My in-laws live in Parksville on Vancouver Island. We have visited many times for a day or two but this summer we decided to deposit ourselves on their doorstep for four days. I knew that a successful visit would require daily activities/outings for my kids. They love heading out on adventures and Parksville (and the surrounding communities) had much to offer.
Riptide Lagoon Adventure Golf is like no other mini-golf course we have encountered. There are two courses (you can elect to play one or both); each course is 18 holes. The fact our 3 & 5 year olds HAPPILY played 36 holes (on a super hot day) is a testament to how much fun the course is. There is no boring hole! Multiple water features, a cave, twists and turns, bridges, tunnels and more make for a truly delightful afternoon of fun! And in case you aren’t tuckered out after 36 holes, there are also bumper cars (for the over 6 years of age crowd) and laser tag!
Golfing worked up quite an appetite and so we headed around the corner to the Black Goose Inn for lunch. The food was plentiful, the service relatively quick, and the view of the ocean was enchanting. If you like traditional British pub food, you won’t be disappointed! Our kids devoured the fish & chips.
On our second day in Parksville we had an unforgettable experience: the World Parrot Refuge. This amazing non-profit organization accepts parrots from across Canada. They are currently housing more than 900 birds! Upon arrival the staff remind you to remove all jewelry; they aren’t kidding the tiniest little sparkle is unbelievably intriguing to the birds. I also recommend packing a change of clothes for everyone (we were lucky but let’s be honest there are 900 birds). Also be sure to bring along wipes; while hand sanitizer is provided there is no place to use soap and water.
If possible, ask for a guided tour of the World Parrot Refuge. The staff are incredibly knowledgeable. Our guide knew all of the birds’ names and their personalities. We spent more than 2 hours with the birds. The facility is massive and has sections for the various species. My favourite section was the free-flying zone. Dozens of parrots are given free reign of a large section. There are no cages and people are allowed to wander in. At first neither of my boys were too sure about the parrots flying around their heads. However, it wasn’t too long before they were begging parrots to land on them. I was delighted to have a massive blue parrot, named Lucy, perch on my shoulder. I am most grateful to Phoebe who perched on the boys’ shoulders for a few seconds; no parrot is excited to be as close to the ground as a kid’s shoulder requires. A return visit to the World Parrot Refuge is definitely in the future for us!
Just down the road from the World Parrot Refuge is the kitschy but fun Goats on the Roof. Considering Goats on the Roof is a well-known tourist spot, the prices are very reasonable and the quality of their products is great. We enjoyed a delicious lunch, picked up some toys for the kids and some groceries for dinner. Definitely worth a stop when heading across the Island.
The highlight of our Island holiday, at least for the boys, was a treat from their grandparents. We spent the day riding the Alberni Pacific Steam Railway. Our kids are ridiculously fascinated by trains. The fully restored 1929 steam train left from Port Alberni and chugged 45 minutes to the McLean Mill National Historic Site. We had two hours to explore the fascinating lumber mill. It is the only fully-operational steam lumber mill in all of Canada. We watched them pull logs from the water and mill it down to sheets of lumber. The process was fascinating; seeing the antique machinery still operational was most informative and educational for all of us. We gobbled up our picnic and then hopped back onto the train for the 45 minute return trip.
We had a wonderful time in Parksville and look forward to a return trip. A word of advice, during the summer months it really pays to make a reservation on BC Ferries. Yes, there is an extra fee ($15 if you book more than 7 days in advance, $18.50 the week of departure and $22 if you book same day) but that is cheap when faced with the alternative of multiple hours trapped in a car with bored kids waiting for a spot on the ferry. Also, BC Ferries is offering a discount to over-length vehicles on 4pm and later sailings on Wednesdays and Saturdays until September 6th. There are a few more of those left…now is your chance to cram in one more holiday before the end of the summer!