Well, we are on an island 😊 Not a warm and sunny island as we would have liked, but being here at sea level we have escaped winter in the mountains. Leaving Calgary very early on the morning of January 1st, it took 2 days to finally reach our new home in Qualicum Beach, British Columbia. Our first day was the longest, just over 10 hours, driving over the high Rocky Mountain passes eventually spending the night in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Our original plan was to stay in Hope, 90 min east of Vancouver, but close friends from Calgary happened to be in Vancouver. The journey had been pretty good so we pushed on so we could have dinner with our friends, something we have been unable to do in Calgary with all restaurants closed. We booked a last-minute hotel room at the L’Hermitage in downtown Vancouver, what a lovely hotel! Using a free night on our hotels.com account our cost was only CDN $34.19 (USD $26.12) for this prime location hotel. From the hotel, we were just 30 minutes away from the ferry terminal in North Vancouver and were also able to have breakfast the next day with our friends…at a lovely french patisserie. After breakfast, it was a short drive from downtown Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay where we boarded the ferry across to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Just our luck there were a series of heavy rainstorms pummeling the coast so the ferry trip was a bit rough and some of the smaller ferry routes were cancelled. Fortunately, we were parked on the upper deck of a large ferry and were allowed to stay in our car for the journey.
The cost of a one-way ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo is CDN $100.90 (USD $80.10) for two adults in one car. Ferry journeys can be booked online (recommended) on the BC Ferries website. From the Nanaimo terminal, it was a 40-minute drive north to reach our latest home just outside Qualicum Beach. We have rented a cute beach house in a gated community on the ocean for the months of January and February. Plenty of time to explore the island and catch up with my sister and a few friends who live out this way.
Restrictions are currently slightly less here on Vancouver Island with few covid cases in the community. This meant gyms were open, so we have joined Anytime Fitness in Parksville and are getting some routine back in our lives…and losing some covid weight 😂 We are also allowed to visit people in their homes so our first week was wonderfully social with two evenings out, quite a change from Calgary!! Social evenings have become few and far between so when they do happen, it feels really special. Our first night out was spent visiting our friend Jamie who used to live down the road from us in Grand Cayman. It was a great evening reminiscing about our former lives in Cayman and what we have all been up to the past 3 years…lubricated by a fair bit of scotch for the guys!! 3 days later we were off to my sister’s house for dinner. She moved here in April 2020 from Calgary and we have never seen her house, this was our first chance to do so. She and her husband live in a beautiful log house high above Qualicum Beach with expansive views over the Strait of Georgia. On a clear day, you can see the snow-capped peaks on the mainland.
I mentioned earlier that we have escaped the cold winter weather in Calgary, but make no mistake it is very wet and soggy out here ☔☔☔ It seems this is the wettest winter in many years…lucky us!! While the below forecast shows rain every single day for two weeks, it does not rain all day and there are times when that bright yellow orb in the sky peeks through the clouds ⛅ as shown in a couple of the photos above. While damp, this weather is still preferable to below freezing temps and snow on the ground!
Not far from our place is Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. There is a short 2 km loop hike taking you beside the Qualicum River and through a lovely old-growth forest. There are several falls that cascade down the river which carves its way through an impressive rocky canyon. With heavy rains the past few days, the falls were mighty impressive. We enjoyed the loop so much we went around twice!
I spent an afternoon with my sister touring some of the local specialty shops. Most interesting was Little Qualicum Cheeseworks located at the Morningstar Farm, I love visiting farms!! Before purchasing our selection of cheeses we had a wander around the farm visiting the rabbits, the goats, a 3-day old calf and the 6 days to 3-month-old calves. Next up we peeked in the “maternity barn” observing the very pregnant cows then off to the milking barn and the automated milking equipment. We have seen one of these automated systems before during our travels around Australia and I find them quite fascinating. This single unit is able to milk 60 cows, six times a day! All this milk is then turned into a variety of delicious cheeses, sold on-site. You can also buy fresh milk from an automated dispenser. This is a lovely farm to visit if you are in the area, be sure to have a latte or hot chocolate made with their fresh milk. Yummy 😋
Whilst driving around we came upon Saint Anne’s Anglican Church. It is the oldest surviving log church on Vancouver Island, founded in 1894. Sadly we could not see inside however I’m sure it has an interesting history inside those walls.
Within 20 minutes of our house are at least 4 golf courses, which are open 12 months a year. The closest one to us is Arrowsmith Golf Club so we waited for a sunny day and booked ourselves a tee time. I must say, it is the first time in my life I have golfed in hiking boots!!! The course was saturated, muddy and very soggy because of the recent rainfall. Despite this we had a fun round of golf, marvelling at the fact we are golfing in Canada, in January 😄
What’s the best thing about being by the sea? Fresh Seafood!!!!! My sister directed us to French Creek Seafood located at the French Creek Harbour and WOW were we impressed. The selection of fresh seafood is amazing, we have already been 4 times in the last 10 days. This busy harbour is filled with fishing vessels of every size bringing in the daily catch to be processed and shipped around the world. Oh, how I have missed being by the sea, you cannot get seafood any fresher than this 💖 And what belongs right next to a marina…a pub serving fish and chips. We enjoyed a spectacular meal at French Creek Marine Pub with my sister and brother in law. Happy days for this ocean-loving girl.
It has been three weeks since we arrived on Vancouver Island and we are loving the change of scenery. Our nomadic cravings are being held at bay by living somewhere new to us with interesting places to discover. We look forward to sharing more of this beautiful island with you over the next few weeks…