Thursday, February 23, 2012

10 Stops To Make Between Victoria and Parksville

I've been driving from Parksville to Victoria and back at least once a month for the past 12 years and I know the route like the back of my hand. Here are 10 of the many stops you can make to make this beautiful 2 hour drive even more enjoyable.

I usually bypass Nanaimo on my way down to Victoria. There's lots to see and do in this small city of 80,000 but that's an article all its own, but these attactions are all within a km or so off the highways

1) Nanaimo River Swimming Holes - South Nanaimo. This is a beautiful river for a quick swim to wash off the heat of the road. There are lots of public access points either east or west off the highway.

2) Wildplay Parks and Bungy Zone - South Nanaimo. This is a zipline, bungy and Monkido climbing park just off the highway. It's at 35 Nanaimo River Road, Vancouver Island, BC.

3) Transfer Beach - Ladysmith. This is a family oriented salt-water beach with a play area, concession and amphitheatre for live music.

4) Craig St. Brew Pub - Duncan Features hand-crafted beer and delicious food located at 450 Swift Street in the downtown core.

5) Pioneer House and Whippletree Junction - South of Duncan A number of specialty shops and restaurants set within 14 restored buildings from the early 1900s.

6) Forest Discovery Museum - Duncan - This is an interesting look into the history of the forest industry and its technology, just off the highway north of Duncan

7) Russell Farms - Mt. Sicker Road Chemainus - A farm market, full service deli and ice cream parlour.

8) Serious Coffee Mill Bay - I almost always stop here for a quick jolt before hitting the Malahat. Try the sausage roll and an Americano.

9) Malahat Lookouts - Stop and stretch your legs for a glorious view of the Saanich inlet. You have to turn left to cross the highway if heading south to Victoria.

10) Goldstream Park - take a stroll through this old-growth temperate rainforest and marvel at the eagles and yearly salmon run in mid to late October till early December. Gorgeous year round.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

12 Hours in Victoria

It's an easy two-hour drive south to Victoria from our home in Parksville, and we recently made an impromptu trip down for a 12 hour anniversary celebration.

We began our evening with a wonderful dinner at Nautical Nellies, a steak and seafood restaurant on Wharf Street. The place was packed on a Tuesday evening, but they managed to seat us, without a reservation, after a short wait . We started with the 10 piece Sashimi appetizer which included raw Albacore and Red Ahi tuna, salmon, snapper and scallops. It was fresh and delicious. My companion is an oyster freak and ordered 4 Effingham oysters and would gladly have ordered more. As a main course I had the 7 oz New York steak with crab cake and garlic prawns. The steak was flavourful and the crab cake was amazing. My companion had the lobster tail with prawns, seafood fritters and a seafood risotto. We finished with a flourless chocolate torte. The entire meal was a winner.

After all that rich food we walked the 2 blocks over to Swan's. It's my favourite brew-pub in Victoria, partly because of the beer but even more so because of the outstanding atmosphere brought on by the amazing collection of art on every wall. The had live bluegrass on stage and while the beer was good, the waitress was a little cranky so we picked up a nightcap at the onsite beer and wine store and headed back to our hotel.

We stayed at the Bedford Regency Hotel thanks to a last minute online deal, just $59.00 for a standard queen room in this downtown heritage building. It's right across from the Bay Centre and within easy walking distance of the Inner Harbour or any other downtown attraction. The room was cute and unique, not your standard cookie cutter budget hotel room, the bed was comfortable and clean, it had a walk-in shower with dual shower heads and a handy little office area. There's a bar/lounge on the second floor, though we didn't partake and a coffee shop in the lobby. The online off-season rate was fantastic but it would be well-worth the standard rate at any time of year, so we look forward to staying there again.