Embark on a delightful stroll through the picturesque streets of Parksville Downtown, where history and charm converge on this leisurely walking tour.
Start your adventure amidst the serene beauty of the Parksville Community Park. The allure and promise of this place were not lost on the early settlers and, in 1922, they started discussions about establishing a waterfront park to preserve the area’s charm.
Driven by boundless enthusiasm, a dedicated group of citizens led the community in a fund-raising campaign that culminated in a momentous occasion – the grand opening of the park on July 1, 1923.
Upon entering the park, you’ll encounter the Parksville Lions Club Ventureland Playground and the adjacent Outdoor Gym. Continue your journey, heading towards the famous Parksville Beach Boardwalk. From this spot, you’ll have the opportunity to admire the breathtaking vistas of Parksville Bay from the blue-roofed gazebo. You’ve reached the official starting point of your Discover Parksville – Downtown Loop Tour.
Depending on the time of day, the beachfront offers varying degrees of splendour. During high tide, gentle waves serenely lap at the edge of a sandy expanse adorned with driftwood, and occasionally revealing the coveted treasure of ‘sea glass’ waiting to be discovered. Enthusiastic paddleboarders and kayakers can be seen enjoying the calm waters of Parksville Bay.
When the tide recedes, an amazing seascape unfolds, stretching approximately a kilometre from the shoreline. A pristine sandy beach emerges, boasting delightfully warm waters that beckon waders, swimmers and thrill-seeking skimboarders.
The Salish Sea
As you make a left turn, saunter along the boardwalk savoring the awe-inspiring vistas of the Salish Sea and the magnificent silhouette of Mount Arrowsmith gracing the horizon.
Parksville Bay’s pristine waters host a diversity of wildlife, and provide a home to Pacific harbour seals, the seasonal sea lions, and salmon as well as majestic bald eagles perched above the shoreline watching for the salmon! The legendary sand dollars, known for their delicate beauty, are uncovered during low tide and capture the imagination of beach explorers.
The Salish Sea’s waters form an essential part of the marine ecosystem, boasting the largest Pacific herring spawning grounds along the BC Coast. These tiny fish lay an average of about 20,000 eggs, which adhere to the eelgrass or seaweed. These eggs provide crucial sustenance to the multitude of Brandt geese that visit the Parksville area each spring.
Coast Salish People
For thousands of years, the Coast Salish people called the area surrounding the Englishman River their home. The nearby sheltered bay served as a favourite location for fishing and harvesting shellfish. However, by the time the early settlers arrived, the population of the First Nations had tragically dwindled significantly, primarily due to the devastating massacres inflicted by marauding coastal tribes in the early 1800s.
The Coast Salish People constitute a vast and diverse collective, encompassing numerous distinct cultures and languages. Among them, the Snaw-naw-as people derive their name from the lone survivor of one of the tragic battles in the 1800s. Today, they are situated in the vicinity of Nanoose Bay, preserving their unique heritage and traditions. Similarly, the Qualicum First Nation resides at the mouth of the Big Qualicum River in Qualicum Bay, further enriching the rich tapestry of indigenous cultures that have shaped this coastal area of BC.
The Old Island Hall location.
As you approach another charming gazebo, the boardwalk path draws to an end, but your adventure carries on. You’ll find yourself adjacent to the Beach Club Resort, an establishment that now occupies the historic site of Parksville’s renowned Island Hall.
The Island Hall, a grand establishment that opened its doors in 1917, was a vision brought to life by British entrepreneurs Joan Foster and Winnifred Philpott. They arrived on Vancouver Island at the onset of World War One, and their ambitious project would go on to become one of Parksville’s premier accommodation destinations for an impressive span of 80 years.
If you like, take a moment to peruse the extensive memorabilia wall on the main floor of the Beach Club Resort. It pays homage to the legacy of Island Hall, preserving the memories and stories of this cherished piece of Parksville’s history.
Ready to continue to Parksville Downtown? We’ll see you there.