Little Qualicum River Estuary

Discover sweeping riverfront views and outdoor activities near Little Qualicum River Estuary.

Outdoor scenery revealing the water and nearby woods in Parksville Qualicum Beach

The Little Qualicum River Estuary offers breathtaking views of wildlife and the surrounding environment. It’s a quintessential spot for birdwatching and other family-friendly activities. The Little Qualicum River Estuary is a conservation area that is home to a variety of waterfowl and riverlife. Regarded as one of the three undeveloped estuarine sand spits on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, it’s a tranquil area with limited public access. Wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy completing an outdoor adventure taking in a stunning riverscape through the nearby wildlife management area and paddling through it.

This vast 4.6-hectare area contains a spit which functions as a coastal habitat protecting estuaries from intense ocean forces and provides the necessary functioning for thriving biodiversity.

Conservation History

Located at the mouth of the Little Qualicum River, this area contains intertidal mudflats, large eelgrass beds and a variety of sand bars. It’s a community hub for salmon, waterfowl, clams and mussel beds.

The Little Qualicum River Estuary was purchased in 2003 by the Regional District of Nanaimo and wetland preservation organization, Ducks Unlimited Canada. Maintenance planning for the area began in 2010 with a nine-year set of goals and projects, aiming to preserve this nutrient-rich area for wildlife and biodiversity.

Estuary Activities

Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy Little Qualicum River Estuary as a family outing or a team building adventure, ranging from paddling to wildlife observation.

Wildlife Watching

Dive into bird watching from a boardwalk off Surfside Drive, which is located near the Marshall-Stevenson Wildlife Sanctuary. Find a variety of waterfowl, as well as observing ducks and other species commingle in a natural habitat. While the sanctuary doesn’t have direct trails into the surrounding wetlands and marsh areas, visitors can enjoy picturesque scenes from viewing spots along the area’s perimeter. Bring your binoculars for the optimal viewing experience.

The Little Qualicum River Estuary offers a thriving habitat for different duck varieties and it’s most commonly used by brant geese. Observe these elegant geese utilizing the spit and eelgrass beds for eating, sleeping and grooming.

TIP: Visit the observation area at low tide to spot birds like the Great Blue Heron.

Brant Geese


Create an action-packed outdoor itinerary and rent a canoe or kayak, paddling along the Little Qualicum River Estuary at high tide. Friends and family can enjoy a relaxing and beginners-level paddling experience through the estuary, reaching the Qualicum National Wildlife Area and the Marshall Stevenson Wildlife Preserve.

Directions & Parking

Address: 1085 Surfside Drive, Qualicum Beach, BC V9K 2B6, Canada

Drive north along Kinkade Road from Highway 19W and turn left onto McFeely Drive. From McFeely Drive, make another left onto Surfside Drive and continue driving until reaching the parking area by Marshall Stevenson Wildlife Preserve.

Things to Do Near the Estuary

Looking to complete your estuary outing? Head over to the Little Qualicum Falls Park, hiking through rugged paths that reveal scenic views of the river. Look through the Little Qualicum Falls campground map and find out the best spots for unwinding after a long hike. Planning an outdoor group outing? Expand your hiking goals with friends and family at Little Qualicum River Regional Park, walking through winding trails and verdant greenery.

Nearby Lodgings

Take in oceanfront views and top-rated amenities at nearby resorts, unwinding in charming interiors and planning a pleasant outing to Marshall-Stevenson Wildlife Sanctuary. Dive into a rustic experience with campgrounds and RV parks, embracing the surrounding forests and natural landscape. For more lodging options, discover a variety of places to stay in Parksville Qualicum Beach.

Explore More

Bird & Wildlife Viewing Tips for Parksville Qualicum Beach

Parksville Qualicum Beach’s diverse natural landscape provides plenty of opportunities to spot birds and wildlife.

5 Ways to Get Out on The Water in Parksville Qualicum Beach

Our expansive coastline and sparkling lakes make Parksville Qualicum Beach a water wonderland.

Family Day Trip - Caves, Fish & Chips, & Touch Tanks

If your kids are 5 and up, here's an adventure-filled day trip idea!