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Outdoor enthusiasts will find no shortage of rustic adventures and scenic hikes as they explore the rural communities that make up bucolic Arrowsmith Coombs Country — Coombs, Errington, Hilliers, Meadowwood and Whiskey Creek.
This charming section of Parksville’s southwestern countryside is also home to the region’s towering namesake mountain, a popular local market (complete with rooftop goats), a contingent of campgrounds, diverse dining options, and a lake whose waters are rumoured to be patrolled by an aquatic beast the likes of the famed Loch Ness monster.
Things to Do in Arrowsmith Coombs Country
Take a short, 5-minute drive along Alberni Highway from Parksville or Memorial Avenue from Qualicum Beach and you’ll enter Arrowsmith Coombs Country, where you’ll discover a diverse mix of activities and experiences sure to be an excellent addition to any itinerary.
Perhaps one of the most popular attractions in Arrowsmith Coombs Country — and in all of Parksville Qualicum Beach — is the Coombs Old Country Market. Home to an eclectic mix of shops, this market is known for the goats that stand and graze upon its green roof. This unique welcoming party invites guests to enter the Market and browse for souvenirs and other goods at one of four storefronts: the Market Gift Shop, Zolena Home Boutique, Wabi Sabi Boardwear and Garden Centre. A bakery, bistro and doughnut shop on-site allow visitors to refuel with no shortage of housemade eats.
In addition to your encounter with goats on the roof, Arrowsmith Coombs Country also presents families with multiple opportunities to observe and learn about wildlife. At Errington’s North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre, a non-profit animal rehabilitation facility, view more than 60 non-releasable animals, including bears, owls and bald eagles. In Coombs, visitors to Butterfly World can admire butterflies from around the world in one of its greenhouses, view colourful koi fish in indoor and outdoor ponds, and learn about other animals throughout the property, including reptiles and birds.
Exploring area parks remains one of the best ways to connect with nature and observe wildlife in Parksville Qualicum Beach, and Arrowsmith Coombs Country is home to several provincial parks, each offering their own distinct ways to connect with nature.
In Errington, Englishman River Falls Provincial Park is one of the most picturesque parks on all of Vancouver Island, home to two dazzling waterfalls, a river and campsites. Swimmers can take a dip in the swimming holes at the base of the lower falls, and hikers can take advantage of area trails. The park is also a prime spot to view salmon during the fall spawning season.
More awe-inspiring natural beauty awaits at MacMillan Provincial Park along Alberni Highway, which is home to Cathedral Grove — a 157-hectare grouping of towering, magnificent Douglas-fir trees, some more than 800 years old. A network of trails allows you to walk amongst these 80-metre-tall giants, eventually leading to Cameron Lake, a prime spot for fishing and swimming.
Perfect for camping, Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park near Whiskey Creek is also home to waterfalls, old-growth forests, and a 6 km network of shaded trails that offer incredible views of the upper and lower falls.
For more natural exploration, consider hiking one of several trails available throughout Arrowsmith Coombs Country. The Coombs to Parksville Rail Trail is a 7 km route that runs parallel to the E&N tracks between Coombs and Parksville, originating at Station Road in Coombs and connecting to Springwood Park in Parksville. Other area trails include the Arrowsmith CPR Regional Trail — connecting to an old ski hill that is now the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District's park — and Cameron Lake Trestle, both near Cameron Lake.
Adventurous hikers can attempt the summit of Mount Arrowsmith, the largest mountain on southern Vancouver Island. The nearly 6 km out and back Judges Route is a challenging yet rewarding path that treats those who conquer it with stunning views from the mountain’s peak. For more mountain hiking, consider the less challenging Mount Cokely, which is open on weekends and popular for backpacking, bird watching and hiking with dogs.
Errington is home to one of the main mountain biking areas in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region, Hammerfest. Located near Englishman River Falls Provincial Park, this large network of trails includes less challenging cross country routes as well as tough black diamond downhill runs. Hammerfest is also home to a number of mountain biking competitions, including the cross country (XC) and Enduro races as part of the Island Cup Series.
Though the towns of Arrowsmith Coombs Country are not waterfront communities like Qualicum Beach or those in Lighthouse Country, there are still plenty of water-based activities perfect for those looking to cool off in the summer.
Cameron Lake is a top choice for swimming, fishing, kayaking and even windsurfing, with the Beaufort Picnic Site serving as an excellent place to refuel and relax during or after your experience on the lake. Paddleboards, kayaks and other gear can be rented from the nearby Take Off Adventure Rentals in Coombs. While exploring the lake, keep your eyes peeled for “Cammie,” the mythical Cameron Lake cryptid rumoured to swim beneath the surface.
For more swimming (but with one less sea monster), dip into the crystal clear waters of the swimming holes formed below the lower falls in Englishman River Falls Provincial Park.
On dry land, entertain the whole family at Fast Time Amusements between Errington and Parksville. This all-in-one entertainment complex includes archery experiences, axe throwing ranges, laser and archery tag courses, and a 1,650-foot, 35-turn outdoor karting track sure to thrill every racer.
Eating & Drinking
With so much to see and do in Arrowsmith Coombs Country, it’s important to remember to set aside time to savour the region’s culinary scene. Start the morning with a locally roasted coffee or espresso from Creekmore's Coffee in Coombs. Nearby, Trees Restaurant & Bakery serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with an on-site bakery that produces cookies, cakes, and even the buns used on sandwiches and other menu items.
Still in Coombs, sample artisan Vancouver Island cheese and observe the cheese-making process at BoMé Cheese in Coombs, or grab a spot at a table and feast on their menu of authentic German dishes. Continue your global food tour at Thai Smile Cuisine, whose menu includes tom kha, red curry and pad Thai.
Don’t forget to return to the goat-topped Coombs Old Country Market for fine Italian dining at Cuckoo Trattoria, Mexican-inspired dishes at Taqueria Cantina and The Market Café for casual soups, sandwiches and seasonal specials. Imbibers should visit the nearby Misguided Spirits, a craft micro-distillery whose gin, vodka and other spirits are made using only British Columbia grain.
In Whiskey Creek, Bigfoot Burgers serves up innovative burger creations — with vegan alternatives available — alongside milkshakes and their “sasquatch fries” topped with liquid cheddar cheese and bacon. For fresh, locally sourced produce, meat and other provisions, the Errington Farmers’ Market is a must-visit.
Plan your visit to Arrowsmith Coombs Country around one of the region’s exciting events, such as the Coombs Bluegrass Festival, which is hosted each July or August and is the longest-running bluegrass festival in British Columbia. Also held annually in August, the Coombs Fair has been bringing food, vendors, animals and amusements to the Coombs Fairgrounds since 1913. In Errington, enjoy a regular line-up of live music and other performances at the Errington War Memorial Hall.
The communities of Arrowsmith Coombs Country are just a short drive from the accommodations available in Parksville and Qualicum Beach. Visitors looking to park their RV or camp close to the parks and trails of this rural area can consider Middlegate RV Park in Errington. RV sites are also available at Whiskey Creek RV Park and Campground, which also offers tent campsites and cabins, as well as the Coombs Country Campground, which features sites for both RVs and tents.
Englishman River Provincial Park and Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park are also open to tent and vehicle camping, however reservations must be made in advance. Located just outside of Englishman River Provincial Park, Tranquility Woods is a quiet forested retreat with log cabins and 32 campsites available.
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