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Boardwalk in Parksville. Photo Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism
By Sheliza Mitha
Our first introduction to the beachside hamlet of Parksville, British Columbia was its idyllic, vast expanse of sandy beach – complete with live music, soaring kites, food trucks and a dazzling sand sculpting competition. This is, for all intents and purposes, part of the town’s regular summer festivities.
There’s a reason families across the Lower Mainland, across the country and – indeed – across the world flock to this city that sits on the east coast of Vancouver Island, about a 30-minute drive up island from Nanaimo.
Parksville Beach turns into a wonderland of sorts during the warm summer months. Live music wafts through the air while children fly kites, dig in the sand, rush into the soft waves and give up their screen time for the art of building sandcastles. And there’s plenty of inspiration for them.
Beyond the sandy shores and just a few feet from the entertaining musicians creating both rhythm and ambiance lays the impressive sand sculpting competition. Considered the city’s best-known and most popular event, this international contest welcomes artists from across the globe and their breathtaking, Instagram-worthy sand sculptures.
The annual event is officially known as the Quality Foods Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition and runs from July 17 to August 20. Boasting a different theme each year, “Wonders of the World” is the focus in 2023. To watch these masters carving their sand sculptures visit when the actual competition is taking place July 14-16.
The year we visited, walking through this maze of sand art revealed details and intricacies one wouldn’t think possible using sand and water. We saw gravity-defying sand statues of Jimi Hendrix, complex molecule links, a hungry lizard and fantastical sea creatures – among other show-stopping creations.
Just beyond Parksville’s beach is its community park – where you’ll find an array of food trucks throughout the summer, along with plenty of picnicking spots, a water park and an adaptive playground for all ages and various abilities.
Our evenings were wholesomely spent playing rounds of air hockey and mini-golf with the kids at Paradise Adventure Park, enjoying some treats and attempting holes-in-one among the mini-mountains and rapids at the bright and colourful Riptide Lagoon Adventure Park… as well as simply indulging in some Island Farms ice cream while taking in the spectacular, multi-hued sunsets.
All this translates to a sort of ideal island getaway for children and their (sometimes) fatigued parents.
Throughout our short visit in this international destination, we heard no fewer than a dozen or so languages spoken on the beach and around town – Cantonese, French, German, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi and Spanish… to name a few.
Parksville’s popularity comes as no surprise when you consider the allure – a refreshing antidote to what may be a typical see-it-all, snap-it-all, do-it-all holiday that leaves you needing a holiday from the ambitious, exhausting one you just had. Rather, this island escape leaves you with a grateful feeling of a true holiday – with plenty of surf and sand to keep the young and old happy as a clam. Oh, Parksville has those too.
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Published: July 13, 2023
Last Updated: July 13, 2023
Sheliza is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys blogging about her family’s adventures throughout British Columbia. For the latest on food and travel, connect with her on Twitter via @shelizawrites or visit her at www.copyprose.com.