Island Part II
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 Fern + Cedar Brewing and Love Shack Libations in friendly, laidback Qualicum Beach.
Nearby is a truly unique brewery experience — Rusted Rake Brewing is a farm-based brewery that is nestled between the sea and fields of barley that is used to brew the beer.
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.
Take a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo
Drive from Nanaimo to Parksville
Stop in for lunch and a flight at the brewery and eatery, located on an 18-acre farm. The food and beer are farm-to-table and farm-to-pint: the barley for their beers is grown on site! The menu is full of fresh, unpretentious west coast fare, lovingly prepared with the most delicious local ingredients available.
We are a full-service group of Vancouver Island-based liquor stores.
We are 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.
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. The kitchen staff are dedicated to providing fresh high-quality dishes that complement our growing line of premium craft beer. The pizzas are especially well-known and for good reason!
Situated on Rathtrevor Beach on the outskirts of the Oceanside town of Parksville. Enjoy a traditional pub-fare menu paired with a fresh pint.
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.
Mid Island Parksville Central has a Walk-in beer room, with all brands, all formats, and knowledgeable staff.
Be sure to stop in at the Parksville Visitor Information Centre for a full list of activities and attractions to explore.
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.
Just a block off the beach in the heart of the Craig Street Shopping District, the Brimm is a great place to relax by the fire or enjoy the beautiful courtyard open year-round. At the Brimm, they pride themselves on quality, freshness, presentation and customer service to insure that it’s done right.
Coombs has become famous for the goats that live on the roof of the Old Country Market. In addition to the Market, there is a mix of galleries, eclectic shops, historic buildings, antiques, and the colourful Butterfly World to explore. Note: Some attractions close seasonally - check ahead to avoid disappointment.
Listed as one of the “Top 5 Burger Restaurants in Canada” by the readers of Canadian Living Magazine. In addition to their famous burgers, the robust menu offers poutines, fish & chips and salads alongside local craft beer and cider. Gluten-free and vegan options available.
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 variety of cave exploration packages suited for all ages and comfort & fitness levels are available. All tours are guided by a knowledgeable and friendly guide who will open your eyes to the world beneath your feet.
A bold and tasty experience in the heart of Qualicum Beach. with fresh and a local food menu that will compliment an ever-rotating selection of quality craft beer.
This small Qualicum Beach brewery is a labour of love for its charismatic founder. Only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so plan carefully to ensure you can experience this nano brewery.
Be sure to stop in at the Qualicum Beach Visitor Information Centre for a full list of activities and attractions to explore.
The Qualicum Beach shopping experience shuns franchise operations and big box stores in favour of one-of-a-kind boutiques. Wander the pedestrian-friendly streets in the lovely downtown core exploring unique shops, bookstores, antique shops, restaurants, outdoor cafés, and galleries. And don’t miss the Qualicum Beach Farmers Market. Open on Saturdays, year-round, with traditional ‘Make it, Bake it, Grow it’ values.
Day 3 will take you into the forest towards the Wild West Coast.
Along with an all-day breakfast menu, French Press Coffee Roasters is an award-winning roaster, taking home a silver medal at the Golden Bean, the world's largest coffee roasters competition, in the milk-based category. This specialty coffee roaster prides itself on sourcing and roasting some of the best coffee available.
Travel to Port Alberni, with a stop at Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park
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.
This hidden gem will win you over with its inventive and award-winning beers and delicious pizza. The feature menu changes regularly, and is well worth a try as local favourites often make reappearances due to popular demand.
Whether it’s to take in the history of this former sawmill and logging operation or to go for a scenic walk, you won’t be disappointed. The surroundings are breathtaking. Picnic tables are set up all over the site if you're in the mood for a picnic, and there is a Fairy Forest currently being developed.
Celebrating west coast culture one delicious beer at a time.
A contemporary restaurant offering innovative seafood and an in-house smoked meat driven menu. Their globally inspired gluten-free menu showcases a diverse range of fish, quality meats, tacos, burgers and bowls.
Stop in to catch the sunset from the expansive (and dog-friendly) rooftop patio - the views are spectacular and pair perfectly with their tasty beer. Home of the West Coast Donair!
Be sure to stop in at the Alberni Valley Visitor Information Centre for a full list of activities and attractions to explore.
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.
Each community is home to its own brewery: Tofino Brewing, a local favourite since 2011; and Ucluelet Brewing, a newer operation based in an old, converted church.
If you’re looking for an adventure on your way to the west coast, stop in at Westcoast WILD. The zip-line eco tours feature tremendous views and knowledgeable guides – your visit is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
After breakfast in Port Alberni, drive “up island”, and consider the scenic route along the ocean.
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.
Travel to Cumberland
Visit this destination brewery in the beautiful and historic small town of Cumberland. Since opening late in 2014 in a small storefront on the town’s main street, Cumberland Brewing has had little trouble selling virtually every drop of its beer right where it is brewed, either by the glass in the cozy tasting room or sun-soaked patio behind the brewery or in takeaway growlers.
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. Voted 'Brewery of the Year' in 2022 at the BC Beer Awards.
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.
Be sure to stop in at the Comox Valley Visitor Information Centre for a full list of activities and attractions to explore.
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.
One of The Comox Valley's newest taphouses proudly serving craft beer and local food.
Two beautiful Gulf Islands sit just off the east coast of Vancouver Island slightly below Courtenay-Comox. Hornby Island, which is accessible by taking two ferries from Buckley Bay, is a gorgeous destination with sandy beaches, lush forests, and starry skies. It’s also rich in community— many residents came for a visit and stayed for life. That is definitely the case with the folks who opened Hornby Island Brewing, a small-footprint, independently owned nano-brewery focused on producing small-batch beers. Check ahead to confirm hours of opening.
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.
Easy-going eatery on the water, serving takeout seafood plates alongside fish & chips, sides and fresh handmade donuts. Grab a plate and head over to the pier to enjoy your meal as you watch local fishermen in action.
Beer, food and community. All of Beachfire's menu items are made in-house and proudly feature fresh ingredients from local farmers and producers. From light snacks to shareable plates and hearty meals, there is something perfect for every appetite. And, be sure to save some room, the decadent desserts are an experience you don’t want to miss!
Road Trip Tasting Notes: Comox Valley
Andrew Findlay explores Vancouver Island’s adventure and culinary hub
The Comox Valley was already an enviable sea-to-sky playground of outdoor recreation, creativity, and soulful local food; now that the community-minded craft brew revolution has taken hold, the picture is complete.
Produced In Collaboration With
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!
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