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 — along with an assortment of excellent craft breweries.
This ale trail encompasses the upper half of the Island, running from Nanoose Bay just north of Nanaimo all the way up to Port Hardy at the top. Along the way, you will find cities and towns that 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 LoveShack 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 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.
Campbell River, which is paradise for boat-and-fishing enthusiasts, is home to Beach Fire Brewing. From there it’s a two-hour drive up to Port McNeill near the top of the Island. But it’s definitely worth the drive considering the reward: great beer and delicious pizza at Devils’ Bath Brewing, named after Canada’s largest cenote, which is located nearby.
And if you want to say you’ve truly been to the top of Vancouver Island, continue through Port Hardy to visit the Scarlet Ibis Pub in Holberg. From there you can enjoy several different day trip hikes to check out the gorgeous, pristine beaches of Cape Scott Park.
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!
Mid Island Parksville Central has a Walk-in beer room, with all brands, all formats, and knowledgeable staff.
Situated on Rathtrevor Beach on the outskirts of the Oceanside town of Parksville. Enjoy a traditional pub-fare menu paired with a fresh pint.
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.
Coyotes Coffee strives to supply customers with outstanding coffees from their small-batch roastery which come from numerous growing regions around the world. It is not unusual to see 15 to 20 countries or regions represented in single origin or in blends.
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.
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.
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.
See Explore More below for details.
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.
Explore Hornby Island
Wreathed by the waves of the Salish Sea, Hornby Island is a world of wonders: sandy beaches, lush forests, and starry skies. Visit Hornby Island Brewing and experience an independently owned nano-brewery brewing small-batch, sustainably-produced beer with a focus on local ingredients.
Travel via BC Ferries from Buckley Bay to Denman Island and then on to Hornby Island. Plan Ahead.
- Spring & Summer Visits: Seasonal highlights include incredible birdwatching and mountain biking in the spring, while Hornby’s sandy beaches, markets, and concerts draw visitors and residents in the summer.
- Fall + Winter Visits: On Hornby, the fall and winter provide a quieter time for visitors and locals. Embrace the slower pace by hiking through lush green forests, observing wintering waterfowl and sea lions on the coast, and relaxing in a cozy cabin.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Originally New Tradition Brewing, Rad Brewing was purchased by the owners of the Church St Taphouse. Proudly serving local craft beer in their community-based tasting room, with a focus on high-quality beer, excellent service, & fresh food.
One of The Comox Valley's best 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.
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.
Since 2019, Session Taproom + Kitchen has provided a casual and beautifully designed space for guests to enjoy locally sourced food and beverage.
With 12 rotating taps for craft beer and cider, a full cocktail and wine list, and a kitchen focussed on keeping the menu fresh and exciting, there will always be something new to try when you come in.
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!
Spend the morning exploring Telegraph Cove. This iconic destination is famed for its eco-tourism and a postcard waterfront setting featuring multicoloured clusters of buildings and homes that cling to the rocky shoreline. Take a tour of the Whale Interpretive Centre, or the self-guided historical boardwalk tour. Other top activities include fishing, kayaking, diving, hiking, and of course wildlife viewing tours.
Sunny afternoons and gorgeous sunsets are well spent on the fully licensed seaside patio. Enjoy fish tacos, burgers, hand cut fries and poutine, and more, paired with tasty local craft beer. The perfect stop for lunch on the way to Port McNeill
The Port McNeill & District Museum was built with community support to display logging memorabilia from the North Island. Opened in 2000, we welcome all visitors as an essential part of your North Island experience.
Based in an old mechanic shop that was remodelled with a warm wood interior, the brewery provides a social environment free of T.V. distractions and beautiful views of Port McNeill Harbour with a giant patio where you can linger while enjoying a delicious dinner and drink.
This stylish cedar property boasts 11 Cabins and 40 tastefully decorated guest rooms each with stunning views of the protected harbour, Malcolm Island, and the coastal mountains of British Columbia's mainland. The Black Bear Resort Hotel has been designed and built to provide maximum comfort for guests regardless of the season.
Be sure to stop in at the Port McNeill Visitor Information Centre for a full list of activities and attractions to explore.
Offering freshly brewed beverages and homemade baked goods, served with love.
Travel to Port Hardy, approximately 30 minute drive
Coastal Rainforest Safaris delivers exciting wilderness experiences rooted in the culturally rich territories of the Kwakwaka’wakw people. Hop aboard our rigid hull inflatable (RHIB) wildlife viewing boats and explore the diverse wildlife of British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.
Nax’id’ Pub is a wonderful place to relax and unwind while enjoying an amazing selection of drinks and our delicious freshly made dishes, inspired by local ingredients and First Nations’ flavours.
Be sure to stop in at the Port Hardy Visitor Information Centre for a full list of activities and attractions to explore.
Come in for artisan coffee and baking for a light breakfast. Also offering lunch items and a selection of thoughtfully curated gifts, books and clothing items, all in one stop! Grab a picnic lunch to take with you to enjoy on the beach.
Drive past Holberg to the San Josef Bay Trailhead parking lot at Cape Scott Provincial Park (approximately 1.5 hours)
The drive from Port Hardy to Holberg, and ultimately the parking lot of Cape Scott Provincial Park, is well marked. Just follow the signs. You will be travelling on logging roads which can be a slow go. While driving on active logging roads, please remember that loaded logging trucks always get the right of way.
Enjoy an easy hike along the well-maintained gravel trail which ends at the sandy shore of San Josef Bay in the southeastern corner of the park. The average one-way hiking time is 45 minutes for the 2.5km walk. Get a taste of Cape Scott's unique terrain and spectacular Pacific Ocean vistas, and spend some time exploring the beaches.
Stop in for a late lunch or early dinner at Vancouver Island's most remote pub. For close to 50 years the Scarlet Ibis has been an icon in the community of Holberg serving wholesome food and cold drinks to locals and tourists alike.