Written by Jill Davies – Sponsored by Ron & Peggy Mehan
BEACHCOMBER PARK in Nanoose Bay – a Place of beauty and perhaps reflection
If you want to see a milky-green sea or be entertained by a frenzy of feeding sea lions, gulls flocking and eagles swooping — then Beachcomber Park is the perfect beach to visit in spring. In early spring, if you visit at the downing of the sun, then you may additionally be privileged to gaze on the most stunning of evening skies that Oceanside has to offer.
The approach to Beachcomber Park is down a rustic trail found just beyond the lower end of the dirt and gravel roadside parking lot.
Passing a useful washroom (probably best to use on the way down) and garbage bin (better than the side of the trail for doggie-poo-bags) there are 12 groomed steps that drop on to the path leading down, in just minutes, to either of the two beaches.
A short way down the trail it divides right and left. Either will take you to a beach. There is also a sign there advising ‘No Mooring Permitted’! This, however, is not a trail down which any but the most reckless or optimistic would contemplate hauling anything more than a kayak. Bearing left, the trail winds through woodland to the inner bay. This small crescent of a beach is cobbled and pebbled so in the summer, when the water is warm enough, it is deep enough to swim and safe enough for younger children (though care with toddlers would be advisable and beach shoes would be highly recommended).
The same ancient Garry oaks that lean out above the rocks to provide welcome shade on a warm summer afternoon, are in late winter skeletal and stark against a grey sky. The bay is wider here with one of the many convenient logs providing the perfect spot to rest and gaze across and beyond the water at the snow-capped peaks of Arrowsmith and Moriarty. At lower tides, the shelf of flat, dark rocks invite the more adventurous to explore out to the point and around to the outer bay. Children of all ages can happily peer into the countless tide-pools.
On the higher bank of the promontory are two benches both inscribed ‘in loving memory’ and from there the view shifts to more open water. As this is a place for philosophic contemplation, why not sit awhile on a seat that tells us “If you have a garden
and a library you have everything you need’, or on the other that observes ‘If you set your mind to it you can do anything’. From here, too, look out to the outcrop of slick weed green rock and the curious standing stone that invites small people to clamber and climb.
Around the point there is the second wider bay, also with pebbles and cobbles. On the far side of the beach a few cottages sit among the pines above the bay. In the summer, at high tide this is a neat place to swim; in early Spring it is cool and still, the water gently lapping against rock, the rock shadows black in a silver sea.
A red jacketed kayaker paddles smoothly into sight and causes a curious sea lion to raise its head and follow for just a few moments before returning to the all-you-can-eat underwater fest; the grizzling and grunting of the sea lions is punctuated with the occasional snarly bickering over a fishy prize. While a loon moves through the water, the chatter of eagles courting atop a lone pine draw the eye from water to woodland.
What might you see there in late spring? Most beaches in our region provide plenty for keen observers of all that nature has to offer. Beachcomber Community Park is no exception.
North West Bay is the winter home of choice for several hundred California sea lions – with a few Northern Stellars keeping them company.
Having swum south or north in the early summer and indulged their mating instincts, the males leave their wives to take care of the kids while they return to spend their winters lazing on the logs further up and across Northwest Bay after fishing for their dinner!
Beachcomber Park is a prime spot to observe the grace of these mammals as they loop through the water, usually in company of seven or eight or more. If you are lucky enough to be there when the herring are running you will be treated to the sight of literally hundreds of sea lions thrashing through the water in a frenzy of feeding.If you rest awhile on a log, you
may see harbour seals and even the occasional river otter.
As for birds, most spectacular at this time of year are the bald eagles who have returned from the fall salmon spawning streams and rivers to fish in the bay. And when the herring come through, hundreds more eagles fly in from up and down the coast. Gulls as always are aplenty. Cormorants oft perch on the rocks with their wings outspread to dry. Herons nest nearby and Common Loons can be heard calling across the water.
What to bring – Sturdy shoes are recommended for the trail; beach shoes, bathers and towels in the summer if you want to paddle or swim. Take binoculars and cameras; also a
book, sketchpad, summer picnic or snacks (you may find you want to linger longer) and a water bottle. Please be respectful – this is a small neighbourhood beach.
The nearest store is 5kms away at Red Gap, Nanoose Bay
Directions: About 15 – 20 minutes from the Island Highway, from Nanaimo take Northwest Bay from Highway 19. From Parksville take Northwest Bay Rd from Highway 19a. Turn on to Claudet Rd and continue down the hill for approximately 2kms to the Beachcomber
Peninsula. Claudet becomes Marina Way (not signed). Follow the road another km to the end of the peninsula. At the top of a short but steep little hill there is a gravel parking lot on the left that will accommodate about 10 cars. Just below the lot you will find the entrance to the Park.