During the early part of the twentieth century, nearly a quarter of a million poor English and Welsh immigrated to Canada as part of the Salvation Army's immigration program. A handful of families settled in the Coombs area around 1910 under the leadership of the Salvation Army's Ensign Cargo. The community was named after the Army's Canadian Commissioner, Captain Thomas Coombs.
Today, Coombs is popular with visitors who come here to see the goats who live on the roof of the general store or immerse themselves in this country corner that hosts more galleries, studios and artists per capita than anywhere else in BC. Others stop on their way to Port Alberni and the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Coombs is located on Highway 4, 9 km (5.5 mi) west of Parksville on Vancouver Island. Highway 4 is the main highway across the Island that connects the east and west coast.
Famous for its family of goats grazing on the grass rooftop, the Coombs Old Country Market provides fresh local produce, a selection of gifts from the farthest reaches of the world, and a delicatessen that specializes in a variety of international meats and cheeses. There are also selections of groceries from many European countries, a bakery, and restaurant.
Established in 1912, the Coombs General Store has the original wood floors and shelves of memorabilia and old photos that add to its historic charm. There is also a huge selection of penny candy.
Located next to the Old Country Market, the Coombs Emporium resembles an old western town and is filled with tiny shops.
Imagine strolling through tropical gardens filled with trees, plants flowers, and butterflies from around the world. Enjoy rare tropical plants with their exotic aromas and flashes of color. Share the world of the butterflies as they fly, sip nectar, court or simply bask in the sunlight, showing off their glorious colours. They're everywhere- hundreds of them, all sizes, shapes and colors, ranging from the Giant Atlas Moth (10" wing span) to the tiny Red Periot Butterfly (1/2" wing span). As they fly from flower to flower, they sometimes mistake people for flowers and alight on their shoulders, heads and arms searching for nectar.
The World Parrot Refuge is an educational facility that provides a "Home for Life" for previously owned pet parrots, and is operated by the "For the Love Of Parrots Refuge Society" (FLOPRS). The Refuge has over 600 parrots, a dedicated team of staff and volunteer carers, and 23,000 square feet of heated indoor free-flight aviaries with plans for 16,000 square feet of easily accessed outdoor flights for the warmer months.
Hamilton Marsh provides a natural habitat for marsh birds and is particularly active in spring and fall with migrations of ducks and geese. Woodland trails from the small parking lot lead you to and around the marsh, with a viewing platform for closer observation of the marsh inhabitants. Hamilton Marsh is located approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) north of Coombs on South Hilliers Road, just off the Alberni Highway 4.
Over 4 million chinook salmon are raised annually at the Little Qualicum Spawning Channel, with the best visiting times being February to June and October to November. This hatchery is not to be confused with the big Qualicum Falls Hatchery, located on the Qualicum River north of Horne Lake.
Impressive waterfalls cascade down a rocky gorge in a beautiful forested setting bordered by steep mountain peaks at this park, one of the most beautiful parks on central Vancouver Island. The falls, lake swimming, shaded riverside trails and picnic facilities make Little Qualicum Falls a very popular family recreation destination. A number of walking trails are available in and around the park, offering picturesque views of the river and providing access to the upper and lower falls. Nearby Cameron Lake is an ideal spot for swimming and fishing, as well as sail boarding.
Located east of Parksville near Errington, Englishman River Falls has excellent picnic, swimming and hiking as well as two spectacular waterfalls in the midst of the forest. During the summer a crystal clear pool at the base of the lower falls turns into one of the best swimming holes in the area, and the whole park becomes a prime viewing area for the return of spawning salmon in the fall.
Cathedral Grove, located in MacMillan Provincial Park, is one of the most accessible stands of giant Douglas fir trees on Vancouver Island. Here visitors can stroll through a network of trails under the shadow of towering ancient Douglas-fir trees, majestic pillars untouched by the modern world - some more than 800 years old. Trails on either side of the highway lead visitors through the mighty stands of this coastal forest. On the south side you will find the largest Douglas firs - one measuring more than 9 m (30 ft) in circumference. On the northern side of the road you'll find groves of ancient Western red cedar standing sentry over nearby Cameron Lake.
The Englishman River provides excellent fishing from the river-bank where you can cast for rainbow, cutthroat, and steelhead trout.
Excellent hiking trails can be found at both Englishman River Falls and Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park.
The Parksville/Qualicum area is home to several outstanding golf courses. Some of these are: Morningstar Golf Club is a challenging and beautiful course and the site of many CPGA events; Fairwinds Golf Club is noted as one of the finest in BC; Brigadoon is a 9-hole challenging course for golfers of all abilities; Pheasant Glen is situated in spectacular surroundings beneath Mt. Arrowsmith in Qualicum Beach.