European settlers began to arrive on the east coast of Vancouver Island in the late 1800s, searching for homesteads or working in the logging and fishing industries. In the late 1890s, a road was constructed to connect Lighthouse Country to the small villages to the south (Qualicum and Parksville) and to the north (Courtenay and Comox), making the area more accessible to settlers.
Land grants given by the E&N Railway Company (which was taken over by Canadian Pacific in 1905) gave rise to many farming and logging settlements. Each of the settlement areas eventually became Deep Bay, Bowser, and Qualicum Bay.
Today, Qualicum Bay is enjoyed by those seeking a more tranquil way of life as well as those who enjoy fishing. For much of the way between Courtenay and Campbell River the highway runs beside Qualicum Bay, an area rich in seafood. Pullouts beside the road give easy access to the bay's sand and pebble beaches. At several places you can buy fresh seafood, brought to the docks daily from local waters.
Qualicum Bay is accessed on Highway 19A, or off the parallel Island Highway (Highway 19) by exiting between Qualicum Beach and Fanny Bay. Qualicum Bay is part of the area known as Lighthouse Country, on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Lighthouse Country, named for the two lighthouses that mark its boundaries, stretches from Qualicum Bay to Deep Bay.
One of the best picnic sites in the area, Spider Lake is located west of Qualicum Beach and features a small sandy beach perfect for water lovers of all ages. The warm water of Spider Lake is noted for its excellent canoeing, kayaking and swimming and the park is an idyllic spot for a quiet family outing. Paddlers can spend a peaceful afternoon exploring the shoreline and the many secluded bays of this lake. Spider Lake is stocked with small mouth bass and Rainbow trout, providing fishing opportunities year-round. Powerboats are prohibited.
At Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park, you can experience the magic of the underground world in the many protected caves. The art of cave exploration is known as spelunking and Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park is the perfect place to discover this unique activity. From educational family-oriented tours to deep, dark adventure, the caves protected within this park offer something for everyone. Knowledgeable guides can lead visitors through the caves to discover this magical world of crystal formations and ancient fossils firsthand. Though the park has two small caves visitors can explore on their own, a guided tour of one of the larger caves offers more variety and a chance to learn about the cave's unique geology and history.
Rosewall Creek Provincial Park is situated along picturesque Rosewall Creek, south of Fanny Bay and north of Bowser. It has a wheelchair-accessible trail through the rainforest to a waterfall and picnic area. The park features a mixture of coniferous trees interspersed with striking broad leaf maple trees. One of the best times to visit this park is in the fall when the color of the maple leaves makes an attractive backdrop for photographers.
Golf is played year-round at the Arrowsmith Golf & Country Club, an 18-hole Par 61 golf course 10 minutes south of Bowser, near Qualicum Beach. A beautiful golf course with views of Echo Valley and Mt. Arrowsmith it is a favourite with all levels of golfer.
Kayakers can put in at Rosewall Creek Provincial Park, just west of Deep Bay, or launch at Deep Bay, a natural harbour on Qualicum Bay, protected by the curve of Mapleguard Point. You'll also find good windsurfing in the protected waters of Deep Bay.
Saltwater fishing charters, boat rentals, supply stores and licensing outlets are available. Fly-fish for salmon near Parksville and Qualicum Beach or fish some of the streams and lakes nearby. The prolific herring spawn and shrimp hatches at nearby Deep Bay attracts the larger chinook salmon, some up to thirty pounds.
Visitors can learn about the area's fishery at the Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery which offers a self-guided tour and trails.
Lighthouse Country is home to approximately three hundred species of birds that either live here year-round, take up residence during particular seasons, or stop by to feed and rest during their long migrations.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia