We took our time packing up as I think we didn’t really want to go. I had mentioned to Traci a few days ago that it will feel weird when we leave Parksville as the holiday is not over, but it will feel like it’s ending. But then we’ll still have almost a week left! Bittersweet for sure. I took a few shots of the resort on the way out.
I hadn’t had a Tim’s coffee for 4 days so the XL double double was a welcome addition to the Van.
The last time I had driven even a portion of the Island Highway was when I was 19 years old, and it was in the middle of the night. I was excited to see what there was to see on the way.
We had 5 hours until our check in time in Victoria, and we used up every minute. The trip would only take 1.5-2 hours depending on traffic.
I had taken a quick look at the Google Map on my phone and knew I wanted to get off the main highway as much as possible and the first good opportunity to do so took us right into the heart of a town called Ladysmith. A very quaint and bustling town, we drove up the main street before heading to their very picturesque beach.
It was pretty busy for a Thursday, as there must have been kids camps visiting. The beach park had these 2 really incredible kids playgrounds that Andrew enjoyed immensely.
It just happened to be low tide too! Rathtrevor beach in Parksville is terrific, but with the lack of rocks and all the sand, there are few places for sea creatures to hide out during low tide. Here? a multitude of sea beings in and around the rocks. The color of the local sea stars was a deep purple and they stood out against the green algae.
Nice stretch break. We stuck to the sea side road, enjoying the beautiful scenery and the much appreciated lack of traffic. The Island highway is a bit of a gong show as you race from traffic light to traffic light for the duration of the trip East. (South?)
I knew I wanted to visit Chemainus. Chemainus has been on my radar for years as I love art, and this place put themselves on the tourist map as an outdoor art gallery. The History of Chemainus, like many island towns, follows the ebbs and flows of the logging industry. In the not too distant past, the town was faced with a few economic crisis's and they took a proactive approach to gaining back a livelihood to support their proud residents. They hired a marketing person to come and figure out how they could attract visitors. The guy figured murals would be the way to go. There is a longer and more colourful story here, but for now I’ll just provide you the highlights. I think the smartest thing the town did was use this idea to paint the murals depicting the incredibly rich history of itself. from the story the Chemainus is actually Salish (the native people) for ‘Broken Chest’ after a native warrior was badly injured here.
“Hey Neil? How do you know such things about Chemainus, did you ask the Internets?” you might be asking now. Well No, dear readers, I am not that interested in studying, I am more of an experience learner. We took a paid tour of the town. Yep, for maybe the first time maybe ever, we decided to pay for a simple tour. We weren’t really interested in the town’s history, but were satisfying Andrews desire to ride around on the tractor/train he spotted earlier.
It wasn’t a simple tour. We were so incredibly impressed with all that we learned and saw that Traci and I came out of there swelling with pride for the ‘Little Town the Did!” Our tour guide told the story of each mural as we drove past, PLUS much anecdotal information that just added to our enjoyment of the tour.
Here are some visual highlight of our 1 1/2 hours in Chemainus.
We arrived and parked at the visitor center. Andrew spotted the tour train through the trees and thus we started a search for the origin of such train. It took us through the park and down to the lower section of town. We found out the train starts up where we parked. We meandered our way back up, with a stop at the amazing bakery to stock up on cream filled treats.
The tour was great in that it pointed out all kinds of subtle art that you wouldn’t find on your own. Like the small carving of the bear way up on the tree stump on the park. Or the ends of the roof trusses on another building that had animal faces carved into the ends. so cool.
From Chemainus, we wanted to stay on the little road along the coast but a couple kms up the road there was a medical emergency that blocked traffic. We waited 10 minutes before we turned around and begrudgingly took the main highway.
Having these booked hotels makes it painful to drive past all the amazing places I have always wanted to visit, but since we spent more time in Chemainus than we thought we would, we decided to bee-line it to Victoria. The Malahat Pass section of the highway has some amazing places to stop and view the ocean and valleys below, but only of you are travelling the other direction. There is no way to turn off this section of highway across traffic. You get glimpses of what you are missing as you white-knuckle your steering wheel.
We arrived in Victoria right at 4pm and found our Hotel right away. We are staying at the Victoria Regent Suites. This place is fully owned by private people but rent out the rooms like a hotel. You can’t really get a nicer experience than a home type of setting.
It is treated just like a hotel, with a front desk etc, but you get a very nice large space to live. The extra money for a harbour front room in Victoria, no matter what hotel you stay at, is worth it.
We hung around in the room, the weather was amazing and we had the patio door wide open to the sun and harbour, and we relaxed before heading out for supper.
It’s no secret I LOVE airplanes. I didn’t know they did this, but in the right wind conditions, the float planes come in from the east, curving over the inner harbour. It just so happened they were only a couple hundred feet over our room on this route. Happy me.
All about Victoria Harbour in the next blog. (I can’t promise that no crabs were hurt in the making of the that blog)