacular beaches for many years, drawing people from all over the world. There are many resorts and accommodation options to suit every taste, most of which are located along scenic Resort Drive. Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort is nestled on 9 oceanfront hectares (22 acres) overlooking the Salish Sea and offers a wide variety of lodging options. The 3 kilometres (2 miles) of beachfront may be enough to keep some visitors happy, but for those looking for more, Tigh Na Mara offers spa services, two restaurants, an indoor pool with fitness facilities, a gift shop and seasonal recreation programs. Pets are allowed in some of the cottages.
Just down the road from Tigh Na Mara is Beach Acres Resort. The resort’s cozy waterfront cottages and townhouses enjoy sweeping views of spectacular Rathtrevor Beach. There are 9 hectares (23 acres) of woodland to explore, an indoor pool, other recreational offerings, and a seasonal Kidz Klub that offers a wide variety of fun stuff to do. If you don’t feel like cooking in your well-equipped cottage, you can enjoy a meal at the Black Goose Inn, located on the property. This pub-style dining establishment was designed by famous architect Samuel MacLure and offers a warm, rustic environment.
St. Andrews Lodge and Glen Cottages is so vintage that it has absolutely no online presence – no website, no social media. The lodge (which no longer offers accommodation, but acts as operation headquarters) and eight small cottages are located on a beautiful stretch of waterfront at the north end of Qualicum Beach, just a short drive from Parksville. Construction began in the late 1930s, with the last of the cottages being completed in the 1940s. Very little in the quaint accommodations has changed – there are no telephones, and a hodge-podge of furniture continues to offer comfort to travellers. The cottages are heated with oil heaters, and cooking is done on old-fashioned oil stoves (which also heat the water). There are small television sets in each unit, but the stunning views of sweeping beach, water and mountains are enough to keep most visitors entranced. St. Andrews does offer WiFi, and pets are welcome.
Insider’s Tip: They do not accept credit cards – you can call them at (250) 752-6652 to make reservations and payment arrangements.
Port Alberni’s Swept Away Inn is ‘on the water’ all right – literally! The 70-year-old 30-metre (100-foot) long retired tug boat has been transformed into one of the most successful bed and breakfasts in the central Vancouver Island area. The boat is moored at Port Alberni’s downtown Centennial Pier, within walking distance of Harbour Quay, the Frances Barkley packet freighter (great tours down the Alberni canal to remote west coast communities) and the heritage train station. Other than upgrades, little has changed on the Swept Away Inn – sleeping quarters are small, with bunk beds and shared bathrooms. But being rocked to sleep on a stormy night or waking to the beautiful views of Fisherman’s Harbour, mountains and water are unique and special experiences that are tough to find anywhere else. The breakfasts are sublime and if you are fortunate enough to stay at the right time, you may be able to enjoy one of the Swept Away’s dinner club meals.
Did we miss one of your favourite oceanfront getaways on central Vancouver Island? Share with us in the comments below.
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