Coastal Communities, Pacific Northwest
During the early part of the twentieth century, nearly a quarter of a million English and Welsh families immigrated to Canada as part of the Salvation Army’s immigration program. A few of these families settled in the Coombs area around 1910 under the leadership of the Salvation Army. The community they built was named after the Army’s Canadian Commissioner, Captain Thomas Coombs. Today, it is full of people who live a more laid back way of life that can only be provided in a place like Coombs. It is an artist mecca with more galleries, studios and artists per capita than anywhere else in BC.
Coombs is located along Highway 4, about 9 km west of Parksville on Vancouver Island. Highway 4 is the main highway that connects the east and west coast of the island. I lived in Coombs back in the early 80’s and have many great memories of this area. I leased 10 acres along with 5 other friends and we created a little farm. The old farm house only had wood heat and a wood kitchen stove for cooking. But the meals we created on and in that old stove are memories that will never leave me. We lived like pioneers and loved it.
When you visit Coombs, be sure and stop by to see the goats grazing on the grass rooftop at the Coombs Old Country Market and pick up some fresh local produce or a gift for some one you love or maybe for yourself and then have a meal at the deli.
The Coombs General Store was built in 1912, the Store still 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 delicious penny candy.
Located next to the Old Country Market is the Coombs Emporium, this is built to resembles an old western town and is filled with tiny shops, these shops have such wonderful things in them, when we visit there, my wife can get lost for hours as she wanders around the shop.
When you are in the area, make sure you visit some of the other natural attractions located close to Coombs. Like the hamilton marsh which is a great place to view the Coombs area birds, in the spring and fall you can view many types of ducks and geese, in the summer months you can see marsh birds like herons and red wing blackbirds. There are trails that lead you around the marsh and a viewing platform is provided for closer observation of the marsh inhabitants.
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 is a sight to see.
Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park is on the Little Qualicum River just west of Parksville, the park has one waterfall after another as the Little Qualicum river rushes from Cameron lake and heads to the sea. The river runs through some incredible canyons surrounded by a beautiful west coast forest setting.
This is one of the most magnificent parks on Vancouver Island, Little Qualicum Falls starts on the southern shore of Cameron Lake which is right next to the awesome Cathedral Grove rain forest. There are many walking and hiking trails in and around the park for you to enjoy. Loop trails on both sides of the Little Qualicum River provide access to many swimming holes and to the upper and lower falls.
This 440 hectare park is a popular family recreation area. Being surrounded by riverside trails and picnic areas, make Little Qualicum a favored destination for locals and tourists alike. Swimming and fishing in the river and in Cameron Lake are both quite special, and sail boarding is excellent in the lake.
The Little Qualicum River is one of the few rivers on Vancouver Island to have brown trout. Facilities in the park include an adventure playground, a 105-campsite campground and scenic hiking trails. Parking fees will be in effect at the Little Qualicum Falls, Cameron Lake and Beaufort day use areas. Fees are collected for services from April 15 to October 15.
Little Qualicum Falls day use area provides picnic tables, a picnic shelter, flush toilets and fresh water.
Cameron Lake day use area has the best swimming opportunities in the park. There are picnic tables and pit toilets provided off a small parking lot at the southern end of the lake. Fires are prohibited in the day use area and animals must be on a leash at all times and are not allowed on beach areas.
Beaufort day use area is a small site located along Highway 4, approximately 6 km past Little Qualicum Falls Park. It provides swimming and fishing opportunities. This small area has 2 picnic tables, 1 pit toilet and limited parking.
Located east of Parksville near Errington, just outside Coombs is the Englishman River Falls, l have spent many an afternoon walking the trails around these falls and in the fall, its a great place for viewing spawning salmon. The falls are incredible.
Cathedral Grove is located in MacMillan Provincial Park, the park is an easy place for viewing giant first growth trees. You can hike many trails that run through the park and you can some very large Douglas firs, one of them measures more than 9 m in circumference. On the northern side of the road you’ll find groves of ancient Western red cedar growing along Cameron lake.
Coombs and the area around it is pretty wild and there is plenty of adventures just waiting for, grab your boots and camera and visit.