Experience craft beer culture interwoven with natural beauty, agricultural splendour and some of Vancouver Island’s most spectacular beaches on the BC Ale Trail.
Vancouver Island is a big place, home to diverse landscapes, cultural groups and communities. This ale trail encompasses the middle of the Island, including Parksville-Qualicum Beach, Port Alberni, the Comox Valley, and Campbell River. These cities and towns share many common values — independence, creativity, a love of nature — but each has its own flavour and style, making any visit to this region a worthwhile and satisfying endeavour.
The sheltered stretch of coastline north of Nanaimo is home to some of the province’s most spectacular beaches. When the tide is out at Parksville’s Rathtrevor Beach, the ocean recedes almost a kilometre (half a mile), revealing clean sand and fascinating tidal pools that teem with marine life. As the tide rolls in over sun-warmed sand, the shallow water is perfect for swimming and splashing. When it’s time to dry off, visit Parksville’s own craft brewery, Mount Arrowsmith Brewing, or drop by Love Shack Libations in friendly, laidback Qualicum Beach.
A short side trip west takes you past the quaint town of Coombs, where goats munch on grass on the roof of the Old Country Market, and through Cathedral Grove, a spectacular stand of old growth trees that will awe and inspire any visitor. Your destination is Port Alberni, home to Twin City Brewing, our Best Brewery Experience winner for 2020, as well as two other excellent breweries: Alberni Brewing and Dog Mountain Brewing, which boasts a rooftop patio that might just become your favourite place to drink a beer on Vancouver Island.
An hour north is the Comox Valley, an agricultural paradise with several breweries that cater to their local crowds, including Ace Brewing and Gladstone Brewing in Courtenay, Land & Sea Brewing and New Tradition Brewing in Comox, and Cumberland Brewing in the historic coal mining town of the same name. Throughout the region, visitors will find farmers’ markets, restaurants that celebrate farm (or tide) to table, plus numerous distilleries and wineries that will keep your stomach happy while you explore.
Mount Washington Alpine Resort is a short drive from Courtenay-Comox, as is Miracle Beach Provincial Park. Nearby is Strathcona Provincial Park, BC’s oldest park dating back to 1911 and one of its largest.
Last but not least is Beach Fire Brewing in Campbell River, the final stop on the Vancouver Island Ale Trail.
Don’t forget to check out Part I of the Vancouver Island Ale Trail, as well as the Victoria Ale Trail. There is so much to discover on Vancouver Island. Or extend your beer travels across the water by taking the Comox ferry over to Powell River where you can join the Sunshine Coast Ale Trail.
Before visiting, we recommend that you check directly with the businesses you are hoping to visit to get the latest on-the-ground information. Some businesses are seasonal, and some may have experienced closures due to COVID-19.
One of the province's most popular family destinations. A 347-hectare park featureing a five-kilometre long stretch of sandy beach, a forest and parkland. At low tide, the ocean recedes almost a kilometer back from Rathtrevor's shoreline.
This stylish craft brewery is the perfect accompaniment to Parksville’s beaches and resorts.
Challenge your abilities and see the world through a caver’s eye. Explore the beauty and mysteries of Vancouver Island’s underworld in a fascinating subterranean adventure. A wide variety of tour options offer many levels of experience for families and adventurous park visitors.
This small Qualicum Beach brewery is a labour of love for its charismatic founder.
Takeout...Eat...Repeat! Big bangin’ burgers, delightful dips, satisfying salads & pizzas with pizazz.
Mid Island Parksville Central has a Walk-in beer room, with all brands, all formats, and knowledgeable staff.
Locally owned and managed, focusing on quality craft producers.
Locally owned and managed, focusing on quality craft producers.
Looking for more outdoor adventures? Plan a stop at the pristine Englishman River Falls, just a short drive from Parksville and Qualicum Beach. The Provincial Park features two stunning waterfalls cascading along the descending riverbed into a deep canyon. During the summer a crystal clear pool at the base of the lower falls turns into one of the best swimming holes in the area, and the whole park becomes a prime viewing area for the return of spawning salmon in the fall.
Experience the magic of the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region’s 10 Amazing Places with the Official Amazing Places GeoTour! The goal of the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region and Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism Amazing Places is to identify and promote significant natural sites for residents and visitors to explore in order to encourage better knowledge of ecological features and inspire a commitment to conservation. All Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Amazing Places were nominated by the public.
Head into the forest towards the Wild West Coast.
With 800+ beers to choose from, Mid Island Liquor's Parksville location has the beer to pair with your meal, big event, friend or just because you want a beer.
** Note: COVID-19 Alert - This park is currently closed.** The biggest trees in the Grove are about 800 years old and measure 75 m (250 ft) in height and 9 m (29 ft) in circumference. It's a rare and endangered remnant of an ancient Douglas fir ecosystem.
Farm fresh veggies, local meats and Pacific Rim seafood are all on the menu (when the season allows for it) at this delicious breakfast and lunch spot that highlights seasonal ingredients locally sourced from the Alberni Valley.
Looking for adventure? Westcoat Wild's zip-line eco tours feature tremendous views and knowledgeable guides - your visit is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
This hidden gem will win you over with its inventive beers and delicious pizza.
Bring a picnic to this designated national historic site on a former sawmill and logging operation.
Port Alberni's second brewery has a rooftop patio with stellar views.
Always fresh and delicious, try your fish grilled or in the famous beer batter of this upscale fish and chip restaurant.
No exploration of Vancouver Island is truly complete without a visit to the west coast: the beaches, the surfing, the spectacular landscapes, and don’t forget the beer! Tofino is a popular destination year-round, and so is Ucluelet, a laid-back fishing village that is surrounded by the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, with the Broken Group Islands to the south and Long Beach to the north.
Drive “up island”, and consider the scenic route along the ocean.
Visit this destination brewery in the beautiful and historic small town of Cumberland.
The newest microbrewery to open in Courtenay celebrates the history of the Canadian Air Force through its vintage aviation theme.
Downtown Courtenay is home to this popular craft brewery with an in-house burger bar.
Home of perfectly overstuffed breakfasts, bustling lunches and inspired dinners. It’s where friends and family share laughs, colleagues share ideas, and the entire community gathers to share our passion for great food.
A full-service group of Vancouver Island-based liquor stores, dedicated to delivering outstanding service, a surprising product range with a focus on local, organic and hard-to-find products from the Pacific Northwest and around the world, all at everyday best value pricing.
This region is home to marine and outdoor adventures, the perfect accompaniment to your next brewery tour! Discover the Emerald Sea and what lies below with some of the world’s best cold water activities. Check out Pacific Pro Drive for snorkeling, marine tours, dive charters, rebreathers, & SCUBA training.
The Island’s only ski and snowboard resort destination, extensive mountain biking plus pristine beach and ocean adventures await.
Don’t miss out on festivals like the BC Shellfish and Seafood Festival or pick fresh, local produce up at the popular Comox Valley Farmers’ Market.
Start your day with strong coffee and friendly service at this small but mighty breakfast spot.
This picturesque sand spit is fed by the Willemar Bluffs that, with Gartley Point, create the Comox Harbour. Take in the views from south, east and west—all year round.
A place to gather to enjoy craft beer and community—stop here to share a lunch platter. There's something for everyone, including delicious gluten friendly options.
A recent addition to Vancouver Island's craft beer landscape, New Tradition Brewing serves fresh beers alongside Aussie meat pies, grilled sandwiches, and more in a family-friendly environment.
Early risers looking for a morning ride can look to Beaver Lodge Lands up in Campbell River. If mountain biking sounds appealing, find trail maps and more at TrailForks.com.
Founded by Campbell River born and raised locals—these well traveled entrepreneurs created a community hub focused on quality coffee, tea and food.
Head out to Elk Falls to view the Provincial Park's suspension bridge and viewing platforms and trails. The park features a waterfall, hiking, cycling, swimming, fishing, picnic areas & a playground.
Fresh, free-range beer—fill up a growler or two after satiating your hunger with an array of sharable small plates and fabulous desserts.
Easy going eatery on the water, serving seafood plates alongside fish & chips, sides & takeout.
A favourite spot with local anglers, the pier provides easy access to recreational fishing. No rod? No problem! The seasonal concession stand (Open May-Oct.) provides rod and tackle rentals.
With an emphasis on supporting local, this accessible Taproom & Kitchen is a counter-service establishment with a variety of both meat and plant-based food options and twelve rotating craft beer and cider lines.
Other shops and stops to explore include Tyee Marine, where you can pick up a fishing license and lures before an afternoon fishing adventure and Tyee Spit is a great spot for a beach fire, picnic or birdwatching.
For a moderate to difficult hiking experience, The Ripple Rock Trail & lookout is a 4-hour return hike to the historic sight of the blasting of Ripple Rock.
Tasting Notes: Vancouver Island
Join Sonia Motisca on a tasting tour of Vancouver Island’s beer belt.
Journeying north up the east coast of Vancouver Island, this tour starts in the rural Cowichan Valley making stops in Duncan, Chemainus, and the historic harbour town of Nanaimo, before arriving at its final destination – scenic Parksville Qualicum Beach.
Follow along this island journey of quaint communities, beaches, and of course – plenty of beers.
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Located in the heart of Vancouver Island, just 1.5 hours north of Victoria and 30-minutes south of Parksville, Nanaimo is the harbour city and home to 4 craft breweries, a vibrant cultural scene and 360° degrees of adventure. Tap your toes to live music in Diana Krall plaza downtown, or come to one of many outdoor festivals and markets–including internationally recognized Bathtub Days–and Longwoodstock, an annual celebration of music and beer.
There are many options from sea to sky that attract visitors to Nanaimo. Paddle the calm waters of more than 18 lakes in and around Nanaimo, and set your nautical compass for Newcastle Island (Saysutshun), traditional land of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, where you can sample traditional fare of the Coast Salish people.
Parksville Qualicum Beach is where memories come to life; the smells and sounds, tastes and textures that bring you back to a time when the world was a little smaller, people were a little nicer, and time wasn’t a big worry.
While Parksville Qualicum Beach may be best known for amazing sandy beaches that stretch for nearly a mile at low tide, there’s much more to the region than saltwater and sandy shores.
Start your next story with ‘there were goats on the roof’ or ‘we slept in a suspended treehouse,’, and see what kind of a reaction you get from your friends. Discover crystal formations and ancient fossils while sliding through Horne Lake Caves. Explore the ancient forests of Cathedral Grove, raging Englishman River and Little Qualicum Falls – enjoying the scenery and serenity, connecting with the Earth in a way that isn’t possible in the busy city. Visit rescued black bears, eagles, falcons, and other forest creatures, or paddle a kayak to discover sea lions and seals, watching from a respectful distance as they observe you, too.
The Alberni Valley is called the “real west coast” because you’ll find a variety of outdoor activities here, including hiking, fishing and boating, windsurfing, zip lining, mountain climbing, mountain biking and more.
The Alberni Inlet is a long narrow arm of the ocean that travels inland from Barkley Sound, excellent for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. Just north of Port Alberni is Stamp River, with incredible Chinook and steelhead fishing. In late summer, over half a million salmon spawn near the Stamp River Hatchery, making it a favourite for local black bears (and bear watching!). Sproat Lake is great for rainbow trout fishing, and features the famous Mars Water Bombers. Or, if you’re keen on kayaking or diving, try Barkley Sound, home to the Broken Group of Islands, a series of islands and reefs.
The Comox Valley is a place that inspires creativity, tempts the taste buds, soothes the soul and fires the imagination of adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts. Situated halfway up the east coast of Vancouver Island, this community faces the sea and embraces the mountains, has the charm of a small town but with a touch of urban sophistication and taste. Experience it all, from full on adventures to blissful relaxation. Blast down an alpine ski run with an ocean view, scuba dive in crystal clear water, mountain bike or hike along a glacier-fed river, dine on true farm to table fare, or get pampered at one of the popular spas. The choices are endless and it all starts now in the Comox Valley!
Campbell River is at the heart of the “North Central Island” and surrounded by 5 Provincial Parks, (Strathcona, Miracle Beach, Mohun Lake, Loveland Bay and Elk Falls), but exploring a little farther afield, our region offers visitors an opportunity to explore some of Vancouver Island’s best-kept secrets. Paddle the Sayward Canoe Route, discover Gold River’s Upana Caves, fish the west coast near Tahsis and Zeballos, or island hop in the Discovery Islands for a truly memorable experience.
Dining options are plentiful in Campbell River, whether it’s fish and chips served dockside in a marina or surf and turf platters in a comfortable pub or restaurant, the fine cuisine offers visitors a chance to hang out with locals and savour the fine food of the region.
No matter how you chose to enjoy the outdoors and dining options, you’ll leave our city by the sea feeling fulfilled and connected to your natural surroundings.