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Sea and nature lovers will feel at home as they explore tranquil Lighthouse Country on Vancouver Island. Named for the offshore lighthouses on Sisters Island and Chrome Island, this coastal region just north of Qualicum Beach consists of the smaller communities of Dashwood, Qualicum Bay, Dunsmuir, Bowser, and Deep Bay.
Things to Do in Lighthouse Country
With 60 miles of coastline and beaches along the Strait of Georgia, Lighthouse Country presents water and beach enthusiasts with a mix of relaxing and active experiences.
Visit Sunny Beach to swim or surf in the warm waters of Qualicum Bay or feel the sand beneath your toes as you walk along the quiet shores. More warm currents await at Deep Bay, with Mapleguard point providing easy bay access for swimming, windsurfing, kayaking and wildlife viewing. Return to the shores and beaches at low tide to investigate tide pools, offering an intimate and fascinating snapshot of marine life.
Those interested in paddleboarding can rent equipment from QBay Paddleboarding, located just inside the Qualicum Bay Resort and only a short distance from the Sunny Beach access point. Paddlers and swimmers can also explore the waters of Spider Lake and the larger Horne Lake — a beautiful body of water with forested shorelines, pristine waters and kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard rentals available on-site.
Anglers will delight at the numerous fishing locales available throughout Lighthouse Country, including Nile Creek — a small creek popular among locals for fly fishing, spinning or baitcasting located a few miles from the town of Bowser. Stock up on bait, tackle and other fishing gear at Nile Creek Fly Shop, located along BC-19A (Island Highway West) just north of Qualicum Bay.
At Deep Bay, fish for salmon along the shoreline or set sail on a salmon, prawn and crab fishing charter with Van Isle Fishing and Marine Adventures, who also offers custom boat tours perfect for spotting local wildlife and admiring the scenic coast of Vancouver Island.
Back on dry land, visit one of several parks found throughout Lighthouse Country. Home to the aforementioned Horne Lake, the Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park also features seven exploration-worthy caves. Guided cave tours are available, with options for amateur adventurers and seasoned spelunkers. Above ground, the Cave & Karst Education Centre is home to a small museum, fossils and Canada’s only cave theatre. Nearby, the Horne Lake Regional Park is home to a number of campsites for individuals and groups, with reservations accepted between April 1 and October 31.
At the nearby Spider Lake Provincial Park, swim, kayak or canoe in the warm waters of the central lake, fish for trout or bass from the shores, or enjoy a picnic with the family. Just north of Deep Bay along Rosewall Creek, Rosewall Creek Provincial Park offers a riverside trail between picnic areas and is a popular park to visit in the fall thanks to the many maple trees with radiant autumn leaves.
Those looking to explore Lighthouse Country by foot, bike or horseback can do so along one of several area hiking trails. Popular for hiking, trail running, and birding, the Lighthouse Country Regional Trail near Qualicum Bay weaves through beautiful coastal Douglas-fir forest, with an easy-to-navigate 3.5 km loop with a mix of wheelchair accessible and rough trail portions.
Other area trails include the nearly 10 km Nile Creek Trail between Bowser and Qualicum Bay, which offers picturesque scenes of the creek, waterfalls and serene woodland pools coveted by photographers. The 10 km Big Qualicum River Regional Trail starts at the Big Qualicum Hatchery and winds to just east of Horne Lake, offering a rewarding trail experience for bikers, hikers and bird watchers alike.
Visitors to Lighthouse Country are sure to spot local wildlife without much effort, either along the coast, on the water, or while exploring area trails and parks, but local institutions offer further education and viewing opportunities. The Deep Bay Marine Field Station welcomes the public to visit from May to September or during special off season events to learn about local marine biology with hands on touch tanks.
The only course in Lighthouse Country, Arrowsmith Golf & Country Club is located just ten minutes from Bowser and offers golfers 18 holes of exceptional golfing along greens and fairways flanked by tall evergreens. The 3,700-yard, 61-par course was designed for year-round play and also features a driving range, practice bunker, two practice greens, and a full-service clubhouse with on-site bar and grill, Micky J’s.
Admire the work of local artists and purchase a one-of-a-kind Lighthouse Country souvenir at area galleries and markets. The Salish Sea Market features original pieces by local artists in a variety of mediums and categories, including fine art, wood, ceramics, clothing, books, furniture and more. At Sandbar Café & Art Gallery, enjoy a oceanside meal on the patio or in the dining room with walls lined with a rotating collection of work by local artists available for purchase.
Eating & Drinking
Throughout Lighthouse Country, foodies will discover markets, cafes and restaurants that offer a true taste of the region. Start the day in Bowser with a coffee and snack from Footless Rooster Coffee, located next to Salish Sea Market. Return in the evening to enjoy their rotating selection of dinner options announced on social media.
Lighthouse Country is also the proud home to a seafood-lover’s dream, Island Scallops — the largest private marine research hatchery and first fully-integrated shellfish producer in Canada — who offers some of the freshest scallops, oysters and other seafood available for purchase.
Known for their fish and chips, Ship & Shore is a restaurant and campground near Deep Bay. In Qualicum Bay, dining options include Crown & Anchor Roadhouse Pub, Tidal Taco Shack, and Nickolini’s Pizza, with Cone Zone’s 32 flavours of ice cream serving as the perfect dessert after a long day exploring Lighthouse Country.
With so much ground (and water) to cover throughout this picturesque region, Lighthouse Country accommodations serve as an excellent “home base” for your community excursions. Qualicum Bay is home to a number of waterfront accommodations, including the luxurious Qualicum Breeze Beach Resort, the park-like Sea Flame Beach Resort, and more casual yet still coastal Lighthouse Motel.
One of the more unique lodging options is Free Spirit Spheres — a series of handcrafted spherical tree houses suspended in the forests near Horne Lake. For more forest stays, consider camping at one of several campgrounds located throughout Horne Lake Regional Park. There are also a number of cabins and RV parks to choose from, such as Qualicum First Nation Campground and Deep Bay RV Park, plus the waterfront cottages, cabins, and RV sites at Qualicum Bay Resort.
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