Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park
(JF Bergeron photo)

Vancouver Island

Central Island

The Central Island area of Vancouver Island is marked by sandy beaches, warm ocean temperatures, tranquil lakes, beautiful gardens, great fishing, and exceptional golf.

Take the passenger ferry from Nanaimo's waterfront to Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Marine Park for a day of hiking, cycling, and wildlife watching. Sigh up for a diving adventure and find out why Jacques Cousteau named Vancouver Island's waters the Emerald Sea.

Drive the Oceanside Route all the way from Parksville through the scenic splendour of Lighthouse Country. Follow Hwy 4 west of Parksville to Arrowsmith Coombs Country to find art galleries, gift shops, fun family attractions, and goats grazing on the grass roof of the country market. Head west along Hwy 4 and view the towering trees of Cathedral Grove.

Central Island Facts

  • The Oceanside region boasts an annual average of 2,047 hours of sunshine.
  • By reputation, Parksville has the warmest saltwater for swimming north of California's Big Sur.
  • Every April, more than 20,000 Brant geese return to Parksville/Qualicum Beach and are welcomed with the three-day Brant Festival.
  • Nanaimo, a paradise of diving adventures, is home to the world's largest artificial reef, which was created when the Cape Breton was sunk in 2001 in close proximity to the Saskatchewan.
  • Newcastle Island, situated offshore from Nanaimo, was the location of a coal mine and a luxury resort in the 1930s. Currently, it is a provincial park that is a favourite for walkers, picnickers, and cyclists alike.

Central Island Communities

Nanaimo is Vancouver Island’s second largest city and is known as the Harbour City for its picturesque harbour. Nanaimo is easy to get to, and its central location makes it an excellent base for tours of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

Parksville marks the beginning of beach country, and features outstanding waterfront. When the tide is low, hundreds of metres of sand beckon to castle builders and beachcombers. As the tide comes in, the water is warmed by the hot sand and is perfect for swimming.

Central Island Lighthouse Country

Just north of Qualicum Beach, along the Oceanside Route (Hwy 19A), is charming Lighthouse Country, with plenty of opportunities to boat, fish, hike, trail ride, beachcomb, golf, and cave. Explore the caves at Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park; an amphitheatre is located at the lake. Nearby Spider Lake is known for its warm water, kayaking, and canoeing. Clam and shellfish digging are popular activities in Lighthouse Country. The marina in protected Deep Bay Harbour offers boat charters and rentals. At Qualicum Bay, beachcomb, fly a kite, or stroll the beach at sunset. A variety of accommodations, shops, and services are available in the communities of Qualicum Bay, Deep Bay, and Bowser.