Three-Day Getaway: Beyond the Comox Valley

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Hiking, beachcombing, wine tasting, and island hopping—in the Comox Valley you can fit all that, and more, into one three-day getaway.

 

Vancouver Island’s Comox Valley, home to Courtenay, Comox, and Cumberland, links the mountainous wilderness of Strathcona Provincial Parkwith the sheltered, beach-fringed Strait of Georgia; the delightfully laid-back islands of Denman and Hornby are just offshore.

Day 1: The Comox Valley

A mountain biker negotiates bridgework on a trail that winds through a dense forest with snow-capped mountains in the background.

A mountain biker negotiates bridgework on the Wizard bike trail at Mt. Washington in the Comox Valley. Photo: Boomer Jerritt

Fuel up with a bacon benny at Atlas Café, downtown Courtenay’s go-to spot for globally inspired, locally sourced fare. From there it’s just 30 minutes to Mount Washington Alpine Resort, where you can ride the chairlift to the peak, freeride at the resort’s bike park, or explore Strathcona Provincial Park’s subalpine meadows; the boardwalk loop through Paradise Meadows is a great place to start.

Back at sea level, build a sand castle at Miracle Beach Provincial Park, play a round at Crowne Isle Golf and Country Club, tackle the mountain bike trails around historic Cumberland, hunt for fossils with the Courtenay and District Museum & Paleontology Centre, or browse the shops in Courtenay or Comox’s walkable town centres.

Thirsty? With four wineries, three microbreweries, and two distilleries in the valley, artisanal tipples abound. Try the Marzen Lager at Gladstone Brewing, the apple cherry cider at Blue Moon Winery and Ciderworx, or the single malt whisky at Shelter Point Distillery.

Check into Courtenay’s Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa and spend a blissful hour in the resort’s Pacific Mist Hydropath, a unique spa featuring a series of aquatic treatments, from a massaging waterfall to a steam cave. For dinner, opt for share plates at Kingfisher’s new AQUA Bistro & Wine Bar, or make it a date night at the resort’s chic Ocean7 restaurant.

Day 2: Denman Island

A man and his dog explore driftwood along a beach that overlooks a mountain range.

Fillongley Provincial Park is the perfect place for a beach wander. Photo:@kimlovesbc via Instagram

Heading south, stop for cinnamon buns at Just Like Mom’s in Union Bay, then, at Buckley Bay, hop on the cable ferry to funky little Denman Island, one of BC’s quietest isles.

Chat with locals at the Denman Island Cafe-Pourium and pick up a bar or two of organic Denman Island Chocolate at the General Store. On summer Saturdays, picnic fixings abound at the farmers’ market. Feeling active? Hike in Boyle Point Provincial Park or paddle out to Sandy Island Marine Provincial Park with Denman Hornby Canoes and Kayaks.

Overnight options include budget digs at Denman Island Guesthouse or seaside camping at Fillongley Provincial Park. Reservations, here and on Hornby, are essential in summer.

Day 3: Hornby Island

Aerial view of a white-sand beach and turquoise waters under a blue sky.

With its white sand beaches, trail-laced forests and retro-hippy vibe, Hornby Island, a ten-minute ferry hop from Denman, is where other Gulf Islanders vacation. Photo: Destination BC

Start with a locavore brunch at Forage Café or an all-day breakfast (with kombucha on tap) at Vorizo Café. Both are in Ringside Market, Hornby’s adorably bohemian village centre.

To do? Picnic on Tribune Bay’s white sands, stroll along the seaside bluffs at Helliwell Provincial Park, explore Hornby’s 80-plus kilometer network of single track (Ringside Market’s Bike Shop has rentals), or meet sea lions on a fishing, kayaking, or diving adventure.

Wind down with a tasting trip to Middle Mountain Mead, Hornby Island Estate Winery, or Island Spirits Distillery; or chill out with a beachfront yoga class, happening daily at Little Tribune Bay.

Catch some live music with dinner at the Thatch Pub or Pizza Galore before settling into your cottage or campsite (try the Sea Breeze Lodge or Tribune Bay Campsite). If you’re here during the Hornby Festival (August 4 to 12 in 2017), expect performers, family events, and more.

Getting there

From Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay on the BC mainland, sail with BC Ferries to Nanaimo, about an hour south of Courtenay. Air Canada, WestJet, and Pacific Coastal Airlines serve Comox Valley Airport. Fly from Vancouver to Comox Harbour with Harbour Air Seaplanes.