Campbell River Photo Province of BC
Located at the north end of the Comox Valley, at the mouth of the Oyster River, Saratoga Beach is considered by many as the ultimate stretch of shimmering sand on the sheltered east coast of Vancouver Island. The tide along this stretch of the shoreline goes out for over a quarter of a mile, creating a hard-packed oceanfront playground perfect for children. The gently sloping beach continues for well over a mile into the calm waters of the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia), creating warm, shallow and safe swimming conditions, free from powerboat traffic, deep water or strong currents. Saratoga Beach is flanked by popular Miracle Beach Provincial Park and Oyster River Regional Park. Various attractions dot the area including the Saratoga Speedway where you can rent a go-cart and race against your friends, or just watch others. If you want to see salmon being reared check out the Oyster River Hatchery. Visit Seal Bay Regional Nature Park south of Black Creek which is a sunny stretch of coastline frequented by California and Steller sea lions, seals, and migratory birds. Paddling and rafting, fishing, bird watching, scuba diving, hiking, biking and skiing in winter at Mt. Washington are all close by.
The Comox Valley has a dynamic and exciting history, ranging from 80-million-year-old marine reptiles and earth-shaping glaciers to bustling turn of the century coal mines and pioneer farming and logging. Local museums explore all elements of local social and natural history and present information, new insights, and hands-on learning experiences for visitors of all ages.
Archaeological finds indicate that First Nations peoples have visited and lived in the Comox Valley for as long as 9,000 years. Before the appearance of the Europeans, the Valley was home to the Pentlatch and Comox bands of the Salishan First Nations. They thrived on the ocean’s gifts of salmon, clams, oysters, cod, and halibut as well as the land’s abundant deer and elk and many edible and medicinal plants.
The first European settlers arrived in the Comox Valley in 1862 and soon discovered why the First Nations called the area Komoux (“Land of Plenty”). Over time, the settlers cleared land for farms and began logging the extensive forests. In 1914, the railway line from Victoria was extended to the Valley; a year later the area around the train station was incorporated as the City of Courtenay.
In the late 1800s and the early 1900s, coal was the mainstay of central Vancouver Island’s economy. Built on rich coal seams, the inland settlement of Cumberland became a flourishing community that was segregated into separate town sites for the diverse nationalities working in the mines, including a significant Chinese community. After World War I, the demand for coal lessened and Cumberland slowly evolved into a sleepy shadow of her former self.
The Comox Valley Heritage Tour presents opportunities for residents and visitors to explore the rich social and natural history of the Comox Valley. This self-guided driving tour marks significant heritage sites with interpretive signage, photos and stories. Brochures and information are available at the Comox Valley Visitor Centre.