Sponsored by Ron & Peggy Mehan
Written by Jill Davies for the PQ News
As the highway rounds the bend at the top of the hill that curves downward to Qualicum Beach from Parksville, the bay unfolds as a picture book. Once there, holiday makers will find a unique variety of beach options that should satisfy a range of preferences!
The main beach, centred in the arc of the bay, is ever popular throughout the seasons. Above the beach are extensive and well maintained grassy areas with plenty of trees to provide welcome shade on the hottest of July days. Here, too, are picnic tables and benches. Along the curve of the bay is a board walk with special appeal for those who may not want to descend to the beach.
The beach itself is an especially pleasing playground for beach lovers as the tide falls away exposing a broad expanse of smooth sand, occasional rocks and tidal pools. With stairs to the beach at intervals along the waterfront, access is easy. At the south end of the beach there are four standing posts. Between them, tempting swimmers, is anchored a raft. When the tide is low there are nearly 20 kilometres of beach offering
opportunities for long walks in either direction however, when the tide is high there remains only the pebbly foreshore.
Qualicum Beach has a long history as a genteel ‘Victorian’ seaside resort dating back to the days when Port Alberni was a developing and thriving town. Then the judges, lawyers and other professional people would come from Port Alberni and Victoria to relax by the water, enjoy the ever spectacular views to the Coastal Mountains and paddle in the temperate waters. Now, south of the busier main beach lies the quieter sandy stretch of Judges Row. The lane there is bound mainly by larger homes on the far side and smaller cabins on the waterside. Once down the few steps to the beach however there’s a feeling of seclusion granted by the beach grasses, wild flowers and high towering hedges, entwined with wild roses and honeysuckle that grow between roadside and seashore.
The beach itself is tranquil. Typically bounded by a strip of large round pebbles, when the tide is out the sand is smooth with shallow tidal pools of warm water for little ones to paddle in. These pools are also much sought after by enthusiastic skimboarders. The wide expanse of sand invites you to run, play or stroll to the far point.
Towards the end of Judges Row above the beach there is a sweep of grass and three benches. Here is the perfect place to enjoy the spectacular sunrises, glorious sunsets or at dusk, the fairy nightlights from distant cruise ships.
Notwithstanding the nearby highway, this beach feels more untamed. The access is less easy with an expanse of gravel and boulders to be crossed. When the day is too cool to
swim or lounge on the sand, adventurous children will enjoy exploring the limpet-laced boulders, searching for hermit crabs, blennies, whelks, dog winkles, chitons and other
marine creatures. The larger outlying rocks beckon those with a fishing line in hand whereas the soft sand above the tideline, bound by eel grass, provides the perfect spot on which to settle with a book, binoculars or just the time to gaze across Qualicum Bay or out over the water to the snowcap peak of Mt Tantalus on the distant mainland. For those who
come to see the migrating flocks of Brant geese as they rest and feed on shore in March and April there is also a sturdy viewing platform.
What you might see there in July…
Walking the beach at Judges Row was Karen Semple with her dog Sammy. Said Karen, ‘I love the breadth of this beach. It’s so sandy and there’s hardly anyone here. It feels very serene. My dog loves it and just runs like a crazy thing’. Sitting in the sun on the Beach
Hut patio, enjoying an afternoon ice cream were Harry Wood and Ailsa Fenton-Wells. “ the beach seems to go on forever’ said Harry. ”It’s very peaceful here, quite lovely. And having an ice cream is just perfect.
Directions to Judges Row:
• From Parksville, descending the hill down to the bay turn right onto Judges Row.
• There are three access points to the beach. The second of these provides a bigger
gravel lot than the first and accommodates maybe a dozen cars (depending on how
• The third access point is ½ km toward the end of the road and allows for parking
beside the road. In the high season all these can be busy on a warm summer afternoon
• Access to the beach is almost immediate and easy though there are a few steps down from each point.
• Dogs are not permitted on the beach between March 1st – April 30th (to protect
the feeding Brant Geese).
• May 1st – End February: Dogs can run on the beach without leashes however please carry baggies and ‘pick-up’!
• Parking only between 6am-11pm
• Parking is plentiful
• There are public toilets close to the waterfront
Directions to north end of Qualicum Beach:
• Travelling north, passing the main sweep of Qualicum Beach look for a low trimmed
hedge separating the highway from a long gravel parking lot immediately behind
• The signs regarding dogs are as above as are the overnight restrictions.